The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is sneaking up on us like a unstoppable cement roller, so we’ll take our weekly look at the MLS-based candidates for spots on the plane performed over the weekend.
Here, we limit our focus to the MLS-based players who are either clear locks to make the list of players for the initial training camp, or appear to have Gregg Berhalter’s eye in the race for those fringe spots.
This list will certainly evolve over the coming months, either as players depart MLS for Europe or new entrants make a late push for consideration. Montreal’s Djordje Mihailovic is proving to be a prime candidate for the latter category, although we’ll wait for the USMNT’s schedule in June to play out before we make any new additions.
As always, if you have any tips for excluded players to keep our eyes on, leave a note in the comments or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Atlanta United’s 4-1 home win over Chicago Fire was the most significant game in MLS play for the USMNT over the weekend, however for reasons nobody wants to see.
Most notably, one of the team’s presumed starting center backs in Qatar, Miles Robinson, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon early in the game, and in all likelihood will have a difficult time to be ready in time for the tournament in November.
This is a huge blow for the player, Atlanta United and the USMNT, however the way in which this impacts the center back competition for the national team will be a topic for many later discussions.
Also for Atlanta, Brooks Lennon played the full 90 minutes at right back, scoring the team’s fourth goal in the 91st minute. Apart from the goal, he had a strong game, completing 87% of his 52 passes, taking a pair of shots, creating three chances for his teammates, firing three accurate crosses in seven attempts, and winning four of seven duels against opposing players.
On the other side of the ball, Chicago’s Gabriel Slonina had yet another disappointing outing in giving up four goals. His performance is covered in more detail in our U-20 performance tracker.
The other USMNT-heavy highlight of the weekend was Seattle Sounders’ trip to FC Dallas, where they justifiably played as though they were still suffering from the hangover after their historic CONCACAF Champions League win on Wednesday night.
The pair of USMNT attackers in the Dallas front line, Jesus Ferreira and Paul Arriola, stole the show in the 2-0 win.
Ferreira scored what ended up as the winning goal in the 65th minute, took a whopping six shots, created two additional chances for Arriola, and completed 80% of his 25 attempted passes over an impressive 84 minutes at center forward.
Arriola was even stronger in a clear man-of-the-match performance, scoring the second goal for Dallas shortly before the final whistle, taking five shots, creating four chances for teammates, two of which forced saves from the Seattle keeper, firing one accurate cross in two attempts, and overall completing 76% of his 20 pass attempts. The only negative aspect of his game was his first yellow card of the season in the 86th minute.
For Seattle, neither of their USMNT regulars – Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris – were in the starting lineup, with Morris having the day off completely.
Roldan came onto the field in the 63rd minute with Seattle still only one goal down, and put in a respectable performance in the loss, completing 15 of 17 passes.
New England Revolution’s 2-2 home draw against Columbus Crew saw Matt Turner continue to shake off the rust after an extended injury absence, giving up a pair of goals in his second game back, while making a lone save. While he could have feasibly done better to position himself more optimally on both Columbus goals, lax defending by the Revs was the real culprit.
Sebastian Lletget also started for the Revs, with a relatively strong showing. He played 84 minutes on the right side of the midfield, took one shot, assisted on the Revs’ second goal, and completed 20 of 23 passes.
Inter Mami continued their early-season struggles losing 1-0 at Charotte FC. USMNT veteran DeAndre Yedlin played the full game at right back for Miami, completed 20 of 24 passes, created a pair of chances for teammates Indiana Vassilev and Ryan Sailor, hit three accurate long-ball passes in three attempts, fired one accurate cross in three tries, and won half of his eight duels.
New York Red Bulls continued their unexpectedly strong start to the season with a come-from-behind 1-1 draw against visiting Portland Timbers. Center-back Aaron Long played the full game on the left side of a three-man back-line, most notably scoring the equalizing goal in the 67th minute following a corner.
Apart from his goal, Long was solid in the defense, completing 79% of his 57 pass attempts, making three interceptions, five recoveries, was only beaten once on the dribble by an opposing attacker, won eight of his 11 duels and committed no fouls.
New York City FC played to a scoreless draw against visiting Sporting Kansas City, with Sean Johnson earning his fourth shut-out of the season – his second in a row – while making three saves.
San Jose Earthquakes’ 1-0 win over Colorado Rapids saw a pair of fringe USMNT center forwards face off, with neither putting in particularly strong performances in the the still wide-open race for being the preferred man at the tip of Berhalter’s attack.
For Colorado, Gyasi Zardes did force one save amidst his pair of shots, however was limited over 90 minutes, only having 32 ball contacts, completing eight of 17 passes, only attempting one (successful) dribble against the San Jose defense, and winning five of 14 duels.
Jeremy Ebobisse was similarly ineffective for San Jose, forcing one save in his three shot attempts, completing ten of 11 passes amidst 22 touches, and being dispossessed twice in his 90 minutes on the field.
Los Angeles FC and Philadelphia Union played to a 2-2 draw in southern California on Sunday. Philadelphia had a fleet of U-20 players in uniform, however the only senior USMNT player to take the field was the dependable Kellyn Acosta, who played the full game in the center of LAFC’s midfield.
Over the course of the game, he was the focal point for LAFC, with 63 total ball contacts, 41/51 passing and three chances created, however he was fairly weak in direct duels against the opposition, winning only one of ten.
Finally, USMNT starting center back Walker Zimmerman was his usual self for Nashville SC in their 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Sunday night, patrolling the center of his team’s three-man back line. Over the course of 90 minutes, he took one shot, completed just over 90% of his 65 pass attempts, was accurate on eight of ten long balls from the back, made six clearances, two interceptions, and won three of seven duels.
Moving up: Jesus Ferreira
With center forward being a bit of a poisoned chalice for the USMNT, the 21 year-old FC Dallas front-man keeps producing, and might be the next in line to claim the empty throne.
Moving down: Miles Robinson
Returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon in six months would be a superhuman feat. Robinson will come back and continue his strong career, but it will be surprising if it’s in time for Qatar.