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Americans at home: The rise of Zardes

Recapping how the Yanks did in MLS playoff action

Nashville SC v Columbus Crew SC: Eastern Conference Semifinals - MLS Cup Playoffs Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

The MLS playoffs pushed on despite positive Covid tests and an unlikely American is finding his peak at exactly the right time. Add to it an exciting sort of double header for fans of the domestic league. With six teams still standing we also now have an idea who the best players in the domestic pool are that aren’t still in the playoffs. Seeing the young list of players called in for a December friendly certainly bodes well for the USMNT and the U-23s. While 2020 was something of a let off in terms of actually watching the national team, 2021 will be a huge year between Olympic and World Cup qualification. As the year winds down, the friendly with El Salvador will be a good opportunity to see how these young players mesh.

Nashville’s ride goes on... for a while

The music would keep playing for Nashville as the team won against Toronto 1-0. It took 108 minutes for the team to find the net, but that also stands as a testament to the team’s strength this year, its defense. With Walker Zimmerman winning MLS Defender of the Year, the team kept the Toronto attack at bay forcing the Reds to settle for crosses rather than finding good shooting chances. Aside from Zimmerman, Americans of note in the match include Michael Bradley going the full 120, Jozy Altidore who came out after 82 minutes, and Ayo Akinola who played 58 minutes off the bench.

Alas, Nashville’s playoff run would come to an end later in the week against the Columbus Crew in a 2-0 loss also in extratime. Walker Zimmerman again went the full 120 in that game, but it seems like the overtime soccer took its toll on the expansion side.

Farewell Philadelphia

In a fairly surprising result, the Philadelphia Union dropped 2-0 to the New England Revolution as the best regular season team exited the playoffs. Philly came out flat and never recovered, allowing two goals to New England and never being able to fight back into the game. As far as Yanks in the game, Matt Turner made four saves in the cleansheet effort, Brenden Aaronson played for just over an hour, and Mark McKenzie played the full 90.

Seattle moves on

The Seattle Sounders made quick work of LAFC in a 3-1 victory to move to the Western Conference semi-finals. Things started thanks to a Nico Lodiero goal assisted by Jordan Morris.

Raul Ruidiaz would add a second goal before LAFC got to within one. That’s when Morris again got on the scoresheet with a goal of his own in the 80th minute to put the game out of reach for LA.

Fellow American Cristian Roldan went the full 90 in the match and committed two fouls.

A huge day for Major League Lacrosse

Bruce Arena and the New England Revolution stamped their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals with a solid 3-1 win over Orlando City. A brace from Gustavo Bou and goal by Carles Gil put the Revs on top as Matt Turner didn’t have a lot to do in the match only making two saves. Of course, one of those saves was a penalty that kept the the Revs ahead by one goal in the 80th minute.

For their parts, Americans Chris Mueller and Daryl Dike had trouble getting going in the match with each only making one shot in the loss.

Checking in on the best American striker

Gyasi Zardes made a huge impact for the Columbus Crew in the team’s 2-0 win over the aforementioned Nashville SC. After a scoreless 99 minutes, the striker makes a great run, receives a pass and makes space for Pedro Santos to get an assist and score the go-ahead goal.

Zardes put the icing on the cake making a well-timed run behind the Nashville defense to put the game out of reach.

The assist and goal come after a regular season in which Zardes scored 12 goals in 21 games, the goal was also his second of the post season. The Crew looked unbeatable at the beginning of the re-started season and after faltering down the stretch are again finding their form. Zardes had the second most goals in MLS this year and its not because he’s a bad player. At this point it seems like he’s at the top of the depth chart for US strikers as Josh Sargent is off to a shaky start in Germany and Jozy Altidore has taken a step back as his career is winding down.