Stop and think about what makes 90 minutes of football particularly entertaining. There would definitely be goals. Ideally, at least some of those hits should leave a neutral observer unable to resist the bounce. Leaders should never feel invincible.

MLSHis parity and emphasis on investing in attacking players makes him well-suited to regularly deliver such contests. So while one might assume the best games would involve the league’s glamorous clubhouses in places like LA, Miami, Seattle, Atlanta, Toronto or New York, the actual exciting trips appear a little more randomly.

This weekend’s instant classic between The real Salt Lake AND Colorado Rapids was proof of that. While the Rivalry Week headliners played earlier in the day, RSL and Colorado kicked off at 9:30 PM Eastern – and what a powerful night it turned out to be.

Colorado came away with a point to try, taking advantage of some RSL miscommunication as Cole Bassett Cooly took a 44-yard kick around the backline for the opening goal. The Rapids doubled their lead 20 minutes later through the Brazilian striker Rafael Navarro scored in the fourth straight game.

RSL responded quickly to reignite their home faithful, first through MVP contender Chicho Arango and again before halftime as a Diego Luna The corner was found 21 years old Andres Gomez for a barrage set cold upon Zack Steffenhead and arms outstretched.

Colorado appeared unfazed by the blown halftime lead; Djordje Mihailovic reopened the scoring and for almost half an hour afterwards, it looked like the Rapids had an answer for every RSL effort. That is, until Arango continued to do what he’s been doing all 2024: score key goals when RSL needs him most.

After a corner kicked off the crossbar, the resulting rebound bounced off Steffen’s head, bounced off the crossbar and then to Arango for a header – 3-3 in the 85th minute. From there, RSL took what the rattled Rapids defense gave them; Gomez finished off a sharp cut into the box with an outside leg finish past a sliding Steffen, then Anderson Julio tied the game deep into stoppage time with an impressive one-man counterattack.

Real Salt Lake has been among the best teams in the league in 2024 – no qualifications needed. The win ensured that RSL are one of four teams to average at least two points per game, along with Inter Miami, FC Cincinnati AND Minnesota United. An already prolific academy is now bolstered by promising prospects coming from South America and USL. Ultimately, RSL’s jump to contender status feels right on schedule for the evolution of this roster.

The same can’t be said for how quickly the Colorado Rapids have gone from last year’s conference basement to firmly in playoff contention. They won’t enjoy watching the last 15 minutes against RSL, but there’s no shame in sitting sixth in the West after 14 games.

The Rapids were aggressive in revamping their roster and staff this winter, with Chris Armas taking over on the line while new signings such as Mihailovic, Omir Fernandez and Zack Steffen raised the ceiling for a roster with plenty of MLS experience.

East Coasters would be wise to work on an early afternoon cup of coffee most Saturdays—these days, the best MLS viewing requires staying awake for a mountain stake.

Jeff Rueter

In case you missed it…

For the second time in club history, Nashville SC has embarked on a coaching search, grappling with how to take the next step as a club without losing the gains made under solid leadership (in their case, inaugural coach Gary Smith, who was released this week).

Nashville reached the playoffs in each of Smith’s first four seasons with the club, one of four teams to do so in that span. The club also collected the eighth most points in the league during that period. The feats are even more impressive considering they include Nashville’s debut MLS season in 2020 impacted by COVID-19. only Seattle Sounders experienced similar success in their first four seasons in the league. Atlanta and LAFC, two other successful recent expansion teams, missed the playoffs in their fourth season — but both Atlanta and LAFC won the MLS Cup.

Nashville hasn’t gone much from “very good” (2021 and 2022 seasons) to “great.”

They made the 2023 League Cup final but lost on penalties to Inter Miami. The back end of 2023 showed warning signs, but the start of the 2024 season made one thing clear: Nashville was definitely trending in the wrong direction under Smith.

“It got to a certain point where we needed to have a new voice and a fresher perspective,” GM Mike Jacobs told the media. “As we continue to watch the league and the teams grow and evolve, we must do the same ourselves.”

Even at their best, Smith’s Nashville teams were criticized for lacking offensive ambition. This is an easy compromise to accept when the team was getting points and when Hany Mukhtar it was a one-man attack, but over the past 10 months, things went sideways. They won just two of their last 16 MLS games last season, then both of their playoff games, then just three wins in their first 12 MLS games this season.

