MLS winners and losers: Another week, another Thiago Almada masterclass
Everybody needs an Almada clone, St. Louis City's record-breaking start and more in this week's MLS winners and losers.
Well would you look at that, Matchday 4 in MLS was predictably unpredictable. Records — and hearts — were broken, insane runs continued, and a clear-cut MVP frontrunner has emerged.
Winner: Not bad, oldtimer
Midfielder Diego Chara and defender Zusi have each been fixtures in the league for over a decade. With his start this week, Zusi joined Chara as the sixth player in MLS history to start 300 games for the same club. In a league known for player turnover — be it inter-club trades or transfers to other leagues — hitting such a milestone is always an impressive accomplishment.
Not to be outdone, Chara became the second player in league history to hit the 30,000-minute mark for one club, behind Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando who has 33,078 minutes. If the Colombian keeps his current pace, he will break the record sometime next season. Hats off to both players.
Loser: International "break"
Look, international breaks stink. The fast-paced drama of league action all over the world comes to a grinding halt for a few weeks and is replaced with seemingly interminable training camp sessions and the odd friendly (yes, the Nations Leagues are just glorified friendlies). While this break is rarely welcome, it is just that, a break, which begs the question: why are there still MLS games being played? A whole matchday will now be played without some of the best players in the league available.
Winner: St. Louis City, again!
Look, if they keep winning, they’ll keep featuring on this list. St. Louis City SC is now the only remaining team with a perfect record after Los Angeles FC and the Seattle Sounders drew this weekend. They now also hold the record for the best ever start by an expansion team, eclipsing the iconic 2009 Sounders side that won their first three games.
ALL 𝗙𝗢𝗨𝗥 CITY pic.twitter.com/rGac2yvOU8
— St Louis CITY SC (@stlCITYsc) March 19, 2023
At a perfect 4-0-0, St. Louis stands alone among not just expansion sides, but all MLS, leading the Supporters' Shield race outright.
The aforementioned LAFC and Seattle matchup was billed as a heavyweight battle and even a potential Western Conference Final preview. Instead, we were treated to half-hearted defending and lackluster finishing en route to a garden variety 0-0 draw that non-soccer fans can point to when they call the game "boring."
If not for a fairly impressive goalkeeping duel between John McCarthy and Stefan Frei, this would’ve been one of the worst games of the season so far. The only positive? Seattle’s Bruce Lee-inspired kit is a work of art ... *chef’s kiss*.
Winner: Another week, another Almada masterclass
It’s getting to the point of stupidity. Thiago Almada is playing career mode and forgot to adjust the difficulty setting because simply put; he’s so damn good. If you need any more proof as to why this is Almada’s world and we’re just living in it, take a look at this goal of the year contender he unleashed on a helpless Aljaz Ivacic during Atlanta’s 5-1 rout of the Portland Timbers.
Great angle of the Thiago Almada free-kick goal from last night for Atlanta United 🇦🇷⚽️ pic.twitter.com/7cGfnS9kqi
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) March 19, 2023
While bullying one of the best teams in the West, the Argentinian wizard scored and assisted twice. You know, just for fun. There is only one solution to make the league fair: everybody gets an Almada clone.
Loser: Emanuel Reynoso’s hold out
With their star midfielder not reporting to training camp and seemingly not planning to start the season, expectations for Minnesota United were low. Like catastrophically low. Nobody seemed to tell them that, however, because the team has started their 2023 campaign on fire — winning two games on the road in very hostile environments.
The club is clearly embracing their underdog status and with every positive result they pick up, Reynoso’s value drops ever so slightly.