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Sports Strength

2022 Austin FC Season Preview

The 2022 Major League Soccer season kicks off later this month and Austin FC is the second team that ONE37pm will be taking a closer look at.

After finishing near the bottom of the table in Year 1, Austin has its sights set on an improved finish in 2022 as the club continues to add more talent in the attack.

Austin features many players with strong MLS experience, so perhaps their sophomore season will yield more results for Josh Wolff and Co.

Here’s a closer look at Austin FC heading into the 2022 season.

2021 Performance

Austin finished 12th in the West during their first MLS season after winning nine matches. The Texas side beat several teams that reached the postseason, including the Portland Timbers, who advanced to MLS Cup.

Manager

Josh Wolff enters his second season in Austin as the club aims to build a playoff side. Wolff is a former U.S. Men’s National Team attacker and has plenty of MLS experience, so Austin will be leaning on those previous opportunities to put the club into the Western Conference mix.

Key Players

Sebastian Driussi (Argentina) is the club’s newest DP forward and he has plenty of experience in big matches. The former River Plate and Zenit goal scorer can certainly provide a spark up front.

Cecilio Dominguez (Paraguay) was one of the most consistent players for Austin during their debut campaign and they’ll need a strong follow-up performance from the midfielder in 2022.

Kipp Keller (USA) was one of the most-touted college defenders coming out of this year’s MLS SuperDraft and the former St. Louis University center back can add a strong presence at the back alongside newcomer Ruben Gabrielson.

Key Matches in 2022

May 8 vs. LA Galaxy

May 18 at Los Angeles FC

July 30 at Sporting KC

September 10 at Seattle Sounders

Expectations

Austin had a rough go in their debut season, but that’s often the case with expansion teams.

There’s reason to believe Austin will be improved in 2022 given the spine of their squad. A strong midfield, led by Dominguez and Alex Ring, could be the key for Austin if Driussi finds consistency in front goal.

Austin could very well battle for one of the final playoff positions this season if everything goes to plan.

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Sports Strength

2022 Atlanta United Season Preview

The 2022 Major League Soccer season kicks off later this month and Atlanta United is the first team that ONE37pm will be taking a closer look at.

Despite only being in the league since 2017, Atlanta is already estimated as one of the most valuable clubs in MLS based on their attendance numbers and success on the pitch.

Atlanta holds various records for its attendance, owning the entire top 10 for single-game MLS turnouts. That includes a number of matches where the club has drawn over 70,000 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Here’s a closer look at Atlanta United heading into the 2022 season.

2021 Performance

Atlanta finished fifth in the Eastern Conference last season before losing to New York City FC in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Manager

Gonzalo Pineda enters his second season in Atlanta after serving as an assistant with the Seattle Sounders for years. The former Liga MX midfielder is widely respected throughout MLS and he’s hoping to bring the same consistency that Seattle has had for some many years over to Atlanta.

Key Players

Miles Robinson (USA) really came into his own last season and locked down a spot with the USMNT on top of being Atlanta’s best defender.

Luiz Araujo (Brazil) joined Atlanta in 2021 as a Designated Player and there will be huge expectations for him as he aims to provide creativity in the attack alongside the club’s top players.

Josef Martinez (Venezuela) has been one of the top goal scorers in MLS since he joined Atlanta and he can lead the team back to glory if he becomes a 15-plus goals type of player again in 2022.

Key Matches in 2022

March 13 vs. Charlotte FC

July 3 at NYCFC

July 17 vs. Orlando City

August 6 vs. Seattle Sounders

Expectations

Atlanta faces stiff competition once again in the East, but they’ll be hopeful that their attack to find its form from previous seasons in 2022.

Martinez will be very important up front, while Araujo is expected to take another step forward in his first full season in MLS.

Given the quality squad Carlos Bocanegra has built, Atlanta won’t only be expected to make the playoffs but also advance deep into the postseason.

