MLS is an exhausting league to follow. With midweek games and convoluted roster rules with players popping up and disappearing seemingly at random and with no explanation it can be difficult to keep track of it all. There were 16 games this week counting the matches from Wednesday so we’re going to change things up a bit, I don’t want to be telling you that Kevin Ellis who will never play for the USMNT scored his second goal for the worst team in MLS on Wednesday night and as MLS seems poised to one day be a 50 team league there just isn’t enough time in the day to track all of the touches that Andrew Wenger has in a game.
Still, the best worst league in the world has a lot of players in the USMNT pool that earn their keep in it so I’m going to more closely and deeply look at those players week in and week out. Don’t worry though, we’ll still have some fun and I’ll keep you deeply aware of all the ways American players embarrass themselves too.
Anyway, onto the hot takes masked as analysis...
Call him Gyasinho
To lead things off, the best, most in form striker in the USMNT player pool is your MLS Golden Boot race leader - Gyasi Zardes? Some of that is no doubt due to the work of Gregg Berhalter who seems to be the striker whisperer as a comparative chart of the goals per 90 for three of his center forwards can attest:
Here's the rates Kei, Ola, and Gyasi have scored at with and without Gregg Berhalter. Small sample sizes apply of course, but we can at least say, recently, 3G has demonstrated success at getting his center forwards goals pic.twitter.com/ZgRFyNslBb— Kevin Minkus (@kevinminkus) May 12, 2018
As far as what Zardes is doing differently this year, it seems to be that he’s keeping things simple. Tactics and personnel expert Bruce Arena shuffled Zardes throughout his lineups with the LA Galaxy playing him as a strike partner with Robbie Keane at times and then later positioning him out on the wing and even giving him time at the position anyone can play, right back. The result was that Zardes’ poor touch was exposed to hilarious effect and a once promising player became the butt of jokes. However, it seems like Berhalter wants Zardes to play simple and get on the end of crosses and through balls and to be in position to tap in rebounds in the box - it’s worked.
Zardes’ first goal in the game illustrates this - he simply follows Niko Hansen’s run to goal and takes advantage of sloppy and lazy defending from the Chicago Fire to tap in an easy goal.
His second goal was finished beautifully with credit to Mike Grella for setting up the goal by playing a dummy through to the striker. Zardes makes no mistake and buries the shot to earn a brace and the top spot in the MLS goals list.
Not surprisingly, the defense for the Crew had a stellar week with Zack Steffen keeping a clean sheet against Chicago and Philadelphia. Those teams may be completely inept at going forward, but shutouts are shutouts and the Crew now find themselves in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference.
The one good thing about DC United
Is the play of Chris Durkin. The youngster has stepped up big time and despite being on a terrible team that is going to some how get worse by spending $10+ million on a player, has taken some big steps forward this year. DC got absolutely trounced by Real Salt Lake on Saturday, but Durkin still managed a standout performance. He may have been inspired by DC playing down a man for nearly 70 minutes, but he had a stout defensive effort in midfield with 3 interceptions, tackles, clearances, and blocks according to WhoScored, in addition to having 72 touches as DC tried to battle back in Sandy, Utah.
something tells me DC United are going to struggle to hold onto Chris Durkin pic.twitter.com/SaXWMyfHI3— ty (@finalthrd) May 15, 2018
While we’re talking about DCU, it’s probably worth mentioning that Paul Arriola scored a goal to start the team off on the right foot in the 9th minute.
Old and new faces in Big D
Remember who the next American central midfielder was going to be? Has it been so long that we’ve forgotten? He was going to go abroad and fight for playing time in Portugal or Scotland or some other sundry locale... It was Kellyn Acosta. After struggling a bit on an injured and disinterested looking Dallas team the midfielder is back and started alongside Reggie Cannon as Dallas won 3-2 to the LA Galaxy. The scoreline flatters LA somewhat as the team battled back late when Reto Zigler got a second yellow in the 73rd minute.
Interestingly, Acosta played 63 minutes and was replaced by another promising American central midfielder Jacori Hayes. Manager Oscar Pareja will have an interesting choice going forward in starting Acosta or Hayes, who held his own as Acosta’s replacement in the matches the preferred started missed due to injury. Or perhaps Hayes will show that Acosta has a suitable replacement should he be transferred this summer.
You will be slightly impressed by us
The Seattle Sounders had a bit of a mixed week. The team beat the once fearsome Toronto FC 2-1 on Wednesday night and then turned around and lost 1-0 to their arch rivals the Portland Timbers. The highlights for Americans in the matches, at least the first one, was Christian Roldan and Will Bruin teaming up for a nice interchange to set up Handwalla Bwana for his first MLS goal.
What a time to score your first MLS goal!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 10, 2018
Handwalla Bwana cooly puts away the chance to put Seattle up 2-1. pic.twitter.com/oIABP1a4U0
For their part Toronto is having a terrible season after a historic run in MLS last year. They have been beset by injuries and their focus on the Concacaf Champions League took their eye off MLS to begin the year. That said, they have a few games in hand on the rest of the East, but if they don’t turn things around fast could be in danger of missing the playoffs.
All you need to know about Vancouver vs. Houston from an Americans in MLS perspective is that this happened:
It’s amazing, Brek Shea looks every inch the player who should be featuring for Stoke City. As far as Houston, I’ll let you all know when Mac Steeves makes an appearance.
In a midweek clash of the two best teams in MLS from 2018, a castoff from Malmo absolutely devastated the future and past of the USMNT central midfield:
That is next level from Wolff Eikrem...— Bryan Babcock (@bcock7) May 10, 2018