Seven weeks into the Major League Soccer season and we have reached the international break. This time off figures to benefit most teams around the league and also help build anticipation for what’s to come.
Inter Miami a mess
When David Beckham was envisioning his Miami dream, none of what's currently happening was in the cards.
The names bandied about as potential signings included the likes of Lionel Messi, Edinson Cavani and more. What Inter Miami got instead was Gonzalo Higuain and Rodolfo Pizarro, and its later signing of Blaise Matuidi led to trouble. On Friday, MLS fined Inter Miami $2 million and imposed other sanctions for violating roster designation rules. On Saturday, Inter had their first-ever capacity crowd in Fort Lauderdale with nearly 16,000 fans in the stadium ... and they were booed off the field after a 3-0 loss to D.C. United.
Head coach Phil Neville was brought in to fix problems they had in the inaugural season, but things only seem to be getting worse for the 11th-place squad. And it’s not just the outside noise either; the product on the field has been completely uninspiring. If there’s a team that desperately needs some time off to regroup, it’s this one. Back to the drawing board fast, because the pressure is higher than ever on Beckham and company.
Gianluca Busio shining in Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes put it best after Saturday’s 3-2 win over Houston — it’s time to start giving Gianluca Busio more credit.
This offseason, the homegrown midfielder said he was aiming to step up as a key player for his team and that’s exactly what he’s done so far. To celebrate his 19th birthday, which was on Friday, he gifted himself (and us all) an MLS goal of the year candidate with a ridiculous free kick from 30 yards out.
That moment woke Sporting up and sparked them to the three points. Busio's maturation is evident, and the responsibility that comes with the No. 10 jersey he desperately wanted this season has turned him into one of the most important players on the roster. “I’ve never seen a 19-year-old play like this … He's a top-level player,” said teammate Gadi Kinda.
There are only two undefeated teams remaining in MLS. One is Seattle, which by large consensus is the best team in the league right now. The other is Nashville, which is rarely even talked about.
The results play a part in that, considering Nashville has only won two games this season and drawn five. Kicking off the season with three straight draws against Cincinnati, Montreal and Inter Miami was nothing special, but the latest 2-2 result against Atlanta offers some reason for optimism.
Nashville was down by a pair of goals on the road in a tough stadium, and Hany Mukhtar, who is bouncing back from a hamstring injury, scored twice in the span of 3 minutes to steal a point. That’s a draw that feels like a win and sends them into the break with a positive mentality moving forward.
The zero in the L column helps a lot, too.
New territory for LAFC, Vela
When we saw Carlos Vela get subbed off in LAFC’s season opener vs. Austin FC, there was no way anyone could have imagined what would follow. Bob Bradley himself admitted in a TV interview moments after that maybe the decision to pull Vela off the field so quickly was a mistake.
It’s over a month later and the 2019 MVP and Golden Boot winner, following a disappointing 2-1 home loss to NYCFC, admitted that he’s not at 100%. The injury sidelined Vela for three games where the Black and Gold grabbed only two of nine possible points. Seeing him finally play a full 90 minutes Saturday is surely a positive, but he’s clearly not anywhere close to his top form, and that’s also a reflection of LAFC’s current energy as a group. Morale is down with the club in ninth place, sharpness is missing and it seems like there is a lack of confidence.
Their next game will be on June 19 in full capacity Banc of California Stadium for the first time since before the pandemic. It’s time for them to get back to the basics, because another loss or two on the other side of the international break could launch Los Angeles into full-blown panic mode.
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