In the long build-up to the World Cup kicking off in less than seven months, we momentarily step outside of our typical Euro-centric scope to track how MLS-based players with a chance to make the squad are performing.
With around half of the primary USMNT pool coming from Major League Soccer, and with the majority of the European league seasons winding down, we thought it would be a good idea to keep an eye on how those domestically-based players are doing on a week-to-week basis as MLS rolls on.
Similar to our tracking of MLS-based U-20 players, if there is some up and coming hotshot superstar on your local team who might be a late and realistic entry to the pool of players fighting for those 23 plane tickets for Qatar, leave us a note in the comments or drop us an email at email@example.com.
Our scope here includes the already-capped (preferably in World Cup qualifying) national team players who we expect are either headed to the Qatar later this year, or are in a realistic competition to make Gregg Berhalter’s initial roster for the training camp.
For certain, there will be several players listed below who will immediately elicit rolled eyes or less subtle protestations from our dear readers. In those cases, keep in mind that the inclusion of a fringe player in this article is not a judgement of their worthiness (we also have our own strong biases), but a best guess of who is still in Berhalter’s favor.
Or to put it another way:
Karen, if you’re offended about seeing Sebastian Lletget and Gyasi Zardes in this article, please direct your strongly-worded letter of complaint to US Soccer.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at how some of the more prominent members of our MLS-based USMNT pool fared over the weekend.
For both senior and junior national team players, the highlight game of the weekend was surely the 4-3 win by San Jose Earthquakes over the visiting Seattle Sounders, a game in which the hosts came back from a 3-1 deficit in the final half-hour to secure the win.
Both Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris had a direct impact for Seattle, albeit in the eventually losing effort. Roldan scored for Seattle in the 20th minute to put the team ahead by a 2-0 margin, and generally, had a strong game over 90 minutes on the right wing, completing 37 of 46 pass attempts, and winning two-thirds of his 15 duels.
Not to be outdone, Morris scored Seattle’s third goal to give them the 3-1 lead in the 57th minute. Overall he took three shots to force one save, and completed 12 of his 16 passing attempts from the left wing before being subbed out after 75 minutes.
For the Earthquakes, fringe national team player Jeremy Ebobisse played 89 minutes before being pulled in garbage-time when his team had already secured the 4-3 victory, taking three shots as the team’s center forward, forcing one save, and completing 19 of 25 passes. Considering the merry-go-round at center forward for the USMNT, we’ll keep an eye on the former U20 stand-out, since he will eventually be next in the firing line after Ricardo Pepi, Jordan Pefok and Haji Wright have run their course.
Inter Miami’s 2-1 win over Atalanta United also saw a pair of established USMNT players face off. DeAndre Yedlin is making the most of his new home in Miami, putting in a man-of-the-match performance over 90 minutes at right back, assisting on Miami’s 1-1 equalizer, completing 22 of 32 passing attempts, and setting up three close calls by his teammates.
USMNT starting center back Miles Robinson went the distance in Atlanta’s defense and had a generally strong performance, completing 65 of his 70 passes, winning his only attempted tackle, and also winning four of five duels against opposing players.
Also for Atlanta, Brooks Lennon went the distance at right wing-back in unspectacular fashion, launching one shot, having 60 touches, completing 26 of his 29 passing attempts, but only firing four accurate crosses in 15 attempts.
Kellyn Acosta is continuing to show he’s one of MLS’s best (MVP award on the horizon?) on his new team, netting the 59th-minute 1-1 equalizer for Los Angeles FC, in a game they eventually won by a 2-1 margin over hosts FC Cincinnati.
He was his usual imperious self for the current Western Conference leaders, going the distance in the center of the midfield, and completing 48 of his 52 passes over 90 minutes.
The 2-1 win by FC Dallas over interstate rivals Houston Dynamo saw two of Berhalter’s favorites in the Dallas attack, with both Jesús Ferreira and Paul Arriola playing the full 90 minutes.
Arriola was deployed on the right wing, where he completed 20 of 23 passes, won two of three tackles, and was caught offside twice. Ferreira had one off-target shot, completed 15 of 18 of his passing attempts as center forward, and won all four of his duels against the opposition.
The most notable story in DC United’s 3-2 home win over New England Revolution was the continued absence of the soon-to-be Arsenal benchwarmer Matt Turner, who is still out with an injury. However, the widely heralded fan-favorite USMNT star Sebastian Lletget played 75 minutes for the Revs, forcing two saves from his three shots, and completing 29 of his 32 passes.
USMNT second-in-command Walker Zimmerman went the distance in Nashville’s three-man back line in their 1-0 loss at LA Galaxy, having an unremarkable game where he only hit two of his seven long ball attempts, won a single tackle, made seven clearances, and completed 22 of his 30 pass attempts.
Aaron Long and New York Red Bull continued their unexpectedly strong start to the season, destroying Orlando City 3-0 on the road to claim second in the Eastern Conference. Long went the distance in the NYRB central defense.
Wrapping up, Gyasi Zardes had his debut with new team Colorado Rapids in their scoreless draw against Charlotte, and had no impact, Gabriel Slonina had his worst game of the season in goal for Chicago as they lost 3-0 on the road to Minnesota, and Sean Johnson was on the winning side for NYFC against visiting Toronto, but won’t be buffing his ego too much after giving up four goals in the 5-4 victory.