First and foremost, I want to thank you the audience for tuning into this article in particular for it’s the start of my new series, “On This Side.” This series will primarily focus on all the action happening here in the Western Hemisphere and will not feature any analysis from Europe. I will begin the series here by analyzing all the exciting action from MLS, Liga MX and the Argentine Primera Division. Give me feedback in the comments if you love this idea and if you’d like me to highlight any other leagues from North and South America, maybe like the Brazilian League? Anyways without further ado, I’ll cut to the chase and begin with America’s Major League Soccer.
America’s Major League Soccer
It’s still early in the season with teams playing 6 or 7 games thus far but the action has been intensifying . Plenty of critical games that included the main event of the weekend: Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City. Sporting came into the match as one of three teams to be unbeaten in MLS and they took that streak right into the teeth of the Timbers’ Army and came out winners. They scrapped out a 1-0 away victory over the 2015 MLS Cup champions to cut the Timbers’ Western Conference lead to 1. That win from Sporting, asserts them as the best team in MLS to start the season as they still sit unbeaten, going through the most difficult start to the season in MLS. Sporting hadn’t gotten their early signature win until now. Drawing to FC Dallas and Toronto FC and now this win over Portland has them taking 5 points from three difficult games with Portland and Toronto being on the road. Sporting is currently MLS’ best team right now.
Atlanta United looked very attractive on paper coming into the season and it was raining goals in Atlanta to start the season. Complete annihilations of Minnesota and Chicago made Atlanta look like a scary team in the Eastern Conference, but those days are over. Josef Martinez got hurt, and all of a sudden, the well for goals is drying up, and the discipline sheet is shooting straight up. 3 red cards for Atlanta in 6 games is outrageous and they ended up losing 2 of those games and drawing the other. It’s not a osition that Atlanta wants to start getting used to, and it’s an issue that Tata Martino must solve quickly. After jumping out to 6 points in their first 3 games, Atlanta have only gotten 2 points in their last 3 and losing to a struggling Montreal should be the most telling. The cards must stop, and the goals are going to have to come from somewhere else.
Before I gave Sporting the crown for best team in MLS right now, I was preparing to give the honor to FC Dallas. Dallas are the only other team in MLS that are unbeaten, along with Sporting, now that Toronto lost their first match. FC Dallas have been dominant in the regular season the past couple years, even winning the Supporters’ Shield last season, and there’s nothing different this season. Dallas did just suffer a setback in their dominant start to the season by coughing up a one goal lead at the death, on the road, to San Jose. Although San Jose have enjoyed a moderate and content start to the season, they are an opponent that Dallas expects to beat, and they almost did. A Jahmir Hyka goal in the 94th minute, saved a point for the Quakes, and took 2 away from Dallas. Blowing a lead that late can take a real toll on a side and although I expect Dallas to recover quickly, I don’t think they’ll recover that quickly, and that’ll give Kansas City the edge when they travel to Frisco this weekend.
A quick note on NYCFC. Yeah they are having an inconsistent start to the season with flashes of brilliance, but what really needs to be discussed is that David Villa goal. I mean wow. The man is absolute legend and it’s moments like that, that remind me why I adore him as a footballer. A free player with an unstoppable desire to score goals. The man is a Spanish and world legend. Wow, what a goal. I seriously recommend you check it out on YouTube. I am not paid to promote YouTube by the way and that isn’t a promotion.
Mexico’s Liga MX
The winding down of European leagues, also means the winding down of the Clausura portion of the Liga MX season and the Clausura playoffs are drawing closer. Only three games remain in the season and 5 teams are separated by 2 points at the top of the table. Toluca keep their grip over the rest of the league after tying to Monterrey. Monterrey are in direct pursuit of Toluca as they sit only 2 points behind the leaders in 4th place. Their draw left them separated by two points but it gave Tijuana the opportunity to gain some ground to the summit. Tijuana defeated Chiapas away from home to close the gap on Toluca to one. This chase will culminate this upcoming weekend when Toluca travels to the Estadio Jalisco to take on 2nd place Tijuana in a battle for table supremacy. Also in pursuit of the leaders is 3rd place Chivas who squandered a chance to go to the top of the table with a win over Pachuca away from home. Instead they played out a goalless draw that saw midfielder Michael Perez Ortiz get sent off for Chivas. Chivas now pay for their lack of discipline by sitting a point behind the pace. And the 5th team within striking distance of the top of the table is Club America. Los Aguilas are currently Mexico’s hottest team by nabbing 14 points in their last 6 games and most recently, dispatching Queretaro in La Azteca. They sit in 5th but are only 2 points away from the top of the table. With Toluca and Tijuana squaring off this weekend, it’ll be vital for America to top 6th place Santos, in order to pounce over whichever team drops points. America could even jump over both teams with a win and if they both draw.
Just under Club America, there is a furious race being waged by 6 clubs that are all fighting for 3 spots with 3 games left and all 6 clubs are separated by 3 points. Santos, Atlas and Pachuca currently hold the final remaining playoff spots with Tigres, Monarcas and Pumas in hot pursuit. Santos and Atlas both drew against each other 1-1, which brought the rest of the pack racing up towards them. Especially Tigres who pummeled Pumas 4-0 to climb within one point of 8th place Pachuca. Tigres, the Apertura champions, are the 2nd hottest team in Mexico and are on a mission to bully into the top 8 and to participate in the Clausura playoffs and will be looking to sweep the season. Pumas will still have a huge say in their playoff hopes as they have vital matches with Veracruz, Monarcas and Puebla to give themselves a shot at sneaking into the playoffs.
Argentina’s Primera Division
Out in the southern continent, Boca Juniors were left vulnerable after tying 18th place Parana but the table leaders ended up having nothing to worry about after 2nd and 3rd place, Newell’s Old Boys and Estudiantes drew to each other. This left Boca’s grip at the top of the table at a firm 5 points over their rivals. The only team that was able to gain any ground on Boca were eternal rivals River Plate who beat Tigre 2-0. River climbed to 6 points behind Boca Juniors, putting them back into the title mix and taking over the final Copa Libertadores spot over San Lorenzo for the week. River also look to continue their chase down of Boca Juniors with their superb form of grabbing 16 points in their last 6 games. In a couple weeks, it could River Plate knocking on Boca Juniors’ door instead of Newell’s or Estudiantes. San Lorenzo coughed up their Copa Libertadores spot to River after losing to Atletico Tucumen. San Lorenzo now are left to look up at River Plate who have no intention of stopping their terrific form, they cannot afford these slip ups, especially outright losses.