By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Mar 27, 2023) US Soccer Players – A majority of Major League Soccer’s teams have played only five games. And yet, some early patterns are starting to emerge despite the small sample size and a league that is very often unpredictable. Already, the start of the 2023 season has brought with it many surprises.
MLS teams tend to surge or dip depending on a variety of factors. This is only partially due to parity. It’s also because many teams have bulked up their rosters over the winter. In some cases, it is a new batch of players who are making a difference. As a result, the Philadelphia Union, last season’s MLS Cup runners-up, are off to a slow start. By contrast, the expansion St Louis City SC are flying high. A month into the MLS season, here’s a look at three trends that have emerged.
St Louis City’s dream start
If you’re looking to see some amazing soccer, then meet me in St Louie. It’s the start few expected from St Louis City SC. After five games, the expansion team is 5-0 and making history.
After beating the San Jose Earthquakes 4-0 at home on March 18, the team became the first MLS side to win their first four matches of the season. The visiting St Louis City made it five in a row this past Saturday night with a 4-0 victory over Real Salt Lake. Two Joao Klauss strikes helped his side to the win, bringing his overall season tally to five goals.
As a new side, St Louis City has not been together as a group that long. That makes the chemistry and form they have shown even more surprising. The win against RSL was just another test of its depth, with center back Kyle Hiebert and midfielder Miguel Perez both out and ability to win away from home. They passed both tests. In fact, coach Bradley Carnell has used five different lineups in as many games and been able to win three times away from home.
They remain the only team with a perfect record as they prepare to host Minnesota United at home this Saturday. The aim for St Louis at the start of the season was to generate enthusiasm and play well enough to contend for a playoff spot. They have shown the ability to do both early on and that’s an incredible feat for a new club.
USMNT players shine
A small National Team contingent of stars have been some of the league’s headliners, including midfielder center back Walker Zimmerman, defender Shaq Moore, Jesus Ferreira, and striker Jordan Morris. While the USMNT was busy the last few days at the Concacaf Nations League, these players were getting the job done for their respective clubs.
Let’s start with the Seattle Sounders FC striker. Morris came into this weekend having scored three times in four games and off to a solid start. He only consolidated how great his current form really is by adding four more goals to his overall season tally on Saturday as Seattle defeated Sporting Kansas City 4-1 on the road.
Despite Nashville SC losing 1-0 to Cincinnati FC on Saturday, Zimmerman, alongside Moore to his right, continue to be one of the league’s best defenders. In fact, the team has only conceded two goals in five matches. Much of that is due to the abilities demonstrated by Zimmerman and Moore in recent weeks.
At FC Dallas, Ferreira has scored three times this season and has a pass percentage rate hovering near 80. He’s proven once again to be vital to Dallas’s midfield. It’s another example of how deep the US player pool is at the moment and the ability of MLS to both nurture and showcase American talent.
Newcomers show plenty of promise
MLS is loaded with young foreign stars, many of them from Europe and South America, and the race for the Newcomer of the Year award is already heating up. It’s these new faces and the league’s ability to attract them that has made MLS better in recent years.
Last season’s Newcomer of the Year was Thiago Almada. Since achieving that honor, the Atlanta United star won the World Cup with Argentina in December and has lit up the league with a series of spectacular goals over the past few weeks.
Klauss has shined for St Louis, and the group of newcomers also includes LAFC’s Stipe Biuk (one goal in four games), Dante Vanzeir of the New York Red Bulls (one goal in four games), and Atlanta’s Giorgos Giakoumakis (one goal in three games). These budding stars from Europe could all hold the key to their club’s success this season.
While the 2023 season is still very young, it’s also true that some things are coming into better focus after just a month. This season has seen the start of some interesting stories and another reason why this league continues to surprise in so many ways.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of the new book “The FIFA World Cup: A History of the Planet’s Biggest Sporting Event.”
More from Clemente Lisi:
- Advancing, options, and offense for the USMNT in March
- MLS tactics early in the 2023 season
- Red Bulls defender John Tolkin on his club, the rest of the East, and debuting for the USMNT
- MLS in 2023: LAFC and Philadelphia, Apple TV, the Leagues Cup, and St Louis
Photo by Bill Barrett – ISIPhotos.com