Billy’s Soccer Beat: MLS’ third weekend of the season certainly provided some great storylines and a momentary break from the basketball overload of March Madness.
With the first month of the season nearly completed, we are beginning to identify the top squads who will compete for the playoffs this season. Here are the top performers from the weekend.
Fabian Castillo FC Dallas
The creative engine behind Oscar Pareja’s attacking line in Dallas is Colombian forward Fabian Castillo, and Castillo showed why against Philadelphia this Saturday. Castillo’s speed and technical ability frustrated the wing backs of Philadelphia and eventually one of his crosses found the head of Ryan Hollingshead, and then, the back of the Philadelphia goal.
FC Dallas has earned a perfect nine points from three games this season and in order for Pareja’s squad to make a run deep into the MLS playoffs, Castillo must be amongst the best players in the entire league. Between Castillo and Argentine attacker Mauro Diaz, Dallas has assembled quite the attacking powerhouse in their squad, making them a dangerous matchup for any MLS team.
Castillo especially has shown how important Oscar Pareja is for player development with FCD, as he has made major leaps in his decision-making and technical ability over the past season with Pareja at the helm. Castillo will almost certainly be an MVP candidate in December, so MLS fans have even more of a reason to pay attention to FC Dallas.
Bradley Wright-Phillips New York Red Bulls
After winning the golden boot in MLS last season, Bradley Wright-Phillips will look for another stellar season to earn himself a designated player contract or a spot on a team overseas. With Sunday’s performance against DC United, he proved he is well on his way to accomplishing just that. He opened up his scoring account on the 2015-16 season, scoring the game winner against the Red Bulls’ most bitter rivals.
New York’s playoff chances are questionable at best after the departures of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill; the emergence of Wright-Phillips, as one of the top strikers in MLS will almost certainly determine the Red Bulls’ fate. BWP looked every bit the part against DC and will look to continue his current form against the Columbus Crew next week. If Wright-Phillips can score goals in 2015-16 like he did in 14-15, the Red Bulls will be just fine in their moving on process from their two legendary departures this offseason.
Raul Octavio Rivero Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Yet another talented young striker has emerged from the Whitecaps ranks, this time in the form of Raul Octavio Rivero. Rivero has scored three goals in as many games this season, with one coming this weekend against expansion side Orlando City SC, securing a win for Vancouver.
After earning a free kick in the 96th minute, Pedro Morales sent a ball curving towards the goal, and Rivero struck the ball, blasting it past Orlando City goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for the winner. At just 23, Rivero could easily emerge as one of the top young strikers in MLS, and potentially could earn some call-ups to the Uruguayan national team as he continues to score at this alarming rate.
Vancouver has a knack for discovering young, talented South American strikers, who go on to stellar careers in MLS, or are sold overseas for a hefty price tag (see Camillo). Rivero could very well be the breakout player of this MLS season, and is a young player MLS fans should keep their eye on. With Rivero scoring at this rate, the Whitecaps could make a push for their first playoff birth in quite some time.