Major League Soccer is heading into the second quarter of the 2019 season, meaning enough matches have been played to start getting a feel for the direction teams are heading, and a sense for which teams look likely to fail in their quests to improve on disappointing 2018 campaigns.
While some teams, like the Houston Dynamo and Montreal Impact, have shown clear improvement after failing to reach the playoffs in 2018, some others haven't been so fortunate and those struggles have certain coaches standing on shaky ground.
While seeing teams like the New England Revolution and Colorado Rapids struggle isn't exactly surprising, the New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United are two teams few could have envisioned sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings at this point in the season. Frank de Boer isn't likely to get the boot in Atlanta any time soon, and Chris Armas appears safe despite recent
Two teams are right where we expected them to be when 2019 began
Here are some key talking points for the ninth week of the 2019 MLS season.
Struggling coaches on shaky ground
The New England Revolution and Colorado Rapids stand among the teams that have shown the least improvement in the new season, and that lack of progress is why Revs coach Brad Friedel and Rapids boss Anthony Hudson should be at the top of any list of MLS coaches in danger of being replaced.
The Revs' 3-0 home loss to the Montreal Impact on Wednesday felt like a new rock bottom for Friedel, who has watched his team surrender the most goals in the Eastern Conference and register the most losses in the league (six) so far. The season has felt like a step back for the second-year coach, who led the Revs to a 10-13-11 record in 2018, despite the additions of international signings Carles Gil and Juan Caicedo.
The Rapids have endured an even worse start to the season, managing a league-worst 0-6-2 record that has Colorado standing as the only remaining winless team in the league. That abysmal start comes after Hudson led the Rapids to the third-worst record in MLS in 2018, and it comes despite the Rapids
Hudson and the Rapids travel to Atlanta in search of that elusive first victory, and it won't come easy against an Atlanta United side desperate for its own season-turning result. The reigning champions have yet to win a home match in
Friedel's Revs also face a daunting road trip, visiting Sporting Kansas City on Saturday in search of their first road win of the season. A loss to Sporting KC isn't likely to cost Friedel his job, but if New England stumbles through its upcoming three-match road swing, the Revs front office will need to think long and hard about making a change.
Match of the week: Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles FC
When the Seattle Sounders left Banc of California Stadium after a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Los Angeles FC the consolation was that they wouldn't have to wait long for some redemption. What they didn't know at the time was that they would head into the rematch even more banged up than they were in the first meeting.
Chad Marshall returned to action in Seattle's midweek 2-2 draw against San Jose, but new knocks picked up by Victor Rodriguez and Gustav
The potential absences of Rodriguez, Svensson, Ruidiaz and Bruin would once again leave the Sounders severely shorthanded against the best team in the league, though having Marshall back is a big boost because his absence was one of the biggest issues in last week match, which saw Roman Torres struggle badly in his place.
LAFC heads to CenturyLink Field with a rest advantage after not having to play on Wednesday. Bob Bradley's men will look to win the battle in midfield once again, as they did last week, with Mark-Anthony Kaye and Eduard Atuesta turning in outstanding shifts to help LAFC dominate Seattle and neutralize Nicolas Lodeiro and Cristian Roldan.
The LA Galaxy are riding a six-match unbeaten streak, and are on the trail of LAFC for the league's best record, but the path to first place will be a bit tougher after news that star midfielder Romain Alessandrini will be sidelined until September after knee surgery. The French winger had been an integral part of the team's early-season success, but Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto will need to turn to Ema Boateng and Chris Pontius to
The Philadelphia Union are riding a good run of form, having won four of their past five, but
Bob Bradley would probably run away with MLS coach of the year voting if the award was voted on today, but one coach putting together a quietly impressive season is FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez. The first-year coach is enjoying success with a young team, playing several teenagers and fielding a squad that owns wins against the LA Galaxy and Atlanta United, while showcasing young talents like Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira. Gonzalez will face off against another first-year MLS head coach on Saturday in Matias Almeyda, who has his San Jose Earthquakes looking sharper after a brutal start to the season. The tactical battle between Gonzalez and Almeyda will be one of the best match-ups to watch this weekend, with Gonzalez having the challenge of preparing his young side for San Jose's unique man-to-man style.
Week 9 Predictions
NEW YORK CITY FC 2, Orlando City 1. With Heber fitting in well at striker, and Dome Torrent's shift to three
TORONTO FC 2, Timbers 1. Jozy Altidore's absence will hurt, but TFC still has Alejandro Pozuelo to find the cracks in a Timbers
FC DALLAS 3, Earthquakes 1. This one will be a good back-and-forth
WHITECAPS 2, Union 1. Marc Dos Santos has had to endure a rough start to his tenure in Vancouver, but the Whitecaps appear to be rounding into
*ATLANTA UNITED 4, Rapids 0. This one has bloodbath written all over it. Josef Martinez has been in a slump, but who better to break out against than the worst
RED BULLS 3, FC Cincinnati 0. The Red Bulls are another surprising struggler that should rebound at home against a shaky opponent. Bradley Wright-Phillips is due for a big game, and this should be it, even with playmaker Kaku suspended.
DYNAMO 2, Crew 1. Two teams coming off disappointing losses square off in Houston, where the Dynamo have been very tough at home. The Crew have the midfield to match up well, but Waylon
SPORTING KC 3, Revolution 1. Sporting KC's three-match winless slide can be chalked up at least in part to its CCL run, but now injuries are testing SKCs depth. Luckily for Peter Vermes' side, the Revs are an ideal slump-buster.
IMPACT 2, Fire 0. Montreal's midweek win at New England, after a well-documented travel ordeal, should have the Impact feeling confident on Sunday at home against a Fire side that looked
Minnesota United 1, D.C. UNITED 2. The Loons
Sounders 1, LOS ANGELES FC 2. The Sounders have too many injuries to give LAFC the challenge necessary to win, especially after having played a midweek game.
GALAXY 3, Real Salt Lake 1. RSL has put together back-to-back wins, but stopping Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be too much to ask.