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Lionel Messi, Erik Thommy headline Best of MLS for Week 8

By Justin Ruderman and Favian Renkel

Welcome back to week eight of Justin and Favian’s Weekly MLS Awards where SBI staff writers Justin Ruderman and Favian Renkel bring you a glimpse at the best of each week in MLS.

This week CF Montreal finally played their home opener nearly two months into the season, Charlotte FC extended their home unbeaten streak to 13 games, and Duncan McGuire capped off a two-goal comeback for Orlando City with a flip after his stoppage-time winner.

Let’s get into it!

Player of the Week

Justin Ruderman: Erik Thommy (Sporting KC)

When your city shows out for you, it’s only right you return the favor. That’s exactly what Erik Thommy did in front of over 70k fans in Kansas City (which I will have more to say about later on) by scoring two golazos against Inter Miami.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be enough to win SKC the game as they lost 3-2 to Messi’s Inter Miami but Thommy gave the home fans something to cheer about all night. Ignoring the hype coming into the match surrounding Lionel Messi (as always), the 29-year-old German put the spotlight on himself 6 minutes into the match with a belter from just inside the box to give SKC the early lead.

Although Miami fought back for a 2-1 lead punctuated by Messi scoring the best goal of the night, Thommy blew the metaphorical roof off of Arrowhead once again with his own bid for goal of the night. Luis Suárez thought he had cleared the SKC corner from the near post but as his header away drifted toward the top of the box at the back post, Thommy struck it on the full volley, smashing his effort off the inside of the post for the equalizer. Two incredible goals in front of 70k fans earn a Player of the Week nomination from me.

Favian Renkel: Lionel Messi

Justin, you didn’t choose Lionel Messi? This might be the easiest decision of the year for Player of the Week. The “GOAT” played with a chip on his shoulder this week due to the brutal loss to Monterrey in the Champions Cup. Unfortunately, Sporting Kansas City and the 72,000 fans were the victims of this onslaught.

This was a great performance by Messi, but honestly, it’s a week too late. This selection seems a bit unwarranted due to his team being completely dismantled in the Champions Cup, but MLS moves on with its season, right?

Lionel Messi is back on track for winning MLS MVP by setting up Diego Gomez with a beautifully placed ball, which the Paraguayan hit first time to score the first goal for Inter Miami. “La Pulga” was not done there; he then scored with a perfectly placed long shot. Treating the 72,000 fans to a show, Messi deservedly gets POTW as he’s back at the forefront of MVP talks and can now focus solely on the league.

Benteke and Paintsil also deserve some recognition for their contributions; each had a goal and an assist and could have won Player of the Week as well, if Lionel Messi wasn’t in the league.

Young Player of the Week

JR: Diego Gómez (Inter Miami)

Remember how Erik Thommy scoring a stunning brace wasn’t enough for SKC to secure a result against Inter Miami? Diego Gómez is the reason why. 

After Thommy opened the scoring, it didn’t take long for Gómez to respond by latching onto a gorgeous Messi through ball with a diagonal run behind the SKC back line to level the scoring. For 90 minutes, the 21-year-old Paraguayan continued to fight for three points accruing the most tackles in the match (3), recording 9 ball recoveries, winning ⅔ of his ground duels, and maintaining a 90% pass accuracy.

Matching his efforts, as we know, was Thommy who kept SKC level through 70 minutes. In the 71st minute, however, Gómez pounced to win the game for Miami.

As SKC continued playing out of the back through Miami’s press, Gómez read Tim Melia’s pass to fullback Jake Davis and “jumped the route” to borrow terminology from the other football. Davis tried to immediately play a first-time pass out of pressure but Gómez picked the ball off, quickly playing a trivela assist to Luis Suárez at the back post for one of the easiest finishes of the Uruguayan’s illustrious career.

Messi may have won the official MLS Player of the Week honors with the help of name recognition but Diego Gómez played just as big of a part in Miami’s 3-2 win over SKC.

FR: Mateusz Bogusz (LAFC)

Looking through the MLS rosters, I noticed that Mateusz Bogusz is only 22 years old. It’s astounding to think that one of the main LAFC players over the last two years is younger than some of the players coming in from the MLS SuperDraft. With this in mind, Bogusz is becoming everything LAFC hoped Stipe Buik would be—a goal-scoring wonderkid.

With Bogusz’s performance in Portland, LAFC managed to steal a point on the road. Scoring two goals away, including my pick for Goal of the Week, this performance would usually be good enough for Player of the Week (POTW), but Young Player of the Week (YPOTW) is only the beginning for Bogusz. The Polish midfielder, who has played as a false 9 this season for Cherundolo’s LAFC, will likely be winning POTW awards from SBI soon enough if he maintains his good form.

With a start that the Black and Gold are not accustomed to, Bogusz has managed to step into a role he isn’t necessarily used to and make the most of it.

Goal of the Week

JR: Lionel Messi (Inter Miami)

I had to give him something this week!

What more am I meant to say? Lionel Messi produced a world-class goal once again with an incredible knuckleball from 25+ yards out, leaving Tim Melia helpless as the ball flew over his head and into the back of his net.

I will say this; don’t take it for granted. Messi is starting to rack up a list of stunners in MLS (as he does everywhere he goes) but it’s important to appreciate each one before it’s too late. I hope it never gets old to see Messi put on a Miami jersey, much less score bangers. I, for one, will be soaking up every last moment of greatness.

