MLS Watch Grid for 4/8/2023
Window 1 (6:30pm)
Free Window Winner: Austin FC at Los Angeles FC
This was initially supposed to be a much more interesting match on its face than it looks to be at the moment. This is a rematch of the 2022 Western Conference Final between two of the most exhilarating attacking teams in recent memory, featuring all manner of marquee players: Driussi, Vela, Chiellini, Fagundez, et cetera, and yet, I still feel like I have to sell it to you.
This is Austin’s fault. They’ve not been playing well in MLS and outside of that first match against St. Louis, their failure hasn’t even been all that interesting. Before the year, I thought they were either posed for an inexplicable continuation of their dynamic form from 2022 or I thought they would eat shit in a similarly dynamic fashion. The wheels would either catch fire again or fall off. Austin should’ve been a must-watch team whatever happened to them, but they haven’t really been that way since about week 3. I think my problem with them is that they went back to back with fascinating ways to fail so early – the back-pass against St. Louis and the two-legged impotence against Violette – that
A) My expectations of what Austin’s failure could look like were heightened unrealistically
B) The tank of interesting things to happen to them in any sense was emptied.
They’ve had a week off and tank has had a chance to recharge! They’re facing the team that ended their dream season last year! Austin can properly get back on track with a win here, which is reason enough to watch!
I keep thinking that LAFC might at some point be vulnerable to something, anything, but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe, far too arrogant and high off their blowout win over Vancouver in the mid-week, they come home to the Banque, look sluggish and uninspired, let Austin control the game, and then… well, they probably still somehow win 4-1 off of accidental deflections off of Denis Bouanga’s feet which nonetheless make their way past Brad Stuver every single time.
Season Pass Window Winner: Atlanta United FC at New York City FC
MLS is an odd league for many reasons, one of which is that there’s not really a mystique around a star player coming to the country’s largest city. Even if the Knicks, the Yankees, or the Jets are in the midst of a mediocre to bad season, it’s still meaningful for a great player to come and put on a show in a hallowed arena such as Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, or MetLife. I don’t get quite that aura from Thiago Almada coming to play on the mini-pitch in the House that Ruth Built for A Different Sport Entirely, but he’s probably not going to be here for much longer, and we must appreciate every moment we get of him with the Five Stripes.
Window 2 (7:30pm)
Window Winner: Minnesota United FC at Chicago Fire FC
There are certain MLS teams who relish the “nobody’s talking about us” ethos, or its close cousin, the “everybody doubted us” ethos. Minnesota is unique in that they only seem to operate when nobody’s watching them. Historically, the Loons can only fly until they realize that they are flying, at which point they begin to panic. The case in point here was the 2020 Western Conference Final, and they’ve been content to cruise around the upper-middle of the West ever since.
Well, big mistake, Adrian – We’ve all noticed the Loons now. They’re coming off just about their biggest win since the 2020 Western Conference Semifinal last week, delivering the first loss in history to St. Louis CITY SC, which gives the Twin Cities the rightful claim to the title of The Soccer Capitals of the United States™
I had the idea to have a split Soccer Capital of the United States™ belong to Kansas City at the start of the year and a second SOCCER CAPITAL OF THE UNITED STATES belong to St. Louis at the start of the year and see where they both went by this point if it were taken by the winner of a match like a wrestling belt, but the two of them converged by the second week after KC lost to Portland in week 1 and then Portland lost to St. Louis in week 2. St. Louis has held both Capitals™ since week 2. To clarify, the title is The Soccer Capitals of the United States™. You get both St. Louis’s claim to the title from the 1950s and Kansas City’s claim to the title from Beer Ads. It happens to work coincidentally for the Twin Cities because there’s two of them, but if Chicago wins, it’ll still be the Soccer Capitals of the United States™, which is also coincidental because that big mansion all the US Soccer business happens from is located in that city.
The Loons have to go to Chicago, who has flirted with being interesting at points this season, but I will not call them that yet. I will call them the team that has Brian Gutierrez, which is an idea that could build up into something interesting, but they’re not there yet.
Artisan’s Choice: Colorado Rapids at Sporting Kansas City (who will lose their second O when they win a match)
THE BATTLE FOR 28TH RAGES UNDER THE LIGHTS OF THE NEBRASKA FURNITURE MART SIGN IN WYANDOTTE COUNTY ON SATURDAY NIGHT! EARLY SEASON SPOON ON THE LINE!
I will attend this. I’ve somehow made it to a Sporting/Rapids match each of the past three years. Maybe I keep this up for the rest of my life, seeing Sporting/Rapids every year until I go to the grave. It’s been a genuinely entertaining pseudo-rivalry in the past two years, especially as Diego Rubio has relished the opportunity to score against the SKC team that let him go with his entire being since he ended up in Colorado. The games get chippy and there’s an earnest helping of bad blood between the two sides that we haven’t really seen since the days of Mark Chung and Peter Vermes(the player). Sporting/Rapids does not sell itself. Especially 28th Place Sporting versus 29th Place Rapids. This game will not bring out the klaxons and neon lights to bring within. This game does not reach from the television and grab you.
This is a truly artisanal event. You must learn to enjoy the desperation in these two losing sides. You must learn to understand and appreciate the angst underlying it all. You will have to try, you will have to study it, you will have to create enemies – If you’re annoyed by how much I’ve put into this piece so far, keep in mind that I’ll be sad if Sporting loses, for example.
Window 3 (8:30pm)
Window Winner (By Default): Charlotte FC at Real Salt Lake
CHARLOTTE ENTERS THE SALT ZONE – THE BATTLE FOR SOMETHING LIKE 24TH OR SO RAGES IN SANDY, UTAH ON SATURDAY NIGHT! EARLY SEASON JITTERS AND SLIGHTLY HOTTER SEAT FOR A ONCE-INTERIM COACH ON THE LINE!
Window 4 (9:30pm)
Game of the Weekend: St. Louis CITY SC at Seattle Sounders FC
THE BATTLE FOR FIRST RAGES IN SEATTLE! ST LOUIS city SC COMES UP TO FISHERMAN’S WHARF AND TRIES TO GET BACK TO WINNING FORM! JORDAN MORRIS TRIES TO CHANNEL THE POWER OF BLEACH BLOND SPIKED TIPS AGAINST A TEAM THAT DOES PLAY DEFENSE THIS TIME!
This is what we’ve been waiting for! St. Louis, #1 in the Shield standings, on the road at Seattle, #3 in the Shield standings. Winner takes first place in the west and potentially could take first place in the league depending on what happens with Cincinnati and the Union. Golden Boot #1 Jordan Morris versus Golden Boot #2 Joao Klauss! Team Expected Goals For #1 Seattle (11.38) versus Team Expected Goals For #2 St. Louis (9.58)! Champagne Ground-Cross Crisp-Passin’ Counter-Attackin’ Schmetzerball Seattle Versus Fuck You Fuck You Fuck You Fuck You Give Me The Ball You Little Twerp St. Louis! Inventor of American Soccer versus Inventor of American Soccer!
This is what we came here for! It’s games like this! Conflicting styles, good teams, great atmospheres, great players! They’re giving it to us for free!
Who’s Off This Week:
Orlando! You’re off this weekend. I wish that I had a sense of things unique to your city or region that are not the huge theme parks for which you’re famous to recommend you go experience, but I don’t have that knowledge. Enjoy Epcot.
Everybody else, let’s enjoy the soccer!
The Twitter guy apparently outlawed Substack URLs on his site, so the entire utility of me having a Twitter again is gone, and thus, so is that account. Apologies if you followed it but I didn’t have grand plans for it.