Atlanta 0 – Cincinnati 1
Montreal 3 – Toronto 4
Columbus 2 – NY Red Bulls 0
Thursday’s games showed us a lot of things from Atlanta still trying to figure out life without Josef Martinez to another great game in the Canadian rivalry of Montreal and Toronto. We saw more cards, more goals, and more fun. Also we saw no new tests as it seems the bubble is finally starting to work out the way the MLS hoped.
Atlanta vs. Cincinnati was expected to be a blowout. I’m not sure what the betting line was, but everyone thought that Atlanta would run roughshod over a Cincinnati team that is thought to be the worst in the league, but that’s why we play the games.
Life without Josef Martinez continues on and man it’s a rough way to live. It’s expected that you will struggle without a guy that has scored 77 goals in 81 career starts with Atlanta, but the game they are putting together is certainly not the way to go. Atlanta seems like their only goal is to earn more discipline points than their opponent. They were definitely able to do today as Jake Mulraney received two yellow cards in 26 minutes which is a little ridiculous, and JJ Williams received another red card later on to leave Atlanta with only nine men on the field. You won’t win many games in this league down two men, not even when you’re against Cincinnati
It’s quite sad when you can’t get into the “C” grade range when up a man for nearly a full 90 minutes (the first man was sent off at minute 26 and there were 22 total minutes of stoppage time). Cincinnati still barely controlled the possession and seemingly got bailed out by a great goal instead of continuously putting shots up as a normal team up a man would do. They’ll be happy with the 3 points as they probably weren’t expecting to win any of their games in this group, but will need to get better if they want to move on.
Man of the Match: Frankie Amaya
The bright spot for Cincinnati is that their 19 year old midfielder, first pick of the 2019 Superdraft by Montreal, was able to get his first career goal in this game and it was a beauty. It was looking like Cincinnati may need to settle for a draw in this one until Amaya got the ball outside the top of the box, touched it over to his left foot, and struck a looper over the outstretched arm of the diving Brad Guzan.
The Orlando edition of the Canadian Classique was a great one. Everyone knows that Toronto is better than Montreal, but Montreal gave it their all to try to match Toronto’s skill. However, a new hero emerged for Toronto in this win.
Montreal played this game pretty well actually. The only thing they needed to do better was pay more attention to Ayo Akinola. They out possessed and outshot Toronto, but in the end just couldn’t quite do enough. Thierry Henry still hasn’t seemed to figure out what formation is the best for Montreal and it seems to affect them on the field. Montreal has already lost two games and can’t finish top 2 in their group, but they can hope for a big win in their next game and maybe squeak through on goal differential but it’s not looking good.
As a full Toronto wasn’t quite enough to get an “A” but Ayo Akinola and Alejandro Pozuelo were A++ together. This is the second straight game that they’ve looked like they really click up top. If the Toronto defense can get up to speed as well, they will continue to roll in this tournament.
Man of the Match: Ayo Akinola
Toronto has six goals in two games… Akinola has five. He has burst out in a big way as Jozy Altidore is on the sideline to avoid injury as he needs a bit more time to get into game shape at his age. I hope that Greg Vanney keeps Akinola in and allows him to go for the golden boot of the tournament.
One team was going to punch their ticket to the knockout stage with a win tonight, that much was sure, and only one team seemed ready to get the job done. The final matches are set up well in this group.
Columbus Crew: A
Columbus did everything right. They controlled possession, made nice runs on offense, and played so well on defense that their keeper didn’t even have to record a save. They have looked like a very complete team in their first two games and are pretty much assured to finish atop the group heading into the knockout stage. Everything is working for them and now all that’s left is to see if they rest players against Atlanta or not.
NY Red Bulls: C-
It was tough to tell whether the Red Bulls weren’t playing very well or if Columbus is just that good, but one thing that was easier to see is that the Red bulls didn’t match the energy of their opponent. I don’t think they necessarily played a bad game but they have to lift their energy levels if they plan on beating the better teams in this league.
Man of the Match: Gyasi Zardes
Zardes had a nice goal and should have had an assist but his teammate missed a wide open net. Zardes now has 3 goals in this tournament and has scored in every game the Crew have played this season. He is well on his way to challenging for the golden boot.
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