Maximiliano Urruti's big role in Big D; Kaka's silence in Orlando rings loud
The 2017 MLS season is past its midpoint. Here's who stood out for the right and wrong reasons over the weekend.
Down in Big D the likes of Mauro Diaz and Kellyn Acosta get most of the headlines, but Maximiliano Urruti's contribution has been massive for FC Dallas. The Argentine forward has 10 goals and three assists this season, including one of each in Saturday's 3-1 win over Toronto FC. What has made Urruti's play even more important is that it has offset Cristian Colman's scoring slump. The Paraguayan was brought in to be the finisher in front of goal that FC Dallas has craved the last few seasons, but has yet to score in MLS. Urruti has picked up more than his fair share of the slack.
The Atlanta United attack was all the rage at the start of the season, however in recent weeks you can see a healthy balance emerging out of Gerardo "Tata" Martino's team. In their last two league matches, Atlanta United's defense have registered a clean sheet and are looking much improved in the back. On Saturday they shut out a very dangerous Columbus team 2-0, capped by a shot that full-back Greg Garza blocked with his face in the 89th minute to save a goal. Total commitment. It seems the Atlanta defense is starting to catch up with its illustrious attack.
In this week's installment of "every once in awhile you just have to sit back and appreciate ..." we marvel at Diego Valeri's golazo in the Timbers' 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. Now, before all you Sporting KC faithful start screaming, What about Daniel Salloi's goal? Was Salloi's goal a beauty, too? Yes, but I still like the Valeri strike better. Seeing a player uncork one from about 30 yards out and have it go screaming past arguably the best goalkeeper in MLS this season (Tim Melia) is pretty impressive stuff. No one would have stopped that.
The Cali Clasico was darn near perfect. Jelle van Damme, the most hated man in San Jose, got to play the role of villain early on with a goal, delighting in every boo that rained down inside Stanford Stadium. There was also controversy; the Galaxy howled that a ball hit Victor Bernardez's arm while battling Van Damme in the air. And then there were was a fantastic comeback by the Earthquakes, with Chris Wondolowski scoring a sensational goal to equalize and Shea Salinas' winner at the death for a 2-1 San Jose win. These two never disappoint.
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Seeing a player get substituted off and go right to the locker room is always going to bring undesired attention. When it's the highest-paid player in the league, it really gets people talking. Kaka, who has had his struggles this season, did not do himself any favors by refusing to acknowledge coach Jason Kreis after getting subbed off in the 72nd minute of Friday's 1-0 win at Real Salt Lake. Post-match, it was kumbaya in the locker room, but the fact that Kaka didn't speak to media afterward to clear things up is troubling.
Where's the love for Canada, MLS schedule makers? The least the league could have done was give Toronto FC, Montreal and Vancouver home games on Canada Day on Saturday. Instead, only Montreal got to play in front of the home fans, downing DC United 2-0. TFC dropped a 3-1 final in the Texas heat against FC Dallas, while Vancouver were the latest team to get walloped by Chicago in the Windy City, 4-0. MLS should have done better by the Canadian teams.
Just when you thought the Houston Dynamo were ready to win their first road game of the season, they go to Colorado and cough up three goals in a 3-1 loss to a Rapids side that had scored only 15 going into Saturday's game. Houston had done well in their last three away from home: a 0-0 draw in Dallas, a 1-0 loss in Seattle and a 2-2 draw at LA. However, they took a step backward on Saturday.
DC United have taken their fair share of criticism lately, but they were dealt a bad hand in Saturday's 2-0 loss at Montreal. Their flight on Friday was cancelled, meaning that they did not arrive into Montreal until hours before kickoff. Not exactly the fairest of playing fields. Just another example of why MLS should ditch commercial flights and switch to charters.
Arch Bell is based in Austin, Texas and covers CONCACAF for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ArchBell .