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Luca Orellano, FC Cincinnati headline the Best of MLS for Week 14

By Favian Renkel and Justin Ruderman

Welcome back to Week No. 14 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.

With no Leo Messi to talk about because he was busy filming “Bad Boys” with Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, we have some old school MLS to talk about. Let’s jump right in!

Player of the Week

Justin Ruderman: Luca Orellano (FC Cincinnati)

Replacing Alvaro Barreal in Cincinnati is no easy task but Luca Orellano is showing the ability to do so with his most memorable performance yet in the orange and blue.

He took some time to adapt to his new team (as did Barreal) but has seemingly found his stride with a huge brace in Cincinnati’s 4-3 win over Toronto to propel him to a fifth goal contribution in the last six matches. His two goals on Saturday, first from right-wing-back then left-wing-back, both resulted from Orellano’s game awareness. Twice the Argentinian had the ball fall to his feet after his assister was fouled in or around the box. As the referee allowed advantage for Orellano, he quickly dispatched both opportunities into the back of the net. Every youth coach in the country would be praising his ability to “play the whistle” and Cincinnati earned the victory as a result.

If that wasn’t enough, he completed a game-high five successful dribbles and won a game-high seven duels. What a performance!

Favian Renkel: Robert Taylor (Inter Miami CF)

When all the stories during the week were about Lionel Messi skipping travel to Vancouver to get extra rest for his upcoming schedule, nobody expected Inter Miami to play well in Vancouver and come away with three points. The Herons’ remarkable performance in Canada owes much to Finnish winger Robert Taylor. It’s almost as if Lionel Messi transferred some of his powers to Taylor while staying home and ordering a questionable pizza to watch his teammates.

Earning a spot on the Team of the Week, I wasn’t the only one who saw Taylor turn into an Inter Miami legend this week with a goal and an assist. Taylor terrorized the Vancouver wings, even putting his defender on skates before passing to Campana for his second goal contribution of the night.

51,000 fans may have arrived at the game disappointed that Messi wasn’t there, but at least they all got to see a great game and an outstanding performance from one of the clutch Inter Miami players.

Saying goodbye to Robert Taylor as Di Maria arrives will be tough for Inter Miami fans. I would advise everyone who has purchased a pink jersey in the last year or two to cherish the moments with Taylor before he’s traded for GAM to another MLS side. Today, Taylor’s price went up. 

Young Player of the Week

JR: Sang-Bin Jeong (Minnesota United)

Sneaking into YOPTW contention at 22 years old, Sang-Bin Jeong scored a beautiful brace on Saturday to drive Minnesota United to a chaotic 3-3 draw in Colorado.

Both goals came from a similar run of play with Jeong making a run through the middle of the park and in behind the Rapids back line. In the 8th minute, Robin Lod provided the through ball. In the 33rd minute, Tani Oluwaseyi provided it. Both times, Jeong slotted his effort past Zack Steffen with ease to give MNUFC a 3-1 halftime lead.

Following his late winner against Portland last week, Jeong is in peak form having scored all three of his goals this season in the last two matches as Minnesota’s attack gets ever more frightening.

FR: Mateusz Bogusz (LAFC)

Mateusz Bogusz, at just 22 years old, is forcing me to learn how to spell his name. Bogusz scored another free kick goal and is starting to establish himself as one of the best free kick takers in a league full of talent. 

He has been my breakout player of the year and could easily win our Most Improved Player SBI award at the end of the season. Take a look at this goal for yourself; these free kicks don’t look like they come from a young player. Bogusz is as calm on set pieces as a MLS veteran, making this pick almost feel unfair on my part.

Goal of the Week

JR: Anderson Julio (Real Salt Lake)

It wasn’t the most eventful week for a league that produces golazos at a higher rate than Taylor Swift produces #1 hits but Anderson Julio still earned his GOTW nomination from me.

Real Salt Lake’s super-sub produced once again on Saturday, scoring the second in a three-goal, second-half comeback in Dallas. Roughly ten minutes after entering the game, Julio picked up the ball at the corner of the 18-yard box with one thing in mind. He pushed the ball out of his feet and blasted it towards goal. At such a difficult angle there was only one spot Julio could put it – and he did – postage stamp in the near top corner.


Anderson Julio is the epitome of a super-sub.

