MLS Week 19 analysis

MLS Week 19: NY is Red, LAFC is the best, Toye, Almeyda, & White, & More

It was a crazy weekend in MLS that had drama, controversey, and shakeups in the standings. ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks it all down for you
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 15, 2019
7:00 AM
THE 19th WEEK of the MLS season is now in the history books and it didn’t tell us a lot that we didn’t already know: the officiating is questionable at best, there are both benefits and pitfalls to playing your kids, there gap between halves and have-nots in the league is huge, Chicago still stinks, LAFC is the best by a long way, the jury is still out on Frank de Boer, and the Red Bulls have an edge in its Hudson rival

All of those things we knew heading into the weekend and were reinforced the past three days.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an interesting weekend. In fact, it was quite consequential. The standings were scrambled quite a bit and the playoff races are pretty tough to predict.

Here were a few things to note.

Philadelphia’s blues

When it comes to learning something new, Philadelphia is not the same team we thought they were just last week. And not in a good way either. It was the Union’s worst performance of the season in a 4-0 away loss to Real Salt Lake. But the performance was bad on a lot of levels. There were poor turnovers, bad defense, and a complete inability to generate chances – Philadelphia didn’t register a single shot on goal.

Philadelphia has come up with some big wins this year but has also had some bad losses. This wasn’t just a loss, it was a pretty demoralizing effort. This isn’t one where you want to watch the video tape and try to learn, it is one where you just want to erase from memory and move on.

It’s not worth singling out anyone because everyone was poor but Marco Fabian was a non-factor, Ray Gaddis turned the ball over too much, and even the young duo of Austin Trusty and Brendan Aaronson were way off their potential.

Philadelphia remains in first place but has just one win its last five games. The four-point cushion is pretty good but with a few more losses, it could find itself chasing someone.

As for Real Salt Lake, it was a terrific result and it should give the team confidence. A lot of teams are playing well in the West (San Jose, Minnesota, Portland, Los Angeles FC, and Seattle all have at least three wins in their previous five games). So this was very important to keep pace.

Jefferson Savarino had two nice goals and could emerge in the coming weeks as a transfer target. Also of note for Real Salt Lake, Aaron Herrera is quietly having a very nice season and could certainly be in contention for the U.S. U-23 team.

DC United shows flaws

To open the weekend, DC United was able to salvage a draw with the New England revolution after falling behind 2-0 in the first half. It was a nice rally that was made easier by the fact New England played the final 27 minutes down a man after a Wilfried Zahibo was sent off.

On paper, DC United should have a lot going for it. Wayne Rooney, Junior Moreno, Paul Arriola and Luciano Acosta (who was suspended for this game) are all part of a highly competent attack and midfield. So far, its defense has been strong with just 23 goals conceded on the season but this week it was poor and Steve Birnbaum had an especially bad game.

Right now, however, the team has just one win its last nine and it can’t win unless everything is going for it. Everything becomes disjointed if either the attack or the defense falls apart. This game should have been a step in the right direction now that both Arriola and Moreno are back from international duty, but DC United still was poor.

Hudson River Derby ends in controversy

In what should have been one of the highlights of the weekend, the Hudson River Derby ended with the Red Bulls defeating New York City FC 2-1 in Harrison, N.J. The game was rather poor but there is a lot to take away.

The big news came on the winning goal. On the play, the Red Bulls were deep into New York’s half and a clearance was launched towards the direction of the sideline. It was difficult to tell but it looked like it should have been a throw-in. The linesman pointed for a corner but the Red Bulls took a short throw-in. Marc Rzatkowski received the throw and played it to Cristian Casseres on the top of the box. Casseres chipped it into the box and Daniel Royer headed it past Sean Johnson for his second goal of the game.

NYCFC players were incensed at the call, insisting that it should have been a corner and defensively they were setting up for a corner. Following the game, the referee Allan Kelly wrote he overruled the linesman and said it should have been a throw-in.

It’s was a very unusual situation. For one, the linesman was pointed to the corner. But NYCFC’s reaction was out of line.

For one, whether it is a throw-in or corner, the ball could just have easily have been played to Rzatkowkski in either situation. Second, Royer was not unmarked on his header as the NYCFC defense was fully engaged. Royer beat multiple defender on the play. Third, and finally, teams need to play to the whistle. Team’s can’t give up on certain plays and need to be prepared. A throw-in vs a corner is a routine call and should not be of consequence to any team that is focused. Any defense in the world would prefer the opponents get a throw-in compared with a corner. The official gave NYCFC a preferential call.

Any defense should always be prepared for a quick restart and NYCFC wasn’t. It would have been one thing if the ref awarded a throw in, NYCFC defended closer to the sidelines and the Red Bulls took a corner and played it to a wide-open attacker in the box. Instead, the Red Bulls were likely always going to play it short to Rzatkowkski regardless of having a thow-in or a corner. If NYCFC players are going to let a call like that derail them, it’s on them.

Red Bulls II

As for the other notes in the game, it was a pretty ugly contest that wasn’t pretty to watch. There wasn’t much flow.

That being said, Brian White is one of the more interesting success stories of the league this season as the forward now has seven goals in 2019. But he also fits the pattern from the club in getting players to play up.

The Red Bulls don’t spend a lot of money but they get designated player production from its USL team. Just look at this season. Brian White has helped carry this team’s production while Bradley Wright Phillips has been out. With seven goals, if he can get five more this season, he might just earn a U.S. national team call-up for January camp. Why not?

