St. Louis have arrived! MLS week two winners and losers as USMNT stars Jesus Ferreira and Jordan Morris shine
Another week, another reminder that you can never predict MLS.
The league's favorites lost, the league's newest team won again and there was plenty in between worth discussing.
From superstar performances by familiar faces to the opening of the league's latest soccer stadium, the MLS season is already off to a hot start.
The hottest of them all, though, is St. Louis City SC, one of only four teams on six points through the first two weeks. They opened their stadium, CITYPARK, in spectacular fashion with a weekend-long block party that served as a reminder of what American soccer fans already knew: St. Louis is a premier soccer city.
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Elsewhere, LAFC got their rings and began their season on a high, while their crosstown rivals faltered.
And, with the Nations League right around the corner, two U.S. men's national team regulars found the back of the net in big, big wins.
So, with all of that in mind, here's a look at the winners and losers from MLS Week 2...
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WINNER: Jesus Ferreira and Jordan Morris
It was a good weekend for a pair of USMNT forwards.
Jesus Ferreira built on his 18-goal 2022 with his first two goals of 2022, helping FC Dallas to an impressive 3-1 win over the LA Galaxy. The goals came after what many would say was a difficult World Cup experience, with Ferreira playing just once: a 45-minute start in the USMNT's loss to the Netherlands.
"I think he, overall, [used] that learning experience that he had there to grow," FCD head coach Nico Estevez said. "We can't forget that he's still a very young player. It's his second year playing as a No.9."
He added: "I think we have to be very calm with him, help him to keep growing as a person, and as a player, and we'll see what he can do in the future."
Heading into the true start of the 2023 slate, Ferreira remains a contender for a spot with the USMNT and could very well still be the answer at center-forward.
He wasn't the only World Cup veteran to shine this weekend, though, as Jordan Morris added another goal to his tally, making it three in two games, in Seattle's 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake.
After overcoming the injury issues that plagued him for quite some time, Morris is well and truly back, and the Sounders are a whole lot better for his return.
Overall, a good start to the season for both as USMNT call-ups are just around the corner for the Nations League.
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LOSER: Away teams
Home-field advantage always makes a difference in sports. Familiar facilities, a supportive crowd and a lack of travel all play their part. As they say, there's no place like home.
That's especially true in MLS, perhaps more than any league in the world. Due to the ridiculous travel distances and extreme variance in climates, home field in MLS matters more than most other leagues, where games are a train ride away in fairly similar weather.
It was made all too clear this weekend as home teams got a point from every match. No away team was able to seal a win over this weekend.
Some of that is pretty standard. Of course LAFC were going to win on MLS Cup ceremony day, and they did against the Portland Timbers. The vibes were too high for St. Louis to lose their home opener. The Sounders are seemingly on a warpath, and there was no way Real Salt Lake was going to stop them.
Still, though, there were some points to be had. Sporting KC took what felt like a million shots but couldn't get anything from Colorado. NYCFC squandered a lead in Chicago to a late goal from Fabian Herbers. FC Cincinnati blew their chance against an Orlando B-team looking ahead to the CONCACAF Champions League next week.
We're not yet in the summer months when legs get tired and the temperatures turn up, but it is interesting to see some home cooking early on in the 2023 season.
- Getty Images
WINNER: Inter Miami
Is something like this repeatable? The answer to that question will go a long way toward determining how good Inter Miami can be this season.
Phil Neville's side took down what is still most likely MLS' best team, the Philadelphia Union, running away to a 2-0 win over last year's MLS Cup finalists. It was a performance that was about as good as you can get against a team like the Union, who will blow away most teams in their path this season.
Inter Miami, though, were not blown away even if, statistically, they were somewhat outplayed. That's fine for Miami, though, who took their chances, scored two fantastic goals and sealed all three points.
That's two games and six points for Miami, who have yet to concede this season. A win over a rebuilding CF Montreal was good, but it's this win over Philly that was the real statement.
Miami are likely still in that middle pack of teams in the East, a playoff contender but not quite an MLS Cup contender. This win, though, was solid evidence that this team is taking steps forward and ready to rise toward the top a bit more than last year.
And it's very likely that this isn't the best version of Miami.
“There's still, I think, 30 percent to come from this team,” Neville said. “Wait till Josef [Martinez] starts firing. Wait till Leo [Campana] comes back and we'll be in good shape.”
There are also those rumors surrounding that Messi guy, you know. Things could be okay in Miami this season.
LOSER: LA Galaxy
It's nowhere near time to press the panic button. It is just one game, after all.
But this wasn't the start the Galaxy would have wanted.
