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MLS Week 11 Review: Union, NYCFC earn statement wins, Zlatan incident and more

New York City FC and the Philadelphia Union are the two most in-form teams in Major League Soccer. 

The pair of Eastern Conference sides reaffirmed their recent play by picking up victories on the road against two of MLS’ elite clubs on Saturday. 

Jim Curtin’s Union, who sit on top of the East table with 23 points, went into BMO Field and knocked off a Toronto FC side that they historically have had trouble playing against. 

The Union were the aggressor for stretches of the match and they continued to put a relentless amount of efforts on target. 

During their three-game winning streak, the Union have put 28 of their 48 shots on target, with Kacper Przybylko leading the charge with eight of his 12 shots going on goal. 

NYCFC pulled off the rare achievement of shutting out Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park. 

Domenec Torrent’s men held the Galaxy to a single shot on target over 90 minutes and took the most of their chances at the end of the first half through goals by Heber and Maxi Moralez. 

NYCFC is now on a seven-game unbeaten streak and it has won four of its last five contests. In fact, NYCFC only has one loss that was suffered on March 29 at the hands of Toronto FC. 

The Union are exceeding all expectations set for themselves and now they have favorable three-game home stretch against Western Conference teams in which they can extend their great form into June.

May 11, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Philadelphia Union midfielder Jamiro Monteiro (35) is lifted in the air as he celebrates a goal during the second half against Toronto FC at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

NYCFC has to wait until May 25 to extend its unbeaten run to eight games and its streak could get to as high as 11 by the time the Concacaf Gold Cup break hits. 

The Union and NYCFC were two of five teams to pick up road wins on Saturday. 

The New York Red Bulls rebounded from a baffling home loss to Montreal on Wednesday by beating FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium, Los Angeles FC went into Columbus and blanked the Crew and Real Salt Lake came out on top of a topsy-turvy affair with the Colorado Rapids. 

The success of the five road teams was one of many storylines to come out of an action-packed Week 11, which also included another rivalry win for Atlanta United and a controversial moment involving one of the league’s superstars.

Goals of the Week 

Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders

More like Cristian RolDAMN. 

Nicolas Gaitan, Chicago Fire

One of the best counterattacks you will see all season in MLS. 

Pity Martinez, Atlanta United

Martinez scored his first goal for the Five Stripes in a rivalry game.

Superstar Treatment? 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is normally front and center in the spotlight after an MLS weekend for an amazing goal or assist. 

After Saturday’s game against NYCFC, all anyone wanted to talk about was the possible preferential treatment he received for staying on the field after putting his hands to the face of Sean Johnson. 

Plenty of players have been sent off for hands to the face in the past, and it begs the question if Ibrahimovic received a bit of superstar treatment and stayed on the field. 

Regardless of what your thoughts are on the matter, the refereeing still needs to be more consistent across the league. 

Helpful Tool For VAR 

MLS video review now has its own Twitter account to explain plays that go to VAR.

It is a useful tool that should have been implemented from the start of the VAR process. 

When reviews occur, fans, players and coaches usually ask for more clarification, even if the ruling is announced inside the stadium. 

This a helpful next step for transparency in a process we are all still getting used to.

Rocky Mountain Cup: Emphasis on the Rocky

May 11, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; Colorado Rapids midfielder Sam Nicholson (28) on the pitch following the loss to Real Salt Lake at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rapids are still the only team in MLS without a victory. 

The Rapids gave up a pair of first-half goals to rival RSL and then responded with two goals of their own in quick succession. Then the Rapids proceeded to give up another second-half game-winning goal at home to lose 3-2. 

It wasn’t the cleanest game from either side, but the opportunity was there for the Rapids and they once again wasted it. 

Revs, FC Cincinnati Respond to Firings With Wins

May 11, 2019; Cincinnati, OH, USA; FC Cincinnati midfielder Fatai Alashe (27) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Montreal Impact in the second half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

FC Cincinnati and New England responded to the firings of their respective coaches last week with home victories, something the Rapids couldn’t do last week.

An early goal from Allan Cruz set the tone for FC Cincinnati’s win over Montreal, while the Revs struck within the first 20 minutes to down San Jose. 

Both teams put themselves in holes that will be hard to dig out of, but if Saturday is any indication, they should be on their way to regaining form in the next couple weeks. 

Atlanta United Starting to Look Scary Good

May 12, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United players defenders Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (5) Miles Robinson (12) Michael Parkhurst (3) and goalkeeper Brad Guzan (1) react after defeating Orlando City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

In Atlanta United’s last four games, they have picked up four wins and four clean sheets. 

All of a sudden, the Five Stripes have turned into the Eastern Conference contender we expected them to be. 

Whatever you want to blame for the early-season struggles, whether it be the hectic nature of the Concacaf Champions League or Frank de Boer getting used to his players, has been swept away and the quest to repeat MLS Cup is on. 

Stock Up, Stock Down

May 10, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Whitecaps forward Fredy Montero (12) celebrates his goal against Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark (12) (not pictured) during the first half at BC Place. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Stock Up: Vancouver

Marc Dos Santos’ Whitecaps have two in a row and gotten points out of three straight games.

A big few weeks await for the Whitecaps to test themselves, starting with Atlanta United coming to BC Place on Wednesday night.

Before breaking for the Gold Cup, the Whitecaps have to face Sporting KC, New York Red Bulls, FC Dallas and Toronto FC. Yikes. 

Stock Up: Chicago

The Fire have put together similar results to the Whitecaps with seven points from their last three games. 

Veljko Paunovic’s side also faces a rocky road up to the Gold Cup with San Jose, NYCFC, D.C. United and Atlanta all on the docket. 

Stock Down: LA Galaxy

A few weeks ago we were talking about the LA Galaxy as LAFC’s top competition in the Western Conference. 

The Galaxy are still in good shape in the standings after losing three straight, but it is always concerning when a team falls three times in a row. 

The good news for the Galaxy is back-to-back games against Colorado and Orlando should remedy their situation.

Stock Down: Sporting Kansas City 

Peter Vermes’ Sporting Kansas City wasn’t able to dress a full bench for its Sunday loss to D.C. United. 

Injury woes and poor form have dropped the perennial West power down to 10th in the table. 

Sporting KC hasn’t won in the league since March 30 and needs to capitalize on a three-game home stretch in order to not be buried by the Gold Cup break. 

Stock Down: Orlando City

If Dom Dwyer finished his golden chance in front of goal, we might have left Orlando City alone this week. 

But that wasn’t the case and the Lions dropped yet another Southeast derby to Atlanta United. 

The Lions have yet to make that game a true rivalry because of Atlanta’s dominance and they have one win in their last five games with a Wednesday road trip to Seattle on the horizon.

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