Final grades do not go down in the records until October in Major League Soccer when the long regular season comes to a close. With one third of the regular season down, who is making the grade so far in MLS and who needs to pass some tests later to graduate to the playoffs?
Let’s dig into those report cards…
Report Card: F
After a surprising 2016 that saw the Rapids finish second in the Supporters’ Shield (best overall regular-season record) race, they have come crashing back to earth in 2017. Eight goals in nine games is a problem; as is the fact that the trade they made with Minnesota at the end of March seemed to signal that it is time to rebuild.
Real Salt Lake
New manager Mike Petke will make RSL better, but there is still lots to do to recover from the mistakes made in recent years. The Claret and Cobalt desperately needed to start rebuilding sooner, but they have held on to an aging core that is now holding the team back. Five members of the U.S. U-20 national team competing in the upcoming World Cup signal that help is on the way for Petke though.
Report Card: D
Two wins have pulled manager Jim Curtain’s crew out of the failing category, but only barely. Oguchi Onyewu, at 35, will not be able to rescue the back line forever. Their home match Wednesday against Houston will go a long way to determine their next progress report.
The Impact have been one of the disappointing squads in MLS this year after their run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2016. Injuries have made it difficult to find consistency. New Designated Player Blerim Dzemaili from Switzerland should dramatically improve the midfield now that he has arrived from Bologna of Italy’s Serie A.
Their 3-1 win over the Five Stripes still stands out as one of the strangest results of the 2017 season. The last two weeks have been awful with last weekend’s 4-0 loss to Philadelphia especially standing out. Manager Ben Olsen seems to be running out of patience with this group, calling them “posers” after another recent loss.
New manager Curt Onalfo was always going to have it tough following a legend like Bruce Arena. While it has been a very difficult start, Sunday’s 3-1 win at Red Bull Arena gives them hope. They go to Minnesota on Sunday with a chance to show that it was not a fluke.
Report Card: C
After their dreadful start, Minnesota has made the biggest rally in recent weeks in the league. The trade for Sam Cronin and Marc Burch, along with getting back to basics, has helped manager Adrian Heath’s squad secure a respectable grade. Their next job is to find more consistency as their form over the last month has bounced up and down from week to week.
A championship hangover was to be expected in Seattle, but manager Brian Schmetzer has to start seeing some better performances from his group. Injuries in defense have not helped them, but their 3-0 win in LA last month hinted at their potential.
After a slow start the Whitecaps have rebound in recent weeks with two wins in their last three games. Forward Freddy Montero has not been the magic pill for the attack, but an improved defense should help Vancouver get over the hump.
Sunday’s draw in Portland was a much-needed response after back-to-back 3-1 losses. With two straight home games for the first time this season coming up, Tata Martino will be looking to move up the ranks.
New England Revolution
The Revolution had not won in their last five games before spanking RSL 4-0 last weekend. Sunday’s match with Columbus will show if manager Jay Heaps has figured anything out yet in his team.
San Jose Earthquakes
The yo-yo’ing Earthquakes have been on both sides of a 3-0 scoreline in their last two games. Two big tests await this week as they host Orlando tonight and go to Dallas on Saturday.
Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has provided a spark to the Fire. However, they were winless in their last three games before Saturday night’s big 4-1 win over the Sounders. This week provides two winnable games as they host Colorado Wednesday and go to D.C. on Saturday.
Report Card: B
New York Red Bulls
Three straight losses have the Red Bulls grade looking very shaky at the moment. It gets no easier with Toronto coming to visit Red Bull Arena for a Friday night match. This is a team in desperate need of a spark, manager Jesse Marsch has to figure something to right the ship quickly.
It was a strong performance from the Citizens Sunday night in Dallas to earn a 1-1 draw. Dropping Designated Player Andrea Pirlo has much improved the midfield, and forward David Villa is still among the best in the league. They have been one of the strongest teams on the road this season, and that will be tested this week with a trip Wednesday to Salt Lake City and a trip to Orlando on Sunday.
Winger Justin Meram has been one of the best players in MLS this season. His hat trick in Montreal rescued a win against the Impact. Manager Gregg Berhalter has tinkered quite a bit with his lineup in the early going this year, but he seems to have hit on a system that works with two wins in their last three games.
Sporting Kansas City
Their offense is starting to wake up and their defense is the best in the league so far. Kansas City went on the road and earned a huge 2-2 draw in Orlando when winger Latif Blessing scored twice. We will have a better understanding of SKC’s quality after this week. Wednesday they host Seattle, they travel to Vancouver on Saturday.
The Lions are starting to show some of the defensive issues that have plagued them since joining MLS in recent weeks. Brazilian midfielder Kaka is back and scored in their 2-2 draw with Kansas City. Forward Cyle Larin has over half of his team’s goals this season. They are going cross country Wednesday for a match in San Jose before returning home for Sunday’s game against NYCFC.
Report Card: A
With six wins and one draw at BBVA Compass Stadium, the Dynamo have taken full advantage of a friendly schedule so far this season. They have only played away three times, losing all of them. They hit the road for five of their next six games, starting Wednesday in Philadelphia before coming to see the Five Stripes on Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium. If their potent attack can get on track away from home, watch out for manager Wilmer Cabrera’s squad.
Midfielder Diego Valeri returned to the lineup on Sunday while fellow midfielder Darlington Nagbe was still unavailable. Injuries have hurt the Timbers in recent weeks, but they are still among the league’s best. With rumors swirling that they will be upgrading at center back in the summer transfer window, Portland could be among the MLS Cup contenders at the end of the season. Their offense is so strong that they just need a competent defense to get results.
Their recent run of six straight wins in 23 days is incredibly impressive. Things are about to get more difficult for the Reds with star attacker Sebastian Giovinco sidelined for three weeks and center back Nick Hagglund out for eight to 12 weeks with a torn MCL. Forward Tosaint Ricketts was the hero off the bench last week with three goals in wins against Columbus and Minnesota. This week, they head to New York to face a slumping Red Bulls squad on Friday night.
Still unbeaten in 2017, Dallas is looking to repeat its Supporters’ Shield win from a year ago. While the defense led by Lawrenceville’s Walker Zimmerman has only given up six goals in nine games, the offense has been a slow starter. Midfielder Kellyn Acosta is emerging as one of the best in the league and could start to stake his claim to regular starts with the U.S. national team in the next round of World Cup qualifiers.