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MLS Weekend Hatewatch, Week 5: Holy Crap

The zLAtan era dawns, NYCFC grabs the top spot in the standings, and more

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Los Angeles Galaxy Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

MLS can be kind of stupid sometimes, but underneath it all there’s a lot to love here. I’m talking about big tentpole games like this weekend’s first El Trafico (more on that in a sec), but I also mean how quickly fortunes can shift and how a team can turn their season around with elbow grease and some good timing. There’s a lot of good stuff in the fan culture too, from energetic crowds to nascent rituals to the bonds that form between supporters— even those of rival teams.

I guess what I’m saying is that MLS is fun and Major League Friendship is cool and good.

LA Galaxy 4-3 Los Angeles FC

Look, I know I get really snarky here in these Hatewatch columns, but I have to say: this was an incredible game.

Seeing LAFC clown the Galaxy in the first half. Seeing the Galaxy fight back to equalize, capped off with fucking Zlatan hitting a chipped goal from the midfield. Zlatan scoring again in stoppage time to win it. The crowd, the energy, everything. All in the first game of a new local rivalry.

There’s a lot to not like in MLS. The corporatized astro-turfing of supporter culture. The fake hooliganism of some corners of the fanbase. The overall Diet NFL feel of the league’s media narrative. But this inaugural game in El Traffico is a great advertisement for Major League Soccer. Team loyalties notwithstanding, if you can’t take at least some joy out of a game like this, you should probably look into getting a new hobby.

Toronto FC 3-1 Real Salt Lake

I don’t do conspiracy theories buuuuuut there’s something a little off about Defending MLS Cup Champions Toronto FC being gifted two penalties within 10 minutes early in the first half. Almost like they were getting help to recover from a bad start. (The fact that they could only convert one is lol.)

Anyway Toronto’s early slump is probably over. You had your fun. Get back to work.

Orlando City SC 4-3 New York Red Bulls

From a neutral’s perspective, this game was an emotional rollercoaster. But from an outside detractor’s point of view, it was almost perfect. All it needed was for the result to be a draw and for a few red cards to be doled out.

Columbus Crew 1-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

I mean look, the Crew might not exist after this season. I’m going to soak in the schadenfreude while I can. And let me tell you, Kei Kamara scoring the gamewinner was delicious.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-2 New York City FC

So, uh. NYCFC is alone at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings. That is a thing that’s happening.