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Sports Strength

Meet Valentin Castellanos, NYCFC’s Goal Machine

When Valentin Castellanos arrived in Major League Soccer he didn’t have much experience as a professional, but now he’s a league champion after a stellar 2021 season.

New York City FC brought Castellanos to the club in 2018, initially on loan, before signing him on a permanent contract.

The following season, the Argentine began to exhibit the type of play that would eventually make him one of the league’s elite goal scorers just a few years later.

The versatile attacker entered the 2021 season with 18 career MLS goals in his previous two-and-a-half seasons with NYCFC, and he went on to break that goal total in a single campaign.

ONE37pm takes a closer look at Castellanos and how he’s become one of the top players currently competing in MLS.

History of Castellanos

Castellanos was born in Mendoza — a large province that’s actually closer to Santiago, Chile than most of Argentina’s major cities.

Growing up, the Argentine played for a number of youth teams in his homeland before moving to Universidad de Chile.

Although he never made a senior team appearance, Castellanos found a home at Uruguayan side Torque in 2017 and scored four goals while on loan from the Chilean club.

That’s when NYCFC began to examine the attacker closer and eventually the Yankee Stadium side brought in Castellanos on loan.

Despite scoring just one goal in his initial season, the club saw enough of him to believe that he could make a real impact in the future.

Clearly they were right about him.

Style of Play

Castellanos has the ability to play in a variety of roles, and NYCFC has utilized his versatility effectively.

Since joining the club, Castellanos has largely played as a right winger or a false No. 9 in a more central position.

His skill on the ball makes him extremely dangerous when running at defenders, and for that reason he plays very loosely in a set position.

Castellanos finished last season as NYCFC’s top scorer and had the second-most assists, further showing his importance in different roles for the club.

What the Future Holds

It appeared that Castellanos would surely be leaving NYCFC this offseason after a tremendous season in MLS, and he was linked with moves to Europe and Brazil, but ultimately the Argentine will spend at least the start of 2022 in New York.

There’s no question the 23-year-old attacker is talented enough to play overseas, and with another strong start in 2022 it’s very possible he’ll move over the summer when the transfer market is more active.

Until then, MLS fans get to enjoy Castellanos, which is definitely a great sign for football in the United States.

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Sports Strength

NYCFC’s Latest Playoff Journey Is Not A Surprise

The New York City Football Club has experienced consistent success for the majority of its eight years of existence. In addition to making the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, the Eastern Conference club has housed top-notch talent such as legendary players like David Villa and Andrea Pirlo as well as up-and-comers like 2021 MLS Golden Boot winner and forward Valentin Castellanos. But amidst such success, NYCFC has gone through tons of heartbreak too.

Followers of the club vividly remember those cold October and November nights where NYCFC would get knocked out of the playoffs at home in the first round. The club’s losses against the likes of Columbus FC (2017) and Toronto FC (2019) shifted the franchise’s direction and sparked several departures, whether it was Villa or previous managers Patrick Vieria and Domenec Torrent who all thrived during the regular season.

This year, though, it seems like NYCFC has learned from their past failures and now stands at the precipice of making their first MLS Cup. On Sunday, they’ll have the chance to exorcise their previous demons when they go on the road to face off against the Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference Finals.

While this year’s NYCFC club may not be as talented or accomplished, this group has a greater amount of grit and focus than they have in years past. Club veterans such as midfielder Maxi Moralez, goalie Sean Johnson, defender Alexander Callens, and Castellanos have accumulated years of important playoff experience, which sets the tone and positively influences the rest of their roster.

It’s honestly not a surprise that NYCFC’s path to an MLS Cup appearance, let alone a championship, comes in the form of being a road warrior as they travel to Philadelphia this weekend. Fewer things bring a team together than playing on the road and knowing the odds are against you all. But you know what else helps you accomplish your goal? Living in the moment and for NYCFC, they’ll experience another one this Sunday.

