The Week 4 Major League Soccer slate may have been small because of the FIFA international break, but it didn’t disappoint in terms of intriguing storylines.
Both Sacha Kljestan and LAFC earned revenge for different reasons Saturday. First, the Orlando City midfielder scored on the road against his former team. Then, the second-year franchise avenged a playoff defeat from a year ago.
Kljestan’s performance for Orlando City came at the perfect time, helping the Lions erased a three-game winless run to start the season.
The victory also replicated what the Lions produced in their first four games a year ago, when their initial triumph came over the Red Bulls following a slow start that featured one point in three matches.
James O’Connor’s team would love Saturday’s victory to spur another six-game winning streak, but the long-term view of putting together a complete season is most important, and that’s what the Lions hope to bring on in 2019.
As for LAFC, Walker Zimmerman’s 92nd-minute game-winner enacted revenge against a Real Salt Lake side that knocked the Black and Gold out of the 2018 playoffs in the knockout round.
The emotion displayed by Zimmerman and the teammates he rushed over to on the bench during his celebration showed how much the victory meant to the club.
Zimmerman’s stoppage-time winner also added a new chapter to a budding rivalry in MLS that started with LAFC’s 5-1 crushing of the Claret and Cobalt on March 10, 2018.
LAFC owns a 3-0 advantage in regular-season contests against RSL, but Mike Petke’s side still has the playoff win to hang over Bob Bradley’s men, which will surely be a part of the talk going into their next meeting on Aug. 17 in Utah.
Goals of the Week
Michael Barrios, FC Dallas
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 23, 2019
Walker Zimmerman, LAFC
— LAFC (@LAFC) March 24, 2019
Kenny Saief, FC Cincinnati
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) March 24, 2019
Let’s Hear It For the Homegrowns
The MLS record for most Homegrown Players in a single starting lineup was broken twice in the span of a few hours Saturday.
FC Dallas started five Homegrowns in the Week 4 opener against Colorado and then Real Salt Lake sent six Homegrown players onto the field in Saturday’s nightcap.
Edwin Cerrillo and Jesus Ferreira were the debutantes in FC Dallas’ starting lineup, while Thomas Roberts made his MLS debut off the bench.
Erik Holt and Tate Schmitt made their MLS debuts in the RSL starting lineup, while Justin Portillo (we’ll get back to him later) and Luis Arriaga came off the bench for their first MLS appearances.
The ability to pull Homegrown Players up from the academy to start during the international break is something FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake are among the best at in the league.
RSL has had a fully-functioning United Soccer League side to prepare for prospects for years, while FC Dallas hopped on board with a USL affiliate for the start of the 2019 season.
With plenty of franchises able to groom prospects at the USL level, there will be less of a gap in talent over the coming months and years when players are pulled up to the MLS stage.
That’s One Way To Make Your MLS Debut
Back to Portillo, who achieved the remarkable feat of earning a red card nine minutes into his MLS debut.
Portillo entered the match in the 75th minute and exited in the 84th minute after an elbow was delivered to Diego Rossi.
— Joga Bonito (@Jasoninho10) March 24, 2019
Carlos Vela, MVP Favorite
Carlos Vela didn’t record a goal or assist for LAFC on Saturday, but he made six key passes and played a role in setting up the club’s first strike.
With three goals, two assists and countless other impactful plays under his belt through four games, Vela has to be the early clear-cut favorite to win Most Valuable Player.
FC Cincinnati Continues To Impress
With a few key players out on international duty, FC Cincinnati put together the most impressive performance of the weekend, going into Gillette Stadium and beating the New England Revolution 2-0.
The result was the second earned on the road by Alan Koch’s side, who has shown significant improvement since a Week 1 defeat at the hands of the Seattle Sounders.
U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Kenny Saief wasn’t called in for the March friendlies, but he’s proven in his short time with the MLS expansion side that he’s deserving of a spot in Gregg Berhalter’s squad for the upcoming 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.