Jermaine Jones delivers amid controversy; Philadelphia has stalled
Week 6 of the 2017 Major League Soccer season is done and dusted. Here's who fired and failed around the competition.
Montreal Impact midfielder Marco Donadel said Jermaine Jones could be up for an Oscar after the United States international fell to the ground and prompted referee Armando Villarreal to show Donadel a red card in the 44th minute of Montreal's visit to the StubHub Center on Friday. Maybe Jones did sell the elbow that Donadel raised just a bit too high in the vicinity of the throat, or maybe the foul really was enough to send Jones to the turf. Either way, Jones put in his best performance in a Galaxy uniform and helped his club win a crucial home game.
Jones spent his week lashing out at fans and media, decrying his treatment as part of the U.S. national team. Carrying a massive chip with him into the match against Montreal, Jones had something to prove to the many critics he says have it out for him. Beyond the one-man advantage his run-in with Donadel provided LA, Jones was a menace up and down the field across 90 minutes. His 74th-minute goal put the game away. Three points in the competitive Western Conference and a bit of breathing room for new coach Curt Onalfo are a big deal in Carson.
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The Chicago Fire's most famous addition in 2017 is Bastian Schweinsteiger, but the MLS-initiated know that the arrival of Dax McCarty in the Windy City could be the biggest reason they see marked improvement this season. Despite his regular excellence as a holding midfielder, McCarty is now on his fourth MLS team before his 30th birthday. His start on Saturday against Columbus was just his fifth for the Fire but his 250th over his MLS career. He made it count. Schweinsteiger was out there alongside him, but it was McCarty who picked out the best pass of the day, a inch-perfect through ball that rolled over 50 yards of grass and into the path of striker Nemanja Nikolic. Nikolic needed just one touch to shoot the ball past goalkeeper Zack Steffen and into the Crew SC net.
Let's give it up for both Toronto FC and Atlanta United, who drew 2-2. TFC was always expected to go after the Five Stripes at BMO Field on Saturday, especially with a healthy and rested group of designated players. But Atlanta could have been forgiven for playing it a little more conservatively, especially because Josef Martinez missed the game, and nothing about playing on the road in MLS is easy. Getting a point away from home is more than good enough, and doing it through defense is never shameful.
There's a lot of credit to go around for Real Salt Lake in their first win of the year, but the hero of the day has to be new head coach Mike Petke. Rocking his patented sweater vest, the former Red Bulls head coach stepped into the fray for the first time with RSL and led them to a victory. Sure, he got an assist from the weather, but the way the Utahns' season was going, they'll take a win regardless of a blizzard's impact.
Speaking of the weather in Utah, Whitecaps fans will feel a bit aggrieved that their team was so thoroughly beaten in the crazy conditions at Rio Tinto Stadium. The first half was not affected by snow, but was -- at least according to RSL forward Yura Movsisyan -- more uncomfortable to play in. That doesn't mean that the second half, when heavy snowfall accumulated on the playing surface, wasn't a more ridiculous situation. It doesn't take RSL attacker Luis Silva throwing a snowball at Whitecaps defender Tim Parker to drive home the point. It makes it a little difficult to assess the RSL performance under new boss Petke, or determine just how bad things are in Vancouver, with the Whitecaps now in 10th place.
It could be worse. Vancouver could be the Philadelphia Union, a team with just two points from five matches in 2017. It is at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings thanks to an ineffective attack and a defense that is second worst in the league. The Union have reached 13 games without a win, a run that goes back to last season. What in 2015 was a promising project under newly installed sporting director Earnie Stewart has taken a bad turn. The clock of Jim Curtin's time at the helm of the club must be ticking, but there's no clear replacement waiting in the wings.
Orlando City is now 3-for-3 at home in its fancy new digs. The latest win came in part because of a complicit New York Red Bulls attack that has gone ice-cold over the past four weeks. Jesse Marsch's team has just two goals in those four games, both of them coming courtesy of Bradley Wright-Phillips. Wright-Phillips needs to score for the Red Bulls to win; that much is certain.
They'll need much more than just the 15 to 20 goals he's likely to score if they're going to remain one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. It's still very early in the season, so there's no need to make much of the fact that New York finds itself in a five-team logjam with seven points ... except that the longer New York wallows in the middle of the standings, the less likely it is to climb its way all the way up to a top seed, where it expects to be.
Team of the Weekend
Jesse Gonzalez, Danilo Acosta, Walker Zimmerman, Jonathan Spector, Seth Sinovic, Diego Fagundez, Jermaine Jones, Osvaldo Alonso, Albert Rusnak, Sebastian Giovinco, Hector Villalba.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.