Here are the ten things we learned from Week 7 of the 2017 MLS season.
1. Orlando Puts On A Show
There’s something pretty special going on in Orlando.
The Lions have turned heads from the moment they entered MLS with Kaka and a sellout crowd of more than 60,000 at the Citrus Bowl, but what has happened since this club opened its new stadium has been on another level entirely.
With a stoppage time goal from Cyle Larin, Orlando beat the LA Galaxy 2-1 on Saturday afternoon in what is, to this point, the best game of the 2017 MLS season.
Will Johnson opened the scoring early with a sensational goal for Jason Kreis’ team, but the Galaxy – with the help of the goalposts – kept themselves afloat and drew themselves level with ten minutes to go on a fantastic solo goal from Romain Alessandrini.
But in the dying moments, Larin fought off Jermaine Jones and blasted a Johnson corner past Clement Diop for the game winner. Kreis, in response, looked to the heavens as the stadium erupted.
There aren’t many settings across MLS that would have prompted that dramatic a reaction from a coach as accomplished as Kreis in the middle of April. The scene in Orlando – the color, the intensity, and the noise – is something else.
The Lions have now won their first four games at the Orlando City Stadium. The last team to open a building in such style? The Portland Timbers, who won their first five at what is now called Providence Park as an expansion team in 2011.
Orlando, after plenty of tumult in their first two seasons, has arrived.
2. Sporting Impresses in Portland
Since Caleb Porter was hired ahead of the 2013 season, no team in MLS has played the Timbers tougher in Portland than has Sporting Kansas City.
SKC beat the Timbers at Providence Park in 2014 and 2015, and came within a post of knocking them out of the playoffs there in the latter year. Sporting is the only team currently playing in the Western Conference to have more wins than losses in Portland.
On Saturday night, Kansas City was at it again.
Peter Vermes’ team put on a clinic in a convincing 1-0 win over the Timbers, with Dom Dwyer’s goal early in the second half standing up as the winner thanks to the defense of a team that has given up just two goals in their first six games.
The player at the heart of the SKC defensive performance was Ike Opara, who did as good a job on Fanendo Adi as any MLS center back has done in recent memory. Along with Matt Besler, Opara erased Adi from the game.
From front to back, starting with the likes of Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber, Sporting’s buy-in to Vermes’ high-pressing, hard-running system is extraordinarily impressive.
By virtue of moving Graham Zusi to fullback and replacing Soni Mustivar in midfield with Ilie, SKC also appears to have a little more quality on the ball than they have in years past.