MLS Thoughts: Sebastian Giovinco is back

Sebastian Giovinco started the season slow for Toronto FC.

But if Wednesday night’s performance is anything to go off of, the Italian midfielder is starting to find his form. Giovinco scored twice in Toronto’s 2–1 win over Orlando City on Wednesday night, including a nifty one-timer late in the first half which proved to be the game winner.

Giovinco struggled early in the season. failing to score in the team’s first four matches. But the past three matches tell a much different story. Giovinco tallied four goals and assists in matches against Chicago, Houston and Orlando — all wins for Toronto. While he didn’t play Saturday at Seattle, the trend line is headed in the right direction. With matches coming up against Columbus, Minnesota and the New York Red Bulls, I don’t see that slowing up.

If Toronto get last year’s MVP Giovinco, Toronto FC have a legitimate shot to get back to the MLS Cup Final.


C.J. Sapong Philly’s savior as Union grab first win

Most people selected Minnesota United to be the worst team this year. So far, those people are wrong.

The Philadelphia Union entered the week with that title, going eight matches without a win. They grabbed a 3–0 lead against Montreal on April 22, but managed to cough it up for a draw.

But C.J. Sapong put an end to that on Saturday.  The forward tallied himself a hat trick in the final 15 minutes against the New York Red Bulls to give the Union a 3–0 win, their first of the season.

Sapong is the only one on that team that really seems to be doing something on the offensive side of the pitch. His seven goals this season place him in a tie for first in the league with Cubo Torres. The next highest scorer in Philadelphia? Roland Alberg with two. That’s not a recipe for success and this season is proving it.

So while the win will give manager Jim Curtain some breathing room, unless Sapong can keep this high-scoring pace up, the Union still look like they’re in trouble.

Columbus becoming an Eastern Conference dark horse

Atlanta, Orlando and Toronto hog all of the Eastern Conference headlines, but don’t sleep on the Columbus Crew.

The Crew routed New England to the tune of 2–0 on Saturday night to jump into a tie for third in the conference with 16 points.

The Ohio side isn’t very flashy — it’s hard to even remember half of their starting lineup — but still manage to get the job done. Ola Kamara currently leads the team with five goals while Justin Meram is just behind with four. Meanwhile, Zach Steffan has a 1.44 goals against average.

Columbus also boasts a couple of big wins against other contenders, including Portland, Orlando and at Toronto.

If the Crew can find ways to grind out these results, they might surprise some folks and grab a top spot in the East.

Houston loves home, Orlando misses home

Orlando City and Houston love their home pitches.

The two teams entered their Saturday contest with a combined home record of 9–0–1. And that home field advantage showed.

Houston pounced all over Orlando to grab a 4–0 win to up their home record to 5–0–1. Mauro Manotas broke out to net a brace, upping his goal total to three — all of which have come at home. The 15 points racked up at home have lifted the Dynamo to fourth in the Western Conference. But they’ve also lost all three road matches this season too. They could be so much higher if they could figure out how to win away from the heat and humidity.

Meanwhile, Orlando showed just how much they enjoy playing in their new stadium and in front of their wall of fans. The Lions boast a 5–0–0 record in Florida, but have won just one match away from home. And Portland showed last year that that’s no recipe to get into the postseason.

If both teams could figure out their road issues, they’ll be very tough outs when it matters most.

What is going on with Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Galaxy aren’t one of the top teams in the league anymore, but they are the most interesting team in the league.

The Galaxy entered the weekend with seven points and a 2–5–1 record. And through the first 45 minutes of their contest against Chicago, it looked like things were only going to get worse.

The Fire capitalized off of Galaxy mistakes to take an early 2–0 lead. Meanwhile, Galaxy manager Curt Onalfo subbed off captain Jelle Van Damme in the 33rd minute and Jermaine Jones 10 minute later, raising a lot of eyebrows across the league.

But apparently those changes helped. Los Angeles scored twice early in the second half to pull out a 2–2 draw.

It’s hard to say though that Onalfo bought himself some breathing room with the changes. On the one hand, yes, the team responded and pulled out an unlikely draw. But on the other hand, has he now lost the locker room after subbing off his team captain with no injury?

The answer to that question remains to be seen as the Galaxy head off to play the New York Red Bulls next week.

But this much is assured: next week will once again be very interesting for the Galaxy.

Minnesota United looking much better

Minnesota United looked dead in the water the first few weeks of the season.

The Loons lost three of their first four games, giving up 18 goals in the process.

But the last couple of weeks have looked much better for the expansion side. Their latest success came Sunday in a 2–0 win over Sporting Kansas City on national television.

That’s a huge result on both sides of the ball for Minnesota. SKC boasts the top defense in the league and putting two balls in the back of the net is worth noticing.

But the biggest success in the clean sheet by the defense. After a very rocky start, the United back line is finally finding its form and cutting out mistakes that plagued it earlier in the season. And, while SKC isn’t an offensive power, getting a clean sheet against a top team in the conference is a tangible result and momentum boost for the squad.

Minnesota now sits in seventh in the Western Conference with 11 points — just two points outside of a playoff spot. The Loons likely won’t make the playoffs, but with their recent success on display, they’re not going to be the worst team ever in MLS history.

Atlanta United in a slide

Meanwhile, expansion buddy Atlanta United is sliding back to the reality of being an MLS expansion team.

United started the season hot, winning two of its first four matches, grabbing draws at Seattle and at Toronto and getting everyone talking about how they were the best expansion team ever.

Not anymore.

United felled 3–1 at home to D.C. United last week and then got routed 3–1 at NYCFC on Sunday.

There’s a reason it’s only one expansion team has made the postseason in recent MLS history. It’s hard to build a complete team no matter how early the team’s acceptance is announced.

Atlanta chose to build its team around the offense, and it worked for the first few weeks. But now we’re seeing the true results of that mentality. The defense has struggled in recent weeks, giving up nine goals in the last four matches. And in MLS, you have to build a team around at least a solid defensive foundation.

United need to solidify that defense during the summer transfer window in order to have a good chance at the postseason. Until then, don’t be surprised to see results from them like the past couple of weeks.