New England condemns Minnesota to inglorious record; Timbers toppled
The Week 4 pickings are necessarily slim with 16 teams off for the weekend due to the international window. That's a good thing, since it means fewer games impacted by call-ups. For those that did play, there were absences to navigate. Needless to say, some clubs handled the situation better than others. Here's a look at the three MLS matches of note from Saturday.
Maybe it wouldn't have even mattered if Minnesota United was at full strength for their trip to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Revolution, but no one will be surprised that the Loons might try to pin some of their performance in a 5-2 loss to the Revs on the fact that their lineup was ravaged by absences. Kevin Molino, Johan Venegas, Rasmus Schuller and Francisco Calvo all missed out while on duty with their respective national teams.
Of course, that excuse will ring hollow in light of the expansion club's horrific defensive record through four matches. On the wrong side of another lopsided loss -- this time in Massachusetts -- Minnesota has now conceded 18 goals in four matches. That record is so bad that it not only sets an all-time mark for worst defense through four games in MLS, it would also do so for five and six games as well. The Loons could keep two clean sheets over the next two weeks and still set the ignominious record.
There's no help coming for Minnesota United, so it's up to head coach Adrian Heath to fix some massive problems with the tools on hand. Whether that's even possible seems up in the air, though this week certainly wasn't the best by which to judge. MNUFC did manage to earn a draw in Colorado last week, conceding (just) two goals in the process, though it has to be mentioned that the Rapids are one of the league's lowest-scoring teams.
So the question is, with the pressure to succeed out of the gates higher than it has ever been, whether Heath's seat is slowly warming along with the temperatures in Minnesota.
The 2015 MLS Cup final rematch at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday was not a showcase of good goalkeeping. Though Columbus Crew SC goaltender Zack Steffen and Portland Timbers keeper Jake Gleeson did make a few decent saves, it was their gaffes that helped determine the game. Gleeson and Portland came out on the wrong end of the 3-2 scoreline in large part because of his inability to punch clear a late chance off the shoulder of Ola Kamara. Columbus rookie Niko Hansen was in the right place at the right time, crashing the back post to volley home the rebound.
It was the Timbers' first defeat of 2017, a fact that is remarkable if only because their three-game winning streak included a win on the road. Portland didn't get a single victory away from home in 2016, and while that won't make the loss in Ohio any easier to stomach, they are ahead of the curve.
Despite the loss, the Timbers showed off some of their depth. Dairon Asprilla scored the opener in place of Darlington Nagbe, who was away with the U.S. national team and figures to get more chances to show off his goal-scoring ability as the season goes on.
And Crew SC? They look more like the 2015 version of themselves than the 2016 version, though it's necessary to point out the club has the exact same number of points through four matches this season -- seven -- as they did last year. Perhaps the difference so far in 2017 is the play of talisman Federico Higuain, who looks comfortable, fit and effective in the middle of the Columbus attack.
There's not usually much to say about a match with no goals, but the draw between the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake at Red Bull Arena is an interesting result for a couple of reasons. Most notably, it was RSL's first game under interim head coach Daryl Shore after the dismissal of Jeff Cassar last week. A road match against a good opponent is a tough way to start and doesn't provide much to analyze, but no road point in MLS should be brushed off as meaningless.
RSL did it with depth, as well. Kyle Beckerman was suspended, Nick Rimando and Albert Rusnak were on international duty, and a trio of usual starters were injured.
The Red Bulls will be kicking themselves for dominating the ball and getting more shots, but failing to threaten fill-in goalkeeper Matt VanOekel. On the good side of the ledger, 18-year old homegrown player Tyler Adams played a strong match in defensive midfield and will be one to watch moving forward under Jesse Marsch.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.