Week 9 of the 2022 MLS season brought on more twists and turns.
CF Montreal and the New York Red Bulls kept up their strong starts to the campaign, while LAFC once again fended off the challenge of Austin FC at the top of the West. To do so, they needed help in the form of inspired performances from some of their big players.
Let’s take a look at the very best of them with 90min‘s top five players of Week 9:
Klimala from the spot to make it 2-1. #RBNY take the lead late. pic.twitter.com/Nee8HjFPC1
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 1, 2022
Things weren’t clicking in Chicago for the New York Red Bulls, who went in 1-0 down to the Fire at half-time. But everything changed when they brought on Patryk Klimala.
Without being overly clinical, the Polish striker has been good for the Red Bulls, helping link play, stretch opposing defenses, and be a general nuisance. He definitely brought his shooting boots on Saturday, though.
Klimala’s first goal in the 75th minute was the result of simply standing still and letting play go by to find space – a very underrated skill among strikers, sensing when to just lurk in the shadows, ready to pounce. And pounce he did, sweeping a clinical effort into the far corner beyond Gabriel Slonina.
And right at the end, Klimala won a penalty before winning the mind games with Slonina, sending the keeper early and in the opposite direction.
A substitute appearance to completely turn a tough road game on its head and keep the Red Bulls second in the East.
Pedro Santos picked his spot ?
— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 1, 2022
Pedro Santos’ rocket of a free-kick ignited the Columbus Crew in the 28th minute of their win over DC United, making it 1-0 at the time. It was powerful and very clever given everyone expected him to try and lift it over the wall.
But that’s the thing, Santos is a clever player and a great attacking presence. This is expected of him.
What is not expected is the way he can lock down his flank as a left-back. On Saturday, the Portuguese star made a hugely impressive seven tackles, seven recoveries, four clearances, one interception, and one goalline clearance as DC United kicked, banged, and smashed at the door but couldn’t get in.
The team build up. ? The finish from Ruan! ?@OrlandoCitySC take the lead! pic.twitter.com/ZqdFSuI3Qj
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 30, 2022
Week 9 was definitely one for full-backs. While Pedro Santos was keeping things locked up in Columbus, Ruan was causing havoc in Orlando against Charlotte FC.
The Brazilian charged in at the back post to fire home Benji Michel’s ball across the box in the 16th minute – with a little help from Robin Jansson’s flick – making it 1-0 and quickly giving the hosts the initiative.
Ruan then turned provider just after half-time, tearing forward on the break from a Charlotte free-kick and getting all the way into the box before squaring for Facundo Torres. Raw pace and brilliant composure from Ruan to make the right choice at the end.
At the other end, nobody managed to dribble past Ruan, who was air-tight all match. But this was all about his performance at the other end of the field. In this sort of form, Ruan is one of the best in the league.
Jose Cifuentes makes it 2-0 for #LAFC
Francisco Ginella with the slick pass to Diego Palacios to start the play. ? pic.twitter.com/Ge6xN2M9kW
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 2, 2022
As we mentioned, Week 9 was all about the full-backs.
It took a long time for LAFC to wear down Minnesota United in the final match of the weekend. And before they managed to get ahead, the Loons might well have grabbed a or goal or two themselves.
But Diego Palacios played a critical part in a huge rearguard effort. The Ecuadorian was only dribbled past once all night, making six tackles, five interceptions, and eight recoveries.
Palacios also completed two dribbles and created five chances on the night, more than playing his part at the other end. Not every ball he delivered was as accurate as he’d like, but he made the last one count, finding Jose Cifuentes to make it 2-0 right at the end.
A strong and energetic performance from LAFC’s left-back, who took no prisoners.
Shake and Bake ?
Kamal Miller dazzling feet on the wing to give cross for winning goal. @KMillz_00
Haven’t seen chops like that since a certain Justin Mapp @jmapp21 down that right wing.#CFMTL #GuyLafleur pic.twitter.com/shXYJthLnf
— Patrice Bernier (@pbernier10) May 1, 2022
Okay, turns out Week 9 was just one for defenders overall. And more specifically, defenders doing bits at the other end of the field.
Canadian center-back Kamal Miller popped up at the back post to head home a Djordje Mihailovic delivery just four minutes into CF Montreal’s home tie with Atlanta United.
But from there, the Five Stripes recovered, piled immense pressure on Montreal, and found a 51st-minute equalizer. It could have been much worse for the hosts if not for Miller’s defensive efforts, which saw him make five clearances, three interceptions, 11 recoveries, and win two aerial duels. Some of his work cutting out Atlanta crosses to the far post was inspiring.
And then just when they needed Miller most at the other end, he threw off his center-back shackles, turned into his compatriot Alphonso Davies for a few seconds to leave Jake Mulraney chasing shadows, then fired a ball at the near post for Joaquin Torres to head home the winner.
A colossus at one end and deadly at the other, Miller was the defining man in another win for the quickly-improving Montreal.
Honorable mentions: Zac MacMath, Mikael Uhre, Daniel Salloi, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Carles Gil, Sebastian Driussi.
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