Major League Soccer is a topsy-turvy league that in any week can be turned on its head by a handful of unexpected results.
For most of the 2019 campaign, Los Angeles FC has been immune to the up-and-down nature of the regular season, and even when it showed weakness Wednesday against the Vancouver Whitecaps, it erased that with a dominant Sunday outing against the Seattle Sounders.
If it hasn’t become clear to you yet, let’s spell this out for the masses to hear: LAFC IS THE BEST TEAM IN MLS. WITHOUT QUESTION.
Bob Bradley’s team is 7-1-1 with 22 points. It’s top competition in the Supporters’ Shield standings resides across town, but since the first El Trafico is still months away, let’s focus on the more immediate results.
Just like it did against D.C. United at the start of April, LAFC tore apart the Seattle Sounders, who before Sunday were regarded as one of its top rivals for Western Conference supremacy.
Carlos Vela can’t stop scoring, and while his individual success is one of the top stories in MLS so far this season, he is far from the only player making a difference for the second-year side.
On Sunday, it was Mark-Anthony Kaye who stepped into the supporting role alongside Vela by producing three assists.
In any week, LAFC could have a second, third or fourth star supporting Vela in the scoring column, which makes the Black and Gold especially dangerous.
Lest we forget the LAFC defense that has conceded seven goals over nine games, which has helped the club’s goal differential leap to +18.
LAFC’s goal differential is currently 10 better than the top seven teams in the Eastern Conference, which by the way, is wide open at the moment.
D.C. United and the Columbus Crew SC dropped home results in Week 8, which allowed Toronto FC and Philadelphia to jump into the top four that are separated by one point going into Week 9.
And then there’s Orlando City, who has charged up into fifth place on 11 points after Saturday’s late victory over the Whitecaps.
Montreal and Chicago currently round out the top seven teams in the East, while perennial powers New York Red Bulls, New York City FC and Atlanta United are languishing in the bottom half of the standings.
There’s still plenty of time for the three giants of the East to turn things around and make a push into the top seven, but they’re making it increasingly harder on themselves as the weeks go on.
It’s hard to believe, but we’re close to a quarter of the way through the season, and with the games coming fast and furious over the next six weeks, some teams could bury themselves too far down the standings by the time the Concacaf Gold Cup break hits.
But as of right now, the East still looks like the more wide-open conference, while the West will be ruled by a few dominant franchises.
Since this is MLS, that statement will probably ring true for another week before chaos erupts over the league.
Goals of the Week
Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC
We should just reserve a spot in this space each week for the latest piece of brilliance delivered by Alejandro Pozuelo.
— Toronto FC (@torontofc) April 20, 2019
Shea Salinas, San Jose Earthquakes
This was San Jose’s third of four goals against Sporting Kansas City, and yes, we’re still stunned at that result.
Repeat after us:
— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) April 21, 2019
Carlos Vela, Los Angeles FC
Vela’s first goal from Sunday is all about the assist Kaye produced through the middle of the Seattle defense.
Can't stop. Won't stop. Carlos Vela. 🔥🔥
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) April 21, 2019
MLS continues to make zero sense
The San Jose Earthquakes put up four goals in a rout of Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night.
Yes, you’re reading that right, and yes, that is one of the most MLS results of the season to date.
Matias Almeyda’s side has outscored Sporting KC and Portland 7-1 in its last two home games.
The more things change . . .
Minnesota United slammed on the self-destruct button late in the second half at BMO Field on Friday night.
The defensive collapse by the Loons handed Toronto FC a pair of goals in a span of three minutes and erased what would have gone down as a positive performance.
All of a sudden, three straight home games against the Galaxy, D.C. and Seattle look like a daunting task after losing every bit of momentum gained before Friday night.
Panic button updates
We’ve expanded the panic button update to more clubs than just Atlanta United because it is more than necessary this week.
Starting with the Five Stripes: They lost to FC Dallas at home Saturday after dispensing of New England on the road a week ago.
The perfect cure for a tough loss at home is to host the Colorado Rapids, so we’re not too concerned about a team that now has games in hand on all but one club in MLS.
New York City FC eased some concerns with a win over D.C. United on Sunday, so the panic button is being put back in the drawer for now.
The same can’t be said about the Red Bulls, who have pushed their fans to breaking the glass in front of the in-case-of-emergency hammer.
A loss to the Revs and coaching rumors surrounding Thierry Henry, who had a disastrous spell at Monaco earlier this season, are more than enough reasons for concern on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.
Stats of the Week
Tommy Thompson played in his 100th game for San Jose on Saturday night. He has as many goals and assists (5) as he’s had coaches since debuting in 2014.
The Philadelphia Union have quietly won four of their last five games, and they’ve outscored opponents 10-3 during that stretch.
Carlos Vela already has three multiple-goal games to his name in 2019, and he’s scored in four of LAFC’s last five games.
After his assist against Columbus on Saturday, Diego Valeri has 69 goals and 69 assists in MLS regular-season play.
Kei Kamara is now 16 goals away from reaching fourth place on the MLS all-time scoring chart.
King of the Pride
Real Salt Lake has won two consecutive games against teams with lion mascots, making the Claret and Cobalt the kings of the MLS pride.
Somehow there’s not an obscure MLS rivalry trophy to be awarded for this honor.
You come at the 🦁 king, you best not miss. pic.twitter.com/ECLlsLQHZi
— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) April 20, 2019