Week 11 in MLS is jam packed with storylines, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy battle another team from the Big Apple (vs. New York City FC on Saturday; 4 p.m. ET, ESPN)) while the Revolution host surprising San Jose without Brad Friedel at the helm. To cap it all off, Marco Fabian and Michael Bradley get set for Round II when Toronto FC host Philadelphia.
Zlatan and the Galaxy come back to earth
Guillermo Barros Schelotto's tenure as LA Galaxy boss was going pretty smoothly, until Saturday, that is, when a seven-match unbeaten streak came to a sudden halt with a 3-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls. That was then followed up by a fatigued 3-1 loss to the Columbus Crew on Wednesday night in Columbus.
While perturbed superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not about to concede that the Red Bulls kept him under wraps, telling reporters that New York "did not make things difficult for us," the same can't be said for the Columbus loss. After a 2018 season that had more ups and downs than a roller coaster, this is the first time the Galaxy have faced adversity in 2019.
To add insult to injury, midfield lynch pin Jonathan dos Santos had to exit Wednesday's game, so the Galaxy will have to summon a little something extra with a quick turnaround on Saturday afternoon against NYCFC.
After a rough start, NYCFC is starting to come together with new arrivals Alexandru Mitrita and Heber finding their stride in MLS. Coach Domenec Torrent is off the hot seat for now and will be coming off a full week of rest to prepare for Zlatan & Co. Whether NYCFC has enough to overcome an angry Ibrahimovic is another question.
Revs begin life after Friedel
Brad Friedel was a fantastic goalkeeper for both club and country, but his first foray as a manager in MLS with the New England Revolution was a complete disaster. On Thursday, the Revs mercifully parted ways with Friedel after the team followed up a 6-1 shellacking by Philadelphia last weekend with an embarrassing 5-0 loss to the Chicago Fire on Wednesday. Friedel departs with the Revs rock bottom in the Eastern Conference, with 30 goals conceded in 12 games.
Perhaps reflecting the nature of things in New England, this week the team had a deal in place to land Congolese winger Paul-Jose M'Poku, but it fell through because the Standard Liege man said he didn't want to join the team. Can you blame him? This is a side in desperate need of some housecleaning.
It's ironic that New England's next opponent is the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+). For the past several seasons, the exact same thing could be said about the Quakes, but new coach Matias Almeyda has changed everything.
Things started roughly for the Earthquakes with four losses, but since then, the change of attitude instilled by the Argentine boss has San Jose in a playoff spot. Teams know that when they go up against San Jose, they'll be in a battle for 90 minutes against arguably the fittest team in the league. Watching Almeyda's Earthquakes in action on Saturday can serve as a healthy lesson for New England ownership.
Bradley vs. Fabian, Round II
Historically, a Toronto FC-Philadelphia Union matchup has never been one to get the juices flowing, that is until now. Back in the first week of the season, TFC left the City of Brotherly Love with three points, but that wasn't the story.
Evoking misty, water-colored memories of USA-Mexico rivalry in MLS -- Landon Donovan vs. Rafa Marquez anyone? -- Michael Bradley "welcomed" Marco Fabian to MLS with a shove to the ground during TFC's 3-1 win.
Those two international rivals will renew pleasantries on Saturday in Toronto (3 p.m. ET, ESPN+) in what also could be an Eastern Conference final preview. Despite a 2-0 loss in Atlanta on Wednesday night using a reserve-heavy squad, Toronto FC appears to be back to its 2016 and 2017 level. Alejandro Pozuelo has been a revelation, and once Jozy Altidore returns from injury, perhaps in the next week, TFC should be humming nicely entering the summertime stretch.
Meanwhile, for just the second time in their history, the Union are in first place at this point of the season. This will be Fabian's first match in a month after an injury kept him out of Philadelphia's past four contests, so he'll be plenty motivated to not only return with a splash, but also hand out a little payback to Bradley.