Voices: Kevin Egan

360 View: Kevin Kelsy lifts FC Cincinnati, LAFC look lethal

Egan - 360 View - Kevin Kelsy

Hello there, beautiful people. Welcome back to 360 View with yours truly, Kevin Egan.

I’m writing this not from the comfort of my own home in the Atlanta suburbs, but instead from midtown Manhattan. New York City has been home this week, after we had our first Wednesday night slate of games and a frantic midweek #MLS360.

New York City is also home to arguably the biggest match of Saturday's slate, the Hudson River Derby (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass). It’s a juicy rivalry and the New York Red Bulls have enjoyed bragging rights over New York City FC since the first meeting in 2015. In 27 meetings across all competitions, the Red Bulls have won 15, drawn four and lost eight.

Nobody has enjoyed this clash more than the man who sits beside me on MLS 360, Bradley Wright-Phillips. BWP scored four minutes into the very first match, and No. 99 never looked back. Brad’s the all-time leading scorer in this rivalry, with an astonishing return of 12 goals from 14 MLS matches – an absolute nightmare for NYCFC. I look forward to getting BWP’s analysis on this rivalry throughout MLS 360.

We had another wild show on Wednesday night, and here’s some of the takes that stood out to me.

BWP: Kelsy and Lucho have a spark in Cincy

Watch out, because here come FC Cincinnati. Pat Noonan’s men lead MLS in points per game (2.08), meaning they’re on track to potentially retain their Supporters' Shield crown. They’ve now won five straight games while conceding only three goals in that stretch. Next up is a home clash against the always-energetic St. Louis CITY SC at TQL Stadium (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass). Let’s focus on one of the big keys during this brilliant run, new man Kevin Kelsy.

Kelsy was acquired on loan from Ukrainian Premier League giants Shakhtar Donetsk on April 30, and it’s quite remarkable to see how much of an impact the 19-year-old has already made. Kelsy entered the HELL IS REAL rivalry at Columbus in the second half, and it took him a mere seven minutes on the pitch to open the scoring. Kelsy made his first start for Cincinnati four days later against Atlanta United, and he scored the game's only goal after just seven minutes.

BWP is a two-time MLS Golden Boot winner, and he knows quality when he sees it. On MLS 360, Bradley said: “I like him. The beauty of being a new striker in a league is that nobody respects you yet. You have yet to earn that. And with that defenses are letting him go, and he’s reaping the rewards.”

Bradley also sees the connection between Lucho Acosta and Kelsy as a headline act: “We’re going to be speaking about this partnership for a long time.” That might spell bad news for St. Louis on Saturday night.

Kaylyn: Giroud will impact LAFC before even playing

LAFC are quietly returning to their devastating and ruthless best.

Steve Cherundolo’s men have won their last three games in all competitions, scoring eight times in the process. They put Vancouver to the sword 3-0 at home last Saturday, with Cristian Olivera scoring a brace and Mateusz Bogusz adding a third. Then on Wednesday, they did something no other team has managed to do: win at St. Louis in a meaningful game. I say meaningful because Seattle did win at CITYPARK last season, but it came on Decision Day and St. Louis had already locked up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Wednesday’s loss at home for St. Louis was the first real loss felt by their amazing fans. Now, St. Louis did miss a penalty. They also had a goal ruled out after a Video Review for a handball. And they had a man sent off with 15 minutes to play. All excuses. The truth is LAFC got it done, 2-0, and at easily one of the most difficult venues to travel to in MLS.

Denis Bouanga was the goal scorer, notching two on the night, taking his total to eight so far. He’ll have a say in this Golden Boot race, and don’t be surprised if he retains it!

On MLS 360, Kaylyn Kyle was buzzing about LAFC’s blistering attack. They are rapid in transition and they’re scoring by committee this season. After Bouanga, Olivera has four, Bogusz has four and Timothy Tillman has four. They’re finding their rhythm, all while being aware of who’s arriving this summer: World Cup winner Olivier Giroud.

One of Kaylyn’s astute points about this attack was Giroud’s presence and pending arrival is already being felt: “When you have a superstar striker en route, it makes players up their game and perform better, because you want to make sure you’re on that pitch when he gets here. They’ll all be keeping an eye on Giroud at the Euros before he arrives in LA."

Sacha: Nashville skip to Walker Zimmerman's beat

Nashville SC arrived in MLS in 2020 at the same time as Inter Miami CF. They seemed to build their rosters in diametrically opposed ways. Miami went for the star-studded attack, headlined by Gonzalo Higuaín and Rodolfo Pizarro. Nashville’s blockbuster addition was a proven winner, a proven warrior and a defensive powerhouse: Walker Zimmerman. Since then, it’s hard to quantify how important Zimmerman has been to this team.

In terms of sheer numbers, it’s obvious how crucial Zimmerman has been this season. The USMNT center back has only started three games, and in those matches, Nashville have seven points. With Zimmerman out injured or having to contribute off the bench, Nashville have seven points from nine games. Make no mistake about it, Gary Smith's departure from the club and Walker Zimmerman’s absence from the team go hand in hand.

Sacha Kljestan spoke about Zimmerman’s influence on MLS 360, saying: “It’s his defensive organization and mentality. It’s his ability on attacking set pieces, but also there’s a confidence and reassurance for everyone else, even the fans, when he’s on the field. Nashville instantly look more comfortable. He’s your leader and captain."

Nashville and Atlanta are southern neighbors. The fans see this as a rivalry, but the neutral has yet to feel it. The stakes are enormous on Saturday afternoon (1:45 pm ET | Apple TV - Free; FOX, FOX Deportes). Both of these clubs are below the playoff line. Smith was dismissed this week, and Gonzalo Pineda may have the hottest seat in MLS.

With Atlanta on a seven-match winless run, the Five Stripes may have to do something that they haven’t done since the first-ever meeting in 2020, and that’s win in Nashville. It won’t be easy with Zimmerman out there.