Welcome to Pulso Sports for the third Installment of “Hot or Not. We are not determining results by club’s position in the standings but rather by the on-field result and the potential it could carry over to the following week. We won’t go through every club but rather the match results that stood out in both the good, the bad, and perhaps the ugly. Which clubs are hot or not!
Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake has played only two matches since their regular season didn’t start until April 24. First, they won on the road 2-1 at Allianz Field against Minnesota United. Then Saturday May 1, back at home at Rio Tinto Stadium, they outlasted Sporting KC by a score line of 3-1. After they finished second to last in the Western Conference standings last year, I think most analysts and pundits counted RSL out of making a playoff spot this year. That’s given the club more incentive to win matches and only two matches in they have reaped the rewards. Could RSL be the dark horse of the Western Conference for 2021? It’s shaping up that way.
I got to give credit where credit is due. NYCFC finally can have the distinction of being one of the top clubs in Eastern Conference that three points is difficult to come by for opposition for the 2021 season. This past Saturday the club headed to Subaru Park to face the 2020 Supporters Shield Winners, the Philadelphia Union. The Union put up much more of a fight than FC Cincinnati did but NYCFC still walked away with the three points winning 2-0. The 16th minute red card for Union central defensive midfielder Jose Martinez proved to be the lucky break NYCFC needed. Aside from luck, the player that really has stood is Paraguayan central midfielder Jesus Medina. He has three goals in two matches!
Orlando City SC
Like NYCFC mentioned above, Orlando in week 3 is another team I must give credit where credit is due. For Orlando it’s the club’s resolve over the last three weeks is what’s stands out. The first match they played to an uninspiring 0-0 draw against Atlanta United at home, then the following week, they went to Children’s Mercy Park to face Sporting KC leaving with only a 1-1 draw in a match plagued by constant goals ruled back by officiating. Dropping four points out of 6 points in the first two matches of the season could have affected club morale but cooler heads prevailed in a resounding 3-0 win enough to put them in third place of the Eastern Conference.
The Sounders had their first real test early in the 2021 season beating an in-form Los Angeles Galaxy 3-0 at Lumen Field on Sunday. Raul Ruidiaz picked up his second brace for a second consecutive home match this season and team captain Nicolas Lodeiro finally got his first minutes as a substitute having missed the first two matches of the season due to injury. With an important win, the 3-0 victory slingshots the Rave Green to the top of the Western Conference Standings. Not to mention it was the first match the Sounders scored a goal in the first half this season! In what was considered to be a down year for the Sounders has been anything but that. They confidently have quieted the concerns raised by skeptics going forward this season over a new formation, fielding a competitive roster having hit their financial salary cap, and moving on again without Jordan Morris.
Portland’s start to their MLS Season hasn’t been kind to them. Or perhaps that they also are in CONCACAF Champions League stretching the roster very thin. Sure, they have the luxury of having a win in MLS regular season play but it doesn’t seem they are firing on all cylinders. In the past offseason with an extreme emphasis on acquiring players to solidify the defense the backline has been anything but that. Last Saturday Portland was run ragged by FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas losing 4-1. Is it a case of CONCACAF or do more problems persist?
Columbus Crew SC
Another team involved in CONCAF Champions League is the reigning MLS Cup Champions. They even had the fortune of bringing in more players like Bradley Wright Phillips to bolster their already dangerous offense in the offseason. They’ve been anything but spectacular in 2021. Their first regular season match at home in MAPFRE Stadium, the Philadelphia Union held them to a scoreless draw. Last Saturday the team was held to another scoreless draw against CF Montreal in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The team hasn’t lost a match in league play but if they continue on their current path, could make it harder for themselves later in the season. Columbus can learn a lot from Toronto FC’s 2018 season who despite reaching the CONCACAF Champions League Final in May failed to qualify for MLS Cup Playoffs. It was an embarrassing moment for Toronto and a moment Columbus can’t afford to replicate this season.
I hoped the Loons wouldn’t fall for a second straight week in the “Not Category” of “Hot or Not”. Three weeks in no wins, no draws, three losses, 1 goal scored and 7 goals conceded. A loss is a loss no matter if you lose 4-0 or in this case for the Loons this past weekend 1-0 to Austin FC. It’s unsatisfactory and only losing by one goal isn’t seen as an improvement having lost two weeks prior 4-0.
What makes this frustrating is this isn’t what anyone expected to happen from Minnesota at all this season. Not with the current talent on the roster available for Head Coach Adrian Heath. Everyone expected them to be one of the top clubs in the Western Conference that would likely go to the playoffs that would make three points hard to come by for everyone else.
Regardless of who the responsibility falls on the shoulders of either the players or Adrian Heath and his coaching staff, someone will take the sharp brunt regardless whether it’s a fair accusation or not if Minnesota continues on their current descent. It should also be noted that MLS teams that win their first match in either the second or third month of the regular season have trouble stringing together consistent victories over the course of the season. They could like the Sounders pull of a resurgence in the second half of the season but there’s no guarantee of being MLS Cup Champion even then.
With Josef Martinez back after missing all of 2020 with an ACL Tear, you would think Atlanta United would return to happier times moving on from the toxicity of Frank De Boer that engulfed the club for the last two years. A 2-1 loss to New England Revolution last Saturday May 1 at Gillette Stadium indicates that perhaps the repair efforts under new Head Coach Gabriel Heinze may not be the quick fix fans were hoping to see. It might take longer. Much like LAFC but with an MLS Cup Championship, most of the roster from that championship winning team is all but gone. Atlanta is having to rediscover themselves or maybe they have peaked too early as a club never again reaching the level of excellence that made them spectacular to watch when they broke into the league in 2017.