Voices: Sacha Kljestan

Stock Up, Stock Down: FC Cincinnati's proven formula, Seattle Sounders hit a wall

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Before I kick off Stock Up / Stock Down for Matchday 6 in MLS, I have to shout out the USMNT for another Dos a Cero win over Mexico. Three Concacaf Nations League titles in a row for the boys in Red, White and Blue!

Christian Pulisic was as influential as ever. My favorite play of the game had to be his dribble along the end line where he deftly chipped the ball over the sliding defender and continued his dribble (similar to what Lionel Messi did on opening weekend against RSL) to set up Gio Reyna's goal... sick! Speaking of Reyna, did any other USMNT player's stock go higher over the past few days than him? He came off the bench in the semifinal and notched two beautiful assists, then backed it up with a Man of The Match performance dominating both sides of the ball against Mexico. Tyler Adams was amazing as well, showing his importance to the squad in short appearances this past week.

Well done, USMNT!

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

The biggest win of the weekend was the Red Bulls' 4-0 drubbing of Inter Miami. The star of the show was of course Lewis Morgan, who backed up his hot start with his best performance of the season, notching a beautiful hat trick to move into the Golden Boot presented by Audi lead with five goals.

Morgan's connection with Belgian DP striker Dante Vanzeir was repeatedly on display, especially on their first goal. This was an example of perfect movement when you play with two strikers: Vanzeir checks to the ball, dragging a center back with him, but all the time he knows where the space is opening behind and a little outside-of-the-boot flick leaves Morgan in towards goal. Oh yeah, Vanzeir also assisted on the next three goals as well!

RBNY fans should be very excited, especially with Emil Forsberg coming back from international duty with Sweden for Saturday's game at Orlando (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass). There is finally some real quality in the final third for this team and they should challenge for top three in the Eastern Conference.

The defending Supporters' Shield champions are quietly back on top of the Supporters' Shield race with 11 points.

The attack isn't quite clicking yet and I need to see Aaron Boupendza be more efficient in the final third, but reigning MVP Lucho Acosta is putting the team on his shoulders once again. His brilliantly-taken goal was the difference in the 1-0 win over New York City FC. I've played against Lucho and his ability to keep the ball in close control and get his defender off-balance is world-class.

Also, the defense is still stingy and has three shutouts in five matches – stepping up this past weekend while Miles Robinson was with the USMNT. This was the recipe for success last season for Cincinnati and although some of the ingredients have changed, they know how to get results.

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

Another week, another shutout for the Reds – that's now four in five matches this season. John Herdman has clearly focused on improving the structure and commitment of this team, and he is succeeding.

Remember this 2-0 win came against a severely depleted Atlanta United squad without MVP candidates Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis. Nevertheless, given where TFC are now compared to last season, it's like night and day.

The next step in their evolution will be consistently finding ways to create chances every week, but what happens now if Lorenzo Insigne is to miss significant time? He left at halftime with a hamstring injury.

Down two-nil on the road in Kansas City should have been game over, right? Not for this Galaxy team. That's now five points won from losing positions this season! The Galaxy have shown a strong mentality and fighting spirit to come back and get results against Nashville (2-2 draw), St. Louis (3-3 draw) and now Sporting KC (3-2 win).

The front four is scary right now, highlighted by Dejan Joveljic scoring a goal in five straight games to start the year. But I must highlight the play of Mark Delgado, who doesn't always get the love that he deserves for the work he does on and off the ball.

He clearly has a great understanding of how Greg Vanney wants to play and has a connection with Joseph Paintsil on that right side. He's constantly making runs that open space for teammates and keeps the game moving at a good rhythm. At Sporting KC, he scored the game-winner to go along with four assists already this season!

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

Head coach Tata Martino had this to say after his team's 4-0 loss to RBNY this weekend: "The Red Bulls had a desire to win. We did not even have a desire to compete."

Yikes. When your coach is calling you out like that after a loss... not good. But I love that Martino is laying down his markers and holding his team accountable. If you want to win in this league, you have to be ready to compete in every single game. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day.

This Inter Miami team has too much talent, depth and experience to lose this badly even without Lionel Messi. They have a great chance to bounce back on Saturday when hosting New York City FC (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

After a 3-2 loss at San Jose, Seattle are winless in four to start their campaign. This was not the start that head coach Brian Schmetzer had in mind when 2024 kicked off.

It's still early and Seattle have been dealing with injuries. Their most important piece might just be João Paulo, who dictates the game for the Sounders and is so good on set-piece delivery. They need the Brazilian midfielder back ASAP. Schmetzer could do well to switch back to his usual 4-2-3-1 formation with the return of Albert Rusnák from injury. Prized offseason signing Pedro de la Vega is still a few weeks away, too.

Even still, Seattle have just not shown their killer instinct yet this season. This weekend they fought and clawed back to draw level with San Jose at 2-2 only to give up the game-winning goal off the ensuing kickoff! The experienced leaders on this team must step up and be better in all aspects of the game soon.