We associate several significant sporting traditions with the start of spring. There’s Opening Day, One Shining Moment, and the Masters and all that whispering-which in turn gets the Washington Capitals eager to hit the links.
MLS now has one as well. When spring starts, that means the league’s participation in CONCACAF competition likely is grinding to an early halt. No MLS team has won the Champions League and only two have advanced to the finals. At least Charlie Brown takes a swing at the football. MLS teams tend to trip during the run-up.
Thus, the spring’s competitive portion is over. What’s left is the long intramural slog through the spring and early summer, when teams jockey and tinker and prepare themselves for the much more meaningful stretch run. This past weekend, technically the sixth of the regular season, represents the start of that slog. Bruised and chagrined, the league withdraws and turns its attention toward incremental, insular progress.
It’s a grand tradition, as is Planet Fútbol’s MLS XI. Here’s what stood out from The Weekend After.
I: Back on familiar ground
The CCL offers only moral victories, and FC Dallas seemed to have claimed one with its competitive, competent display in Pachuca. Perhaps that reduced the hangover somewhat. Hosting Minnesota United took care of the rest. The Loons (1-4-1) have improved, but Dallas (3-0-1) won Saturday without too much difficulty. And Javier Morales, who helped engineer Real Salt Lake’s run to the 2011 CCL finals, reached a career milestone with his new club.
- Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 9, 2017
FCD is one of only two teams to have won its past two MLS matches.
II: D.C. finds a groove
The other is D.C. United (2-2-1), which started the season without any resemblance to the dynamic, high-scoring team that impressed last fall. But contributions from a couple of familiar faces have helped United reboot. Defender Bobby Boswell, benched at season’s start, has returned to the lineup and was outstanding in Saturday’s 2-1 win over New York City FC (2-2-1). Meanwhile, D.C.’s sputtering attack got a jumpstart from playmaker Luciano Acosta, who created and then scored the eventual game-winner.
- D.C. United (@dcunited) April 9, 2017
III: SnowClassico Part 2
There’s something about a Rocky Mountain snowstorm that can help a team reverse its fortunes. Real Salt Lake hadn’t won since last August. Jeff Cassar was fired, Mike Petke took over and on Saturday, the soccer gods wiped the slate clean and offered RSL (1-3-2) a new start against the Vancouver Whitecaps (1-3-1), whose post-CCL assignment was far more daunting than FCD’s.
This is silly.
- Keane is a Wanker (@jazzfan2k) April 9, 2017
This pass from Joao Plata, which led to Albert Rusnák’s first goal for the club, was sublime.
- Total MLS (@TotalMLS) April 9, 2017
IV: Snowball fight!
And this from Luis Silva deserve its own entry.
- Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) April 10, 2017
V: Game of the week
Absent its leading scorer, Josef Martinez, expansion Atlanta United (2-1-2) nevertheless secured a point at the home of the reigning conference champions after being reduced to 10 men in the 75th minute. That’s impressive. Saturday’s tilt at Toronto FC (1-0-4) was an engaging affair featuring a host of chances (TFC took 20 shots) and some very nice goals.
This set-up from Jozy Altidore was exquisite and helped Sebastian Giovinco finally get on the board.
- Toronto FC (@torontofc) April 9, 2017
But Atlanta snatched the draw with this pinpoint long ball from Leandro González Pírez to Héctor Villalba.
Tito Villalba with his second goal of the night! https://t.co/dUyTGiFixc
- Planet Fútbol (@si_soccer) April 9, 2017
VI: These Timbers can travel
Portland won zero games on the road last year and missed the playoffs by two points. On Saturday outside Philadelphia, the Timbers won away from Providence Park for the second time this season.
The final goal of Portland’s 3-1 triumph was scored form the spot by Fanendo Adi, who broke the Timbers’ all-time goal scoring record.
It doesn’t mean much now as the season starts for the second time, but Portland (4-1-1) is the best team in MLS at the moment. And Jim Curtin and the Union (0-3-2) are in trouble.
VII: Winning friends and influencing games
It’s just impossible to take your eyes of Jermaine Jones.
He helped Marco Donadel draw this very interesting red card toward the end of the first half.
Donadel catches Jones in the ribs (?) and he39;s shown straight red. pic.twitter.com/cqZQY6Nkle
- Total MLS (@TotalMLS) April 8, 2017
But Jones’ face healed up in time to make this 50-yard run and score his first for the LA Galaxy (2-3-0).
- Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 8, 2017
Donadel was not impressed as the Montreal Impact (0-2-3) remained winless.
Montreal39;s Marco Donadel on his red card: pic.twitter.com/LvsrNeHD0y
- Adam Serrano (@LAGalaxyInsider) April 8, 2017
We’re looking forward to Jones’ Instagram retort.
VIII: Goal of the week
In the 84th minute of a scoreless game, Seattle’s Nicolás Lodeiro scored this stunner.
Take a bow, Nico! pic.twitter.com/W6AwQDLM0e
- Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) April 9, 2017
But, um, maybe you guys should mark Chris Wondolowski.
- San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) April 9, 2017
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. Sounders 1, Earthquakes 1.
IX: Dax and Basti off on the right foot
So far, so good for the Chicago Fire midfield. Bastian Schweinsteiger seems to be settling in and Dax McCarty was everywhere in a 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew (3-2-1). Nothing’s settled yet (Juninho was suspended Saturday), but the Fire (2-1-2), finally, appear to be in position to contend.
- Ben Jata (@Ben_Jata) April 10, 2017
Schweinsteiger’s thoughts on his new teammate:
- Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) April 9, 2017
X: Dwyer breaks his duck
We were talking Gold Cup after Dom Dwyer earned his American citizenship last month, but the Sporting Kansas City striker still hadn’t managed to score a goal this season. There won’t be one without several of the other. On Sunday evening, he finally broke through as SKC (2-0-3) ran all over the Colorado Rapids (1-2-1).
- Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) April 10, 2017
- Dom Dwyer (@Ddwyer14) April 10, 2017
XI: 10,000-minute man
We leave you with the observance of a noteworthy milestone. New England Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez on Saturday became the first homegrown field player to log 10,000 MLS regular season minutes. D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid also has hit that mark.
- diego fagundez (@DiegoFagundez14) April 10, 2017
Fagundez helped the Revs (2-2-1) dispatch the Houston Dynamo (3-2-0) in Foxborough.