MLS winners and losers: Suarez is still in the pink at 37 while LA collapse

Ryan Baldi
Luis Suarez and Sam Surridge scored MLS hat-tricks.
Luis Suarez and Sam Surridge scored MLS hat-tricks.

There were hat-trick heroes from different ends of the superstar spectrum in MLS this weekend; Luis Suarez opens the winners.


MLS winners

Suarez bites back against Bulls
The last time Inter Miami lost an MLS game was back on March 23 when they were hammered 4-0 by the New York Red Bulls. The Herons were without Lionel Messi that day, who was sidelined by a hamstring injury. Their other superstar forward, Luis Suarez, played a full 90 minutes and drew a blank in the embarrassing defeat.

On Saturday, the Uruguayan exacted revenge. Inter hosted the Red Bulls at Chase Stadium, thrashing Sandro Schwarz’s side 6-2, with Suarez plundering a hat-trick.

As has often been the case this term, Miami initially fell behind and even trailed 1-0 at half-time. Then Suarez, Messi and Matias Rojas took over. Messi took his tally for the season to 10 with Inter’s second goal of the game, assisted by Suarez, and the Argentinian magician assisted all five of Miami’s other goals, laying on twice for Rojas before Suarez ran rampant in 13 second-half minutes.

And each of the former Liverpool and Barcelona superstar’s strikes were vintage Suarez. The first saw him contort his body, twisting mid-air, to connect with a scissor-kick volley from 12 yards. He then exchanged a one-two with Messi to squeeze through a space tighter than a pair of drainpipe jeans on a Noughties indie hipster (thank God my old MySpace page is no longer accessible!) to score. And finally, picked out by Messi close to goal, he calmly rounded keeper Carlos Coronel.

Suarez’s treble took him level atop the Golden Boot standings with Messi. The 37-year-old striker now has 10 goals in 11 MLS appearances, from chances worth an expected goals (xG) total of just 6.22. Meanwhile, Messi’s six goal contributions against the Red Bulls set an MLS single-game record and took him to nine assists for the season, a tally no player in the league can match.

“It’s easier with Leo,” Suarez said post-match. “Obviously we know each other, and sometimes you’ll notice we know where the other is and do movements without having to look at one another. It’s good for the team.”

The win took Miami’s unbeaten streak to six league games, dating back to their reverse against the Red Bulls. They remain top of the Western Conference and frontrunners for the Supports’ Shield. With Suarez and Messi fit and firing, they’re close to unstoppable.


Sky-high Surridge
The second winner this week is another hat-trick hero; one who, in truth, needed it a lot more than Suarez.

Former England under-21 striker Sam Surridge hasn’t had a Suarez-like start to life in MLS. The 25-year-old joined Nashville SC from Nottingham Forest last July in a £5million deal. In the remainder of the 2023 MLS season, he scored just twice in nine appearances.

Going into last weekend’s fixtures, Surridge had matched that modest return, albeit this time in seven games. But even this uptick in efficiency hardly represented the kind of output expected of a striker with Premier League experience who’d been brought in on a Designated Player contract.

On Saturday, however, against the high-flying Vancouver Whitecaps, Surridge ignited his nascent MLS career.

The ex-Stoke City and Bournemouth man put his side ahead after just 10 minutes, before returning veteran centre-back Walker Zimmerman scored with a powerful header from a corner – the two-time MLS Defender of the Year would also score at the other end in what was his first start after two months out injured.

Surridge’s second goal would have most pleased manager Gary Smith, as it showed a developing understanding with Hany Mukhtar, the team’s undisputed star player. The German attacking midfielder, who was the MLS MVP in 2022, picked out Surridge inside the penalty area and the Englishman finished emphatically into the bottom corner.

The hat-trick-clinching strike arrived 10 minutes from time, as Surridge slotted home from close range. It sealed a 4-1 victory for Nashville, ending a five-game winless streak for the club who have never failed to make the play-offs since joining MLS in 2020.

“If we just keep doing that at home, we’re going to be all right,” Surridge said. “I think we’re going to do really well. Having that confidence that we can now shut out games, I see the sky is the limit for us, I think.”


MLS losers

Lightning strikes twice for LA
Almost exactly a year ago, the San Jose Earthquakes handed Los Angeles FC a first defeat of the 2023 MLS season.

A repeat on Saturday seemed unlikely, as the Quakes began the weekend rooted to the bottom of the Western Conference standings with one win from 10 games.

Yet somehow LAFC, a side with title ambitions, conspired to collapse against their inter-state rivals and were beaten 3-1 at Levi’s Stadium, the home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. And they only had themselves to blame.

Steve Cherundolo’s side twice conceded sloppily from set plays, including once to an own goal by star man Denis Bouanga, while for San Jose’s other goal, LA were easily played through on a counter-attack.

The result left LAFC seventh in the West, with as many defeats as wins (four), and they have not won away from home all season. It was also the fourth match in a row in which they’ve conceded two or more goals.

Olivier Giroud’s headline-grabbing summer arrival might help spark their frontline into life. But the suave striker will not be able to fix the defensive ills that can be traced back to Giorgio Chiellini’s retirement at the end of last season.


Suffering Stripes
It’s now five games without a win for the Five Stripes.

Atlanta United were beaten at home in smash-and-grab style by rising Eastern Conference contenders Minnesota United at the Mercedes Benz Stadium on Saturday, losing 2-1 to the Loons despite racking up 20 shots to their opponents’ 12 and 2.9 xG to 0.9.

But while those statistics suggest the home side were unlucky – and a late rally almost mustered an equaliser, as Georgios Giakoumakis hit the bar after Saba Lobjanidze had pulled back a goal in the 82nd minute – Atlanta’s abject defending for Minnesota’s goals was, well, indefensible.

First, slack marking at a corner allowed Kervin Arriaga to score in the 54th minute. Then, just six minutes later, Tani Oluwaseyi was given free rein to drive into Atlanta’s defensive third and unleash a 20-yard racket past former Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

The defeat to Eric Ramsay’s side means Atlanta have taken just one point from their last three home games and sit 10th in the East, outside the play-off positions. For a talented squad that, in Thiago Almada, boasts arguably the best player outside of Miami, it’s not good enough.