Game of the Matchday week 8

In MLS, sometimes tactics take a backseat to entertainment and week eight definitely exemplified this occurrence perfectly. 

Every game on this list was interesting, in its own right, for different reasons. LAFC showed why they’re one of the best teams in the league, St. Louis surprised everyone – again, and the Portland Timbers got their second win of the season in spectacular style. 

That said, here are three games from match date eight that are worth taking a closer look…

St. Louis City is the real deal.

St. Louis City is the real deal. / Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis City showed the league, once again, why their brilliant start to the 2023 season isn’t a fluke.

Bradley Carnell’s men got back to the top of the Western Conference and now top the Supporters Shield ranking with a 5-1 thrashing of FC Cincinnati. Lining up in their usual 4-4-2 formation, St. Louis looked to push the tempo and implement their high-pressing style. 

Cincinnati, on the other hand, rolled out in a 3-4-1-2 where they looked to use the wide channels to get their wingbacks on the overlap and feed crosses into forwards Brandon Vazquez and Arquimides Ordonez. However, without the inclusion of attacking midfielder and talisman Luciano Acosta Cincinnati struggled to create proper chances in the box. 

St. Louis capitalized on Cincinnati’s lack of ideas early in the match with a Jared Stroud strike in the third minute. Cincinnati never quite recovered after conceding that early.

St. Louis went on to score four more goals via Eduard Lowen, Kyle Hiebert, and Nicholas Gioacchini, and an own goal by Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano before the game hit 60 minutes.

The men in red did an excellent job of exploiting weaknesses in their opponent’s back line. They played a fast, direct, and aggressive brand of soccer that Cincinnati didn’t quite know how to handle. 

St. Louis ended the match with seven shots on target, an xG tally of 1.46, and won 63% of their tackles. 

Carnell and his coaching staff came in with a game plan that knocked Cincinnati off its rhythm perfectly.

The Portland Timbers got their second win of the season against the Seattle Sounders.

The Portland Timbers got their second win of the season against the Seattle Sounders. / Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

There is no better way to get your second win of the season than against a hated rival. That’s exactly what the Portland Timbers did in their 4-1 win over the Seattle Sounders.

Going into the match, Portland had not won a game in their last five fixtures. Timbers head coach Giovani Savarese knew he had to do something formation-wise to stop the bleeding. 

Against the Sounders, Savarese lined up his squad in a 4-4-2, a switch from the 4-3-3 they deployed in their loss against the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Seattle came out in their usual 4-2-3-1 with an attacking front four of Leo Chu, Nicolas Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz, and Jordan Morris. 

Initially, the Sounders were on the front foot, exploiting the Timber’s high line to get Morris and Chu in behind for the counter. 

But the game didn’t start to pick up until the second half. 

Seattle struck first through a right-footed shot by Ruidiaz off an Obed Vargas cross in the 58th minute. The Sounders took advantage of Portland’s sloppy defending and got the ball to their most dangerous attacker. Though many believed that the Timbers would fold and not be able to get back into the match, all it took was a Dairon Asprilla overhead kick goal in the 71st minute to draw the game 1-1. 

After that, it was all Portland. They continued their high-tempo counter-attacking style that pulled Seattle out of shape.

The Timbers scored again just six minutes later through forward Nathan Fogaca. Once more, Portland piled on the goals with another strike in the 81st minute through Jaroslaw Niezgoda. 

Portland finally put the game to bed in the 89th minute with a Juan Mosquera goal that sealed a phenomenal comeback by the Savarese-led side.

All it took was some determination, some slick passing to catch the opposition in a vulnerable position, and clinical finishing for the Timbers to get all three points. 

Things got slighted heated at the end of LAFC's 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy.

Things got slighted heated at the end of LAFC’s 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy. / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The 18th edition of El Trafico lived up to expectations.

The LA Galaxy went into the game desperate for three points. Currently sitting second to last in the Western Conference, the Galaxy wanted to win this matchup against LAFC to kickstart their season.

LAFC, on the other hand, is flying high. With forward Denis Bouanga in fantastic form and winger Carlos Vela starting to pick up his game, the Black and Gold had the upper hand during this match. 

The Galaxy lined up in their typical 4-1-4-1. The formation allows midfielder Riqui Puig to be positionally free, finding the half spaces on the field to combine with his forward line without disrupting the team shape defensively. Forward Chicharito got his first start on the season for the G’s after missing the first seven matches with a muscle injury.

For LAFC, they came out in their usual 4-3-3, with Bouanga and Vela flanking Kwadwo Opoku. The beginning of the match was all Galaxy. They dictated the tempo, had crisp passing patterns, and dominated most of the ball.

Their first real chance came in the 12th minute when Puig fed winger Memo Rodriguez the ball, but just missed the target with a left-footed shot.  

However, LAFC was patient and struck at the right opportunity. 

In the 22nd minute, the Black and Gold took the lead through a gorgeous left-footed shot by Vela. That didn’t deter the Galaxy, though. They continued their attacking passing patterns and eventually found an equalizer in the 41st with a Tyler Boyd wonder strike. 

In the second half, the complexion of the match changed due to an injury to defender Chris Mavinga. Not long after the substitution, LAFC pounced on the mix-up at the back for the Galaxy and won a penalty which Vela slotted in for his second of the day in the 68th minute.

A couple of moments later, LAFC put the game out of reach with a Ryan Hollinshead header in the 70th minute. 

Although the Galaxy tried to mount a late comeback – even scoring a second goal in the 84th minute, there wasn’t enough time for Greg Vanney’s men to strike back. 

LAFC look unstoppable right now, and their win against the Galaxy shows they are serious contenders to repeat as MLS Cup Champions. The fluidity in their attack and stubbornness in defense is a recipe for success in MLS.