FR: Robert Taylor (Inter Miami CF)

Oh, you thought I wasn’t going to double up like that, huh? For this legendary Inter Miami player, I just had to. Name another MLS player who has turned down his national team because the club’s goals are more important than his nation’s. For that reason alone, we should be allowed to choose him twice this week. But this goal speaks for itself. Silencing a crowd of 51,000 is always fun, especially when they think you aren’t as good as the guys who should have been in your spot.

Jordi Alba also deserves a shout on this pass, what a peach. 

Team of the Week

JR: FC Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati was not leaving Toronto without three points on Saturday.

In the most highly anticipated matchup of the weekend, the reigning Supporters’ Shield winners visited the reigning Wooden Spoon winners in a clash of two of the Eastern Conference’s best. TFC took a 1-0 lead into halftime but it wasn’t until the second stanza that the floodgates opened. Within ten minutes of second-half kickoff, Cincinnati put themselves on top 2-1, reaffirming their lead each time Toronto leveled the scoring until Sergio Santos scored the game-winner in stoppage time (90+3’) for a 4-3 victory. 

The match lived up to every bit of the hype and FC Cincinnati is doing the same. Despite replacing nearly half of their starting lineup in the offseason, last season’s Shield winners have quieted any doubters (including myself) with their seventh straight win. Miami continues to draw most of the headlines with Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez but it is Cincy who remain in the driver’s seat just one point back of Miami with a game in hand. 

They “won” three consecutive Wooden Spoons. Is a Supporters’ Shield repeat brewing?

FR: Columbus Crew

The Columbus Crew were in a rough patch while competing in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. They were known for tying too many games this season and not fully dominating the opposing team like they usually did the past year. After being embarrassed at home in the last iteration of “Hell is Real,” the Nancy Boys have won three in a row on the road, all without Cucho Hernandez leading the line.

What surprises me week in and week out in Columbus is that it’s a new guy stepping up each week to fill a void that Nancy needs. Every single player on this roster seems to get big minutes in the first team and shows up big when needed. Diego Rossi had his opportunity this week and took full advantage of it with a brace against one of the best shot stoppers in the league, Pedro Gallese of Orlando City. 

With the CONCACAF Champions final coming up this weekend, the Crew couldn’t be in better form or have a healthier squad. Cucho Hernandez should be back for that game, and it almost makes me think this may be the last trophy he will raise for this side before being sold for a profit. The timing of this back injury seems a little too suspect after his benching due to a violation of team policy. My gut feeling tells me there’s a situation brewing behind closed doors, as a timetable for Cucho’s injury has never been fully transparently communicated.

What Nancy did this week and will keep on doing extremely well is finding a replacement for him and it may look like he will have to find a more permanent one come summer.

Best Thing We Saw This Week

JR: Whitecaps set MLS attendance record

Would it have been more exciting if Lionel Messi played? Probably, but it was still a historic moment.

The Vancouver Whitecaps went all out for their game against Inter Miami, opening up the top deck at BC Place to increase capacity, hosting a pregame party outside the stadium, and granting 50% off all food and beverages at concession stands. As a result, the ‘Caps set a new attendance record of 51,035 fans for an MLS game at BC Place. 

Additionally, Ryan Guald and Brian White reached 100 starts for the club, Luis Martins eaned his 100th MLS appearance, and the club celebrated its 50th anniversary on a night to remember in Vancouver.

FR: Riqui Puig’s new hairstyle

I talked about Luciano Acosta’s hairstyle when he did the cornrows, and Justin talked about Federico Bernardeschi’s cornrows. I think we are officially unofficial SBI hair experts. Riqui Puig went blonde and wanted everyone to be able to see him on the pitch. He not only achieved that but also delivered an outstanding performance against the Houston Dynamo.

With some critics around the league, including Apple TV’s Kaylyn Kyle, suggesting that she will hook Riqui up with her hairdresser, Riqui Puig’s hair looked a little on the orange-blonde side. It’s unclear if he was paying respect to his opponent that weekend, the Houston Dynamo, or truly taking his power levels to over 9000. Whatever was in that hair dye woke up the Spaniard. Riqui Puig had a phenomenal week, taking advantage of Lionel Messi not playing and Chicho Arango having a quiet weekend. 

Whether you love him, hate him, or just his hairstyle, Riqui has everyone talking. He even had a Dragon Ball Z-inspired goal celebration, as if he already knew he was about to score on the Dynamo. The league needs some “villains” and a bit of cockiness; Riqui Puig fits that role perfectly. 

Even Houston Dynamo’s Ben Olsen can’t stand him, as he stuck his hand in Riqui’s face after the game and received a yellow card for it.

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