Alphonso Davies, Miguel Almiron and now Caleb Wiley! MLS winners and losers as Atlanta United starlet joins exclusive company
- Atlanta United
- Club football
- Charlotte vs Atlanta United
- Sporting KC vs LA Galaxy
- Sporting KC
- LA Galaxy
- Philadelphia Union vs Chicago Fire
- Philadelphia Union
- Chicago Fire
- Portland Timbers vs St. Louis City
- Portland Timbers
- St. Louis City
- Minnesota United vs New York RB
- Minnesota United
- New York RB
- Real Salt Lake vs Austin
- Real Salt Lake
- C. Wiley
- A. Blake
It's very rare that you know who your player of the week is before 1 pm ET on a Saturday. There's a whole weekend left to play, a whole world of MLS left to explore, before making such a decision.
But this weekend, we knew. Who else could it be but Caleb Wiley?
Atlanta United's 18-year-old teenage starlet stole the show in the first game of the weekend, putting forth a performance that puts his name right there next to some of the league's elite. He contributed to all three of Atlanta's goals in a 3-0 win over Charlotte FC, showing poise, maturity and confidence well beyond his years.
This was the Weekend of Wiley, even if he wasn't the only big story of it all. From big injuries to massive wins, there were some league-changing moments throughout this third weekend of game action.
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Here's a look at the winners and losers of MLS Week 3...
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WINNER: Caleb Wiley
Whenever you do things that put your name next to Alphonso Davies and Miguel Almiron, you're probably doing something right.
Wiley is a long way from reaching the levels of those two, but he certainly showed what he can do over the weekend with an absolutely dazzling performance against Charlotte FC. At 18, Wiley was far and away the best player on the field, even if he was surrounded by a World Cup winner and several players signed for multi-million-dollar transfer fees.
He ultimately finished with two goals and an assist in what was clearly a Man of the Match-winning performance. With it, he joined Almiron and Yamil Asad as the three Atlanta players to have two goals and an assist in the same game. Additionally, only Davies and former USMNT star Bobby Convey have provided three goal contributions in a single half at an age younger than Wiley.
Checking in with Caleb Wiley ⚽️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/wYWVIzGVVe— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) March 11, 2023
That's all to say that what Wiley did was very, very special. It was a hell of a breakout performance from a player that looks primed to, well... break out.
Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda pumped the brakes a bit postgame, pointing to his wealth of attacking options, but even he had to admit that Wiley is doing crazy things at a young age.
"I have to be conscious that he's 18, right? But, at the same time, it doesn't matter," Pineda said. "The ball doesn't know the age of the player that's kicking it. In that sense, I only see the performance."
What a performance it was and, if he can provide more like it, Atlanta will have another star on their hands.
- Getty Images
LOSER: Andre Blake
The Philadelphia Union are as deep as any team in MLS. That's what makes them title favorites, after all.
But Andre Blake, he's irreplaceable.
The Union are now facing a reality where they do have to live without the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for at least a little while, as Blake suffered a groin injury in the team's win over the Chicago Fire.
"He'll get an MRI but with a groin injury, I always fear the worst," Union boss Jim Curtin said. "Again, Andre has been a quick healer in the past.
"Don’t want to speculate too much until we get pictures, but sometimes these things take a week, sometimes they take four weeks, sometimes they take eight weeks."
Making matters a bit worse? the fact that Jamaica are set to face Mexico in two weeks in a do-or-die CONCACAF Nations League match. With a win over Mexico, Jamaica would advance to the final round in June, while with a defeat, they'll finish second behind El Tri. With Blake, beating Mexico would be tough. Without him, it's going to be almost impossible.
As for the Union, they'll likely be fine in MLS. Matt Freese is gone, traded in the offseason, but the Union have veteran Joe Bendik to steady the ship.
The Champions League, though, is another discussion. They settled for a 0-0 draw with Alianza in their opener and, should they advance, the quarterfinals begin in the first week of April. Will Blake be ready by then? Will he even be ready for the semis in late April?
We'll see, but the Union will hope so as they would love to see a quick return from their goalkeeping star.
WINNER: St. Louis City SC
We'll stop putting them in here when they stop winning!
Three weeks, three times in the 'Winners' column for the league's newest team, who simply can't stop winning to start life in MLS.
This week, the team on the other end of the St. Louis machine was Portland, who, unlike their first two opponents, didn't literally hand them a goal in their loss. The Timbers scored early, but once again, St. Louis came from behind, winning 2-1 at Providence Park for another statement win.
"Did I know it was going to unfold this way? That we're going to be challenged many moments and to come out again on top? These are some things you cannot foresee," said head coach Bradley Carnell, "but all I could foresee is we played very competitive opponents in preseason.
"We've been committing to a style of play for over a year now. So, we got guys in early June, July, August, September last year, so we've had a very committed group of guys.