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Sports Strength

Meet Shawn McIntosh, Charlotte FC’s Chief Fan Officer

Shawn McIntosh has one of the most unique roles in North American proper football, and he’ll be tasked with growing the newest market in Major League Soccer.

Charlotte FC announced a first-of-its-kind job listing back in June for a position described as “Chief Fan Officer.” 

But what exactly does that mean?

The landscape of football, and sports in general, has changed drastically during the social media era, where supporters are capable of having their voices heard in bunches with the click of a button on Twitter.

Charlotte’s unique plan was to bring in a candidate that could help cultivate those voices and channel the discussion into something positive and provide an opportunity for fans to bring their ideas directly to the club.

That’s where McIntosh comes in. Despite only being on the job for a brief period of time, McIntosh has already begun to dive in and meet with club supporters to gauge their thoughts on Charlotte’s debut season in 2022.

“I think my experiences living in Italy and seeing Serie A firsthand really gave me perspective on how important fan culture is,” McIntosh told ONE37pm. “We’re trying to grow something significant here in the Carolinas and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how receptive our fanbase has been so far.

“There’s a lot of work left for us to do and roughly five months until kicking off in MLS, but I’m confident we’ll be able to provide a complete matchday experience to our supporters.”

Despite being born in the U.S, McIntosh spent a portion of his youth in Italy and grew up a diehard Lazio fan.

McIntosh says that he’s been able to travel the country with several members of the club’s Supporters’ group to see how other MLS fan bases interact with their organizations. 

Clubs like the LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers regularly have highly-attended matches, but the success of the clubs on the pitch certainly has a role in that as well.

“For us, it’s about being proactive, right?” McIntosh said. “The supporters are your consumer, so not only do you have to put on a great show in terms of what you can offer the fans in the lead up to matches, but also put out a quality team that can compete for titles.

“We’ve had a really good start building out our squad, and our organization is excited to see the rest of the team come together in these next few months.”

Charlotte certainly made a significant wave early on in its roster-building process by signing Christian Fuchs — the well-recognized outside back who helped play a role in Leicester City’s stunning Premier League title in 2015/16.

Fuchs has quickly embraced the culture of Charlotte, spending this year living in North Carolina and competing with USL Championship side Charlotte Independence as a way to get acclimated to the local football scene.

With Fuchs’ years of experience at some of the top clubs in Europe, as well as playing for the Austria national team, Charlotte considers itself extremely lucky to have the 35-year-old along for the ride.

“Whenever you can bring in a player like Christian [Fuchs] it’s almost a given that the move needs to be made,” McIntosh said. “His experiences as a player are obviously massive for this club, but we’re also excited about how he can shape what we’re building by offering his views as well.

“There are a lot of great things about the Premier League, so perhaps we can take some of those ideas and implement them in what this team is going to do.”

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Sports Strength

Christian Fuchs on Charlotte FC, NFL Ambition And Family

Christian Fuchs grew up watching the Premier League as a Manchester United supporter. He was drawn to greats of the game like Eric Cantona and Sir Alex Ferguson who exhibited excellence every time they stepped on the pitch.

Although Fuchs would never play for his childhood dream team, the defender would go on to accomplish great things at another Premier League club; an unexpected one in Leicester City.

Most know Leicester City now as the club that defied all odds and captured the 2015/16 Premier League trophy, beating out the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and United to accomplish one of the greatest underdog dethronements in sports history.

The names that have since solidified themselves outside of the King Power Stadium such as N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez have shown that Leicester’s miraculous run wasn’t a fluke. Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel continue to have their own success with the Foxes to this very day.

However, Fuchs, now 35, is readying himself for a new chapter in his storybook career; one in Major League Soccer with Charlotte FC.

The club won’t debut until 2022, but there’s already plenty of buzz around one of MLS’ newest clubs. 

