5 MLS midweek thoughts: Philly's Mess, Giovinco unhappy, and more
April 24, 2018
But let’s start with the worst.
Philadelphia Union is a mess
One of the biggest disappointments at the start of the season so far is the Philadelphia Union which has just five points through six games. On Saturday, Philadelphia lost to Dallas 2-0 for its second straight clean sheet loss.
What makes Philadelphia so disappointing is that the club is trying to play young players – in particular across the backline with two teenage central defenders in Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty along with U-20 left back Matthew Real. To certain, those young players have had tough moments along the way.
What has been particularly disappointing is the failure of the veteran attackers. As veteran Philadelphia reporter Kevin Kinkead correctly outlines, the team’s front six is the main culprit.
Union front six =— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) April 22, 2018
Striker: 16 goals last year, U.S. international
LW: 14 goals last year, Ghana international
#10: Czech international
RW: 7 goals last year, capped by USA
#8: captain and highest paid player, U.S. international
#6: World Cup veteran and Bosnia international
But aside from the failure to produce goals, there is also the issues of leadership. The young defenders need the morale boost that a bad play that leads to a goal isn’t going to sink a team entirely. But that is the case in Philadelphia.
Playing young players is a great thing, but Philadelphia look like mess and so many players are not playing up to the sum of their parts. Jim Curtin could be on the hot seat but how much of this is a problem at higher levels in Philadelphia?
This also relates to team general manager Earnie Stewart who is a candidate for the national team general manager position. What responsibility does he have towards putting together a team that can work well together on the field?
Red Bulls dominate & lose again
It should be becoming a concern for Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch that his team is having a difficult time defeating teams where it controls possession and creates numerous opportunities. Like its ouster in the Champions League to Chivas de Guadalajara, the Red Bulls lost to Chicago 2-1 on Saturday.
In the game, the Red Bulls forced Richard Sanchez into making numerous big saves had other opportunities narrowly miss the net. But a spectacular goalzo from Aleksandar Katai on a poor corner clearance completely changed the game.
This is going to be a huge challenge for Marsch. Can the team win when Bradley Wright-Phillips does not finish? Who else is going to score goals on a consistent basis? Daniel Royer?
The Red Bulls have a lot of talent and are deep in some positions. But are they too one dimensional?
Portland hitting its stride?
It wasn’t clear what to expect when Portland was going to host league-leading NYCFC. Portland began the season on a long road trip and struggled. Last weekend in its home opener it defeated a struggling Minnesota. The team had played well at times under new coach Giovani Savarese but it was still unproven. Meanwhile, NYCFC is firing on all cylinders with 17 points through its first seven games.
Portland ended up executing a perfect game-plan en route to a 3-0 win. NYCFC dominated possession but had absolutely nothing to show from it. Savarese’s squad played terrific defense and suffocated New York’s attack.
It was the kind of win that could point to strong evidence that once Savarese gets settled into his job and the team continues to buy into his system, a playoff push could be the result.
It is an odd time for Toronto FC. On Wednesday night it takes on Chivas in the Champions League final second leg. After a disappointing first leg, it is in a huge hole trailing 2-1 and now having to go into the altitude and hostile environment of Guadalajara.
To make matters worse, the team has been getting pounded in MLS play while playing mostly reserve teams due to the Champions League. After being annihilated by Houston in a 5-1 loss, the club has just three points from five games.
If that wasn’t enough, its star player Sebastian Giovinco is unhappy with his contract based on what he has told the Toronto Sun.
“I already talk, but they said it’s not the moment (for contract talks),” Giovinco told the Sun. “For them, that’s not a problem, for me it is a little bit. I want to know my future. I have family. I’m 31 years old. For what I do for the city, I think I deserve it, no?....For them it’s not a problem, for me it’s starting to be a problem … I already said I want to stay here forever … If not, I have to think about other options.”
Giovinco has done everything that Toronto could ever ask. He has been arguably the best player the league has ever seen and has made Toronto the most successful and dominant team in MLS history. At 31, he still has plenty of soccer left in him.
If he is unhappy, it is bad for the league. He has been a perfect fit for Toronto and MLS.
How good is Atlanta?
The season is still young but Atlanta is looking scary good right now. After a 2-0 away win at the Galaxy, it is easy to see Atlanta pulling away in the Eastern Conference and not looking back. With Ezequiel Barco now in the fold, the team is explosive.
Against Los Angeles, Atlanta was dominant and the scoreline flattered the Galaxy. But does it have the potential to surpass what Toronto did last year? It might be harder than you think. The offense Atlanta has is first rate but I’d suspect that it will be harder to equal Toronto’s team defense which conceded just 37 goals during the regular season in 2017.
With an older but still solid Michael Parkhust as the anchor, it is easy to see Atlanta struggling in the back come August and September. The team is not deep in the back and that should be a concern.