MLS thoughts & analysis

Galaxy up, Toronto down, Driussi, U-20 decisions for Philly and more

We are at the midweek point of the MLS season and things are becoming more and more clear as to who is legit, who isn't, plus some teams are about to look very different. ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks it all down. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 05, 2022
11:10 AM

THE 2022 MLS SEASON is at the midway point in terms of games played and right now we’re getting a sense of where teams really stand. At this point, it’s time to acknowledge the improvement in FC Dallas, Austin FC, Inter Miami, and FC Dallas along with the strong first season of Charlotte FC. On the flip side, rebuilds in Toronto and Chicago are just not going well. For Toronto, that’s okay. For Chicago, it’s not.

But it was a fun weekend. 46 goals were scored over 14 games. 12 of the games were decided within one goal and Montreal was the only team to lose decisively.

Anyway, there is a lot to breakdown and here are my bullet points.


RBNY add to Sporting KC woes


We know that Sporting KC was going to struggle to score heading into this season with Alan Pulido suffering an ACL injury. But that’s a bit of a crutch.  A team that scores just 16 goals from 19 games is typically broken beyond just a No. 9. Even without a No. 9, there are ways to get by.

Just look at the team SKC lost to on Sunday night, the New York Red Bulls. The Red Bulls have been struggling with center forwards essentially since Bradley Wright Phillips left. Tom Barlow does some things right, but isn’t the starting No. 9 a playoff team should have. Patrik Klimala is now known for wasting chances left and right. Ashley Fletcher is gone as soon as his loan expires this summer.

But the Red Bulls downed SKC 1-0 in an ugly game that angered Peter Vermes for its antics, but it was an accurate reflection of where both teams are. The Red Bulls are in first place, despite failing to generate much from the No. 9, because they have a system that isn’t pretty, but it is effective and they stick to it. The Red Bulls also have made nice changes along the way. The Frankie Amaya – Cristian Casseres central midfield pairing works well and that has come with moving Dru Yearwood to the bench.

The goal came from a nice header by Aaron Long - who had a great game. 

Midway through the first half, Gerhard STruber made a tactical adjustment when he removed Omir Fernandez out and put in Cam Harper. The team had never really used wings in the past, but now with Harper improving, and Luquinas making huge contributions since arriving, Struber is getting rather flexible and is playing with wings.

Sporting KC needs a lot of work and the Pulido’s injury isn’t the reason why they’re in the basement.


Interesting times in Philly


The Philadelphia Union traveled to Ohio and played the Columbus Crew to a 0-0 draw on Sunday night. Not much was surprising – not even the big save from Andre Blake on Sergio Santos penalty.

But after this game, the homegrowns of Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan, and Jack McGlynn will rejoin the team after being away on international duty with the United States U-20 national team. So will Brandon Craig, although he has a tougher path into the first team as a central defender.

In total, the Philadelphia Union attacking trip contributed 15 goals to the U.S. U-20’s as they went on to win the CONCACAF U-20 Championship and qualify for both the U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. These players made a huge case on a big stage that they are ready.

I’ve always suspected that the CONCACAF U-20 tournament was going to prevent these three from taking a big role with Jim Curtin’s team before it started. Losing key players for a month leaves a huge void. But now Curtin can take the time to give these players more minutes without having to let them go before the end of the season.

They can use it too. Philadelphia’s offense just isn’t producing. They’re a well-coached team but still a team that doesn’t have a big budget for high-profile DP’s. They’ve gotten a lot of mileage in the past with using top homegrowns and now they have three that are ready.

Aaronson, was the best player in Honduras by a long margin. Quinn Sullivan scored or assisted on a tournament-high nine goals. McGlynn, if he can improve on his athleticism or learn to get by without being an elite athlete, could be a very good midfielder.

Columbus is hitting crunch time. They didn’t make the playoffs last season after winning MLS Cup and now they’re on the cusp again. They are just outside the playoff line again. The Cucho Hernandez signing better work out and boost the offense, or else there are going to be a lot of tough decisions in the offseason.


Galaxy pound Montreal


In this current season with a more compact schedule, teams that have to make a long trip across the country aren’t often sending out their best lineups. It’s almost that they view these trips as extra credit – if they get something, good. If not, not a big deal.

The LA Galaxy took advantage of a lethargic Montreal effort en route to a 4-0 win on Monday night. Chicharito played well, got an early goal, and the Galaxy looked like the Galaxy. They needed that too. Over the past month, LAFC has been stealing all of the headlines – not just in LA but throughout the league. The Galaxy have looked like SoCal’s other, older team. LAFC has looked more fun.

That’s not going to change with one win over Montreal, but the Galaxy need to make the playoffs and be in position to advance out of the first round. They certainly have that potential. It just comes down to Greg Vanney pulling the right strings.

As for Montreal, this loss won’t mean much unless it hurts their confidence. They’ll get their best player Djordje Mihailovic back soon. They just have to continue to play they way they have most of the season.


Seattle wins easily in Toronto


While teams making cross-country trips this season don’t tend to perform well these days, that didn’t hold true in Toronto. For one, Seattle is a machine. Even without Jordan Morris, Raul Ruidiaz, Obed Vargas, Joao Paulo, and Cristian Roldan, they were still able to travel to Toronto and win comfortably.

Seattle is so well coached and roles are so well defined by Brian Schmetzer, that bench players can move into the XI and produce. Everyone knows what they have to do and the roster is blended nicely with youth and experience, that the team can withstand the loss of key players.

