1. PRO PROs in LA
Referee Hilario Grajeda had a shocker of a game on Sunday, to be blunt about it. He missed three clear penalty calls — two for New York, one for LA — and he failed to adequately handle tense and chippy first half situations.
It was sort of a disaster.
Ashley Cole appeared to be okay with officiating, but let's be honest here: Grajeda was bad, and it had a large effect on the game.
Nevertheless, the match proved to be the entertaining spectacle Fox Sports 1 surely was hoping for. It finished 2-2, with Cole's last-second score the difference. There were four second half goals, a home team comeback, and emotions running high between two of the traditional league powers. If nothing else, it was eventful.
The LA Galaxy barely escaped disaster in this game, it shouldn't be forgotten. A home loss — even to an Eastern Conference team — would have damaged their chances at the second playoff seed, and while a draw isn't all that much better, it did keep them in a tie with RSL for the third spot. Bruce Arena, you can bet, won't be happy with the dropped points, although he can take solace in the fact that the Red Bulls had more shots and still couldn't win.
This game proves that the Galaxy have sorely missed Gyasi Zardes recently. Robbie Keane is better when he has a No. 9 to play off of — which is why the partnership between him and Gio dos Santos failed — so when played as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1, he struggles to have the impact he usually is able to have.
2. Toronto FC are really good
Toronto FC are now one point out of the lead in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on first-place NYCFC after they won again on Saturday. They have more home matches left than anyone else, they've won four straight games, and, perhaps most importantly, they have the hottest player in the league on their side.
Sebastian Giovinco is going all Steph Curry on MLS right now. He had another — yes, another — hat trick on Saturday, including two absolutely amazing goals that only he can score. This is my favorite of the two:
TFC have key players returning from injury — Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley— and they have talented, young depth options waiting in the wings — Jay Chapman, Tsubasa Endoh, Jordan Hamilton, among multiple others.
With Giovinco going nuts right now and everything else falling into place, there's no telling what they could do later in the season.
3. Nicolas Lodeiro is the future of the Sounders
That statement could be a bit premature, but from all indications, I think it's reasonable to make at this juncture. Nicolas Lodeiro has been incredibly good for the Seattle Sounders in his two games, and he's made a significant impact.
The Sounders beat Orlando 3-1 on the road, with Clint Dempsey playing farther up the field and scoring a hat-trick while Lodeiro patrolled the area underneath Dempsey and Jordan Morris, sending ridiculous passes through Orlando's bewildered backline. The former Boca Juniors man is basically Mauro Diaz on steroids.
Also, Nelson Valdez has taken over the most snakebitten player in the league award. A brick wall literally could have finished this:
So about that Nelson Valdez miss against Orlando earlier... https://t.co/zQJ0X0nSqH— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 8, 2016
4. The Timbers' new formation had good intentions
The Portland Timbers have struggled to get things going offensively of late, and so they came up with a lineup that would put as many goal-scorers on the field as possible. It makes sense, right?
Caleb Porter put out a 4-4-2 with Fanendo Adi and Jack McInerney up top as well as Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe cutting in from the wings. They played 12 minutes of this:
Diego Chara's early red card robbed us of the chance to see this for a sustained period of time, as Porter was forced to shuffle players around in order to cover for the loss of the defensive midfielder.
But this is something that could work in the future. The problem, however, is that Darlington Nagbe is pushed out to the wing. He is easily better as a center midfielder.