1) Chicago Cure Road Blues
The Chicago Fire hadn’t won a game away from home in two years before they finally defeated the Impact 3-0 Saturday in Montreal. Now, to be fair Chicago has been awful the past three seasons, wherever the games have been played.
The once proud Fire won just six times and finished 9th in the Eastern Conference in 2014, last in the entire MLS in 2015 when they earned eight w’s and are currently bottom of the league with 22 points from five wins, with 11 games still to play.
New pickup from Colorado Luis Solignac opened the scoring in the 15th minute against the Impact, set up by the Fire’s most exciting player David Accam, who would add a second Chicago goal at the 70-minute mark.
A late goal from U.S. U23 Matt Polster put a nice sheen on the win as Sean Johnson picked up the shutout. New coach Veljko Paunovic’s reinstatement earlier this season of the once (and future?) U.S. goalkeeper was a smart correction of the rookie boss’ initial mistaken decision to go with Matt Lampson over Johnson to start the season.
Up next the Fire host L.A. on Wednesday before the head out on the road again for a three-match trip to play at DC United, the Philadelphia Union, and Toronto FC.
2) On the Road Again
MLS is known as a tough league to pick up wins on the road and although their trouble did not reach the heights, or maybe the depths of the Fire, Columbus, and Houston each went into the weekend without a single road win on their respective resumes.
Both happily ended those droughts with Houston kicking off the MLS Road Warrior weekend with a 2-1 victory over San Jose with Colombus following suit the next day when it blanked New England 2-0 in Foxborough.
It has been another tough year for Houston who replaced veteran EPL coach Owen Coyle earlier in the campaign with former Dynamo player Wade Barrett on an interim basis.
The Dynamo got the benefit of the doubt Saturday when Chris Wondolowski’s header was slapped away from goal by Joe Willis. The ball may have crossed the goal line but the call went the Dynamo’s way.
The loss was a bad one for the home team who need every point it can get in its playoff chase but Houston was will feel they were overdue to catch a break.
While Houston hoped for better entering 2016, this season has been a shocker for Columbus after the Crew contested the MLS Cup last December. And road woes have contributed to the Crews disappointments.
The Crew was just 6-7-4 away from home in 2015, not bad given that no MLS team had a winning record on the road during the campaign.
Saturday’s victory gives the Crew a 1-7-3 mark away from Columbus and combined with a 4-8-11 mark at MAPFRE Stadium it adds up to ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
3) Patrick Vieira’s Happy Travelers
Although NYCFC has fared better recently at home after some initial struggles on the small pitch in the Big Ballpark in the Bronx, the second-year expansion club is the only team with a winning record on the road so far this MLS season.
While New York struggled early to implement Vieira’s passing style, particularly out of the back, on the narrow Yankee Stadium field, road success kept New York afloat.
Currently 6-4-3 away from home and with the playoffs virtually assured New York should be well equipped for the rigors of MLS road playoff soccer.
4) Look Out Western Conference – Here Comes Seattle!
Less than a month ago Seattle’s season appeared to be at an end when the Sounders fired the only MLS coach it had ever had when it “mutually agreed to part ways” with Sigi Schmidt.
A year that began with the ill-timed, and devastating, departure of Obafemi Martins for the “greener” fields of China had only gotten worse for the Rave Green and the playoffs were not really a consideration at that point.
But when 12 of the league’s 20 teams qualify for the playoffs it can be difficult to miss out on the MLS postseason. And since Nicolas Lodeiro came aboard it has become nearly impossible for the Sounders.
The gifted Uruguayan midfielder has notched one goal and four assists in his four games for the Sounders, a draw followed by three wins, given Clint Dempsey a worthy partner to play off of and sparked a playoff run in Seattle.
The Sounders could pass Portland for the final playoff position with a win in Houston on Wednesday, before heading to the Rose City for a Cascadia tussle on Sunday.
5) LAFC Break Ground
Hot on the heels of Minnesota United FC’s “celebration” last Friday LAFC broke ground today on its stadium located next to the Los Angeles Coliseum, and accessible to the LA MetroLink.
Minnesota announced that it won late approval to retain its NASL name Minnesota United FC and will play temporarily at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota.
The league initially said there were enough United’s in the league before changing course. So Minnesota joins D.C. and Atlanta as MLS United clubs, with the two newcomers also jumping on the FC bandwagon alongside the new Los Angeles club LAFC.
That is a lot of Football Clubs in a league named Major League Soccer.
MNUFC is planning to build a permanent home in St Paul at a former bus yard. The project does have a hurdle or two yet to clear as state legislators still need to pass a budget bill that includes the stadium.
State, city, and club officials have expressed confidence that the deal will get done but if the legislature drags its heels today’s celebrations could turn out to be hollow.
With shovels in the ground, LAFC has passed that hurdle and are scheduled to begin MLS play in 2018, one year after Minnesota and Atlanta United FC.