Charlotte FC

In the heart of the south, Fuchs, who’s lived part-time in New York City for the better part of half a decade as he bounced back and forth between the U.S. and England, is acclimating himself to a new life and a new journey he’s excited to tackle.

“It’s no secret that I was trying to go to Major League Soccer for quite some time now,” Fuchs told ONE37pm. “Obviously my family’s based in New York so it was only a matter of time until I came back here on a more permanent basis.

“I had no desire to stop playing football, so this to me was a huge opportunity to not only continue my career but also get closer to my family, which is extremely important to me.

“Nine years of traveling back and forth across continents was a lot for not only myself, but my wife and kids as well,” Fuchs said. “I just felt it was time for us to be closer and give back to them for all the sacrifices they’ve made over the years.”

Fuchs isn’t the first well-recognized player to complete a move to MLS, following in the footsteps of big names before him like David Villa, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Robbie Keane.

He is, however, been one of the more outspoken when it comes to his desire to come to the United States and compete in a league that continues to pick up steam as MLS grows in its 26th season of play.

When Fuchs arrived at Leicester in 2015 from Bundesliga side Schalke 04 former Foxes scout Steve Walsh was credited with bringing the Austrian and various players to the King Power Stadium which led the club on their historic campaign.

During his time at Leicester, Walsh was crucial in helping bring Kante, Mahrez and Vardy, along with others ahead of the 2015/16 season.

Walsh, who now serves as a special advisor to Charlotte, has held a close relationship with Fuchs for a number of years.

Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

The recommendation from Walsh certainly paid off for all parties, with Fuchs going on to have a stellar six-year career in England that included various trophies, widespread recognition for his off-field service and international call ups.

“Steve [Walsh] was one of the big figures that backed me for Leicester back in 2015, so when he and I started talking about this new project in Charlotte it seemed like a no brainer to me,” Fuchs said.

“I didn’t really need any more details. After what he did for me to come to Leicester was unbelievable and unexpected as well.

“Then I actually had the chance to get to know the people in charge in Charlotte myself and traveled there over the weekend and it only reaffirmed my position. There’s been great investments by the owner and I want to be a big part of what they’re doing.”

With Charlotte’s ambitions clearly setting the club up for early success starting with owner Dvaid Tepper at the top, Fuchs recognizes the opportunity he has to put a stamp on the upstart project.

Upon arriving at Leicester, the Foxes had never seen steady Premier League success the way they have since winning the title in May 2016, with an FA Cup title and an appearance in the UEFA Champions League to their name.

Charlotte, like the various MLS teams that have gone through the expansion route over the years, will look to imprint their own positivity on the league similar to other markets like Atlanta United, the Seattle Sounders and Los Angeles FC.

Christian Fuchs

My time at Leicester instilled this incredible winning mentality, but I’ve always been the type of person that’s hungry for more. I want to come into Charlotte and communicate especially with the young players how good it feels to have success and the hunger that you need in order to be successful.

“I believe I bring a vast amount of experience and that’s one thing I know I’ll certainly bring to our club. Bringing that right mentality from the start is something that’s very important because we want to have that professionalism and success from the very beginning.”

For Fuchs, his move to the U.S. isn’t solely about football though, at least not proper football. 

For years, the left-sided defender has envisioned himself plying his trade in the NFL once his lengthy career on the pitch came to an end. 

Fuchs isn’t the first footballer to discuss the prospect of becoming a kicker in America’s biggest sports league, with Tottenham’s Harry Kane and U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Carli Lloyd just two stars to make their intentions known.

The Austria international will soon share a field with the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium, and Fuchs hopes he could throw a helmet on someday while out on that very same ground.

“I mean we’re sharing the stadium with the Panthers so it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Fuchs said with a smile. “It’s something I would like to pursue. I will definitely give it a try.

“I’ve done some work with NFL coaches and I wasn’t that bad they told me. One out of three from 60 yards isn’t that bad without having proper training. Why not? That’s how I pursue my life by giving it a try and even if it’s a no at least I can say I made an effort.”

