10 things we learned from MLS gameweek 8 of the 2017 season

Photo credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the ten things we learned from Week 8 of the 2017 MLS season.

1. A Triumphant Return to NYC For Kreis

Orlando City is top of the Eastern Conference, and their manager Jason Kreis couldn’t be sitting prettier.

The Lions beat New York City 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium in Kreis’ first trip back to the Bronx since NYCFC fired him at the end of the 2015 season.

It was a fairly vindictive afternoon. Kreis was canned after just a single season with NYCFC – after leaving Real Salt Lake and taking a year to prepare for the job – and he then watched last season as Patrick Vieira led his old team to the playoffs in emphatic style.

Now, the tables have turned. Cyle Larin was unplayable in New York again, and Kreis’ team has won five of its first six games while looking as committed and as skillful as Vieira’s side looked last year.

This Orlando team looks very much like what Kreis’ RSL teams looked like five, six, and seven years ago – and, perhaps, what NYCFC could have looked like had they given their first coach more than their expansion season.

2. The Pirlo Problem

Andrea Pirlo lasted just 55 minutes of this game before being substituted for a player named Yangel Herrera, and it’s safe to say that the whispers about the Italian legend’s role with NYCFC aren’t going to become whispers anymore.

To recap: Pirlo has now been substituted in five of NYC’s last six games. On Sunday, the team was drastically better once it shifted to a 3-4-3 after he was removed.

With Ronald Matterita injured, making that 3-4-3 Patrick Vieira’s best option for the foreseeable future, it’s an open question whether Pirlo is going to lose his starting job. Why?

Defensively, Pirlo might as well not be on the field. But Pirlo was just as nonexistent on the defensive end last season. The difference this year is that he hasn’t been nearly as effective offensively.

Pirlo last season posted 11 assists and by almost every measure – touches, passes completed – was the fulcrum of NYC’s attack. This year, the Italian is without an assist in his first seven games and his influence over games has waned considerably.

It’s an ugly sight to watch any player – especially a player of Pirlo’s brilliance and style – lose the battle to time. How Pirlo handles the rest of this, what is likely his final season, will be one of the great tests of his career.

3. LA Goes Down Again

The Galaxy were run over 3-0 by the Seattle Sounders on Sunday afternoon at the StubHub Center in a game that was over by halftime.

LA has now lost three games at home to Western Conference opponents already this season, which is more home losses than the suffered all together in 2015 and 2016 combined.

Curt Onalfo remains upbeat, but all signs point to trouble in Carson. There were tactical problems in this game, but beyond that, the Galaxy aren’t putting pressure on the ball, aren’t rotating effectively defensively, aren’t getting anything out of far too many of their attackers.

This team is in bad shape. It needs a jolt of energy – especially with LAFC ready to enter the league with a bang at the beginning of next season.

4. Seattle Puts On A Show

The game was also, certainly, a reminder of why the Sounders were so good in the second half of last season.

Nicolas Lodeiro, Clint Dempsey, and Jordan Morris – roughly playing on the same line behind Will Bruin – were all excellent.

Bruin’s presence up top approximated that which Nelson Valdez provided last season, and he’s likely a starter for Seattle for the foreseeable future in Harry Shipp’s spot in the lineup.

The Sounders are an experienced team, and there won’t be any reason to panic if they just pick their spots until the fall. But there’s also a chance that, with Bruin in the team and Morris looking fully fit, Seattle is about to go on a run up the West table.

5. Union Sink Lower

Saturday should have been the day for the Philadelphia Union to stop the bleeding. They were at home, facing a pedestrian Montreal team, and then 3-0 up inside the first 40 minutes.

But Ignacio Piatti pulled a goal back just before halftime, young Anthony Jackson-Hamel came into the game and made it 3-2 with twenty minutes to go, and then Jackson-Hamel pounced on a rebound to tie the game in the 87th minute.

It was an extraordinary meltdown. The last time an MLS team blew a 3-0 lead, that team, the Columbus Crew, responded by shipping Kei Kamara to New England.

And the Crew were the defending Eastern Conference champions. The Union, on the other hand, are winless in their last thirteen games dating back to August of 2016. Something is about to give.

6. Dallas’ Hot Start Continues

Dallas is quietly enjoying an extremely impressive start to the league season, and, on Saturday night, they did what Portland was unable to do last week: beat Sporting Kansas City at home.

Dallas got that win in an expectedly tight game 1-0 on a back-post header from recently maligned fullback Maynor Figueroa. Dallas is leading MLS in points per game, and they likely will be for the long haul.

The team has great depth – Michael Barrios and Cristian Coleman started this game on the bench – a defense that is giving up half a goal per game, and Mauro Diaz resuming soccer activity ahead of his return in the coming weeks.

Oscar Pareja has built a juggernaut in Frisco, and it shouldn’t be bet against to win another Supporters’ Shield.

7. Don’t Look Now…

But here come the Loons. Minnesota United beat the Colorado Rapids 1-0 on Sunday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium, and it was a thoroughly deserved result.

The Loons were good on the ball, generated plenty of pressure in the second half, and, most importantly – save for one lapse that resulted in Dominic Badji hitting the bar – solid defensively.

The first clean sheet in franchise history will give the team a lift, as will having Miguel Ibarra back in the team and amongst the goals. With a very winnable home game against San Jose to come, Minnesota could be in the playoff places by this time next week.

Colorado, meanwhile, is in free-fall. This Rapids team could easily be as bad as the one that finished at the bottom of the West in 2015. It’d be something to see them play the Union right now.

SEE MORE: Schedule of MLS games on US TV and streaming

8. Atlanta Marches On

Whatever Minnesota can do, of course, Atlanta can do better – and this weekend was no exception, as Tata Martino’s team got back in the winner’s circle with an easy 3-1 win at the Rio Tinto Stadium over Real Salt Lake.

Few teams in the league have answers for Atlanta’s attacking pace. Hector Villalba and Yamil Asad both scored, as Atlanta jumped all over RSL’s central midfield and backline early. Luke Mulholland only completed 60% of his passes in the game.

That Atlanta is getting results on the road – without Josef Martinez – this early in the season is bad news for the rest of the East.

If they can keep themselves in and around the top of the league, Atlanta could make a real Shield push with a very favorable schedule and a lot of home games down the stretch. It’s not exactly likely, but this team hasn’t looked overmatched once this season.

9. A Message From Giovinco

Giovinco is back. Just as people had begun to talk openly about his slow start to the season, the Italian delivered his best performance of 2017 on Friday night at BMO Field – scoring twice to power Toronto to an emphatic win over the Chicago Fire.

At his best, Giovinco is a buzz saw – energetic and aggressive almost to a fault – and that’s what he was in this one. Few other players in this league would be so irate if substituted with a three-goal lead five minutes from time.

The Reds need that kind of fire from their star. Their start to the season, much like Seattle’s start to the season, has been slightly flat.

Friday was a breakout performance. With two more home games coming, Toronto seems ready to kick off their title charge in earnest.

10. Wonder Goal in Portland

Saturday afternoon offered a brilliant reminder that when Darlington Nagbe wants to be, he’s virtually unplayable.

This was a staggering goal, and it’d been coming – Nagbe hit the post with a similar long-range effort last weekend against Kansas City, and scored from outside the box two weeks ago in Philadelphia.

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