Here are the 10 things we learned from week eleven of the Major League Soccer season.
1. Seattle Is The Team To Beat
The Sounders traveled up to BC Place to take on the front-running Vancouver Whitecaps, replaced Obafemi Martins with Chad Barrett, watched Barrett nab a brace, and returned to Seattle with the Cascadia Cup all but locked up and a three-game home-stand to finish May.
Seattle has now won four of their last five, the only loss coming in a shootout at Columbus two weekends ago. Brad Evans continues to improve at center-back, Clint Dempsey is dealing, the central midfield is healthy, and if Lamar Neagle or Barrett can start scoring consistently, the Sounders will be almost impossible to stop.
Seattle is MLS’ only elite team right now. The only sides that are even close – FC Dallas and the Crew – both have too many off nights to hang in the Shield race for the entire season.
LA’s insipid start ensures that their 2014 duel with Seattle for the Shield won’t be repeated. Barring injury, it’s the Sounders’ to lose. And barring injury, Seattle will also be the favorite for the one they really want – MLS Cup.
2. Orlando’s Big Day
There was good news even before Orlando City took the field and demolished the defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy 4-0 on Saturday afternoon: More than 40,000 fans poured into a scorching Citrus Bowl to support a team that was previously 0 for 5 at home this year and stuck on two measly wins.
Orlando might be the new Seattle. Their stadium, which opens next year, was supposed to seat just 20,000. The question now is not if Orlando will expand that stadium, it’s how.
The support deserved a performance like the one it got on Sunday for a long time, and the performance on Sunday was a long time coming. Orlando has dominated home games before, but against LA, they turned that dominance into goals.
Four of them, in fact, all scored in different ways, all by different goal-scorers. Two in the first half, two in the second half. It was a wire-to-wire performance made all the more impressive by the fact that both Amobi Okugo and Aurelian Collin – two of this team’s most important players – didn’t start.
When they’re on, Orlando plays with a kind of insatiable hunger that most teams simply can’t match. Rafael Ramos is hard for teams to deal with attacking from full-back, while Brek Shea will be better in midfield than he was on defense. Martin Paterson, who made is season debut, could also be important going forward, and the emergence of rookie Cyle Larin has been absolutely vital at forward.