It was a busy second week of the MLS season, one that brought a bit of turbulence after some relative calm the week before.
Three things to take away from this past weekend in MLS:
What to make of FC Cincinnati…
This is a roster that, as it stands, is clearly not ready to fight for a playoff spot. Defensively, this is simply not a good back four and might be the worst unit in the league.
A week after giving up a staggering 31 shots in a 2-2 result at Nashville SC, FC Cincinnati allowed five goals in a road loss at New York City FC. In MLS or any league, that isn’t good.
Yes, this is a team in the midst of a rebuild after finishing bottom of the league a season ago. But the offseason was spent upgrading the attack, neglecting a team that defensively was among the worst in league history a season ago in terms of goals conceded per game.
But it wasn’t that FC Cincinnati gave up a handful of goals that is most troubling. It is the fact that all five goals came off set pieces.
That speaks to poor tactics and communication.
“Yeah, well, it was unbelievable. If you can see, from set pieces, you make it easy for the opposition,” head coach Jaap Stam said after the loss.
“Yeah, you’re playing a very difficult game and then it’s very hard to come out and score goals. You know how the players are feeling. Their heads are going down and the opposition gets their confidence. Then, they can play a bit more in their own way. It’s shocking to see that we concede goals like this.”
Cincinnati conceded 22 shots this go-around.
Austin FC’s first win…
The expansion club looked good in taking three points at the Colorado Rapids in a 3-1 win on Saturday. What was especially impressive was that they did so after falling behind in the 36th minute.
The Rapids are a solid side under head coach Robin Fraser. They are young (one of the youngest in MLS) and, typical of teams at this point in the season, are still coming together. Austin has some good pieces brought in by sporting director Claudio Reyna along with balance. And, while they will have ups and downs, it wouldn’t be a surprise to be in the mix for a playoff spot.
Austin presses well and has bade both he Rapids and LAFC uncomfortable in their build-up.
“Not really a whole lot to say. I didn’t think we played particularly well tonight,” Rapids head coach said Robin Fraser said about Austin.
“Austin is a good team, and a good possession team. Part of the way to deal with them is that we had to be good on the ball and tonight we weren’t.”
Minnesota United’s rough start…
The Loons have been a popular pick to advance out of a crowded Western Conference to MLS Cup and as such, their winless start to the season is a bit of a surprise. Of special concern is the fact that they’ve allowed six goals, most recently a 2-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake.
Defensively, it was mistakes that doomed Minnesota United to a loss against Real Salt Lake, who did a good job defensively and utilized their pace on the wings to play the counterattack well.
Minnesota United is still waiting on several big offseason signings to work their way into the squad and should be able to bounce back. But the defensive worries are troubling for a team with ambitions to capture some hardware this year.
“A bit of a mixed bag at the minute in my head because, I don’t think we played badly with the ball again,” head coach Adrian Heath said.
“But, I don’t think we’ve been good in the most relevant areas of the field. Which is the last third, both defensively and attacking. Tonight, I thought getting the ball through the thirds was very good, but not enough threat in the final third. And then we’ve made a couple of mistakes for the goals again. You know, at this level, you can’t make mistakes of the magnitude we’re making and expect to win a game. We’ve conceded six goals.”
Next up for Minnesota United is Austin FC, fresh off three points at the Rapids.
One more thing…
Let’s pump the brakes a bit on Inter Miami, who did well to win at the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night. Three points from the holders of the Supporters Shield is nothing to sneer at, but Inter Miami is still not playing well.
Listening to the hype around MLS, there is almost a coronation around Inter Miami.
The Union were unlucky not to get a share of the match let alone three points. They were the better team, with an edge in possession (53.1), shots (13:6), and corner kicks (9:1). Inter Miami was outplayed and fortunate for a bit of magic from the Higuain brothers to secure the win.
Kudos to Inter Miami for getting the win but they can’t keep doing it this way all season.