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Portland's Robin Hood impression and who will win the Wooden Spoon? 5 takeaways from MLS Matchweek 10

Matchups at the top and bottom of the table make for some interesting reading. The two best teams in the East faced off in Foxborough, while Kansas City played host to both the NFL Draft and a struggling Montréal side to varying degrees of success. In the West, dropped points from Seattle, St. Louis, and San Jose only gave more life to LAFC on their week off. 

5 takeaways from MLS Matchweek 10

#1. Portland is doing its best Robin Hood impression

Two weeks on from a galvanizing win against their Cascadian rivals, Portland produced another shock win against St. Louis. Two second-half goals from new DP signing Evander and Yimmi Chará bookended City’s equalizer. This late charge handed the expansion side its second loss at home and sent the Timbers back into the playoff places. 

Since beating Sporting Kansas City at home in Matchweek 1, Portland has only tasted victory on two occasions, with both wins coming against the two teams with the most points in the Western Conference. Poor results against the Vancouver Whitecaps and LA Galaxy will hurt to look back on for Giovanni Savarese and his side as they attempt to stay afloat and make the playoffs. 

At present, the Timbers have a propensity for taking points from the rich and giving them to the poor, a habit that continues to hold them back. These good wins show that Portland can compete with the best of the best and if they begin winning against the league’s bottom-feeders, they could be able to challenge for a top spot in the West. 

#2. DC’s win streak

Last season’s worst team, DC United, has come out flying in 2023. The District has earned 14 points from its first ten matches, more than half of its tally for the entirety of 2022, and looks set for more success. The battle for playoff spots and seeding in the East will be tight with 10 points separating Cincinnati in first and Philadelphia in 10th, but DC’s play has been impressive so far, and they'll no doubt be eyeing a spot in the postseason. 

Before the ides of April, DC’s season was giving fans déjà vu all over again. One win from seven games was the third-worst return in the Eastern Conference, but since then, Wayne Rooney’s side has looked completely different. Three wins, seven goals and only one conceded in three games are the kind of stats any coach would love to see. Add in Christian Benteke’s excellent run of form and you have yourself a show.

A difficult run of games awaits United with trips to Cincinnati and Philadelphia on either side of a test at home against Nashville. If DC can keep this momentum and take a good haul of points, they’ll like their chances of being in the playoffs come the end of the season. 

#3. Hany Mukhtar begins his MVP defense 

Seven goal contributions on the season don’t do justice to Hany Mukhtar and his impact on Nashville SC. The German has been critical to his team’s success, and Saturday’s massive result against a fierce Atlanta United side was the canvas of yet another masterpiece for last season’s MVP to add to his oeuvre. 

Despite being credited with just one assist, Mukhtar played a crucial role in all three goals as Nashville took care of Atlanta in front of a packed Geodis Park. His inswinging corner met Walker Zimmerman’s head at the near post, clearing space for Fafà Picault to open the scoring from close range. 

In the second half, Mukhtar found himself on the break and created a good shooting chance. His effort was initially saved but popped right into the path of Teal Bunbury who doubled Nashville’s advantage. 

Finally, to seal the deal in added time, the 28-year-old played a devastatingly incisive pass between three Atlanta defenders for Jacob Shaffelburg to hammer home. 

Three goals, all created by the Berlin native but only one credited to him. As the two MVP candidates duked it out in the Music City, Thiago Almada may have grabbed the goal with a composed penalty kick, but it was Hany Mukhtar who stole the show. 

#4. Inter Miami finally gets a win after six straight losses

Make no mistake, the pressure put on Phil Neville is not misplaced. This Inter Miami side began the season with two impressive wins against Montréal and Philadelphia before losing six straight games, which included five shut-outs. Performances have been terrible and the English manager is rightfully in the hot seat. With that being said, Miami’s 2-1 win over Columbus should not fly under the radar. 

Yes, Columbus was probably the better team and yes, there was a possible penalty shout for the Crew at the very death, but through it all Miami found a way to win and keep what is a very lively and dangerous Columbus team to just one goal. In the midst of all this, star signing Josef Martínez still has not hit the ground running since joining over the winter and was reduced to an unused substitute this weekend. It does stand to reason that a first goal in pink for the 2018 MVP would very much help his confidence and get not just his campaign, but Inter Miami’s back on track.

All this is to say that Neville is very much not out of the woods yet. He must keep this momentum and get through two home matches against Atlanta and New England followed by a trip to Nashville with some decent points. Poor results won’t be ignored for much longer and this early season slump has already proven that Neville’s seat is anything but safe. 

#5. Who will win the Wooden Spoon?

In a league without relegation, the worst teams fight to avoid winning the Wooden Spoon, a trophy given to the worst regular season team with the hope that it will shame bad owners into putting more effort towards winning. While New England had the enviable task of welcoming Cincinnati to Gilette Stadium for a top-of-the-table clash, Kansas City hosted CF Montréal for a matchup of two of the league’s worst sides. This is not the first time Sporting KC has played host to poor-performing opposition, yet the outcome was the same. 

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If that definition is to be believed, then Kansas City’s soccer faithful may be on the verge of going mad. Early this season, Sporting had already hosted the LA Galaxy and Colorado Rapids, scoring in neither game and earning a meager 0-0 draw against the former while losing 1-0 to the latter. 

Against Montréal, the result was somehow even worse. 

The Canadian side had a dreadful away record heading into the game: five losses in five games, 14 goals conceded and not a single goal scored. Fortunately for them, matches highlighted by incompetence tend to themselves be won or lost by incompetence and it was Kansas City’s inability to create goal-scoring chances that proved fatal on the day. 

Two first-half goals for the visitors, including one just before the break, doomed Sporting to its league-worst seventh loss and kept the wait for a first win this season going. In the “race” for the Wooden Spoon, there's now a clear and obvious frontrunner, and ironically, it's the Soccer Capital of America. 

From inside Children’s Mercy Park, it's clear that changes need to happen and fast. Fans left their seats in the second half as if there was a fire drill and at full time, those who were left made their presence known with boos that echoed around the ground and #VermesOut signs. 

This is not a team or a fanbase that is used to losing and that sentiment of confusion and frustration is shared by the supporters, the staff and the players on the pitch alike. What those changes will be remains to be seen, but this level of play cannot continue for much longer. 

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