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Toxic Talk: Perfect Doesn’t Exist Edition

Welcome to Toxic Talk, where our resident hater tells you what sucks about soccer this week.

MLS: Portland Timbers at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

What sucks about supporting a national team is the fact that you have so little right to an opinion about what your players need from their teams on a day-to-day basis. Case in point: American youth prospects. You ever watch an Atlanta United game just because you might get to see Andrew Carleton or Chris Goslin? I am that guy. Well, this weekend was one of the rare, rare occasions where you got to. And, well...

Much has been made of the rise of the American youth player overseas in the last couple of years and how it compares to professional situations at home. Many have said Christian Pulisic wouldn’t get playing time if he stayed in MLS, a concern echoed by Pulisic himself. And just look at this past weekend. 4 separate American players aged 20 or younger got playing time for significant clubs on the world stage: Pulisic at Dortmund, Weston McKennie on his return from injury at Schalke, Keaton Parks at Benfica, and Tim Weah in his second appearance for Paris Saint-Germain’s first team. Obviously players like Carleton and Goslin would be better off in Europe, right?

The argument that MLS clubs should play more younger players is an argument that’s difficult to have because at its heart lies a question of league philosophy: does MLS exist to advance U.S. Soccer and its national teams? Or does it exist solely in and of itself, and any benefit the national team may enjoy is a byproduct of MLS’ own clubs striving to better themselves?

It’s a simple matter to say Atlanta United should play Carleton or Goslin, and that developing their young players can only benefit the team. But how much does it really benefit the team in a league like MLS? Atlanta United is ambitious, and wants to win. Carleton’s garbage minutes this last week were cut short by a late DC United goal that held him out of the game until stoppage time, when victory was already assured. Due to the structure of MLS, Atlanta also doesn’t stand to garner some massive windfall if they start aggressively giving their teenagers minutes and some large foreign club comes to scoop the player up. That money goes to MLS, not the club itself. So when you say “Atlanta needs to play Carleton,” the realistic reasons you can give to that end are actually a fairly short list.

That’s not to say MLS is barren of prospect playing time. 8 U.S. players (besides Carleton) aged 20 and under played minutes for their clubs this weekend. Ben Mines headlines the group, the 17 year old notching a goal in his debut for New York Red Bulls, but more made splashes as well. Mason Toye notched an assist for Minnesota United. Kyle Duncan kept a clean sheet with New York and helped spring a counter attack that led to Carlos Rivas’ goal. There are young players getting minutes in MLS.

I want Andrew Carleton to get minutes. But I’m also not an Atlanta United fan with any sort of detailed knowledge of what that organization needs on a day to day basis. I’m sure most Atlanta United fans (coughRobcough) want to see Carleton play as well, but are also content with the Cerberus of an attack they have on the field. And it seems more and more likely to me that there is no catch-all perfect situation for a prospect. Dortmund might have been the perfect situation for Christian Pulisic, but it wasn’t the perfect situation for Terrence Boyd, Junior Flores, or Joe Gyau. It all comes down to timing, the club’s situation, and what happens when you step on the field.

Andrew Carleton was a darling of the last U-17 World Cup, but is stuck behind a load of attacking talent on the Atlanta roster. Ben Mines didn’t go to that World Cup, but has a team with extra games mid-week they want to rest players for, and found himself with a shot against a poor Portland Timbers side. And that, so far, has made all the difference.

Boiling Points

  • Farewell Davide -

An emotional day in Fiorentina as Serie A resumed and fans were able to give Davide Astori a final farewell.

  • They Believed; Soccer Gods Answered -

The USWNT won the SheBelieves Cup with a 1-0 victory over England, and this is how it happened.

I think it’s the first time I’ve seen a team assist and score on their own own goal. Megan Rapinoe with the MLS assist!

  • Triple Triunfo -

MLS teams in CONCACAF Champions League play went up against three Liga MX teams, and all three- Seattle Sounders against Chivas de Guadalajara, Toronto FC against Tigres, and New York Red Bulls against Club Tijuana -came out on top, leading to a really phenomenal piece of journalism.

All three teams face a return leg this week, with the Red Bulls facing the easiest road ahead, a home game with a 2 goal advantage to their name.

  • Super Ciro -

This goal was as lucky as it was awesome and will probably win the Puskas.

  • New Batman, Same Game -

Dortmund, despite their advanced place on the Bundesliga table, have been in dire straights over the last several weeks, and were looking to be going to another disappointing draw against Eintracht Frankfurt before winter signing Michy Batshuayi put on his cape.

Christian Pulisic also appears to be regaining the look of his old self. After a run of poor form led to several games coming off the bench, he’s notched two assists and forced an own goal in his last two appearances.

  • MLS-y -

In case you missed it, MLS was distilled into its purest form this weekend. Questionable calls, high-scoring games, and defense was completely optional. A couple favorites: the nightcap to a seven-goal barnburner that was Chicago Fire and Sporting KC:

And Carlos Vela opening his account in LAFC’s 5-1 trouncing of Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium:

  • Hammered -

West Ham fell 3-0 to Burnley in the Premier League, and all hell proceeded to break loose. Check out some of the picture and read the full scoop, if you like.

  • Marcus from Manchester -

Manchester United brought down Liverpool 2-1, thanks to a brace from Marcus Rashford. And his first goal left more than a few thinking they’d seen it somewhere before, to boot.