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Inter Miami’s tie fighters and records at the Rose Bowl: 5 takeaways from MLS Matchday 23

What’s better than late-night soccer on the Fourth of July? With a few games remaining before the summer break, MLS treated its fans to a midweek smattering of entertaining fixtures for Matchday 23, including one of the league’s great rivalries at one of the nation’s most storied venues. 

5 takeaways from MLS Matchday 23

#1. Inter Miami’s tie fighters

South Beach soccer is facing a confusing time. On the one hand, arguably the greatest soccer player of all time is about to join the team, but on the other, May 13 was the last time Inter Miami tasted victory in the league. After that, they lost seven games in a row and have only recently found a way to avoid defeat. 

Against Austin FC, Miami managed to hang on to a first tie of the season and immediately followed it up with a determined, well-fought 2-2 draw on Tuesday, coming from behind not once but twice against Columbus. The decisive moment came late when Josef Martínez found the back of the net with an emphatic scissor kick to level the match and steal a point for his side. It’s the second time Miami has avoided defeat against Wilfried Nancy’s side this season, a feat that should not be overlooked. 

While thoroughly entertaining, the late drama perhaps distracted from the fact that the Crew outperformed Miami on expected goals (xG) by a considerable amount. Columbus accumulated 2.3 xG, while Messi’s future teammates racked up just 0.7 on the night. If they would like to save this sinking ship, they need to create better chances. Otherwise, they’ll be fighting for ties all season. 

#2. Records at the Rose Bowl

Trying to deny that soccer is massive in the United States is becoming a Sisyphean task. Records are broken regularly, and many MLS teams are drawing in tremendous crowds for midseason games. The most recent example was supposed to be this season’s opening day nightcap but was rescheduled due to heavy rain. 

Late into the night on the Fourth of July, LAFC faced off against the LA Galaxy at the Rose Bowl in a match destined to break the league’s attendance record. MLS games are no stranger to football stadiums and have occasionally sold them out. Some of the best examples in recent years have been Lumen Field in Seattle, Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. While they all boast an incredible atmosphere on their day, these sporting cathedrals don’t hold a candle to an El Tráfico match at the Rose Bowl.

Setting the setting aside for a moment, the match itself did not disappoint. For the Galaxy, the combination of Riqui Puig and Tyler Boyd spearheaded the Galaxy, as the pair both finished the match with a goal and an assist.

With these California Derbys, anything can happen. Two of the Galaxy’s four wins this season have come against LAFC or San Jose, both of whom sit near the top of MLS. Greg Vanney’s side even won an El Tráfico earlier this season in the US Open Cup. A terrible season up to this point could undoubtedly use a galvanizing moment, and what could be better than a statement win against your rivals in front of 82,210 fans?

#3. Is Wayne Rooney cooking in the capital?

Amidst the criticism aimed at Wayne Rooney following his goalkeeper Tyler Miller’s extremely visible mistakes, it is crucial to point out that there is a method to the madness. This a true case of “trust the process” because the process works out. Wins against FC Cincinnati and FC Dallas are impressive in their own right, but clean sheets in both matches speak to the potential that Rooney’s tactics could hold. 

DC United ranks among the best sides in both expected goals (xG) and expected goals against (xGA). Last season, the District comfortably earned the Wooden Spoon by eight points as the league’s worse side, but the changes have been drastic this year. While playing an attractive, entertaining brand of soccer, Rooney’s side sits in eighth, just three points off the riveting Atlanta United, who have a game in hand. 

Before the summer break for the All-Star Game and League’s Cup, DC United will face the best and worst that MLS has to offer. First, Rooney’s side will host Inter Miami before making the trip up north to visit the New England Revolution. A decent points haul from these games could put the District in a good spot for the last stretch of games as they hope to make the playoffs for the first time since 2019. 

#4. Toronto is in freefall

When the stories emerged painting the decrepit and doomed scene of a Toronto FC squad rife with infighting, trust issues and general unrest, it would have been impossible to assume that the tale was an understatement. And yet here they are, 14th in the Eastern Conference, winless in their last seven matches and riding a four-game losing streak. Add in some elite Primadonna antics and a coach firing, and you have yourself a full-on meltdown. 

On a hot and sticky night in Orlando, the hosts ran rampant over their disgruntled and frustrated visitors. Toronto never got out of first gear during a match that had the feel of a training session the day before a long weekend. Óscar Pareja’s side scored four goals at home for the first time this season in their 4-0 win, aided by the early dismissal of Toronto’s alleged superstar Federico Bernardeschi. 

Frustration only works as an excuse for so long. His five yellow cards this season are the most of any Toronto FC player and now, finally, he’s been sent off. His temper got the better of him as he headbutted Orlando City midfielder Wilder Cartagena, essentially killing any hope his side had of earning anything from the match. 

Obviously, it’s never easy to lose. Toronto may be making it look that way, but it takes its toll. That said, cooler heads prevail and the best players on the pitch need to be the cooler heads. Toronto is riddled with problems right now, very few of which are quick fixes. It’s a perfect example to show new fans that superstars alone don’t win games. The successful teams have good front offices and know how to assemble a winning squad. 

#5. Another week of golazos in MLS

It’s becoming a joke at this point. In theory, you can only have so many goals that are seriously Puskás contenders, but even the league’s Twitter has recognized they seem to happen every week in MLS. From acrobatics to long-range screamers, this week had it all. 

Darlington Nagbe vs Inter Miami

Josef Martínez vs Columbus Crew

Taxiarchis Fountas vs FC Dallas

Tyler Boyd vs LAFC

McKinze Gaines vs Charlotte FC

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