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Sports Strength

Proper Football’s Week 6 MLS Rewind

The 2021 Major League Soccer season is moving fast and there’s already a number of sides separating themselves from the rest of the field.

The Seattle Sounders and New England Revolution are in control of their respective conferences, with the former unbeaten through their first seven matches this season. Meanwhile, the Revolution continued their perfect form at home on Saturday with a 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls.

Sporting KC is really finding its footing thanks to star striker Alan Pulido, and Peter Vermes’ group moved up to second in the West after a win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Both the Chicago Fire and FC Cincinnati earned their first wins of the season in Week 6, despite both clubs still sitting at the bottom of the MLS table.

Let’s rewind it back to the weekend that was Week 6 around MLS.

WEEKEND AWARDS
GAME OF THE WEEK – Seattle Sounders vs. Atlanta United

The Sounders continue to be one of three teams to remain unbeaten to start the 2021 MLS season, but Atlanta had plenty of reason to be happy with the result of this game.

Gabriel Heinze’s side has been looking for more cohesion after bringing in several new faces this year and they’re starting to click after a few weeks of up-and-down play. 

Meanwhile, Josef Martinez bagged the equalizer for Atlanta, which could be the spark the Venezuelan needs to regain his elite form of season’s past.

WEEKEND MVP – Lucas Zelarayan (Columbus Crew)

It’s impressive when someone scores one free kick goal in a match, but what about two? Zelarayan single-handedly carried the Crew back from an early 1-0 deficit against NYCFC and gave Columbus all three points in this one.

A truly stellar performance from the Argentine, who continues to be the playmaker that Caleb Porter’s side needs if they want to repeat as MLS Cup champions in 2021.

SATURDAY STUNNER – Chicago Fire

The Fire earned their first win of the season against Inter Miami after a completely dominating showing by Chicago.

Miami was held to just one shot on target all match compared to Chicago’s 20 shots (seven on goal) and it might be the positive step the Fire need to climb their way back into the Eastern Conference playoff race.

FANTASTIC FINISHES

Each week, we’ll close out the rewind by showcasing the three best goals from the weekend that was in MLS, and the opening weekend did not disappoint in this department at all.

LUCAS ZELARAYAN vs. New York City FC

We could’ve picked either free kick of his over the weekend, but Zelarayan’s second-half stoppage time finish truly capped off an incredible performance against NYCFC. A curling effort from just outside the penalty area left NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson with nothing to do but watch the ball fly into his net.

ALAN PULIDO vs. San Jose Earthquakes

The Mexican star is really finding his groove with Sporting KC and they’ve now climbed to second place in the West. Pulido is going to be a threat all season if he continues at this pace.

DIEGO ROSSI vs. Colorado Rapids

Although it was Carlos Vela that really sparked LAFC in the attack this weekend, Rossi was the recipient of a tremendous set up by the Mexico star. Rossi’s finish at the end of the sequence wasn’t too shabby either.

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NFT Sports

Major League Soccer Launches Battle Series NFT Project

The NFT game is hot and the number of sports that have introduced themselves into the virtual realm continues to rise as of late.

Major League Soccer is one of the newest ones to make the leap as the United States’ premier futbol association teams up with Secret Walls and Bitski to release its first NFT collection in an effort to promote this weekend’s huge matchups around the league.

The 2021 MLS season has kicked off to a fast start and this weekend will continue the excitement as the Portland Timbers take on the LA Galaxy Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on ABC followed by the Seattle Sounders meeting Atlanta United on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET on FOX,

MLS’ NFT initiative aims to combine soccer and street art culture as fans have the opportunity to watch a number of talented artists showcase their skills against one another ahead of this weekend’s games.

Major League Soccer

Fans can tune in on Friday, May 21 at 6 p.m. ET via bitski.com/MLSxSecretWalls to watch artists representing each of the four clubs compete over the course of 60 minutes to create a digital masterpiece that will be auctioned off.

