Welcome to the first edition of MLS After Dark. A space where we'll go into detail about some of the crazy shit that just seems to happen in our "never ceases to amaze" domestic league.
Yes, there's something a bit sick about staying up to watch an Austin FC-Vancouver Whitecaps matchup late into the night. But those who do are regularly rewarded with drama, insanity and plenty of "WTF" moments, some good and some awful.
The fixtures this midweek did not disappoint so let's dive in...
We pick it up in the 86th minute with San Jose up 1-0.
Referee Joseph Dickerson calls a penalty in favor of SKC that was soft but looked like a foul on Johnny Russell, although the Scotsman popped right back up to his feet. After a minute or so, Dickerson decides to take a closer look, and leave it up to the VAR Gods. The entire situation took about 4 and a half minutes to resolve, and the call was reversed. NO penalty. However the time it took, ultimately gave Kansas City another opportunity because of something that is just so very MLS.
9 MINUTES OF ADDED TIME.
That is not a typo. These wild amounts of extra time just seem to happen hilariously often in this league, and I'm all for it. It usually means drama is about to unfold.
In the 94th minute, Sporting wins a free kick in a dangerous spot. Johnny Russell fires a rocket that hits the post, then rebounds off the back of the head of San Jose keeper JT Marcinkowski. The ball is left bouncing in front goal and 3 SKC players dart to bury it, with Hungarian Daniel Salloi recording the goal. 1-1. (Salloi was later quoted saying "I wouldn't have let my Mom steal that goal from me.")
But the drama was far from over because we still had 5 minutes left to play! In the 95th, 20 year old SKC midfielder Cam Duke powered through the San Jose defense, and was taken down by Judson Silva. His second yellow would leave the Earthquakes down a man, and give SKC another scary free kick chance.
Johnny Russell would knock this one over the bar, but nerves were on edge until the final whistle, which came after 99 minutes of action. (Yes, 99.)
The match ended in a 1-1 draw.
A matchup of playoff teams in the Western Conference started off with a major milestone for a Timbers legend.
Diego Valeri scored his 100th goal for Portland, just 2 minutes into this one. The Argentine also notched his 100th assist late last season. A true MLS veteran that has accomplished all this in just over 8 years at the club.
But LAFC would tie it up less than 10 minutes later with a beautiful cross from Diego Rossi (who else) setting up a tap in goal for Carlos Vela. (who else)
We jump to the 70th minute. Vela takes a corner for LAFC, it's headed in the box toward the first post, where Rossi knocks it in for 2-1. The collective gasp from the Timbers Army could be heard down in Medford. But seconds later the referee blows his whistle, and says Rossi was offside and new life seeped into the stadium.
Another extended stoppage time would provide the drama. In the 94th minute, when a draw seemed inevitable, Sebastian Blanco whips a long cross into the box for Portland, and Felipe Mora comes out of nowhere with a distance header that just sneaked inside the second post. Absolute mayhem at Providence Park.
The Timbers salvage Diego Valeri's special night with a 2-1 win.
Interesting stat for LAFC; they're now 1-5-1 against teams that are currently above the playoff line this season.
Inter Miami didn't lose their last scheduled match, only because their game against New York Red Bulls was postponed due to lightning up in New Jersey.
David Beckham's team entered this home game on a 5 game losing streak, and few days before the match manager Phil Neville said, "The team knows what's expected and what we need to do. We're at the point of no excuses. We need to win football games."
Well it seems his players didn't comprehend the gravity of the situation, because New England was up 4-0 after the first half in South Florida.
The final score was 5-0, and Phil Neville's tone was even more troubling after the match.
"From the feeling I had the last 10 days, I wasn't expecting it. The players need to take a long, long, hard look at themselves, and so do I."
There are always growing pains for new teams in MLS. Inter Miami had it particularly tough as their inaugural season under manager in the league under manager Diego Alonso, was interrupted by the pandemic. But the one quote that stuck with me from Neville was, "We're at the point of no excuses." You think?!
Inter Miami came into the league with more hype than any team virtually ever, and it's been nothing but disappointments since. Not to mention being sanctioned by the league for bending the designated players rules, and STILL not having success.
A team with Gonzalo Higuain, Blaise Matuidi, and Rodolfo Pizarro should not be struggling this much, but it seems to not be getting maximum effort from some of star players. Inter Miami finds themselves with the worst record in the league, and at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. But what's worse, is just how wrong team ownership has been at every turn, from head coaching and leadership decisions to the stadium fiasco. They're lucky to still have incredible supporters, in a market that doesn't always get that kind of enthusiasm for teams that don't win. I hope for their sake, Inter Miami can play any semblance of positive soccer, soon.