10 things we learned from MLS gameweek 8 of 2016 season


Here are the ten things we learned from Week 8 of the 2016 MLS season.

1. Toronto makes its move

The last time Toronto traveled down the 401 to Montreal, they were humiliated in the MLS Cup Playoffs. On that night, TFC didn’t show up. It was 3-0 Impact at halftime.

But in the first derby of the year in Montreal on Saturday had a very different feeling. A compact and smart Toronto team went wire-to-wire in a convincing 2-0 win, getting both goals from Giovinco and outstanding shifts from the likes of Jozy Altidore and Will Johnson.

It was a performance that smacked not just of know-how, but also of desire. This Toronto team has more competitors than they’ve ever had before, and their reshaping the culture of MLS’ most wayward club. That much was clear in Altidore’s performance against the Impact.

TFC is in the sixth game of a grueling seven game stretch. Last year, Toronto started their marathon road-trip in solid form, but limped to the finish – a finish that didn’t really culminate until the team laid an egg in its home opener against Houston.

This year, however, Toronto is getting better each time they hit the field. A big game next Sunday in Portland will conclude the seven-game swing, and then a TFC team near the top of the Eastern Conference will play 17 of its remaining 27 games at home.

2. No Pirlo… No party

The most eye-raising decision of the weekend belonged to maligned NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira. The Frenchman decided to drop Andrea Pirlo not just from his team to face Philadelphia, but from his entire traveling squad.

When asked post-game about Pirlo’s absence, Vieira responded that he was “just choosing the best team to win games.”

Pirlo certainly hasn’t been very good this year, but his coach – who has insisted that he play as a lone #6 – hasn’t set him up for success either.

And, for the sixth consecutive time, NYCFC did not win. They went down 2-0 in Philadelphia. Vieira appears to have no idea. He didn’t just drop Pirlo for this game, but also Mix Diskerud and Tommy McNamara. At this point, why not just let David Villa coach?

3. LA Galaxy gain steam

In many ways, Robbie Keane’s injury may have been a blessing in disguise for the LA Galaxy. Bruce Arena’s team has now scored nine goals in its last two games after trouncing Real Salt Lake 5-2 on Saturday night at the StubHub Center.

With Keane out, Gyasi Zardes has moved into his best position up top, space underneath has opened for Giovani dos Santos, and the fantastic Mike Magee’s role has increased as well.

But those three players are established stars. The breakout performer on Saturday night was the winger Emanuel Boateng, whose speed especially wrecked havoc in the four-goal first half.

And it’s not just Keane’s whose absence may have inadvertently helped LA. Playing with Baggio Husidic instead of Nigel de Jong has brought a level of play out of Steven Gerrard that we haven’t seen since last summer when he first came to the Galaxy.

4. Still, though…

It was fun to see Nick Rimando save Gerrard’s early penalty. Even though he conceded five in his 400th MLS appearance, Rimando’s legend still managed to grow.

5. Put Jamison Olave out of his misery

Speaking of absences helping teams, RSL have looked best this year without Jamison Olave, who, at 35, is an albatross at center-back.

Jeff Cassar needs to make the move to a permanent Aaron Maund/Justen Glad partnership. Olave’s place in Salt Lake lore is becoming less and less secure with each passing game. His lack of speed and related recklessness hurt RSL last year, and he’s continued to hurt them this year.

Salt Lake is much better than the hammering they took at LA – and they weren’t the same after Burrito Martinez limped off in the first half – but they’re going to continue to concede goals as long as Olave is in the lineup.

6. Welcome to MLS

To Dennis Castillo, who made his Colorado Rapids debut and served up a fabulous cross for Kevin Doyle to score his team’s third goal against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday.

It was the capper on a 3-1 Rapids victory – one that ties Colorado for the league lead in wins. Seattle, meanwhile, continues to labor. They sit in ninth place in the Western Conference with just seven points from seven games.

But that’s MLS in the spring – Colorado one point of the lead in the West, and Philadelphia out front in the East. We’ll see where these teams are at in September.

7. Whitecaps get much-needed win

It wasn’t necessarily gorgeous, but Vancouver’s 3-0 win at BC Place over league-leading FC Dallas was hugely important.

A big part of that win was goalkeeper David Ousted, who, in his third season in Vancouver and with a new contract in tow, has established himself as MLS’ best. Carl Robinson is still very much a man in search of answers – and maybe a way to reacquire Steven Beitashour – but Saturday night was big for his team.

8. Speaking of cathartic wins…

New York’s 3-2 win over Orlando on Sunday night at Red Bull Arena was a catharsis in a number of ways. Bradley Wright-Phillips bagged his first two goals of the season, and the team won for just the second time in 2016.

The Red Bulls were good in this game – especially energetic through their maligned front four – but they wouldn’t have won without a series of breaks they were due.

Hilario Grajeda’s decision not to send Kari Ouimette off for pulling down Cyle Larin was the turning point. Had Ouimette been rightly dismissed, the Red Bulls would have been down to ten men while chasing a goal.

Instead, Ouimette escapes, and the Red Bulls bag three straight goals and win 3-2. Especially in MLS, soccer is a game held in place by the narrowest string of tweaks and bounces and decisions.

New York got out of jail on Sunday. Here’s guessing they’ll continue to win as the season progresses.

9. FOX Sports continues to outpace ESPN

FOX continues to put on a better show for viewers than ESPN does because of one simple thing: Crowd noise.

Be it for whatever reason, ESPN kills crowd noise while FOX pumps it up. The result is that FOX games – which tend to be later in the day anyway – feel bigger, louder, and more intense than ESPN games do.

Talent wise – by virtue of hanging onto Taylor Twellman – ESPN still has better talent. But it isn’t just atmosphere that gives FOX a leg up. FS1’s weekly postgame show is another advantage.

10. Referees

Eight weeks in, and still at the center of attention. Even for PRO, it’s been a rough start to the campaign.

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  1. Lawrence Dockery April 25, 2016
  2. Dan April 25, 2016
  3. JuanSchuler April 28, 2016

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