Once completed, the pieces will be available at auction for 48 hours on Bitski’s website. A portion of the proceeds from the NFT launch will go to Aerial.is, which will help offset carbon emissions.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Major League Soccer and Secret Walls to bring this unique experience that intersects sports, art, and technology,” said Donnie Dinch, CEO of Bitski. “We love it when we’re able to use NFTs to bring communities together.”

Secret Walls, one of the leading underground battle art experts, has summoned Mighty Short (Portland Timbers), Aaron Kai (LA Galaxy), Kyler Martz (Seattle Sounders) and Paper Frank (Atlanta United) to compete in the competition.

MLS’ unique gameday experience over the weekend will also feature limited edition matchday posters that fans can purchase during the 90 minutes in which their team’s games are being played on Saturday or Sunday.

Major League Soccer

Each artist has helped create an original NFT gameday poster for the respective team they’re representing and the posters will be unlimited throughout the length of each match.

MLS hopes this can be a starting point for its entry into the NFT space and will be looking at more opportunities to create these types of projects in the future.

“The special NFT art collection is the latest evolution of Major League Soccer’s commitment to celebrating the creativity in our sport and the permission to connect soccer with progressive and exciting art experiences,” said Chris Schlosser, MLS SVP of Media. “The live art battle, plus the modern take on a matchup poster, helps create a cultural moment that celebrates our League, and the two great MLS matches this weekend.”

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Sports Strength

Proper Football’s Week 5 MLS Rewind

With over a month gone in the Major League Soccer seasons we’re beginning to get a feel for which teams are legitimate and those that need serious upgrades heading into the summer.

The Seattle Sounders continued their destructive path ahead in the Western Conference after defeating Los Angeles FC over the weekend, while the New England Revolution sit atop the East after knocking off the defending champion Columbus Crew.

FC Cincinnati’s struggles became more apparent than ever over the weekend after opening their new stadium and suffering defeat against Inter Miami. Cincy has yet to win a game this season and boasts a league-worst -9 goal differential through four matches.

Let’s rewind it back to the weekend that was Week 5 around MLS.

WEEKEND AWARDS
GAME OF THE WEEK – Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles FC

The Sounders continue to do what the Sounders have made a living off of under Brian Schmetzer; win. 

This Seattle team looks to be the most complete club in the league over the opening month of the season, and their pathway through six matches unbeaten against some of MLS’ top sides is beyond impressive. 

The more concerning takeaway from this one is more about LAFC though as they struggled once again without Carlos Vela. Bob Bradley’s side will need the El Tri star back in the fold in the near future if they’re going to turn things around.

WEEKEND MVP – Alan Pulido (Sporting KC)

The Mexican striker had himself a game in a blowout win over the Vancouver Whitecaps, but this was exactly the performance both Pulido and Sporting KC needed on Saturday.

There’s no doubt Sporting boasts some talent in the attacking third, especially with budding star Gianluca Busio, but the focal point has been and should remain Pulido if the club looks to build off of winning the Western Conference last season.

SATURDAY STUNNER – Jesus Medina’s Disallowed Goal

This was one of the more wild events you’ll see in a match, so let’s break it down real quick. 

Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono gathered the ball after a sequence inside his own penalty area and looked to launch a quick counterattack by punting the ball. Easy enough, right?

As he went to clear it outside of his own area, New York City FC’s Jesus Medina jumped in front of the keeper to block the punt, which he successfully did before the ball ended up in the net.

Unfortunately for Medina, his efforts were penalized and the goal didn’t stand. (For the record, it was the correct call.)

FANTASTIC FINISHES

Each week, we’ll close out the rewind by showcasing the three best goals from the weekend that was in MLS, and the opening weekend did not disappoint in this department at all.