It's why there is someone who can always step up - Like Obed Vargas in the CCL final, or Will Bruin whenever Raul Ruidiaz is out, or Kellyn Rowe when Nouhou is out. In this game, Dylan Teves and Daniel Leyva both had good games. 

The other part of that result is due to Toronto still needing a lot of work. Defensively, they’re a mess. Offensively, there is a ton of concern. There is excitement over Lorenzo Insigne’s arrival, and that is fine. But when the team has an MVP-level player in Alejandro Pozuelo unable to make any sort of difference, that is a huge concern that things tactically aren’t making sense.

Bob Bradley is a good coach. He will figure it out. But he inherited a mess that is going to take him some time to build something that works. Any sort of expectation that Insigne is going to turn things around is misguided.


Cincinnati’s wild week


Cincinnati is a team that feels comfortable attacking relentlessly. From where the team was during its first three MLS seasons, it is a relief. They also now have a coaching staff and front office that is familiar with the league and knows what it takes to win.

Cincy should feel aggressive about attacking. A front line of Brenner, Vazquez, and Acosta is one of the best attacking lines in the league (or at least has the potential to be). This past week they played NYCFC to a 4-4 draw and then, over the weekend, played New England to a 2-2 draw on the road. Those are two of the more talented teams in the Eastern Conference and Cincinnati wasn’t afraid to take the game two those opponents.

The new approach in Cincinnati is going well – just once season into it all. They’re ahead of pace and the team is fun to watch. It’s just too bad it took three seasons to get here. It didn’t need to.

As for New England, they are still climbing after a brutal start to the season. Once again, no one is going to want to face this team in the postseason – where they essentially fell victim to a three week layoff more than a good NYCFC team. Dylan Borrero looks like the real deal. Adam Buksa is missed but the Revs will find a way.


Other notes


The most surprising game of the weekend was DC United’s 5-3 win over Orlando, in Florida. I didn’t see an eight-goal barrage, let alone one where DC United would win. DC United is a lot like Minnesota in the sense that they go the direction of one player. Minnesota goes with Emmanuel Reynoso and DC United goes with Taxi Fountas. In this game, Taxi was on, so DC United was on. The Greek forward has scored in five games and DC United won four of those games. United has only won five times on the season.

As for Orlando, the defense was shockingly poor at times in this game. They can be a good team, but they’re going to be done quickly in the postseason with efforts like that.

Minnesota also won over the weekend, 3-2 against RSL, in a game where RSL was trying to mount a comeback from 3-0 down but simply ran out of time. Minnesota did what it had to do to win – namely get a good game from Reynoso.

LAFC were upset 1-0 to Vancouver thanks to a late goal from DP Adrian Cubas. The Paraguayan struck in the 88th minute to help move the Caps within two points of a playoff berth. Cubas has now been with Vancouver for four games (three starts) since arriving from Nimes in France, and the team has conceded just once in his 271 minutes on the field. It’s not a coincidence. He’s a good play who fits the system well. He should help Vancouver continue to rise.

As for LAFC, they’ll be fine. They’re just waiting for the calvary to arrive next week.

Charlotte won for the first time ever on the road with a 2-1 win over Houston in Texas. Needless to say, Houston’s reinvention was going well but has hit a snag lately. Charlotte, however, snapped a two-game skid but is still vastly overperforming expectations. Charlotte making the playoffs this year would make for a hell of a story.

Nashville collapsed again in a 2-2 draw with Portland after squandering a 2-0 lead in the second half. These long home stretches we see due to stadium construction never work. It goes against the flow of the typical home-away format. Teams lose the benefits over time as playing home games becomes normalized. GEODIS Park is not the advantage Nashville hoped for. As for Portland, they’re going to have to make their playoff push soon. Eryk Williamson has been sharp lately, and the Timbers need to take advantage of that.

San Jose defeated Chicago 2-1 on Sunday. It was a matchup of two teams in tough shape, although its tough to appreciate the task of taking Matias Almeyda’s influence out of a team. He brought an unorthodox approach and some of his own preferred players into the mix. It’ll take some time. Chicago, meanwhile, is the frontrunner for the wooden spoon after DC United’s win.

FC Dallas squandered what should have been a win over Inter Miami and instead settled for a 1-1 draw. This is a game that Inter Miami would have lost last year or the season before. But the team is finding ways to win. It’s not the glamorous “big star” way that they wanted to be – like LAFC. But they’re still in the mix of the playoffs thanks to a Leo Campana equalizer in the 88th minute. It’s a team that growing in character, which is useful moving forward.

As for FC Dallas, they’re getting good performances this season from Paul Arriola, Jesus Ferreira, and Alan Velasco but rarely does that talented front line ever seem in synch with each other. One performs well, but the others don’t. As a front line, they should be one of the best in the league. Velasco had a nice free kick goal, but he still needs to apply more pressure on opposing defenses. Still, Dallas is in a much better place than years before.

Finally, Sebastian Driussi would have my vote for the MLS MVP of the first half of the season. The Argentine was once against great for Austin FC in a 3-2 win over Colorado. This win was very well reflective of head coach Josh Wolff whose team knows how to win pretty, win ugly, and come from behind. It was the latter in this instance as Colorado had a 2-0 advantage in the first half. Driussi scored the equalizer just before halftime. The magic of Colorado’s 2021 season is over. That team overperformed when it finished first overall in the West for the regular season. There was always a thin margin of error for that team and its payroll. Austin, however, doesn’t look like a one-season wonder either.

One other note is that this was the last game in Colorado for Austin Trusty who was sold to Arsenal and loaned back to Colorado. He is expected to be loaned out again quickly from the London club within Europe.

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