While their crosstown rivals celebrated their MLS Cup title with rings and three points, the Galaxy were thumped 3-1 by FC Dallas to lose their MLS opener. It's not the loss that's concerning necessarily, because these things happen in MLS as we all know. It's how it all happened.
It all felt a bit familiar as FC Dallas seemingly just has the Galaxy's number. They were two-for-two against LA last season and the Galaxy haven't won in Dallas in nearly a decade, so maybe you can just chalk this one up as a bad matchup.
Or you can be concerned about the Galaxy's defense, a weak point on paper and, at least against FCD, in practice. They were repeatedly killed in transition by FC Dallas, who took it to them in the second half.
It'll be tough for LA going forward without Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, who controversially announced that he'd be out for up to a month on his Twitch stream.
They'll have Sporting KC on the road next week before a more favorable home opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Let's see how they look in those games before really assessing them, but their first impression wasn't great.
WINNER: The city of St. Louis
St. Louis soccer, take a bow.
One of America's great soccer cities is very much an MLS city. St. Louis City SC, you guys have arrived.
The atmosphere for the club's home opener was spectacular and, in the end, so was the result. That's two games and two wins for a team that many thought would struggle mightily to start the season.
The on-field stuff can wait, though. This is about the vibes.
For decades, the city of St. Louis was a major hub of American soccer. On Saturday night, that shined through. The stadium was packed, the fans were loud and, most importantly for those at this historic opener, the result was good.
Perhaps the most memorable moment, at least for those watching from home, came in the first half just after Joao Klauss scored from the penalty spot. The camera cut to the crowd and showed a baby held in the air like Simba from the Lion King:
Match = Tied— Austin Kim (@AustinKKim) March 5, 2023
St. Louis = Amped
Baby = Simba'ed#stlcitysc pic.twitter.com/DN0Cq9uiLH
A funny moment, of course. An easy meme, but also something somewhat wholesome. That kid will grow up as soccer culture in St. Louis returns and, ultimately, explodes, and that's all pretty cool.
LOSER: Charlotte FC
On the other side of that coin was Charlotte FC. Yikes!
Three goals, three absolutely catastrophic ways to concede. A penalty, an own goal and a backpass gone astray leading to a one-on-one finish: the hat-trick of conceding stupid, stupid goals.
First was the own goal, an absolutely ridiculous flicked-on header by Bill Tuiloma. We'll call it unlucky.
The penalty: also somewhat unlucky, a tough handball call on Karol Swiderski that Charlotte will be frustrated by.
And then came the third, an absolutely catastrophic error by defender Adilson Malanda. The 21-year-old Frenchman is, obviously, a young player that will want that one back. He'll likely learn from it. It was a bad, bad backpass to set up a Klauss finish that, ultimately, ended the game.
Klauss feelin' little chippy 😏 #AllForCITY | 📺 https://t.co/jmFTzkwVY4 pic.twitter.com/3wnCI9cHeO— St Louis CITY SC (@stlCITYsc) March 5, 2023
Three somewhat unnecessary goals and zero points. And that all comes after a gut-punch 1-0 defeat to the New England Revolution in their opener that saw Charlotte concede late.
The good news is that Enzo Copetti is off the mark and looks good. Swiderski, too, seems solid after joining Portland for the World Cup.
But, so far, this looks a lot more like 'first half of the 2022 season Charlotte' than 'second half of the 2022 season Charlotte'. There's still so much time for it to come together and the optimist will say that teams won't give up goals like that every game.
They did in this one, though, and they lost because of it.
WINNER: Lucas Zelarayan
Ladies and gentlemen, your player of the week.
Zelarayan was borderline unstoppable against D.C. United, with Wayne Rooney's side receiving a hard lesson from the Columbus Crew star. He scored both goals in the 2-0 win.
The Armenian international has been a top-tier No. 10 since his arrival in 2020. He hit double-digit goals and assists for the Crew last season and is expected to do so once again this time around, especially with two goals to his name already.
The opener was flashy, a marvelous bit of footwork with a spin included for good measure. And the second was clinical, a striker's finish from the midfielder.
Except, he isn't quite the midfielder we've all seen since he arrived in MLS. New Crew coach Wilfried Nancy has deployed him as more of an attacker, giving him more freedom up front while allowing him to play in a way where the Crew are punished a bit less when he tries to pull off some nonsense.
So far, it's working, which is great news for a Crew team in transition under their new coach. They have the pieces in Zelarayan and Cucho Hernandez to score lots and lots of goals, but it will all likely depend on how the supporting cast around them adjusts to Nancyball.
In time, the Crew may adjust and become a more methodical, possession-based team that, with Zelarayan leading the attack, should be pretty damn good.