There was a stone-cold classic in the shadow of the Rockies this past MLS weekend, while north of the border there was a bad haircut and worse defending.

MLS winners

The Rocky Mountain Cup is a quirky in-season trophy contested by Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids – think the Calcutta Cup within rugby’s Six Nations. Instituted in 2005 – when RSL joined MLS – it adds a little extra spice to the rivalry.

And although Real came out on top in Saturday’s meeting between the two clubs [cornball warning!]… football was the real winner after an eight-goal thriller at America First Field.

The visiting Rapids got off to a flying start, racing to a 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes. Had RSL not gone on to win, defender Andrew Brody and goalkeeper Zac MacMath might have landed themselves in this week’s Losers column for their part in gifting Cole Basset the opening goal. Brody’s sloppy pass inside his own half handed the Colorado midfielder the ball 40 yards from goal. And MacMath’s inexplicable positioning saw him caught on the edge of his own box as Basset calmly fired a long-range daisy-cutter into unguarded net.

RSL fought back to level the score before half-time, but Djordje Mihailovic put the Rapids back ahead in the 56th minute, a lead the away side held for the best part of half an hour.

Then, with just five minutes to play, Pablo Mastroeni’s men rallied, led by their star player and MVP candidate.

Chicho Arango rose among traffic to nod home a brave header for his second goal of the game and his 13th of the 2024 MLS season, stretching his lead in the race for the Golden Boot. And the Colombian proved he is about more than just scoring three minutes later, providing an assist for Andres Gomez to put RSL up 4-3 with a delicately threaded pass.

A wonderful solo goal from Anderson Julio in stoppage time wrapped up a pulsating, thoroughly entertaining game that should serve as a ‘hey, we’re more than just Messi’ advert for MLS. The win saw Salt Lake go four points clear at the top of the Western Conference and level in the running for the Rocky Mountain Cup – with one win apiece, the destination of the cup will be decided when the two teams meet again in Denver in July.


Cultural appropriation, apparently
Back from suspension after a red card in the previous week’s 3-2 defeat to the New York Red Bulls, Federico Bernardeschi was sporting a new haircut as Toronto hosted Montreal at BMO Field – blonde cornrows reminiscent of those David Beckham sported while meeting Nelson Mandela in 2003, and equally ill-advised.

In a performance we’d rather not attribute to his culturally appropriated barnet, the former Italy star plundered a hat-trick as John Herdman’s side thrashed their fellow Canadians 5-1.

His first strike was a trademark effort, cutting in from the right flank before firing a left-footed thunderbolt past goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois. A cross that outfoxed a comically ragged Montreal defence (more on that later) to find its way in at the back post and a close-range finish completed Bernardeschi’s treble.

Now let’s hope he can locate a set of clippers as easily as he found the back of the Montreal net.


MLS losers

Montreal’s disasterclass defending
As impressive as Bernardeschi and Toronto were, there were aided by some stomach-turning defending from their visitors.

Matty Longstaff was allowed to waltz into the box to score a tap-in for the first goal after just six minutes. Then the Montreal backline decided to give Bernardeschi the freedom of their penalty area when the Italian cut in from the right six minutes later – who could possibly have known he would drive inside on to his stronger left foot and shoot for goal? He never does that! Oh, wait. The former Fiorentina and Juventus winger duly smashed the ball into the top corner to put Toronto ahead 2-0.

The most calamitous clip from what was quickly becoming a lowlights reel for how not to defend in a competitive match of association football, came in the 19th minute. For some reason Montreal’s defenders still possessed enough self-confidence to try to play out from the back at a goal kick. They managed two successful passes inside their own penalty area before gifting the ball to Lorenzo Insigne, who rolled it across to Prince Owusu to score from six yards.

By the time Sunusi Ibrahim pulled one back for the away side in the 67th minute, it was little consolation. They’d already shipped five goals. The thrashing leaves them third from bottom in the East, with four defeats on the bounce and without a win in over a month.


Misfiring Miazga
From the ridiculous to the rather funny.

In the 54th minute of FC Cincinnati’s home fixture against St Louis City, goalkeeper Roman Calentano rolled a pass to centre-back Matt Miazga just outside the home side’s penalty area.

Amid a modicum of pressure from St Louis’ pressing forwards, the defender decided the safest action was to return the ball to his goalkeeper. Only Miazga’s pass was overhit and completely misdirected, missing Calentano altogether and rolling perfectly between the posts.

Fortunately for Miazga, his blushes were spared due to the fact he plays alongside the reigning MVP and the best player in MLS not named Lionel Messi.

Luciano Acosta had already scored from the penalty spot and provided an assist for Yuya Kubo by the time the former Chelsea defender punted the ball into his own net.

And Acosta was on hand 10 minutes from time to ensure Miazga’s error remained merely comical and not costly. He assisted again, this time for Sergio Santos, to seal a 3-1 win and keep last season’s Supporters’ Shield champions second in the East, one point behind Inter Miami and with a game in hand.

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