ALAN PULIDO vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

Alan Pulido had himself a day against Vancouver, coming up with two goals and an assist for Sporting KC. The Mexico star is really beginning to find his footing with Sporting, who are climbing back into form in the West.

ALVARO BARREAL vs. Inter Miami

Barreal scored the first goal in FC Cincinnati’s new stadium over the weekend, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to give the Eastern Conference side their first win of the season.

YIMMI CHARA vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Chara’s cheeky chip over the keeper kickstarted Portland’s start against the Earthquakes for the team’s second win of the season.

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Sports Strength

Proper Football’s Week 4 MLS Rewind

Week 4 featured a number of marquee rivalries around Major League Soccer out west, while Eastern Conference foes continued to jockey for position early in the year.

The LA Clasico saw the Galaxy emerge victorious once again courtesy of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s goal and assist to propel Greg Vanney’s side past LAFC. Hernandez now has six goals in his first four games after only scoring two in 2020.

Four teams remain unbeaten to start the season, with the Seattle Sounders the lone team in the Western Conference to boast a perfect record. Meanwhile, Orlando City, Nashville and Columbus each feature unbeaten records in the Eastern Conference despite only having won one game apiece.

Meanwhile, Sporting KC topped Austin FC in a thrilling Sunday night meeting in Kansas City, which saw the hosts score twice inside the final 10 minutes to secure victory against the expansion side.

Let’s rewind it back to the weekend that was Week 4 around MLS.

WEEKEND AWARDS
GAME OF THE WEEK – Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders

The feel of this one was a bit different with limited fans in attendance, but the Cascadia rivalry still had plenty of buzz around it in Week 4. Seattle’s perfect start remained intact while the Timbers continue to battle a number of injuries at the start of the season.

Any time these two sides get together it’s quite an outing, and Sunday’s meeting was just the first of three times the Western Conference contenders will meet in 2021.

Raul Ruidiaz continued his insane goal scoring total to begin the campaign, now boasting five goals in Seattle’s opening four matches.

WEEKEND MVP – Fabio (New York Red Bulls)

The Red Bulls brought Fabio in to score goals, but the Brazilian forward is offering up another important aspect to New York’s attack this season. On Saturday, Fabio tallied two more assists for the team en route to a 2-0 win over Toronto FC.

That brings his assist total to four on the year, which leads MLS in that category. Even though he’ll surely be hoping to bag his first MLS goal soon, manager Gerard Struber will certainly be happy with the forward’s output thus far in setting up his teammates.

SATURDAY STUNNER – Minnesota United

It’s becoming a recurring theme for Minnesota, and not in a good way. The Loons lost another match over the weekend and this time it came after holding a two-goal lead against the Colorado Rapids.

Emmanuel Reynoso and Hasani Dotson each scored inside the opening half hour, but Minnesota struggled after halftime and conceded three times in a come-from-behind win for the Rapids.

Many, including myself, expected Minnesota would be near atop the West this season, but Adrian Heath’s group has to be wondering what needs to change for the Loons to earn their first win of 2021 and get things back on track.

FANTASTIC FINISHES

Each week, we’ll close out the rewind by showcasing the three best goals from the weekend that was in MLS, and the opening weekend did not disappoint in this department at all.

EMANUEL REYNOSO vs. Colorado Rapids

Minnesota’s struggles have been well documented so far in 2021, but Reynoso is a shining light for a team that remains otherwise dark. This free kick blast is another example of just how influential he can be for the Loons, and they’re going to need much more of this if they want to climb out of the cellar.

LUCAS ZELARAYAN vs. D.C. United

Zelarayan is quickly becoming one of the top players in MLS, and he added another brilliant set piece goal to his resume on Saturday as Columbus rolled past D.C.

CORY BURKE vs. Chicago Fire

The sequence was well worked all around by the Union, but Burke’s sliding finish really capped off the play in Philadelphia’s win against Chicago. Burke was influential throughout the match and fully deserved the goal, which marked his first of the season.