Here are the ten things we learned from Week 6 of the 2017 MLS season.
1. Changed Calculus For Orlando
Orlando City was plenty entertaining during their first two years in MLS, but their inability to do two things – play defense and win home games – meant that they were never a legitimate contender.
But in the first full year of the Jason Kreis era, that appears to be changing.
Orlando beat the New York Red Bulls 1-0 at Orlando City Stadium on Saturday afternoon, winning their third straight home game of the season and keeping their second clean sheet.
The biggest difference this year? Orlando is a far, far more disciplined team than it was under Adrian Heath.
Jonathan Spector has been immense in central defense, Will Johnson has brought an edge, Antonio Nocerino is finally fit – though he did go off injured on Sunday – and, even if he still can’t find the goal, Kreis has worked wonders with Carlos Rivas.
The Lions are currently in second place in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand on first-placed Columbus, they haven’t dropped a point at home, and they’ve got a defense that is conceding less than a goal per game.
The team looks focused and bought in. With or without Kaka, that’s a recipe for success in MLS.
2. What Is Colorado Doing?
The Rapids lost 3-1 in Kansas City on Sunday afternoon, and, plainly, they missed Sam Cronin and Marc Burch – the duo traded to Minnesota two weeks ago.
Colorado struggled to generate pressure in midfield, where Cronin was the team’s best player last year, while the Rapids conceded the opening goal to Sporting fullback Seth Sinovic on Burch’s vacated left side.
Pablo Mastroeni has talked about the Minnesota trade as a way to jumpstart the team’s offense and get the Rapids playing more progressive soccer – which is, in the long run, certainly a good thing.
Here’s the problem: The Rapids aren’t currently equipped to play attacking soccer. Not in the slightest. They simply don’t have the players or the tactical structure to carry games and create more than a handful of quality chances.
What this trade does is make the team’s defense – which carried them to the Western Conference Final last year – that much worse. It’s a ham-handed route to playing better soccer, and it’s could tank the Rapids season.
It seems, somewhat bizarrely, that Mastroeni is willing to make that tradeoff.
3. Thriller at BMO Field
The best game of the weekend was at BMO Field, where Atlanta United again went toe-to-toe with an MLS Cup finalist on the road and gave as good as they got.
Toronto got a first goal of the season from Sebastian Giovinco – who otherwise has gotten off to a slow start in 2017 – and led 2-1 at halftime after wingbacks Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow connected for the go-ahead goal.
But Tata Martino responded by changing to a back five, Atlanta got the equalizer two minutes after the restart, and Toronto was mostly stymied going forward – even after Yamil Asad was sent off for elbow.