What a difference a year makes. This time last season Toronto FC was on its way to making a historic run in MLS. The team was poised to end the season with the most points scored in league history, scoring 74 goals and only allowing 37. Through 19 games, TFC looks more like the team that didn’t make the playoffs for its early history and has let in an astounding 38 goals.
This comes after a promising start to 2018. The team reached the Concacaf Champions League final and seemed like it was going to threaten once again in the MLS Eastern Conference. Injuries and bad play have derailed things, but losing to the 16th best team in LigaMX doesn’t seem like such a great accomplishment three months later.
More worrying is that their American coach Greg Vanney doesn’t seem to know how to right the ship. This comes after two seasons in which TFC reached the MLS Cup Championship and Vanney looking like he would be another up and coming American manager who would have an outside chance at taking over the USMNT job one day. It now seems like he has benefited from the skill and talent of the most expensive roster in MLS and with them taking a step back this year, has no answer for getting his team back on track.
What I’m trying to tell you is that Toronto FC lost to Orlando City - at team that had lost 9 straight, they are not very good at soccer this year.
Anyway, here’s how some of the Americans in the domestic league that also has teams in a foreign country did this week...
A grand opening in DC
Is Paul Arriola good actually? The American winger has been something of a mystery with a mixed bag of performances across his career. After breaking through with Club Tijuana, Arriola seemingly decided that he should challenge himself at a lower level by signing a big contract for DC United. In 11 games for the Black and Red last year the winger managed just one goal and two assists. Granted, DCU was terrible unless they were playing Atlanta Untied, but it seemed troubling that Arriola would struggle against lesser competition.
This year things are somewhat different. In 11 starts and 13 total appearances in 2018, he has four goals and six assists. Arriola managed a brace as DC United opened Audi Field with a 3-1 win against the Vancouver Alphonso Davieses. His second goal saw Wayne Rooney get an assist as the new Designated Player made his debut in MLS.
A big comeback in New Jersey
Jesse Marsch may be gone, but the New York Red Bulls are the same as they ever were. The team is here to press and score goals. That’s what they do. One of the key pieces to that is Tyler Adams, you may have heard of him. With NYRB down 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City at home, Adams set up Marc Rzatkowski to draw the score even at two.
Fellow American Sean Davis would also chip in an assist to Rzatkowski as New York battled back late to give SKC their third loss in four games.
Elsewhere in that very same game Jaylin Lindsey and Graham Zusi teamed up for an assist on the first SKC goal while Zusi also earned a solo assist on the second score for Sporting.
Big week off the bench
NYCFC forward Jonathan Lewis came off of the bench in both of the Pigeons’ matches this week. On Wednesday night, Lewis came on in the 67th minute and scored the third game of the match for NYCFC to put away the Montreal Impact. Then on Saturday, Lewis played for 35 minutes as a sub against the Columbus Crew. In that appearance, he provided an assist to Jesus Medina to put New York ahead 1-0 in the 80th minute.
NYCFC is bristling with attacking talent, but Lewis has certainly shown that he should be pushing for minutes as a starter with his effective performances off of the bench.
A few names you’ve heard and one you haven’t in Big D
FC Dallas thoroughly beat the Chicago Fire on Saturday with a resounding 3-1 victory. Dallas opened the scoring thanks to a Carlos Gruezo goal assisted by Reggie Cannon. The 20 year old is now a solid starter for FCD and does a lot of good things a right back should do. He gets forward and is involved with the attack, at 5-11 and 165 pounds, he’s also capable of adding a bit of physicality to the position in defense.
The assist was his first of 2018. Not to be out done, Kellyn Acosta came off of the bench for Dallas and scored their second goal in the 74th minute.
After Reto Ziegler added a penalty Chicago Fire midfielder Brandt Bronico ruined the clean sheet for Jesse Gonzalez and co. with a screamer into the upper 90 for a consolation goal.
One player we did not see and have not seen much of in 2018 has been Andrew Carleton. The player was again not seen as Atlanta United drew 1-1 with the Seattle Sounders in what was absolutely not what MLS wanted America to see following the World Cup final. It had essentially the opposite of the tournament offered. A marquee team that has fallen to the bottom of its division playing turgid anti-soccer while referee Baldomero Toledo missed calls right and left for both teams and then took an excessively long time to make a determination on a VAR call. To top it off, Atlanta couldn’t do much against 10 man Seattle.
For Americans that did appear in the game, Michael Parkhurst put in a MOTM performance for Atlanta as Jason Foster pointed out.
Michael Parkhurst was Man of the Match in #ATLvSEA:— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) July 15, 2018
86/94 (91.5%) passing
10/13 long balls
2 key passes
7/11 duels won
3 aerials won
Composure. Intelligence. Experience.
All class. #ATLUTD #MLS pic.twitter.com/vgnDdOU2Lj
Elsewhere, Christian Roldan did that thing where he ran a lot and worked really hard but aside from that didn’t do all that much special in the game and Stefan Frei stood on his head and bailed out his defense making six saves in the draw.
Then there was this...
Well Fatai Alashe got subbed in at the 41st minute for San Jose... just to be subbed out AFTER his team took the field for the second half. He then shared this animated exchange with manager Mikael Stahre - not included here is Stahre grabbing Alashe by the arm as he walks by.
This is just weird. Mikael Stahre subs in Fatai Alashe in the 41th minute and then takes him off in the 46th minute. Alashe had some words to say after that.— (@SwedeStats) July 15, 2018
What is Stahre doing? pic.twitter.com/aNbpKqUEry
San Jose seemed like they’d be making a positive step this year with Dom Kinnear being let go to make way for some new ideas in the dressing room. Those ideas don’t appear to be any better and the Quakes sit in last place in the West.
Elsewhere in the Western Conference, Mike Petke WENT IN on the refs in MLS.
Maybe the league’s plan is to continue to completely bungle the VAR system while also letting PRO field refs that make awful decisions and then use the money they get from fining coaches to afford better officials. Probably not, but it’d be nice if something changed.