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10 MLS takeaways at the international break

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It is officially the international break for MLS. It’s an awkward three-week-long break after just seven weeks of play. This early in the season it can be hard to see much in terms of who is good and bad or just average. With that being said, we’re gonna give it a go anyway! Here are 10 MLS takeaways at the international break!

MLS and MLSPA find breakthrough
Mandatory Credit: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

10 MLS takeaways seven weeks in

Since there have been seven weeks of play, and some teams have played seven or eight games, I’ll try to take a look at all 27 teams to share where they are now and give 10 MLS takeaways. Here are 10 MLS takeaways from way too early in the 2021 MLS season.

1: Seattle is the best team in the league 

Seattle is the only MLS side to not lose a match in their first eight games. Winning five and drawing three matches is about as a perfect start as you can have. They have looked dominant in the western conference, scoring 14 goals and conceding just three. 

Raul Ruidiaz has scored 6 goals and is putting his name up there in the early season MVP race. Their midfield still clicks even without Jordan Morris out wide. The back three of Gomez, Arreaga, and Nouhou have been outstanding. This team is talented, has depth at every position, and looks poised to make a supporters shield run.

2: New England is a true contender with Gil

Over the past few seasons, the consensus around New England was that they were a star number 10 away from being a legit contender. Carlos Gil is finally fully healthy for the Revolution, and he’s showing that he is that number 10 they’ve needed. Gil is magic in the midfield. He can create attacks out of nothing, can create for himself, and set his teammates up for dangerous opportunities. He makes the Revs a true contender.

New England is the best team in the east right now sitting on 17 points from eight matches. They’re three points ahead of Philly for that top spot in the east. While their offense has been clicking, their defense has given up seven goals from their first eight games. Will Gil be enough to keep the Revs at the top all season?

3: Chicharito is carrying the LA Galaxy

The LA Galaxy are actually good this season. That is largely in part to their striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Chicharito has scored seven goals through seven games played after scoring just two all last season. He’s won player of the week twice already. His goal-scoring ability has LA all the way up to third in the west. 

LA seems to have figured themselves out under new head coach Greg Vanney. He’s gotten the most out of his players through their first seven matches. With a player like Chicharito putting in buckets of goals they may just be a team to revoking within the west this season!

4: All CCL teams start slow; except Philly

Atlanta, Columbus, Portland, Philadelphia, and Toronto represented MLS in Concacaf Champions League in 2021. All were bounced out of the quarterfinals except for Philly. Al log these teams also have had a slow start barring Philly. 

Columbus is just barely in a playoff spot in the east on 11 points. Atlanta is on the outside looking in in the east on 10 points. Portland only has nine points from seven matches in the west. Toronto FC is one point above last place in the east. Philly is three points off first place in the east. One of these things is not like the other.

When you play in an international competition, a slow regular-season start is to be expected. All five of these teams have shown poorly after CCL matches. However, it looks like the only club still alive in the competition, Philly is making a case to be the top team in the east yet again this year!

5: 3rd and 11th place in the east are separated by three points

Speaking of teams off to a slow start. The MLS’ eastern conference has been very closely contested through the first seven weeks. Since the 2021 schedule has the majority of games being played between conference opponents, the eastern conference looks fairly even at this international break.

Orlando sits in third place on 12 points, with only one loss on the season. NYCFC has looked good but not perfect, as they’re in fourth with 11 points. Montreal has punched above their weight but sits in fifth with 11 points. Columbus Is in sixth and we’ve talked about their struggles. Nashville is holding the last playoff spot with 11 points. Atlanta is just out in eight with 10 points. Red Bulls are in ninth with nine points. DC also has nine points in 10th place. Miami is in eight points and 11th place after eight matches.

The congestion in the conference and standings only make things juicier as the season progresses. We could see some major jumps with all of these teams close together when the season resumes!

6: Some of the western conference playoff teams above the red line may surprise you

You would expect teams like Seattle, Kansas City, and Portland to be in the playoff sports. They all are; Seattle and SKC are the creams of the crop, Portland is at the bottom of the playoff places, and the middle is surprising!

We talked about LA Galaxy already, they are up to third thanks to Chicharito. Colorado is in fourth place; the Rapids have looked very good through seven games and hope to progress further. Houston is in fifth after some decent wins against Kansas City and Vancouver. San Jose is in sixth; they started hot and have cooled off in recent weeks but have still been very impressive over the first seven weeks.

These teams have made an early season jump to above the red line. Can they keep this going when the season picks back up? We’ll have to wait and see!

7: The bottoms dwellers out west are only a few points away from a playoff spot

While it is surprising to see who is above the red line out west. The teams below it are just as fascinating. They’re all three points or less out of a playoff spot at the break.

Real Salt Lake is in 8th behind Portland because they haven’t played as many matches. LAFC is in 9th on eight points; they’ll need to step it up after the break to show their quality. Vancouver is in 10th on seven points; they haven’t looked bad but not great either. Austin FC has started their expansion season with seven points from seven matches; the y are figuring out who they are in MLS in 11th place. Minnesota is the biggest loser before the break; they are averaging a point a game and are in 12th. In the last place is FC Dallas; six points from seven games isn’t good enough for their standards.

While all of these teams are below the red line, they are also a win or two away from shooting up the standings!

8: The three teams at the bottom of the east are falling behind

The teams deep down the eastern conference standings are in trouble of falling behind after their first seven weeks.

Toronto, Chicago, and Cincinnati all average less than a point per game. They will find it hard to compete if they can’t come out of the other side of this break firing on all cylinders. Of these three teams, Toronto is definitely the most talented. You’d expect them to get it together and climb up the standings. Chicago and Cincinnati are other stories. 

Chicago should be better than they are, but fall apart or asleep in crucial moments. Cincinnati spent money on offense, not defense before the season. Now they’re scrambling and overpaying for defenders left and right. It’s not helping them at all. These sides will be lucky to sniff a playoff spot in 2021.

9: Inter Miami cheated and is in big trouble

Inter Miami cheated on their budget in 2020. They technically should have had five designated players on their roster. Miami also under-reported on three other players they brought in. They did all this and still only were able to secure 10th place in the east in 2020.

This year all of this was found out and huge sanctions are being put in place. Mainly that Inter Miami is fined $2 million. Also, Paul McDonough who helped create Inter Miami and also Atlanta United back in 2017 has been suspended by the league until 2022! Miami is not doing too great at the moment and this spotlight is not the kind they wanted in 2021.

10: Austin opens new stadium vs SKC in middle of this break

Most MLS team is off until the third week of June, however, Austin FC won’t be. They’ll open their brand new stadium on June 12th against Sporting Kansas City. 

They’re the newcomers to MLS in 2021, so they get a special day to open their stadium. Don’t miss that action on Saturday, June 12th at 3:00 pm ET.

There you have it! There are 10 MLS takeaways on all 27 teams! Do you agree with them? Let me know and be sure to keep an eye out for more from Philly Sports Networks as MLS rolls on at the end of June!

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Mandatory Credit: Mandatory Credit: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

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Philadelphia Union Editor of Soccer Content

A passion for the beautiful game drives me.

Twitter: @Tim_Lovenguth

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