The brand new MLS season is just a few weeks old, but the standings in both Conferences are starting to take shape. Over in the East, New England Revolution were the early pace setters with Bruce Arena’s side sitting on top of the table after three games.
Defeat to Nashville SC in week four saw New England slip to second, but many feel that this could finally be their year. They are, perhaps, the unluckiest side in the entire tournament having yet to win major silverware despite reaching five MLS Cup finals. A positive opening needs to be sustained, but early signs are good.
Round five in the 2021 MLS season sees Coach Arena’s New England make the trip to Philadelphia to face a side who have won just once in their opening four games. Revolution have yet to win on the road, but they should be confident against a side who have made a slow start.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, league leaders New York City FC host Toronto and they’ll be fully expected to maintain their position at the top of the standings. Orlando City, who are one of only three unbeaten teams in the East, travel to take on DC United.
The Conference is in its early stages this year but results from those fixtures will help the table to take shape.
Talking About a Revolution
New England Revolution started their campaign with a 2-2 draw away to Chicago Fire. Consecutive home wins followed over DC United and Atlanta before that untimely reverse away to Nashville SC in week four.
Goals have been shared around the team and there have been many positives to take from those early exchanges. Revolution have been especially tough to beat at home and have conceded just once at the Gillette Stadium to date.
As the season progresses, New England will need more from their front men if they are to challenge at the top of the Conference standings. Five goals in four matches is a respectable return, but it leaves room for improvement.
Polish striker Adam Buksa has played in all of Revolution’s opening four matches and he has found the net just once. As a designated player who falls outside of the salary cap regulations, the pressure is firmly on Buksa to deliver goals. Fellow attackers Edward Kizza, Teal Bunbury and Gustavo Bou are pivotal players in New England’s aim of finally delivering the MLS Cup.
Taking Over at the Top
As New England Revolution suffered their first defeat of the 2021 MLS campaign, New York City took over at the top. The season had not started well for the Blues, with a loss to DC United, but Ronny Deila’s side are unbeaten since then and their superior goal difference puts them above New England in the standings.
NYC FC, unlike Revolution, are widely expected to do well in 2021, with soccer betting markets putting them among the favorites to win the MLS Cup. Deila’s men are in the mix along with teams such as Orlando City, Seattle Sounders, Columbus Crew and Los Angeles FC.
The highlight of New York’s season so far has been the 5-0 demolition of Cincinnati; a game in which Jesus Medina scored twice. Medina has now scored three in four games and, as a midfielder, he’s providing useful support to the front men.
With main striker Valentin Castellanos averaging a goal a game across those four matches, NYC have no major issues in front of goal. They’ve also managed to keep things tight at the back and New York are emerging as the team to beat in the East.
A host of franchises are hoping to challenge at the top of the standings as the new campaign develops. Orlando City are up among the favorites for the Championship, while Atlanta and Inter Miami will also be hopeful of securing a place in the play offs.
Inter Miami will always attract attention due to their high-profile owner. David Beckham is the man at the helm and, ahead of the 2021 season, he appointed his former Manchester United teammate Phil Neville as Miami’s new head coach.
Inter have another star in their roster with prolific Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain signing mid-way through the 2020 campaign. The former Real Madrid centre forward endured a difficult start to his MLS career, but he’s settled down with two goals in his opening three matches of the new season.
Orlando City fans will be buoyed by the fact that they’ve just held leaders New York to a 1-1 draw. They are currently fourth in the table and are unbeaten with one win and three draws.
Atlanta, meanwhile, are underachieving with just two points from their opening four games. The side has managed just three goals in that period so it’s clear that strikers Josef Martinez and Erik Lopez need to step up.
All to Play for
The first aim of any MLS franchise is to make it through to the playoffs. From there, it’s all about the knockouts and this is where an underdog team can spring a surprise. Inter Miami reached the play-in round last year and not much is expected of them despite the hype around David Beckham. However, if Coach Neville can get Higuain firing, they may be in with a chance.
As for New England Revolution, that 2021 playoff slot looks assured. With an experienced coach in Bruce Arena and a talented squad, this could finally be their year.