MLS: Five talking points from Week 22

The likes of Frank Lampard and Jozy Altidore provided us with some of the main storylines from Week 22 of MLS action.

Lampard’s debut blues

373 days after he was fist unveiled as a New York City FC player, Frank Lampard finally made his MLS debut on Saturday, replacing Andrew Jacobson in the 69th-minute of his side’s match against the Montreal Impact at Yankee Stadium.

The 37-year-old midfielder, who had been sidelined with a calf injury since arriving from England last month, only began training fully with NYCFC the day before the game so, needless to say, he didn’t look his best as the hosts fell to a 3-2 defeat.

"It's always difficult to come in when you're chasing the game because you need to get into it," he told after the match. "You try to force things because you need to score goals.

"It would have been ideal if I would come in winning the game. I would come in and enjoy the 20 minutes and rather try to make things happen so quickly."

The Chelsea legend’s fitness is far from head coach Jason Kreis’ biggest problem, though, having seen a third straight defeat cast further doubt over his team’s play-off credentials.

There are few issues with their David Villa-led attack or stacked midfield but, with the expansion’s side fragile defence leaking goals left, right and centre, you have to wonder whether he wouldn’t mind going back in time and swapping either Lampard or new man Andrea Pirlo for a star centre-back.

Too Lletget to quit scoring

Steven Gerrard may have been stealing all the headlines for the LA Galaxy in recent weeks but, when it comes to impact on the pitch, Sebastian Lletget might just end up proving their most important mid-season acquisition come December.

With the Galaxy 1-0 down at the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night, the former West Ham United midfielder popped up in the 56th-minute to grab the equaliser and provide the impetus for his side to go on to claim a 3-1 win – their first on the road in almost 12 months.

The 22-year-old American’s left-footed blast was his sixth strike in 10 MLS games since returning to the States in May following a six-year spell at Upton Park and, amazingly, he’s now leading the league in goals per 90 minutes [0.84].

With Giovani dos Santos set to rock up at the StubHub Center this week, it would be easy to think that the MLS Cup holders’ success is all thanks star power but that’s simply not the case.

Head coach Bruce Arena is one of the smartest team-builders in the business and, along with Lletget, has accrued a ton of low-cost but vital contributors over the years, such as the revived Robbie Rogers, Alan Gordon, Dan Gargan, Baggio Husidic and more.

Add in promising youngsters like Jose Villarreal, Oscar Sorto, Bradford Jamieson IV and Raul Mendiola, and the Galaxy dynasty seems to show no signs of slowing down.

Jozy loses his cool… again

If you needed any evidence that Jozy Altidore is not in a good place right now, it came on Saturday night during Toronto FC’s 3-1 defeat at the New England Revolution.

With his side already 1-0 down on the road, the 25-year-old striker was shown a straight red card in the 39th-minute for a petulant kick-out at Revs defender Jose Goncalves after the two wrestled for an aerial ball.

It was the former Sunderland man’s second dismissal of 2015 after being sent off in the USA’s 1-1 draw against Switzerland in March for a foul-mouthed rant at the referee, but the incident still took head coach Greg Vanney by surprise.

“I was a little surprised, it was a little bit of... an emotional response,” Vanney told after the match. "He was competing for the space, I thought he was putting in a lot of defensive work and chasing, so maybe there was some frustration there for him. And then battling for the spot, so yeah, I was a little bit surprised, because I haven't really seen that specifically from him.

“It definitely caught me by surprise.”

Altidore’s red card comes after he endured an awful Gold Cup campaign last month, when the 83-times capped forward played some of his worst football of his US career before being sent home after the group stages.

Granted, he had a decent excuse, having rushed back from a hamstring strain to make the tournament, but, as someone whose game has relied so much on confidence in the past, it seems his recent struggles finally boiled over into frustration on the weekend.

A goal or two in his first match back from suspension could well change everything but, for now, his TFC teammates have every right to be none too pleased with him.

Red Bulls for Supporters’ Shield?

2015 was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the New York Red Bulls after the departures of both Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, as well as a controversial off-season coaching change, but, with 20 games played, there’s a strong argument to make that they might be genuine Supporters’ Shield contenders.

Sitting in second-place in the Eastern Conference after Saturday’s 3-1 win at the Philadelphia Union, head coach Jose Marsch looks to have added a real difference-maker in debutant Shaun Wright-Phillips, who won a penalty and assisted brother Bradley as a second-half substitute, while another dynamic attacker is on his way in Gonzalo Veron.

Their defence still might be in trouble if injuries hit but, with the likes of Mike Grella, Lloyd Sam, Dax McCarty and Sacha Klejstan all making things click further up the pitch, they’re certainly one of the teams to watch over the coming months.

Cyle Larin: Rookie Sensation

16 games into his MLS career, it’s clear that 20-year-old Cyle Larin is a bit special.

The No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft wasn’t expected to make an immediate impact at Orlando City SC but, with the expansion club’s other strikers misfiring, he has stepped up to fill the void in remarkable fashion.

Linking up with club captain Kaka, the Canadian international bagged another brace in Orlando’s 5-2 home win over Columbus Crew SC to make it 10 goals on the season – tying Damani Ralph’s all-time rookie record with thee months of the campaign left.

Having been linked with a move to the Premier League before entering the draft [h/t American Soccer Now], it might not be long before European clubs come calling again if keeps up his current form.

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