Game of the Matchday week 9

Week nine in MLS brought out all the action. 

From the Philadelphia Union getting their groove back, to DC United putting three past an Eastern Conference rival and NYCFC putting on an attacking masterclass against Western Conference side, there is plenty to break down from this week’s slate of games.

Each match on this list brought goals, excitement, and fascinating tactical battles that will make even the casual viewer of MLS intrigued.

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

DC United shocked many people as they beat Eastern conference rivals Orlando City 3-1.

DC United shocked many people as they beat Eastern conference rivals Orlando City 3-1. / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

DC United is a team in the midst of a rebuild. 

After hiring Wayne Rooney as their coach over the off-season, the Black and Red hope the ex-Manchester United player’s appointment will help things turn around. 

Though it’s still early days, DC’s 3-1 win over Orlando City showed hints of what could be during Rooney’s time as head coach.

Lining up his side in a 3-5-2, a formation they’ve used just once in their previous five matches, DC wanted to numerically overload Orlando in the middle of the park so they can get their flying wingbacks – Ruan and Pedro Santos, to the end line to either cross or take defenders on one vs. one.  

Orlando also lined up in a back three but with a slight variation. The Lions deployed a 3-4-3 instead of a midfield five.

This tweak saw United match up well with Orlando on the flanks and gave them ample amounts of bodies through the middle to interfere with the Lion’s passing patterns. 

This was exemplified in the 15th minute as DC struck on the counter through Ruan on the flanks slotting it through to forward Taxi Fountas to put the Black and Reds up 1-0.  

Striker Christian Benteke’s hold-up play was a vital part in the lead-up to the goal. His intelligence, positional awareness, and strength to keep the ball up for a few moments let his team get numbers forward.

However, it wouldn’t be long until Orlando struck back through forward Duncan McGuire with a right-footed shot to the center of the goal in the 23rd minute. 

But, DC preserved and continued to frustrate the Lions, preventing them from implementing their game plan. United would re-take the lead in the 52nd minute with a Donovan Pines header off a corner kick from midfielder Mateusz Klich, and – eventually put the game to bed with a Benteke goal in the 62nd. 

At its core, football is a numbers game. DC United emerged in a formation that made it hard for their opponents to play how they wanted. They were compact, precise and took advantage of goal-scoring opportunities. 

NYCFC put on an attacking masterclass in their 3-1 win vs. FC Dallas.

NYCFC put on an attacking masterclass in their 3-1 win vs. FC Dallas. / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

NYCFC put on an attacking clinic in their 3-1 thrashing of FC Dallas.

It was the Santiago Rodriguez show as the Pigeons hosted Dallas at Citi Field in New York, New York. 

New York City head coach Nick Cushing rolled out his squad in their typical 4-3-3 with a flexible attacking front trio that included Gabriel Pereira, the aforementioned Rodriguez, and Talles Magno. 

In the middle, they had a cerebral midfield three that saw Richy Ledezma, James Sands, and Keaton Parks combine and create as they so pleased. 

Similarly, FC Dallas head coach Nico Estevez also lined up his side in a 4-3-3 with wingers Jader Orbrian and Paul Arriola flanking forward Jesus Jimenez, who was in for the injured Jesus Ferreira.

NYCFC got on the score sheet first in the 44th minute.

After a first half that saw both teams evenly matched, all it took was a moment of brilliance from Rodriguez to break the deadlock.

The Uruguayan hit a sumptuous right-footed shot outside of the box into the bottom left corner to put his team up 1-0.

NYCFC did well to use the width of their formation to isolate their wingers one vs. one The FC Dallas defense was left flat-footed as they watched the ball travel into the net.

Rodriguez’s goal count wouldn’t end there, however. 

He added to Dallas’ misery with another strike in the 50th minute as snuck towards the back post and got his second goal of the night.

NYCFC would, eventually, put the game to bed in the 55th minute with a Talles Magno right footed shot.

Dallas would scrap a goal back, but it wasn’t enough to overturn the deficit.

New York showed that when teams isolate their creative flair wingers against opposition defenders that aren’t comfortable and attack them on the front foot, oftentimes exploitations on the flanks will happen. 

Mark-Anthony Kaye, Alejandro Bedoya

The Philadelphia Union pick up three points in their win vs. Toronto FC. / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Union put four past Toronto FC in what was, perhaps, the most lopsided game of the week.

Despite Designated Player Lorenzo Insigne returning for the men in red, Toronto was unable to stop a potent Union attack. 

The Union lined up in their typical 4-3-1-2, which saw the likes of Julian Caranza and Mikael Uhre lead the line. 

Toronto head coach Bob Bradley brought out his team in a 4-3-3/4-4-2 hybrid with Insigne and fellow Italian Federico Bernardeschi leading the line.  Philadelphia played with physicality, was vertical in offense, and used long balls to switch the point of attack when needed (as shown by their 60% completion rate.)

Their brand of football is incredibly frustrating to play against, and Toronto suffered because of it.

Center back Lukas MacNaughton scored an own goal putting the Union up 1-0 in the 16th minute. Philadelphia’s high pressing forced Toronto’s backline into mistakes, and after the first goal, Jim Curtin’s men never let up.

Union forward Mikael Uhre continued to add to Toronto’s misery with three more goals the before the game reached sixty minutes. Though Philadelphia may have started 2023 off slow, it’s clear that they have the talent and tenacity to get back to their 2022 best. 

Their 4-2 drubbing of Toronto FC shows that, on any given Saturday, they’re capable of putting on attacking displays that any team in the league would be jealous of.