Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference became much more intriguing in Week 10.
After struggling for two months, Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls reminded everyone they are capable of knocking off some of the best teams in the league.
The Five Stripes took care of business with a 3-0 road win over Sporting Kansas City, while the Red Bulls won a back-and-forth affair with the LA Galaxy.
Neither team is in the top seven of the East quite yet, but they are prepared to barge through the red line in Week 11.
Both the Red Bulls and Atlanta are one point back of seventh-place Orlando City, and both sides have at least one game in hand on a majority of the teams at the top of the East because of the lenient scheduling during the Concacaf Champions League.
The scary part is neither team is close to the finished product, but we did see glimpses of hope in Week 10 that both squads can put together an extended winning run.
One of the reasons Atlanta should storm up the standings is the emergence of Ezequiel Barco as the playmaker the team thought it would get a year ago.
Barco should have at least two more games left with the Five Stripes before leaving to play for Argentina at the U-20 World Cup. By the time Barco leaves, the other attackers in the squad, such as defending Golden Boot winner Josef Martinez, should be rounding into form thanks to the ability of the Argentinian to get everyone involved in the final third.
The Red Bulls reversed their poor form Saturday in the opposite manner without one of their superstars taking over the game. Kaku served the last game of his suspension Saturday and Bradley Wright-Phillips hasn’t found the back of the net since March 16.
On Saturday, Amro Tarek, Marc Rzatkowski and Derrick Etienne were the scorers, and given the organic way the Red Bulls have tried to play with academy products and players who buy into the system, the unsung heroes on that roster will play huge roles in kick starting a winning streak.
While the Red Bulls and Atlanta could make a surge into fifth or sixth place, it might be hard for them to hit the top spot in the East before the break for the Concacaf Gold Cup.
The Philadelphia Union made a statement of their own Saturday by plowing through the New England Revolution. Jim Curtin’s side leads D.C. United on goal differential at the top of the East and gets a huge test in Week 11 against Toronto FC, who is plugging along just fine in fourth place.
Then there’s the Montreal Impact, who always seem to fly under the radar, sitting in third place without Ignacio Piatti playing a significant role so far.
The East was already lining up to be a competitive race for the entire regular season, and with the addition of Atlanta and the Red Bulls to the fray, the competition will only get better.
Goals of the Week
Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 5, 2019
Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC
GO ON, @OsoJ92!
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 4, 2019
Ezequiel Barco, Atlanta United
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) May 6, 2019
To say the Video Assistant Referee system is still a work in progress in MLS is an understatement.
Each week debates arise over whether a referee got a crucial call right and how to improve the process.
The review that triggered the most frustration in Week 10 came from Columbus’ loss to D.C., where a goal was called back for an apparent foul at midfield by Wil Trapp.
— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) May 5, 2019
Crew head coach Caleb Porter rightfully went off on the review that took away his team’s goal.
So here we are once again. Another week with a questionable VAR call and no hope that a significant fix will come.
It seems the referees need a better understanding of what a clear and obvious error is for a play to be reviewed. VAR has gotten some calls right in 2019, but until it becomes a near-perfect process, the shortcomings will always shine brighter than the right decisions.
New Coach, Same Result
The Colorado Rapids are the worst team in MLS by a long mile.
In their first game under interim head coach Conor Casey, the Rapids fell to the Vancouver Whitecaps in an ugly game of soccer Friday night.
It didn’t help the Rapids that Diego Rubio lost his cool and was sent off for a dumb swing to the face late in the second half when a point was still on the table.
The Colorado Rapids everyone! pic.twitter.com/amgpKzKJQO
— Seth Vertelney (@svertelney) May 4, 2019
Ohio Teams Continue To Struggle
After losses Saturday, the Crew and FC Cincinnati are now 0-10 with two goals since April 13.
At least the Crew got on the scoreboard in Week 10 against D.C. United, while FC Cincinnati’s struggles run much deeper with no goals since April 7.
Neither team has been spectacular on the defensive end either. The Crew and FC Cincinnati have been outscored by a combined 19-2 during their current five-game winning streaks.
Things don’t get any easier for the Crew in Week 11, with LA Galaxy and Los Angeles FC coming to Mapfre Stadium, while FC Cincinnati hosts third-place Montreal.
The situation in Cincinnati might be worse with frustrations about an on-field identity starting to bubble to the surface.
Fanendo Adi transcript presented without comment: pic.twitter.com/9LjYSwioui
— Pat Brennan (@PBrennanENQ) May 5, 2019
LAFC Held Scoreless
LAFC suffered an unusual result Saturday against the Chicago Fire.
The goalless draw at Banc of California Stadium marked the first time the Black-and-Gold failed to score at home in 2019.
What was even more unusual about the result was the Fire was the team to hold LAFC scoreless for the second time this season.
Going into the weekend, the Fire had given up 13 goals in nine games.
Portland Starting To Hit Stride
The Portland Timbers have started to create momentum ahead of the re-opening of Providence Park on June 1.
After stumbling out of the gate, the Timbers have put together a three-game winning streak with victories over Columbus, Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake.
The winning run has pushed the Timbers one point back of seventh place in the Western Conference, and we fully expect them to land in the top seven once they get a run of home games under their belts.
You don’t have to wait long for a slew of MLS games to appear on your television and computer screens.
Seven Eastern Conference teams are in action during Wednesday’s four-game slate.
The clashes between Atlanta and Toronto FC and the Red Bulls and Montreal could alter the complexion of the East standings further going into Saturday.