Brek Shea sees red while Seattle Sounders engine goes up a notch
Week three of the 2017 Major League Soccer season saw reigning champions Seattle Sounders find their rhythm while Brek Shea is sent off for giving the referee a earful! Jason Davis takes a look at the weekend's best and worst performances.
The odds on Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez winning a host of individual trophies when the 2017 season comes to an end are getting shorter by the week. While the expansion team hasn't exactly been tested through three rounds, Tata Martino's team is having no trouble scoring goals. They shouldn't with players capable of finding the net even from impossible angles, as Martinez did on his second. Though we should note that the Fire made it easier on the home side with Johan Kappelhof's 11th minute red card, Chicago were wilting under the pressure well from the game's outset.
Enjoy the work of Orlando City striker Cyle Larin while you can, MLS fans, because the Canadian might not be in the MLS for much longer -- not if he keeps up his incredible scoring rate. He scored 31 goals in 59 career games entering 2017 and has already added three more strikes this year. Two of them led Orlando to a 2-1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday -- the club's first victory of the year. Larin is a physical presence at the front of the formation, but his game is well-rounded and his soccer intelligence is what marks him as unique talent.
FC Dallas is a busy club, what with the CONCACAF Champions League on top of their MLS early season commitments. After a midweek victory over Pachuca, and with most of the preferred starters back in place, FC Dallas managed to comeback from a goal down to beat New England 2-1. Maxi Urruti scored both goals, continuing a good run of form. Give credit it where it's due: Even when FC Dallas aren't at their best, they often find ways to win. Falling behind is never good, but good teams manage to eke out wins even when they give up an early goal.
The Portland Timbers attack has lived up to its billing in the early part of the season. Caleb Porter's team dropped four more goals in a 4-2 win over Houston on Saturday, with key names like Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri showing up on the scoresheet. Valeri remains one of the league's most interesting players, both because of his obvious abilities on the field and also his complete adoption over everything Portland. The success or failure of the 2015 MLS Cup champions so obviously rests on the health of Valeri that the club might be tempted to wrap him in bubble wrap between games.
There were, however, no bigger heroes on the weekend than the reigning champions Sounders. Seattle started the year a bit shaky, with a road loss in Houston and an at-the-death draw against Montreal last week, but home surroundings proved to be the perfect tonic they needed to get their first win. Joevin Jones was the biggest star on the night, but goals a penalty from Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris' goal will put smiles on the faces of the faithful in the Pacific Northwest.
Brek Shea certainly got his money worth with whatever he said to referee Ismael Elfath. A yellow card foul in the 70th minute of a drab, goalless affair at BC Place was all Shea was facing when he decided to make just one more comment to Elfath. The referee visibly paused, then reached for a second yellow that sent Shea on his way to the locker room. Shea's Vancouver Whitecaps, as you might expect, proceeded to concede in what turned into a dispiriting loss. It's not exactly clear what Carl Robinson saw in Shea when he traded for the winger, but it probably wasn't this.
Steve Birnbaum is a U.S. international and among the better center-backs in MLS, but Saturday at RFK Stadium simply wasn't his day. As is always the case with penalty decisions, some (United fans in particular) might take issue with the idea that Birnbaum was at fault in the two moments that decided the match with Crew SC, but it's undeniable that the defender put himself in bad positions behind Columbus striker Ola Kamara. Of course, if United's attack could manage to find a goal or two, we might not be talk as much about Birnbaum's role in those penalty calls.
On the good side, Minnesota United managed it's first-ever MLS point -- and on the road in Colorado no less. Many a team has trekked to the Mile High City only to come away without a goal or a point to speak of. The club also managed to grab the first lead in club history, though they couldn't keep it -- and thus the bad side. Sure, Marlon Hairston sold the contact made by Minnesota United left-back Justin Davis that caused Davis to see red, but the NASL holdover has to know better than to go in high with his studs showing. Without Davis's red, we might instead be talking about the Loons first ever MLS win.
The same weekend San Jose Earthquakes keeper David Bingham found out he'd be joining USMNT roster for a pair of crucial qualifiers, he put in a truly horrific performance on the road in Kansas City. The Quakes were looking good -- one of just a few teams in the league with two wins from their first two matches -- but there was no way to overcome the first major goalkeeping gaffe of the year so late in the game. Bingham will have other things to occupy his mind when national team camp opens, but at least for a little while he'll be seeing that ball bouncing off his hands and directly into his net in his sleep.
Real Salt Lake played some of their best soccer of the young season in the first half against the LA Galaxy on Saturday. Yura Movsisyan scored a wonderful header, and RSL was cruising -- until Kyle Beckerman's second yellow before the half put the home team down a man. The Galaxy made their man advantage count, scoring twice to grab the crucial road points. And what is it with Galaxy man Ema Boateng and RSL? All five of the winger's career MLS goals have come against the Western rival.
TEAM OF THE WEEKEND
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.