An absolutely stacked week 18 saw no fewer than 19 games across Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with some quite frankly mind-blowing results.
Goals galore, red cards and shock scorelines were on the menu once again as the race to reach the play-offs ramped up another notch.
Read on as Squawka helps you pick through the bones of another double match week in MLS.
MLS week 18 snapshot
With the sheer amount of goals in week 18, it really is tough to know where to start. However, hold your breath as we dive into the biggest results of the week.
The LAFC steam train got back on track following its 1-0 hitch against Colorado Rapids, crushing Sporting KC 5-1 away on Thursday before recording a 6-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps at the Banc of California Stadium in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time). Are Bob Bradley’s team the best we’ve ever seen during the MLS regular season? It’s hard to argue against that at the moment.
Reigning champions Atlanta United continued their recent inconsistent streak, collapsing in spectacular style with a 5-1 defeat away to Chicago Fire, finding themselves 5-0 own with Leandro Gonzalez Pirez sent off by half-time. The Five Stripes were again without internationals Josef Martinez, Ezequiel Barco and Hector Villalba but, still, the shock of that result is emphasised by the fact that it was the Fire’s first win in eight games, and they followed it up by losing 1-0 away to Sporting KC.
Atlanta thought they’d recovered from that defeat on Sunday, with the returning Martinez bagging twice in the second half to put Frank de Boer’s side 3-2 up against rivals New York Red Bulls with moments remaining. But, once again, the Five Stripes defence couldn’t hold up, allowing Bradley Wright-Phillips to grab a 93rd-minute equaliser in a heated, entertaining clash.
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LA Galaxy recovered from their ‘Cali Clasico’ drubbing to San Jose Earthquakes with a 2-0 win over Toronto FC, with both goals coming courtesy of none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic – even if they did misspell the name on the back of his shirt, yikes – while FC Dallas beat 10-man DC United by the same scoreline. 19-year-old Paxton Pomykal once again shone for the Texan side, but more on him later.
NYCFC’s rather understated climb up the Eastern Conference continued with an impressive 3-0 home win over Seattle Sounders, which sees them rise to fifth place, losing just one game from 16 at that point. Although they lost 1-0 at home to Portland Timbers on Sunday, they will be battling at the top of the conference soon enough if they continue this form.
Finally, the shock of the week was, arguably, FC Cincinnati’s 3-2 win over Houston Dynamo at Nippert Stadium, just the fourth of the season so far for the MLS newcomers and coming right of the back of a demoralising 7-1 defeat away to Minnesota United last week.
What they said
“Unbelievable, to see everyone is buzzing in here. In the stadium, everyone is buzzing, the fans. We needed this, we got it. We’ve been putting a lot of effort into it, it’s been a long time coming, and it’s sweet that we have [a win] at home.”
“When one guy pressed, we all pressed. We stuck to our gameplan and executed. Not only myself in the midfield but Brandon [Servania], and Bryan [Acosta] covered a lot of ground for me and we combined really together today.”
“It’s not explainable I think. Every aspect of the game we weren’t there. We weren’t ready. I have to blame myself first because I have to prepare them. But we have to be ashamed for the 45 minutes for our fans who came here … We were really embarrassing today, especially the first half.”
“It was a good day today. In the second half, we stepped up, pressing higher, won the ball higher. The collective performance is more important than my goals. If the collective performance is there, the goals will come.”
Paxton Pomykal: The prince of USMNT continues to light up MLS
It’s hard to see anyone catching LAFC at the top of the Western Conference or, indeed, the Supporters Shield standings overall. Beyond them, though, FC Dallas have been one of the most impressive outfits so far.
Stylish with the ball, cohesive and aggressive without it, Luchi Gonzalez’s side have been one of the most fun to watch in MLS during 2019 and right at the centre of that has been Pomykal.
The young midfielder was the standout performer during FC Dallas’ 2-0 win over DCU, successfully completing four of his five attempted dribbles and making two key passes in his role as playmaker extraordinaire. And when Dallas didn’t have the ball, Pomykal continued to show maturity beyond his years, coordinating his team’s press, while making four tackles – the second-highest of any Dallas player – and three interceptions, the joint-most of any player on the pitch.
But anyone who has watched Pomykal this season will know this is no fluke. The Lewisville-born midfielder has made 2.1 key passes per 90 minutes in MLS this season so far – second among Dallas players to have featured more than twice – while he ranks joint-third among his teammates in terms of successful dribbles per 90 minutes (1.4).
Paxton Pomykal vs Toronto FCpic.twitter.com/Lj4ttuTj86
— USMNT Videos (@USMNTvideos) June 24, 2019
With his low center of gravity, Pomykal is an absolute nightmare to dispossess as he twists and turns through a clutch of three, four and five opposition players, somehow emerging still in possession. In fact, he’s been dispossessed at an average of just 1.4 times per 90 minutes this season so far. A superb range of passing suggests Pomykal’s one solitary assist this season will be added to, especially since he has created 24 chances for his teammates so far at a rate of 2.065 per 90 minutes.
His cause is helped by being at a club like FC Dallas, who take the ‘play your kids’ approach to a whole new level, with Jesus Ferreira (1401), Pomykal himself (1049) and Edwin Cerrillo (828) all featuring among the MLS top 10 for minutes received by Under-21 players. But, as eluded to by Gonzalez, they won’t throw a youngster onto the pitch for the sake of it, you have to to work for it.
“These guys have to earn what they get,” he said recently. “There’s no charity here. This is not charity for the young players. This is what they’re fighting for and they’re earning it. Whether it’s a young player, or a veteran player our locker room is competing.”
MLS 2019 top scorers so far
- Carlos Vela (LAFC) – 19
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy) – 13
- Josef Martinez (Atlanta United ) – 12
- Diego Rossi (LAFC) – 10
- Wayne Rooney (DC United) – 10
The fact that Pomykal was not included in Gregg Berhalter’s 23-man roster for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup came as a bit of a shock to those among MLS circles but his performances as captain of the USA side which reached the quarter-finals of the U-20 World Cup this summer suggest a senior call-up is only around the corner.
Right now, Pomykal stands as a potential prince of the USMNT, someone who could step into the midfield and truly unlock the potential of new Chelsea signing Christian Pulisic, or maybe even outshine him altogether. As his stature in Dallas continues to grow, listen to the cries for Berhalter to call upon Pomykal grow ever louder.
Every MLS result from week 18
Thursday, July 4
NYCFC 3-0 Seattle Sounders
Orlando City 1-3 Philadelphia Union
Chicago Fire 5-1 Atlanta United
Minnesota United 3-1 San Jose Earthquakes
Sporting KC 1-5 LAFC
Houston Dynamo 4-0 New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake 1-0 Columbus Crew
Friday, July 5
Colorado Rapids 1-2 New England Revolution
FC Dallas 2-0 DC United
LA Galaxy 2-0 Toronto FC
Sunday, July 7
FC Cincinnati 3-2 Houston Dynamo
Columbus Crew 1-2 Seattle Sounders
Montreal Impact 2-3 Minnesota United
Sporting KC 1-0 Chicago Fire
LAFC 6-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Real Salt Lake
Atlanta United 3-3 New York Red Bulls
Philadelphia Union 2-2 Orlando City
NYCFC 0-1 Portland Timbers