Then you have Aaron Long who might be the best central defender in the league, is on the U.S. national team, and Brian Dunseth reported now has an offer from a Premier League team. His career was on the brink before he got to the Red Bulls II team – who then converted him into central defense.

But there are so many others. Alex Muyl, Sean Davis, and Christian Casseres are above average players in the league who came out of the Red Bulls reserve team. In Europe, Matt Miazga, Chris Gloter, and Tyler Adams also played with the club’s second team.

Meanwhile, Red Bull II destroyed Atlanta 2 by an 8-1 score on Friday.

Toye’s incredible run

Minnesota forward Mason Toye, 20, is red hot. He scored the game-winner in stoppage time on Saturday in a 1-0 win over Dallas.

It's important to note that this run has taken place in just under 200 minutes of action, which is very small. It will be more accurate to judge him once he starts getting north of 1000 minute for a season. But the New Jersey native (and the Garden State is producing a nice crop of forwards this year), is certainly one to keep an eye on given his ability to clean up in the box.

Toye should be in the mix for the Olympic team and the domestic options there seem to be pretty good compared with season’s past with Jesus Ferreira, Jeremy Ebobisse, and Mason Toye as a decent contingent to begin.

As for Minnesota, the team is in a great spot. It is winning games and its front-loaded schedule of away games will continue to pay dividends with more home games down the stretch. It is in fourth place and has won four in a row. Right now, it’s just two points out of second place.

As for Dallas, it was a pretty disheartening loss. It’s willingness to play its kids is great but the lack of a big-time impact forward like Brian Fernandez or Raul Ruidiaz is making the team too easy to defend. Forward Jesus Ferreira, 18, is a good player but he has hit a rough spell and it has made Dallas too easy to defend.

Paxton Pomykal, 20, wasn’t as sharp as the previous game for Dallas and his final product needs to be sharper with goals and assists but right now Dallas needs more finishing options for him to combine with.

Meanwhile, Brandon Servania was the best player for FC Dallas as the midfielder continues his nice run following the U-20 World Cup.

LAFC’s dominance

There isn’t much that can be added about Los Angeles FC following its 3-1 away win over Houston on Friday. It’s now won its last three games by a combined score of 14-3 (with two of the three games coming off the road.

LAFC is on pace to smash all kinds of records and if it wins MLS Cup, could probably claim the mantle for the best team in the history of the league. There is still a long way to go but it is within reach. It’s already at a +36 goal differential and has an 11 point edge on second place Seattle. Carlos Vela, meanwhile, has 19 goals in 19 game. Against Houston, LAFC won easily on the road and didn’t even play Vela or U.S. national team defender Walker Zimmerman. Diego Rossi came off the bench.

These are the kind of win that make champions – when they can win with reserves and depth.

In playoff which are one game and sudden death, anything can happen but heading into LA and winning against this LAFC team seems like Mission Impossible. There just aren’t a lot of weaknesses right now up and down the lineup.

Next up is a meeting against the Galaxy on Friday which will be a chance to make a local and league-wide statement.

One thing about LAFC that is interesting is what the team could potentially do in the CONCACAF Champions League. This year was difficult for MLS teams given the turnover of the Red Bulls and Atlanta. If LAFC can keep its core together and under Bob Bradley’s tenure, it should be able to compete next year.

Almedya’s magic

Bob Bradley has built perhaps the best team in league history but Matias Almeyda is the league’s coach of the year, so far.

San Jose’s reversal of fortune over last season is phenomenal and it has been done with many of the same players carrying the load. The 3-1 win over the Galaxy on Saturday on the road was yet another reminder that San Jose needs to be taken seriously. The team is in fifth place right now in the Western Conference but would be in second if not for a poor start.

Against the Galaxy, San Jose started off poorly but the just began to dominate. It’s worrying for the Galaxy that have to show more depth and scoring behind Zlatan. Zlatan has the ability to win games by himself but if he is contained, what else is there on this team?

Poor soccer Ohio & Chicago

The worst soccer in the league right now is played in Ohio or Chicago. The Columbus Crew are terrible and a lot of rethinking needs to be done about Caleb Porter’s job. Porter has had some solid pieces and U.S. internationals at his disposal but that has not stopped the team from playing terrible soccer. Following Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Orlando, Columbus has one win in its last 15 MLS games.

Meanwhile in Chicago, things are somehow worse. The team paid a fortune to get out of its stadium deal with Bridgeview, it has no certain stadium deal on the horizon, and is in 10th place in the league. On Saturday, it somehow lost to Cincinnati at home. This was a particularly disheartening loss that could result in a shakeup. If you’re going to shake things up off the field in terms of stadium situations, you might as well shake things up on the field to get it over with.

Cincinnati is still horrible but at least they have the excuse of being an expansion team – albeit one that didn’t have much direction coming out of the gate (like Atlanta or LAFC did in recent years).

Making the playoff in the Eastern Conference doesn’t require much. All it requires is that you be better than Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Orlando, and New England (which is improving but still needs more roster turnover.

On field quality

Enough with the poor soccer in Ohio and Chicago, there was really nice moments of soccer over the weekend. Here are just a few.

U.S. national team winger Paul Arriola hit a superb cross against New England on Friday.

Check out this assist from Aaron Herrera in Real Salt Lake

Raul Ruidiaz had the goal of the weekend

Jozy Altidore was not far behind

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