MLS winners and losers sees Arango do a Beckham and Bernardeschi match his hair

Ryan Baldi
MLS winners and losers sees Arango do a Beckham and Bernardeschi match his hair
MLS winners and losers sees Arango do a Beckham and Bernardeschi match his hair

There was some Beckham-esque brilliance from the league’s top scorer in MLS this weekend, while a New York City FC substitute emulated one of the baseball greats at Yankee Stadium.


MLS winners

Full marks on the Beckham scale
Not content with streaking ahead in the race for the Golden Boot and maintaining Real Salt Lake’s supremacy atop the Western Conference standings, Chicho Arango has now made a bid to claim the MLS Goal of the Year award.

The Colombian striker has been exceptional for RSL this season, producing an MVP-calibre campaign that has seen him score every type of goal while also knitting together Salt Lake’s attack with his intelligent, crafty short passing in the final third.

At least, it seemed as though Arango had scored every type of goal already this term, until he found another way to find the net when he let fly from the halfway line 15 minutes into RSL’s home fixture against Austin FC on Saturday.

Looking up to see Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver off his line, Arango shaped as if to play a cross-field pass but instead unleashed a rapier-like strike that flew over the stranded keeper and nestled beneath the crossbar. The Colombian deserves extra style points for the execution, too, with his effort falling into the category of the most satisfying halfway-line strikes that don’t bounce before they hit the net – 10 out of 10 on the Beckham-vs-Wimbledon scale.

After such magnificence, Arango could have been forgiven for considering his work done for the day, but the 29-year-old went on to complete a hat-trick in a 5-1 rout, taking his tally for the season to 16 goals, three clear of DC United’s Christian Benteke at the top of the scorer’s chart.

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A quick-fire closer at Yankee Stadium
Remarkably, Arango’s wasn’t even the most impressive hat-trick in a 5-1 win in Major League Soccer over the weekend.

That distinction belongs instead to New York City FC’s Alonso Martinez.

The Costa Rican striker was not among the starting XI when his side hosted the San Jose Earthquakes at Yankee Stadium. He was introduced by manager Nick Cushing in the 58th minute, shortly after Amahl Pellegrino had levelled the scores at 1-1 for the travelling team.

Santi Rodriguez fired the home side back in front in the 80th minute with a 20-yard daisy-cutter into the bottom corner. And then, in the arena where Mariano Rivera once served for 17 years as one of the greatest closing pitchers in Major League Baseball history, Martinez took over to lock down a victory for his team.

His first strike, clipped in off William Yarbrough’s near post from eight yards out, came in the 85th minute. He plundered a second early in stoppage time, profiting from a defensive mix-up in the San Jose backline to race clear and finish coolly. And he completed a hat-trick in the fifth minute of added time, latching on to Andres Perea’s low cross from the left to tap in at the back post.

The victory wrapped up by Rodriguez’s 10-minute treble was NYC’s fifth in a row. They’re now up to third in the East, six points behind leaders Inter Miami – who drew 3-3 with St Louis City – with two games in hand.


MLS losers

Bad hair, worse discipline
Federico Bernardeschi was superb for much of Toronto FC’s trip to the capital to take on DC United on Saturday.

He helped break the deadlock in just the second minute, providing the assist for Derrick Etienne Jr.’s opener. And then the former Juventus and Fiorentina star, in trademark fashion, burst down the right flank before cutting inside on to his left foot and rifling home to give John Herdman’s side a 2-0 lead.

But then, in the second half, the indiscipline that has interrupted Bernardeschi’s season reared its ugly haircut – yes, he’s still rocking those ill-advised peroxide-blonde cornrows.

Booked for a run-of-the-mill foul in the middle of the pitch in the 52nd minute, the veteran former Italy international collected a second yellow card just three minutes from full time for kicking the ball away.

Bernardeschi has been in stellar form of late, with four goals in his last four games. But he’s now been sent off twice in that same period. And in between his two red cards, he has served a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation.

Toronto were already missing Lorenzo Insigne, absent due to the recent birth of his third child. They could not afford to be without both of their Italian superstars, even for just a few minutes. They were leading 2-1 at the time of Bernardeschi’s dismissal, but a stoppage-time Mateusz Klich penalty extended their winless streak to three games.

Bernardeschi has to start treading more carefully. Especially considering his haircut is itself a caution-worthy offence.


The curse of Pip Nev and Messi
Former Scotland international Johnny Russell came off the bench during Sporting Kansas City’s visit to take on Minnesota United and scored a magnificent solo goal, slaloming past two defenders before rifling in from 25 yards. It was a strike worthy of winning any game.

It’s a shame this one was long lost for the visitors by the time Russell produced his moment of magic, then.

The ex-Dundee United and Derby midfielder’s goal was little consolation considering SKC were 3-0 down at the time. The defeat was the seventh in succession for Peter Vermes’ side, who sit rooted to the bottom of the Western Conference.

SKC began the 2024 season in decent enough form, beaten just once in their opening six games.

But they have not won now since March, with their streak of misery tracing back to a 2-2 draw with Phil Neville’s Portland Timbers followed by a 3-2 loss to Inter Miami in front of more than 70,000 fans at Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.

Previously, hope that SKC’s underperformance was just a blip they could quickly overcome came from the fact that they tended to take the lead in most games, only to then drop points. That hasn’t been the case lately, though; they’ve led just once in their last seven games.

Whatever hex Neville and/or Messi put on Sporting KC isn’t easing.