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Americans at home: Atlanta United, Portland Timbers in the final & Gregg Berhalter apparently for USMNT

The MLS Cup Final is set

MLS: Portland Timbers at Atlanta United FC John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been over 400 days, what’s the rush?

Oh, of course Gregg Berhalter is immanently (maybe I guess?) going to be announced as USMNT manager. It’s been 416ish days since the US lost to Trinidad & Tobago, which sounds like a really long time since the USMNT has played like 30 games since then, but consider that it’s only 3/5 of a Martian year and you probably won’t think it’s so long after all. The entire process of hiring Berhalter hints at the cozy if not problematic relationship between MLS and the national team. It seems clear from the outset that this is a foregone conclusion in one sense or another. It’s hard to say exactly what happened, but USSF sure seems to have waited until the MLS season to end before hiring the national team manager.

To say the least, it would be the end of a long and frustrating process. While it’s nice to have a new national team manager and Berhalter is probably capable of the job, in the year since failing to qualify for the World Cup in Russia there have been few things that the federation has done to build a successful men’s program for the future. While there have been promises for things to improve, so far they have been platitudes and not an actual process for anyone to put any trust in. Berhalter can certainly do somethings to change that once he’s announced, but the problems within USSF are systemic and go much further than just the team he manages.

Atlanta United 0 (3) - 1 (1) New York Red Bulls

The New York Red Bulls became the best team in MLS history to fail to advance to the MLS Cup Final on Thursday after losing to Atlanta United on aggregate 3-1. The second leg of the final saw New York once again move away from their usual strategy of pressing, this time it was because Atlanta United decided to avoid possession, bunker, and make New York break them down. It worked exceedingly well for the visitors as it looked like the Red Bulls would be shut out once again. Tim Parker ruined the perfect defensive effort in the 94th minute with a classic New York chaos goal. It ended up being too little too late as New York was once again frustrated in their quest for the MLS Cup.

As great as he is at breaking in transition while pressing, Tyler Adams couldn’t breakdown the Atlanta defense. He led the team with 78 passes while his midfield-mate Sean Davis had 67. Adams departs MLS with a bright future and an opportunity to prove himself at the highest level in Germany.

Atlanta United was once again led by it’s low-key American core of Darlington Nagbe, Michael Parkhurst, Jeff Larentowicz, Brad Guzan, and Greg Garza. Parkhurst led the team with 16 clearances while Guzan made five saves and helped keep the bus parked and organized.

Sporting Kansas City 2 (2) - 3 (3) Portland Timbers

This ended up being something of a surprise. After SKC went to Portland and emerged with a 0-0 draw they were no doubt a favorite to go ahead to the final heading into their second leg home game. SKC developed something of a three headed monster up front with no one player being the key goal scorer for the team but the forward set up of Daniel Salloi, Diego Rubio, and Johnny Russell combining for 30 goals on the year. With a defense that only allowed 40 goals on the year, this was arguably Peter Vermes’ most balanced season with SKC. Alas, the All-American backline of Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Ike Opara, and Seth Sinovic in front of Tim Melia couldn’t keep Portland’s attack contained.

Atlanta United had better not plan a victory parade just yet, while Portland struggled in the regular season at times and finished just 5th in the West, they have been giant killers in the playoffs. Portland beat the 4th, 2nd, and 1st place teams to get to the MLS Cup Final and a big part of why they are in this position is due to the quiet but impactful performaces of Jeremy Ebobisse. Bobby Warshaw had some good insight to how he helped create the goal that opened the scoring in KC on Thursday. While he just has a goal and assist on the stats sheets, it’s the ever classic things that aren’t counted that have made him so good for Portland recently.

Jorge Villafana got an assist for his absolutely stunning tap over to Sebastian Blanco for Portland’s opener against SKC.

Jeff Antinella made six saves behind a defense that allowed 20 shots by SKC and will again have to be on his game in the final in Atlanta.

Merritt Paulson also had a highlight reel tweet after the win:

In offseason news...

It seems like Brent Kallman can’t help but get rocked by 10s off the pitch too.

MLS teams roster moves

Benny Feilhaber is out of contract with LAFC and it will be interesting to see if the veteran is re-signed or moves onto a new club. Lee Nguyen was extended and will be in the picture for the club next season.

Meanwhile, NYCFC has released Tommy McNamara as the team gets ready for life without David Villa.

DC United midfielder Ian Harkes had his option declined as well following a season where he saw Chris Durkin and Russell Canouse surpass him on the depth chart.