This past weekend was a crucial one for Eastern Conference teams. The schedule gave us several showdowns where two Eastern Conference teams were directly battling each other for points. While every game is important regardless of opponent there is an added element of importance when playing a conference foe. That made this weekend extra spicy, 5 games played between Eastern Conference teams, including the Fire vs Revs. Orlando was the only one left out as they hosted the Galaxy.
Philadelphia 0–2 New York City FC
The Union went into this one with zero wins in their first five games this year and failed to win yet again. The pressure on Jim Curtin, the Union manager, is going to increase after another poor result. Philadelphia put a lot of pressure on NYCFC with a high press and they clearly tried to take Andrea Pirlo out of the game by shadowing him from the first minute. They had some success sustaining their pressure, which turned into chances, but they failed to take any of them. Philadelphia does have a solid starting XI, but they just don’t have a game changer. NYCFC on the other hand stuck to their style of play throughout this game even though at times they found it difficult to break down the Union defense. They want to possess the ball as much as possible and play out from the back. They won’t change their ways regardless of opposition and in most cases they have the quality to find one or two clear chances to score. Philadelphia just couldn’t keep up with NYCFC for a full 90 minutes and they remain the Eastern Conference bottom feeders for the time being.
Montreal 2–1 Atlanta
Atlanta went on the road to Montreal trying to continue their fine away form having taken a point in Seattle and Toronto recently. Atlanta was still dangerous in this one despite still missing Josef Martinez through injury. Ignacio Piatti returned from his own injury for Montreal and really changes the way the Impact are able to play going forward. Kenwyne Jones scored the opening goal for Atlanta. Jones gives Atlanta something different up front and made his first start mainly due to the Martinez injury. With size and strength Jones is a nice option for Atlanta to have when they need to mix things up with a more physical presence up front. Montreal however bounced back with two goals to win at home, one from the PK spot, which Piatti scored. On any given day Piatti is one of the best players in the league. Whether or not he gets on the ball a lot or not he naturally draws a lot of attention from defenders and that is indispensible for the Impact. It was a much-needed win for Montreal.
Orlando City 2–1 LA Galaxy
Orlando City won yet again at their new building down in Florida. The Lions left it late but the young Canadian striker Cyle Larin stepped up yet again to put home the winner in second half stoppage time. I haven’t been to the new park in Orlando but it looks like an excellent venue and Orlando just keeps on winning there. It has instantly become one of the finest fortresses in MLS with an Orlando side that really does not seem to be missing Kaka too much. Larin is an elite MLS striker and all the talk of him possible moving to Europe soon is rightly deserved. Orlando created several other golden chances in this one and Carlos Rivas struck the post on a wicked shot that wouldn’t go in. Will Johnson scored a fantastic volley and Romain Alessandrini equalized with a great strike of his own for LA. This was an entertaining game and all three goals were really top quality.
NY Red Bulls 2–0 DC United
The Red Bulls really needed something to go their way in this one playing at home against a rival. The first 45 minutes looked all too familiar for New York as they failed to find the net. However early in the second half Alex Muyl scored off of a set piece and shortly after Bradley Wright-Phillips added a second for the Red Bulls. It will come as a sigh of relief to New York that they were able to take care of business and get three points in this one. For a team that has been so solid and consistent the last couple of years, they have gotten off to a slow start this time around. NYRB will be hoping that Tyler Adams continues to develop into a starting caliber midfielder; he has big shoes to fill after Dax’s departure. As for DC, I am wondering where the goals will come from. They have only scored 4 goals as a team this year, the lowest return in MLS thus far.
Columbus 2–1 Toronto
Columbus and Toronto met in what was an even and eventful first half. Both teams scored off of corners in the first half with Jozy Altidore and Justin Meram netting goals for Toronto and Columbus respectively. The crew’s ability to go down early and storm back to take the lead before half time was quite impressive against a strong defensive side like Toronto, who themselves will not be happy their start to the season. Both of the finalists from last years MLS cup have started slow out of the gates. You have to think Toronto just has too much quality to keep dropping points at this rate. For Columbus it was excellent of them to bounce back after losing to the Fire last week.
Hot (Time) Take
After a several weeks the Eastern Conference is upside down. Even though it is early still I wouldn’t have predicted the top 3 teams on the table to be Columbus, Orlando and Chicago. At the end of the 2016 season those three teams made up the bottom three of the table, none of them made the playoffs. This is not to say any of three teams mentioned will go on to make the playoffs but it just goes to show how quickly things can turn around in this league. Toronto has to be the biggest under performer so far. Having just missed out on the MLS cup last year I would have suspected that they would be eager to get off to a great start this year but things just have not come together for them just yet. It is worth noting they have only played two games at home so far and they drew both. It is absolutely crucial to take maximum points at home given how difficult it is to win on the road. If you look at the table, none of the top five teams in the East have lost a home game. The Fire really did them selves a favor taking 7 points on this home stand. They will now travel to play Toronto and the Red Bulls in big Eastern Conference matches and then finally to the west coast to play the Galaxy.