"And listen, this style of play is not easy. This style of play demands a lot of commitment, not just to the philosophy but to each other as a teammate and we felt every minute that the lights were not on us in MLS, these were moments for us to grow and get ready so again we just take in everything in our stride with feeling we've achieved nothing and, yeah, we have to keep it calm and excited for next time."
Is what St. Louis is doing sustainable? Almost certainly not. There are still holes, on paper, when it comes to their roster build and, eventually, expansion teams usually hit a wall.
But, at this point, who cares if it's sustainable? It certainly has been fun to watch St. Louis take down two Western Conference powerhouses... and Charlotte (who are most certainly not a powerhouse).
Only the 2009 Seattle Sounders put together a 3-0 start in MLS, and we all know where the Sounders are now. Can St. Louis build a similar culture? We'll see.
They're off to a pretty good start, though. Let's check in next week and see if they're here once again!
- Getty Images
LOSER: LA Galaxy
Are we worried about the Galaxy yet?
To be fair, they'll be thrilled with the result, a 0-0 draw at Sporting KC that gives them their first point of the young season. A point on the road is always good in this league. Winning your home games and drawing on the road is a good recipe for success.
What isn't a recipe for success is whatever the Galaxy did on Saturday night, when they were outshot 30-8 and completely dominated by Sporting KC. If not for Sporting KC's complete inability to put the ball anywhere near the net, the Galaxy would be looking at two straight losses in two weeks.
The Galaxy have problems all over the pitch, and none of them will be fixed by the return of Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez. They're lacking chance-creators, they don't fit their formation and their defense always looks one mistake away from doing something bonkers.
And that's just on the field. Off the field, they can't sign anyone this summer due to a transfer ban, meaning they need to fix things ASAP. And, to make matters worse, their fans are set to protest their own home opener next weekend. Not good.
What is good is the emergence of Jalen Neal, who did well in his first MLS start after making his USMNT debut earlier this year. That's a building block, but the Galaxy need a whole lot of help right now.
It's still early. You can't write teams off after two weeks but, right now, the Galaxy don't look like a team that have MLS Cup aspirations.
WINNER: The Wolff family
Owen Wolff scored his first MLS goal, and it was a banger.
It's a special moment for every young player, that first goal. For many, it'll feel like the moment they truly arrived and truly made their mark on whatever level they're playing at.
For Wolff, though, it'll be even sweeter considering who was on the sideline.
Wolff, the son of Austin FC coach Josh Wolff, scored in Austin's 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake, helping lead Austin to a vital early-season win. In what was his 29th appearance, the midfielder finally scored his first goal, and boy, was it a good one.
Sheeeesh, Owen Wolff 🥶@AustinFC only scores bangers! pic.twitter.com/zzaOzrwEpp— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 12, 2023
With the goal, the duo became the eight father-son duo to score in MLS, joining the likes of the Ferreira, the Lassiters, the Harkes and the Bunburys in the MLS record books.
Overall, quite a weekend in the Wolff household, especially with a big win that makes it two-in-a-row for Austin. A game-winner and three points... What more could you want?
You love to see it. — Austin FC (@AustinFC) March 12, 2023
Owen’s goal against RSL makes him and Head Coach Josh Wolff the 8th father-son duo to score in MLS! pic.twitter.com/Ne09YCckun
LOSER: Those that hate snow
Who doesn't love a snow game? Cold weather, weird vibes, an orange ball! Every year, you get a few of them, and they're almost always memorable.
Well, it is easy to say that from the comfort of your own home, to be fair. Those that play in it and coach in it often have a different perspective.
You see, New York Red Bulls boss Gerhard Struber was not happy with his side's snow game in Minnesota this weekend, an eventual 1-1 draw played on a field half covered in white powder. 'Not happy' is probably underselling it, to be honest.
“Everyone here has the responsibility to keep the snow away," Struber said. "This was not the half meter or meter and this was only that, and this would be possible to keep the snow away.
"When I look to Austria, I am an Austrian man, and we know how we handle snow, and we sometimes have much more snow, and we can handle that.
"I absolutely have no understanding that we played today in these circumstances in an MLS professional game. I think both teams don’t deserve that, and this was not a big promotion for the league.”
Struber wasn't done: "Whatever the reason for that, this is very unprofessional, and I have a completely different expectation [on] how we should play in this league, on this level."
Minnesota coach Adrian Heath also said he was "disappointed", while Loons goalscorer Bongokuhle Hlongwane will have mixed feelings about his first-ever snow game.
“It’s my first time. I wasn’t happy, but I played," he said. " It’s my job, so I have to respect it whenever I have to.”
He continued: “I thought I was [prepared] up until I saw the field. Because D.J. [Taylor] had been telling me ‘It’s going to snow,’ even [Franco Fragapane] said to me ‘Did you check the weather?’ and I was like ‘No, I didn’t.’ It had been snowing so I was like ‘Oh, okay.’ Then I came and I was like ‘No,’ but we did it.”
They certainly did it, but very few on the field were happy about it.