Here are the ten things we learned from Week 9 of the 2017 MLS season.
1. Dax McCarty Returns To New York
Dax McCarty made his first trip back to Red Bull Arena as a member of the Chicago Fire on Saturday afternoon, and a fantastic Red Bulls crowd of almost 23,000 gave him a hero’s welcome.
They also got to see a very good early-season encounter. The Red Bulls won 2-1, but not before McCarty stung his former team with a game-tying assist – setting up Nemanja Nikolic with a fabulous show-and-go around his Red Bull replacement Tyler Adams.
It mostly remains to be seen whether Jesse Marsch’s Red Bulls system can withstand the loss of such an integral player as McCarty without missing a beat.
It seems unlikely. The early returns, however, aren’t bad. The Red Bulls, after a disjointed start to the season, have now won three straight games by a score of 6-1.
But anyone who watched McCarty sign autographs and take pictures with supporters almost a half-hour after full-time understands that the Red Bulls lost a true lion.
If you are one of those Red Bulls fans – and of the belief that there is more to soccer clubs than just winning games – the loss of McCarty will continue to sting for a long time to come.
2. Portland Shows Well in Dallas
Saturday night’s marquee fixture was a top-of-the-Western Conference clash between Portland and FC Dallas in Frisco, and while the game underwhelmed somewhat, the Timbers still had a very good night.
Dallas never led in a game that easily could have resulted in their first league defeat of the season. It took a moment of magic from Maxi Urruti and a late slip by Portland’s Alvas Powell to salvage a 2-2 draw.
That the Timbers got a result in Frisco minus Diego Valeri – without whom they scored just two goals in four games last season – goes down as one of the most impressive achievements of an impressive young season.
Sebastian Blanco was excellent for Portland in Valeri’s stead, scoring his first goal for the club and setting up a number of other chances.
Blanco’s engine and competitiveness, if maybe not his stature and attacking style, are reminiscent of Rodney Wallace – a player who the Timbers missed immensely last season and who has added immensely to NYCFC on his return to the league this year.
Getting some of that bite back through Blanco has been a boon for the Timbers, who have taken seven points from their first four road games after failing to win a single away match all of last season.
3. LA’s Woes Continue
The LA Galaxy, badly in need of a good performance after being pasted by Seattle last weekend, got the opposite on Saturday night: a dire 0-0 draw against the winless Philadelphia Union at the StubHub Center.
“We have a group that, let’s be honest, we feel pressure,” Curt Onalfo said afterward. “It’s been a very frustrating and difficult start for us.”