LA Galaxy are a mess! MLS winners and losers as Greg Vanney's referee tirade can't overshadow disastrous form

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Gaston Brugman LA Galaxy 2023
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After stretching their winless run to five games to start the season, one of the league's most famous clubs are in real trouble already

Not all slow starts to an MLS season are created equal. You see, there are slow starts, and then there are slow starts.

Let's look at examples. The first is the Philadelphia Union, who settled for a 0-0 draw with Sporting KC that leaves them on just seven points through six games. The Union were expected to be a buzzsaw this season, and many still expect them to be. They've been undone by injuries and absences, and most believe they'll be fine despite sleepwalking into the MLS season.

The second example? The LA Galaxy, who entered the season with plenty of question marks. From fan protests to big injuries to a seemingly-miscast roster, the Galaxy are far from a sure thing. And, having seen them stumble out of the gates now with zero wins in their first five, those question marks seem very, very valid.

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Question marks have suddenly turned to exclamation marks, as the Galaxy's early-season form has them inching towards the panic button.

This week's MLS winners and losers isn't all doom and gloom, though. It was a week headlined by big-team struggles, yes, but also by the rise of two young stars that put on performances to prove that they've arrived.

With that said, GOAL takes a look back over the weekend's action:

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  1. WINNER: Aidan Morris

    If you haven't bought your Aiden Morris stock, it's just about time to invest.

    The Columbus Crew midfielder made his U.S. men's national team debut in January and, based on what we've seen so far, he won't have to wait too long before getting another look. That's how good the 21-year-old midfielder has been this season.

    Morris scored twice in the Crew's 4-0 demolition of Real Salt Lake, netting his second and third goals of the season. The central midfielder has reached an entirely new level this season, helping the Crew put up 10 goals in their last few games while sending a message that this team is all the way back among the contenders.

    Morris broke onto the scene during the Crew's 2020 MLS Cup-winning season, becoming the youngest player in the finale's history in the process, before an ACL tear kept him out of 2021. He became a regular in 2022 and, so far in 2023, he's on his way to becoming a star.

    The midfielder still has a lot of growing to do, and the Crew are still adjusting to life under Wilfried Nancy, but none have adjusted better than Morris, who has been one of MLS' best so far this season.

  2. LOSER: Greg Vanney and the LA Galaxy
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    LOSER: Greg Vanney and the LA Galaxy

    It's safe to say Vanney is frustrated.

    The LA Galaxy coach went in on the referees after his side's loss to the Seattle Sounders. It ensured that the Galaxy remain winless through five games and for a club of their stature, that's never going to be acceptable.

    The referees aren't to blame for the Galaxy's disastrous start to the season. They're still missing their best player, Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, Riqui Puig hasn't looked like himself to start the season, and it's pretty clear that this team is still lacking the wing production to make Vanney's system work.

    Add in an ongoing fan revolt in response to the continued employment of president Chris Klein and you have yourself a mess. And, as former USMNT and Galaxy striker Herculez Gomez pointed out, that mess has been the story for quite some time:

    Can they dig themselves out of it this season? Of course. This team does have talent, even if it has, so far, not played to the sum of its parts.

    Right now, though, things are dark in Carson, and there's plenty of blame to go around.

  3. WINNER: Minnesota United

    WINNER: Minnesota United

    Overlooked no longer? Probably not. That's how things tend to go for Minnesota United, who are never quite given the same credit as their Western Conference peers.

    After their victory in this weekend's battle of unbeatens though, the Loons have earned a bit of hype.

    All it took was a Luis Amarilla penalty kick for someone to finally take down St. Louis SC, who saw their perfect start to life in MLS snapped on their home field. Defensively, the Loons were flawless, unlike the rest of St. Louis' opponents so far this year and, on the attacking end, they got the goal they needed to escape Missouri with all three points.

    The Loons are now 3-0-2, one of only three unbeaten teams left in MLS. And they're doing it without their star, Emmanuel Reynoso, who remains absent due to personal reasons. If they're this good without Reynoso, one of the most dynamic midfield stars in the league, how good could they be with him?

    We may or may not find out but, for right now, the Loons are on a roll.

    "I was so pleased with my group tonight. We've got so much adversity this year through one thing or another. It's been like something every week," head coach Adrian Heath said. "Where I look at the shift that some of the guys put in, I'm so pleased for them because they've got a reward for everything that they've done."

  4. LOSER: New York Red Bulls

    LOSER: New York Red Bulls

    Since Atlanta United's arrival in MLS, the Red Bulls have generally had their number. No longer. On Saturday, Atlanta finally figured out the Red Bull press, while providing more reasons for concern in New Jersey.

    Now, let's make one thing clear: there's no shame in losing to Atlanta. The Five Stripes are, in fact, very, very good. Thiago Almada is a World Cup winner, Giorgios Giakoumakis looks legit and there's talent all over the field that will give teams headaches.

    Since the team's inception, though, Atlanta's talent hasn't been able to figure out the Red Bull system. Save for a win in the biggest game of them all, a playoff triumph in 2018, Atlanta were winless in 13 regular season classes.

    For the Red Bulls, there are alarm bells ringing. New striker Dante Vanzeir looks good, but hasn't been properly unleashed yet. The attack has scored just four goals in six games, leading to them winning only one of those six as they sit 12th early on.

    On paper, the Red Bulls' simply don't look like a team that has the horses to compete with those at the top of the conference and, unless their better players find form, pushing for a midtable playoff spot may be their ceiling.

    That's not what many have come to expect from the Red Bulls, a club that always pushed towards the top of the East. Right now, though, they simply don't seem very close.

  5. WINNER: Simon Becher

    You'd be forgiven if you haven't heard of Becher yet but, given his recent performances, it's time to start paying attention.

    The Whitecaps striker scored a brace within 16 minutes in the 5-0 destruction of CF Montreal. It was his first MLS start, but the 23-year-old forward now has four goals across his first three MLS appearances, having scored against the Houston Dynamo last season before scoring again off the bench against Minnesota United.

    Those four goals have come in just 87 total minutes, making him the fastest player in MLS history to score his first four goals. That record was previously held by Cucho Hernandez, who scored four in his first 89 minutes last summer.

    Now, Bechar is no Cucho. Hernandez joined the Crew from Watford for a colossal transfer fee while Bechar, just last season, was playing in MLS NEXT.

    He was the 16th overall pick in 2022 after playing at Holy Cross and St Louis, meaning that he is very much still new to all of this. Still, though, it seems like the Whitecaps probably should go with the hot hand. Bechar is flying right now, and so were the rest of his team-mates in the 5-0 win.

    A flash in the pan or the latest diamond in the rough to battle his way through American soccer's various systems? We'll find out as the season goes on.