Soccer Down Here
4-2-3-1 Week 2
by Jarrett Smith
Week two is in the books in the 2022 MLS season. The season still feels fresh and we will surely look back on this with a sense of dread and mortality when the season is quickly approaching its conclusion and wonder where all the time went. Until then, let us just enjoy the insanity and fun of MLS in 2022 with week 2 of the 4231.
The thing about predictability is how unpredictable it can be. As a foolish fan of the San Jose Earthquakes, I have long spoken of the fun that the premier #MLSAfterDark team can bring. The Quakes are in a very weird spot with a ‘meh’ roster for Matias Almeyda to run his preferred system and we saw them sliced open like an unnamed marine in an Alien movie against Red Bulls (more on them in a moment) and it looked like more of the same after they were down 3-1 to Columbus and down a man in the second half last weekend. Then something weird happened. Francisco Calvo got two headers in the back of the net and rescued the weirdest draw of the early season. San Jose is probably not a great team but they will be weird and chaotic and the more variables you throw into this mix the weirder the outcome might be and that is what Columbus learned Saturday. Also they could just not blow a two goal lead to a team down to ten men because no matter how you feel about your team this weekend, the Crew had the worst result of the weekend.
All right, Red Bulls. Let us talk about whatever the hell you have decided to do to start the year. You get in here too Austin, this concerns you too. Close the door behind you. I don’t know what the hell has gotten into the two of you but it is damn hilarious. Both of you have chosen violence in the first two games of the season and at this point you are just driving your fists into the dirt where an opponent used to be. Let’s qualify this by stating that they have played two weaker teams defensively. Now let’s take that take and in the trash because they have been both racking up goals and you play the hand you are dealt. They surely will not continue to fire off 4-5 goals a game but we should enjoy it while it lasts because it is damn fun to watch and for Austin it is a great sign after 2021.
The South does in fact have something to say. That something is that they will show the hell out for a new franchise. You can get into the sustainability of the big attendance numbers but I’m going to put you in a sound-proof room for a moment while we enjoy the insane attendance that Charlotte produced Saturday night. It was awesome to see another team come to life and create a huge and fun environment in the deep south. I am not sure what the future holds for Charlotte or how good they will be in 2022 but my hope is that they are here to stay with good numbers in a growing city. As far as the product on the field, it was not great. They were outshot 16-1 in the first half and lost on one of the goals of the week. That being said, do not group them with the expansion season for a team like Cincinatti who went full ‘deer in the headlights’. Charlotte has buy-in from the team and plays with guts. I have no clue how many points that creates but the team will be something that the residents can be proud of.
Continuing our trend of two sides of the coin, Commerce City played host to the Colorado Rapids and Atlanta United in a game where one team could not take advantage of opportunities while the other might have found some of that long-lost confidence. Atlanta had a few chances in this match to put Colorado under some stress but failed to ever do so. Meanwhile a Rapids team that has looked like a hot mess since CONCACAF Champions League play finally got something to go their way with some good work in goal and opportunistic finishing. Atlanta will be fine (they’re missing 4 of their 6 starting players in the midfield and the attack including both designated players) but it is still no fun to take a 3-0 loss even if it is on the road, in the cold, at altitude and surrounded (presumably) by the plague. I would like to drill home this issue about Colorado though. They got breaks, which every team needs, and now might show some confidence. You know that feeling where you feel like your team just needs something to break their way and get that first win and the rest will start flowing? That was Colorado Saturday afternoon. Atlanta did not convert chances in front of the net and Colorado scored 3 goals on 3 shots on goal. Now we see if they can build on it.
Columbus and San Jose - We’ve already touched on this and the chaos that the Quakes bring to your boring life. But this is one to go back and watch if you get the chance. Quakes get the lead, Quakes get a red card, Quakes give up 3 goals, Quakes score 2 late. Just your average, everyday San Jose game that Caleb Porter was clearly pissed about after the fact. At least go watch the condensed game if you get the chance.
Miami at Austin - Sure this was a blowout but it was sort of a quiet week on the stupidity front so go watch Austin just break Miami on the wheel for 90 minutes. There is a drunken 10 minute stretch where you get three goals but otherwise you are here for the same reason most people go to Talladega: carnage.
1. Lucas Zelarayan - Is Zelarayan the player that inspires the most doom in walls and goalkeepers on free kicks since Seba was terrorizing everyone in Toronto? People are certainly talking. It should be noted that this was the last productive thing that the Crew did Saturday and he had an incredible strike from open play but damn, he is just so damn terrifying from dead ball situations. Teach us to learn how to get the ball up and down like this, Lucas.
2. Yimmi Chara - He is back again and this time he decided to keep a foot planted because…style points? Chara gets on a…I guess we’re calling a unicycle? Whatever. He gets on a ride and decides to follow up last week’s insane goal with something almost as fun this week. It led to a 1-1 draw with LAFC but man, what a show he is putting on right now. We went over this a bit last year but early season MLS has a habit of producing bangers.
3. Efrain Alvarez -The LA Galaxy were banging on the door at Charlotte all night Saturday and despite 16 first half shots, they just could not breach the gate. So Alvarez brought out the Grond from Mordor and just knocked the door down to steal all three points from Charlotte. The Galaxy are leaving things through two games but they are playing good defense and Alvarez deciding to ball the hell out is not going to hurt their chances going forward.
Alright there are midweek games for the first time in a while and it is all CONCACF Champions League. NYC and Seattle held up their end of the bargain with wins on Tuesday night. New England will get Pumas and Montreal, fresh off their long-awaited triumph over a Liga MX club, get Cruz Azul and friends, let me tell you, if that one is tight going into the second leg the narratives will be amazing. Whether you consider it naïve or not to believe in MLS during the Champions League, we are at that stage where it matters. Where teams get their gut check opportunity against the biggest and baddest on the continent. This is what you can look forward to. MLS has limited midweek games this season so embrace this chaos for now. Eventually we will get US Open Cup which will be its own backwoods brand of corn liquor.