Ironically, one of those wins was Smith’s last game in charge before being fired.

“As we move into (Nashville) 2.0 and the evolution of our club on the field, we have to take advantage of the things our league allows us to do,” Jacobs said. “Whether that’s using players in the U-22 initiative, whether it’s being able to identify players from areas of the country and parts of the world that are going to generate high resale value, you know, we’ve got to make sure we’re malleable and we ourselves are flexible.”

Nashville hasn’t developed many young quarterbacks Jack Maher being the only strong example. Their only key signing of the Under-22 initiative was the Uruguayan winger Rodrigo Pineiro. He played a total of nine minutes in MLS and was routinely left out of the matchday squad, then left after one season.

They have had a rotating cast of high-priced potential partners for Mukhtar, from John Cádiz to Ake Loba until now Sam Surridge. The most successful MVP contender was the MLS veteran CJ Sapong.

Nashville is indeed in its era, but the list still has Smith’s vision and preferences on it. It may take some time to understand the evolution they are seeking.

“It’s not just about who’s the best manager,” Jacobs said, “it’s about who’s the best manager for Nashville.”

Tom Bogert

San Diego athletic director hire fails

San Diego FC is back to the drawing board. A proposed deal to bring in AS Monaco’s Carlos Aviña as the club’s first sporting director has fallen through, sources briefed on the deal say. Athletics.

Aviña’s hiring was considered a foregone conclusion a few weeks ago and was expected to be announced shortly after the end of Monaco’s season. Instead, Aviña will remain with the Ligue 1 club and San Diego must find a new inaugural sporting director.

The good news for San Diego is that it has the sports infrastructure to support it. Their ownership includes Mansour Group, which also owns Danish club FC Nordsjælland and the Right to Dream Academy. Right now, with no sporting director, they still have plenty of football people helping build the inaugural squad.

The club’s deal to sign Hirving “Chucky” Lozano is not affected by Aviña’s absence from the club. Sources say Lozano’s deal is all agreed and expected to be signed in the coming days. Lozano is likely to stay at PSV until the winter.

Lozano will be San Diego’s fourth player ahead of their debut in 2025. The club has already announced deals for young American goalkeeper Duran Ferree plus Danish veterans Jeppe Tverskov and Marcus Ingvartsen. The latter pair currently play for Nordsjælland and will join up ahead of pre-season in January 2025.

Tom Bogert

Five Team of the Week

In this segment, we’re picking five standout names from across the MLS weekend — players can make the team for a solid performance, a key moment on the pitch (good or bad), an interesting moment off the pitch, or anything else. that we decide.

Luciano Acosta: The reigning MLS MVP is in the midst of an explosive run of form, which continued this weekend with a goal and two assists against Saint Louis. He has seven goals and nine assists in 1,179 minutes this year and has scored or assisted in each of the club’s last seven games and 12 of their last 13. He became the 15th player in MLS history to also record 150 assists.

Robin Hood: Lod became the Loons’ all-time leading scorer in his MLS era, breaking a tie with Emanuel Reynoso and Darwin Quintero. The milestone also catalyzed a comeback win for Minnesota, which overcame an early lead Portland Timbers goal to win 2-1 at Allianz Field. Cue Wonderwall!

Eduard Löwen: Löwen returned to the pitch for St. Louis City for the first time in two months and did so with the support of both clubs and all of MLS. Not only was he struggling with injury, but Löwen spoke out this week to reveal that his wife, Ilona, ​​has been diagnosed with brain cancer. Cincy players wore white armbands with her initials in support.

“Everything else is secondary,” STL coach Bradley Carnell said after the game.

Nouhou Tolo: Entering stoppage time, it looked like the Seattle Sounders had done enough to pull off a much-needed win over a Cascadian rival. Vancouver Whitecaps. However, the always unpredictable left back jumped to block a shot with the arm up above the head; when the ball touched his hand, it was definitely an unnatural movement. That offense was something of a triple whammy: a red for Nouhou (who has suffered throughout 2024 to date), a penalty goal for Ryan Gouldand a vital away draw for the Whitecaps.

Federico Bernardeschi: Bernardeschi has been renewed this season and has entered the hat trick Toronto FCThe 5-1 thrashing of CF Montréal was Italian at his best… at least in terms of his technical skills. We’ll let you make up your own mind about his new hairstyle.

(Featured photos: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports, Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports)

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