FR: Mateusz Bogusz (LAFC)

Bogusz may be one of the best free-kick takers in the league. This goal was no different. After Bouanga was taken out by his former teammate, Crépeau, right outside of the box, the 22-year-old saw it as an opportunity to make his mark from the free-kick spot—and that he did.

It was a beautifully placed free kick that left the new goalkeeper standing, as there was nothing he could have done about the placement of the ball so close to the goal.

Take a bow, Bogusz.

Team of the Week

JR: LA Galaxy

Two weeks ago I picked the Galaxy as my TOTW while foreshadowing a litmus test in El Trafico against LAFC. They ended up losing that game on a very controversial penalty call but this week they had an equally telling road game in Vancouver – a matchup between the first and second-placed teams in the Western Conference. 

Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney admitted it’s difficult to know what to expect against Vanni Sartini’s Whitecaps on any given day and in-game adjustments are therefore crucial to finding success at BC Place. That’s probably the reason for a scoreless first half in Vancouver but Vanney’s decision to start with Joseph Paintsil through the middle with Dejan Joveljic before moving him out wide to end the game led to three second-half goals – one by each Joveljic and Paintsil – to secure the victory for Galaxy.

As the top dog in the Western Conference at the moment, beating the second-placed team at their house should always earn some recognition. Doing it in style with tactical adjustments, your striker keeping pace in the MLS Golden Boot race, Diego Fagúndez joining the 70/70 club, and Joseph Paintsil starting his MVP campaign earns my TOTW nomination.

FR: Philadelphia Union

The only undefeated team should be named Team of the Week at least once during their unbeaten run. The Philadelphia Union, led by Jim Curtin, always find a way to succeed, no matter who is lining up for the team from the City of Brotherly Love. Even with their match being suspended, the Union are seven games unbeaten and right in the thick of things.

Despite many predictions of a downturn this year, everything is looking positive for the Union. There are no signs of a decline, as they have maintained their core team and successfully retained Wagner and Carranza. The Union also are still technically in the hunt for CONCACAF Champions Cup as they would qualify if Monterrey wins the tournament due to Monterrey already having qualified by winning the tournament in 2021. 

The Union have unique dilemma, they face the challenge of having too many talented players, preventing any single player from emerging as a clear MVP candidate. This situation mirrors the Golden State Warriors effect, where multiple potential MVPs mean no definitive candidates. 

Despite receiving minimal media attention, the Union are deeply involved in the playoff chase. Let’s watch how long they can maintain their unbeaten streak, especially as they are now the last undefeated team in MLS.

Best Thing We Saw This Week

JR: 70k in Kansas City

When Lionel Messi arrived in Miami, these are the moments we envisioned when we talked about how he would grow the beautiful game in America.

On Saturday 72,610 people packed out Arrowhead Stadium to see Messi’s Inter Miami take on Sporting Kansas City, setting both a club record attendance and a state record attendance for a soccer game in Missouri. I could talk about that, or how it’s the fourth-largest standalone attendance in MLS history, or how it was one of only three matches in the world on Saturday to draw over 70k fans. 

Instead, what was most noteworthy to me was the sea of blue at Arrowhead. In contrast to many road matches for Inter Miami this season, pink Messi jerseys only made up a small portion of the fans in attendance. Sure, another small portion of the sea of blue included Messi’s Argentinian national team jerseys but the overarching point remains; Kansas City didn’t pander to Messi for the night. Rather, they showed that when the spotlight is put on their city, they show up for their team. Messi getting booed with every touch highlights that as well as anything.

Of course, Messi is the reason the match was played at Arrowhead in the first place and his inclusion draws thousands more to attend but his impact on growing soccer in America has just as much to do with leading fans to support their own local clubs, hopefully long after he departs.

FR: CF Montreal and Josef Martinez’s resurgence 

The best part of MLS’s ability to retain talent is that the record books start to gain credibility as players remain in the league throughout their careers. One record that seemed nearly untouchable was Chris Wondolowski’s goal-scoring milestone of 174 goals. Wondolowski, the record holder, stands 26 regular season goals ahead of second-placed Landon Donovan.

There have always been hopefuls aiming to eventually break this record, among them Josef Martinez. Martinez scored 100 goals in 125 MLS appearances and seemed poised to surpass Wondolowski’s record. However, due to several injuries, a mediocre stint at Inter Miami, and a potential move outside of MLS, it appeared the record would remain unbroken until someone else dynamic entered the league and stayed long enough to exceed 174 goals.

In a surprising move, Martinez joined CF Montreal instead of going abroad or remaining with Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami. Opting for a fresh start in Montreal, he embraced a new coach, a new system, and a new opportunity to establish himself.

This week, Josef Martinez entered the game as a substitute due to an injury and immediately made an impact with a goal and an assist. Most importantly, he helped CF Montreal secure a victory over the reigning Supporters Shield winners, FC Cincinnati. With 10 points, CF Montreal is now in a playoff position in the highly competitive Eastern Conference. It remains to be seen if Montreal and Martinez can maintain their form and climb the ranks.


  1. Even when he is just dribbling down the field Messi looks like a magician with the ball. He is still more fun to watch than any other player I can think of.


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