Almost any other season and the Fire’s two-game losing slump wouldn’t be that big of a deal. 2017 is not any other season. This league is viciously competitive in a way it hasn’t been for a while. Matchweek 21 is a perfect example of that.
I’m not sure why the scriptwriters decided to have back-to-back meetings in this nascent rivalry, but the rematch to last week’s shitshow wasted no time. This week featured the added drama of Dom Dwyer making his debut for Orlando, which threatened to put the spikiness of last week on the backburner. But while the fan tensions were more subdued this weekend, the stuff on the pitch didn’t disappoint. Kaká put the visitors ahead late in the first half and Orlando managed to hold the lead deep into second half stoppage time. It looked like the Lions were going to get revenge for last week’s embarrassing late loss. But Hector Villalba, who scored the late gamewinner last week for Atlanta, rescued his side in stoppage time with a powerful strike to steal a point at the death. Maybe it’s the heat down south that’s making them all riled up.
In the MLS Matchcenter recap for this game, the Red Bulls are referred to as “the hottest team in Major League Soccer.” That’s exactly what they were saying about the Fire, like, a month ago. (It’s okay to have a little cry. We’re all human.) It’s undeniable that the Energy Drinks are on a roll right now, and their 4-0 dismantling of L’Impact is a good demonstration of why. Four wins in a row, BWP’s 80th goal for MLS, and an utterly dominant performance makes for three fully-deserved points. It seems like every week there’s a new team to worry about in this conference.
This was one of those games where the narrative outran the soccer. The Galaxy fired Curt Onalfo last week following a dismal first half of the season that left the team in ninth place in the Western Conference. You can argue over whether the squad as currently composed deserves to be higher or not, but regardless, this isn’t up to the organization’s standards. It didn’t take long for LA to find their replacement— former Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. And sure enough, his first game in charge of the Galaxy was... against the Sounders. It had the perfect set-up to be one of the biggest games of the 2017 MLS season. It’s too bad the game sucked. Goalless draws can be exciting, but this was just dreadful. But at least Schmid got this fixture out of the way, and the Galaxy didn’t lose. So. That’s something.
Minnesota United 4-0 DC United
Remember at the beginning of the season when Minnesota were terrible? Remember how people were saying they were an embarrassment to the league and they should relegate themselves back to the NASL? My how things change. The Loons aren’t good, exactly— they’re only two points clear of last place in the Western Conference. But they had the good fortune of going up to the abject failure that is DC United in 2017. Both teams are almost certainly out of the playoff chase this season (and that’s probably for the best), but this game shows that there’s always something to play for in MLS. Even if it’s pride.
With the Men In Red losing on Saturday night, the eyes of all Fire fans were on this game. The best result for Chicago fans would’ve probably been a low scoring draw. Maybe with a few red cards thrown in. Instead, Toronto beat up NYCFC and took their lunch money. Seba Giovinco put the home side in front after the half hour mark and Toronto nursed that lead for much of the rest of the game. He doubled the lead with a thunderbolt of a free kick in the 67th minute, and then eight minutes later the game was settled when NYCFC got Penso’d and Jozy Altidore converted a dubiously-awarded penalty. Raheem Edwards poured salt in the wound, and in stoppage time NYC missed out on an opportunity to stick it to their hosts and deny them the shutout when Maxi Morales fluffed a penalty. So the good news is that the Fire are still in second place. The bad news are now five points ahead of us. Like I said— the East this season will kill you if you’re not ready for it.