Here are the winners and losers from a crucial week in Major League Soccer as the regular season winds down.
The turnaround in Cincinnati might be one of the best stories this league has seen in some time. All credit to general manager Chris Albright and head coach Pat Noonan that helped take FC Cincinnati from the worst team in MLS (many years in a row) to the best as they locked up the Supporters’ Shield on Saturday.
A change in fortune of that stature doesn’t just happen, and Luciano Acosta, who will likely be named this year’s MVP, is at the center of everything. Because the front office surrounded him and Brandon Vazquez with necessary talent throughout the roster, the approach suddenly was fresh, belief became evident and the culture shifted. It’s a very simple formula, but Cincy perfected it and is now reaping all the benefits.
Acosta and Aaron Boupendza have found a connection at the perfect time as playoffs approach. Home-field throughout the playoffs is massive as Cincy is 13-1-1 at TQL Stadium this season. The first order of business is done, and it’s a hell of an accolade. Now focus is on if they can stay consistent among a brutally stacked East and chase MLS Cup. But from what they’ve shown us all year, we shouldn’t believe otherwise.
St. Louis City
St. Louis needed three things to happen this weekend for it to officially clinch the West’s No. 1 spot, where they’ve resided most of the season. A win and both Seattle and LAFC to draw or lose. Checks all across the board for City, which took care of business with a riveting 4-1 win over Sporting KC in a rivalry game. It was how they pulled it off that made things even sweeter. Bradley Carnell, who should undoubtedly win Coach of the Year, adjusted some things at halftime of a stalemate and made subs that instantly sparked something. The result was an onslaught of four goals in 12 minutes that turned CITYPARK into a party.
Saying that St. Louis was the best team in the Western Conference was met with hesitation throughout the season because people didn’t want to fully believe that this squad actually was. Now those critics have nowhere to hide because City is officially the expansion team with the most wins (17) and are now just two shy of breaking LAFC’s expansion points record.
Joāo Klauss returned from injury and quickly got back to his scoring ways while goalkeeper Roman Bürki is a legitimate MLS MVP contender. The West belongs to City and now they have…