Aaron_long_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_red_bulls_-_howard_smith Howard C. Smith/ISI
MLS recap

Observations from Week 17 in MLS: Red Bulls & Phlly riding high

With most eyes on the World Cup, Week 17 of the MLS season was underway and some teams are begining to separate themsleves while others are in trouble. For Orlando and Toronto, it's time to panic. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
June 25, 2018
9:45 AM
AT FIRST GLANCE it appeared as if the best game of the weekend was going to be the Red Bulls – FC Dallas matchup. In the end, only one team showed up. Elsewhere, Philadelphia continues to surge and Orlando continues to sink

Here are my thoughts for the weekend.

Red Bulls rout FC Dallas

While the Red Bulls are regularly one of the best in the league under Jesse Marsch, it appeared as Marsch and Co. were going to get a stiff test against rising FC Dallas on Saturday.

That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

FC Dallas was completely outclassed and outplayed in the game and pretty much everyone disappointed on Oscar Pareja’s team – which had a man advantage from the 27th minute on but still lost 3-0.

But it was a tale of two teams, especially for American players. Check out the hustle from Tyler Adams as he blows past Kellyn Acosta to set up Bradley Wright-Phillips on this goal.

Then down a man, Aaron Long scored this delightful goal off a corner that was half heart and half skill.

On the flip side, Pareja’s side just look like it gave up. When Kellyn Acosta was subbed out of the game in the first half, he was furious. Jesse Gonzalez was beaten on the near post for the final. Promising rookie Reggie Cannon was disappointing on both sides of the ball.

For Dallas, there was a lack of hustle and a lack of heart in this game. There was no reason for the team to be outclassed when up a man.

For the Red Bulls, it was the opposite. Jesse Marsch’s team was firing on all cylinders and looked like it was up a man. The American players were class. Tyler Adams controlled the midfield. Tim Parker and Aaron Long are the best central defense combination in the Eastern Conference, maybe the league. Sean Davis is also a very underrated midfielder.

It seems like only a matter of time before the Red Bulls pass New York City and close in on Atlanta.

Was this a blip for FC Dallas? The team had been playing well until Saturday. Or was this a sign of major concern?

Philadelphia Surging

There is no team surprising more right now than the Philadelphia Union. After playing like a team with a dysfunctional front six and a very young defense, things are becoming clearer for Jim Curtin’s team. And Saturday’s resounding 4-0 win over Vancouver was the latest indication.

The defense, with teenagers Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty in the middle, are holding up very well.

Most importantly, the core of Borek Dockal, Ilsinho, Alejandro Bedoya, and Fafa Picault are completely in synch. The craziest part is that David Accam is not part of it all.

So what is the potential of Philadelphia? The win now has Philadelphia in the sixth spot in the East but competition is tight. They’re only one point ahead of Chicago and two points ahead of Orlando. They are three points in back of New England for fifth place.

The playoffs are reachable but will be a challenge. The likely scenario is that Chicago will hang around and Toronto could eventually get its act together and make a push. Both of which will make it hard on Philadelphia.

The young central defense duo is the real surprise as Trusty and McKenzie continue to grow together every game. Of course, there are youthful mistakes to come but the end product could be really good. And it does look like Philadelphia is giving itself a nice backbone for future years (as well as one that could supply the Olympic team too).

LAFC continuing to impress

If MLS teams were on the stock market, I would buy stock in LAFC. Bob Bradley is simply a good coach who has a system and has a way of getting players to buy into it. With 31 goals through 15 games, the team is in good shape offensively.

When Carlos Vela returns, it will be a huge addition and when Andre Horta joins, the team should be a very good offensive team. In the back, Laurent Ciman and Walker Zimmerman rival the Red Bulls for the best central defensive pairing.

On top of it all, the Western Conference just isn’t great. Sporting Kansas City is solid but the rest of the conference is full of teams that are underachieving, full of holes, or vulnerable to letdowns. It is easy to see LAFC not just making the playoffs but also finishing inside the top two.

Post-Kreis Orlando: still a mess

Whoever is the next coach of Orlando City will have his hands full. On Saturday, the club lost its seventh straight in a 2-0 loss at home to a bad Montreal team.

This team right now has no plan and is not in synch with each other. It would be easy to identify if there was no talent on the team. But there is talent and it the end product is so far below the sum of its parts.

The team has a bunch of players who have shown themselves to be skilled passers in this league. Justin Meram had 20 assists the past two season. Sacha Kljestan had 37 in that span. Dom Dwyer is one of the most proven goal scorers in the league the past five years. Now, the club can even buy a goal. It has been shut out twice in a row by Montreal and has five goals in the seven game losing streak.

Orlando isn’t a young team either. Interim coach Bobby Murphy might not be the next coach but whoever is going to have to build a completely different system that complements these players, or try to rebuild in the offseason.

It isn’t pretty. The six game winning streak masked a lot of problems with this team as it came against a lot of struggling teams. Once the competition was raised, Orlando crumbled quickly.

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