Week 5 of the MLS season is in the books, with everyone returning from a critical international break to focus on club action.
The two conferences begin to take shape, especially in a week in which some continued their career to the top and others remained stagnant.
Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting stories from the weekend:
The start of the 2022 season has been marked by a couple of teams achieving highly-anticipated unbeaten streaks, and others not-so-expected.
After week 5, there are only three teams left to taste defeat: LAFC, Philadelphia Union and Chicago Fire.
LAFC prepared very well for this weekend’s El Tráfico clash with LA Galaxy by beating Orlando City 4-2 on the road. Another bag of goals from the league’s top scorers, though Steve Cherundolo will want to tighten that defense again before facing Chicharito (more on him later).
The Union, meanwhile, brought Charlotte FC back to earth after a couple of wins, taking their lives in a way that only Jim Curtin’s teams can. The 2-0 was measured, methodical and inevitable.
Chicago is the last undefeated team. They are fourth in the East with nine points from five games, and while they have only scored five times (not adding to their total in a 0-0 draw with FC Dallas), they have only conceded once. That’s an incredible achievement for a team that has been a disaster in recent seasons. Big credit to new head coach Ezra Hendrickson, star goalie Gabriel Slonina and the defense in front of him.
The only downside for the Fire was the early loss of Xherdan Shaqiri to injury on Saturday.
Two teams that everyone expected to be high up in the standings this season but, so far, are not are NYCFC and the New England Revolution. After all, once you win a trophy, a lot of extra pressure follows.
NYCFC fell 2-1 to Toronto FC on Saturday in a game where they truly were their own worst enemy. As they have done during the start of this MLS season, the reigning champions created their own problems and didn’t serve Taty Castellanos anywhere near enough.
Meanwhile, Supporters’ Shield champions New England fell to a miserable 1-0 loss at home to the New York Red Bulls. Bruce Arena’s men huffed and puffed but just couldn’t bring the attacking verve that defined them last year. The Red Bulls had them within arm’s reach, then allowed them to press self-destruct when Andrew Farrell punted the ball straight to teammate Matt Polster, who was unlucky enough to see it deflected into his own net.
Of course, both teams can point to the Concacaf Champions League games stealing a bit of attention from them earlier in the season. But give it a few weeks and that excuse won’t work: it’s time to start putting points on the board.
The World Cup draw has been made and the USA certainly have a lot to look forward to in the group stage alone. Now it’s time for the players to add those extra yards to get the attention of Gregg Berhalter before the trip to Qatar.
In MLS, some players, in particular, go above and beyond to stand out:
– Brandon Vazquez He scored his fifth goal of the season to top the Golden Boot standings in FC Cincinnati’s 4–3 loss to CF Montreal. Vazquez also forced an own goal that made it 2-1 for Cincy at the time, and should have had an assist with a great delivery for Dom Badji. The 23-year-old will be hard to ignore if he maintains this goal scoring rate.
– Djordje Mihailovic he also scored two very, very impressive goals in that game to give Montreal the victory. The midfielder has three goals in his last two, four in nine in all competitions, and remains a creative threat with the ball at his feet. A little more playmaking quality is needed on Berhalter’s roster in case the USMNT needs to break through a stubborn defense.
– gabriel slonina he kept his fourth clean sheet in five games at the start of this season as the Fire drew to a scoreless draw with Dallas. Slonina has only had to make two saves a game in that time, but when called upon, he’s made it big. That’s incredible focus for a 17-year-old who’d be forgiven for letting his mind wander due to lack of experience. Slonina is calm, quick, and is able to unearth his team at vital moments. Sitting behind Matt Turner and Zack Steffen at this year’s World Cup wouldn’t hurt him and right now he deserves a spot.
Chicharito scores goals. He doesn’t care who you are or where you’re from, he just wants to put the ball in your net.
The 33-year-old came up with two more instinctive finishes on Sunday when the LA Galaxy beat the Portland Timbers 3-1. One was a late run to the far post to drive the ball home, the other a sweeping shot into the far corner after some great work by Raheem Edwards.
Chicharito came close to winning the Golden Boot with a team that didn’t even make the playoffs last season. He is already just one behind Vazquez this season after playing one fewer game.
Tata Martino continues to snub Chicharito for El Tri, but Greg Vanney and the Galaxy know how valuable the forward is.
What the hell does Phil Neville do next?
His team, Inter Miami, is stuck at the bottom of the overall standings with just one point from five games after its fourth consecutive loss on the weekend: 3-1 at home to Houston.
The Herons have conceded a whopping 13 goals and have scored just three. Even the San Jose Earthquakes aren’t posting such bad numbers, and that’s before you consider that two of their three goals were penalties.
Even in a league as lenient on coaches as MLS, Neville lives on borrowed time. Miami looks uninspired, chaotic, and doomed all at once. He needs to find solutions, and very, very quickly.
MLS Week 5 results: