The 2022 World Cup in Quatar continues is agonizingly slow approach, still too far to start scheming sick days, but close enough to induce night sweats, so we’ll continue our weekly look at MLS-based candidates for the final roster.
All in all, it was a wildly successful weekend for the pool of active USMNT players competing in MLS, accounting for seven goals, two assists and one shut-out between the sticks, with one player in particular continuing to stake his claim as the next great hope to fill a long-absent, Brian McBride-sized gap at center forward.
Once again, we focus our gaze on recent call-ups in World Cup qualifying who are based in MLS, although a few names (we’re still looking at you Djordje Mihailovic) will undoubtedly join the list after the next round of USMNT games.
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.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Jesús Ferreira is currently the best MLS-based forward in the USMNT pool, and perhaps the most in-form #9 option available to Gregg Berhalter, depending on how much one values the Swiss and Turkish top divisions.
In the 3-1 road win by FC Dallas over LA Galaxy last weekend, Ferreira scored two goals to bring his MLS-best season total to nine. The first was a well-executed run and clean finish on a counter, while his second saw him make a fool out of the inept Galaxy defense and keeper when he streaked in behind everybody on a counter and was able to simply walk it over the line.
Overall, he was a clear man of the match, taking a total of three shots, setting up two additional chances, while completing 80% of his 20 passing attempts.
Not to be outdone, his USMNT teammate Paul Arriola added the ultimately winning goal for Dallas between Ferreira’s two, his third of the season, with an opportunistic strike from the left of the area. All in all, he was also solid in his 81 minutes, taking a pair of shots, setting up one close-call and winning three of his five duels against opposing players.
San Jose’s Jeremy Ebobisse is also trying to put his name in the running to be Berhalter’s solution up front, putting two past the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Earthquakes’ back-and-forth 3-3 road draw, a game where he was also the best player on the field.
On his first, he linked up with U-20 star Cade Cowell to finish a cross from close-range, then was perfectly positioned to make an easy finish following a quick display of aggressive passing by San Jose for his second.
Before being subbed out in the 89th minute, Ebobisse completed 17 or 19 passes, took three shots, all on-target, set up another chance, and was a general nuisance to the opposition.
Gyasi Zardes finally scored his first for new team Colorado Rapids, striking the opening, and winning goal in their 2-0 win over Los Angeles FC, from the spot early on after a free kick from Bryan Acosta led to LAFC’s Sebastien Ibeagha committing an unnecessary penalty.
Apart from the goal, he was a generally strong factor in the win, also hitting the right post with a header late in the game.
Kellyn Acosta also played the full game in LAFC’s midfield in the losing effort, however was a non-factor in their generally weak performance, completing 28 of 33 passing attempts, taking only one shot, and winning less than half of his seven duels.
New York City FC’s Sean Johnson continued to make his case to be Berhalter’s #3 option between the sticks, notching his third straight shut-out in NYCFC’s straightforward 2-0 win over Columbus Crew. As the Crew were completely neutralized in Yankee Stadium and couldn’t even manage a single shot on-target, Johnson was not called upon to make any saves.
Seattle Sounders’ pair of USMNT players, Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris, returned to the starting lineup in their 3-1 home win over Minnesota United, occupying the right and left wing positions, respectively.
Roldan had the better game, contributing to all three of Seattle’s goals. On Seattle’s opener just after the half, he drew the penalty call that was converted by Raul Ruidiaz. He then scored their second goal himself, with a blazing distance strike to the upper left corner, before assisting on their third just before the final whistle.
While not directly contributing to any of the team’s three goals, Jordan Morris was still a factor in keeping Minnesota off-balance, taking four shots, including a chip just past the half-hour that bounced of the upright, and setting up two further chances.
Atlanta United began the rest of their season without injured center back star Miles Robinson by holding the New England Revolution to a 2-2 draw in Atlanta.
Brooks Lennon started on the right side of Atlanta’s defense, completing 42 of 52 passes, setting up four chances, making four clearances, but he only fired in three accurate crosses in 11 attempts.
For New England, Sebastian Lleget assisted on their second goal shortly after halftime, and had a precise 79-minute performance with a 93% completion rate, one shot and another chance created.
Matt Turner made three saves in goal for the Revs, but was generally let down by his defense on the two allowed to Atlanta.
Walker Zimmerman came off the bench for Nashville SC and earned his second yellow card in their 2-0 loss at Houston. Another strong USMNT center back candidate, Aaron Long, was similarly left on the substitutes’ bench for New York Red Bulls, but was not used in their 1-1 road draw at Philadelphia, likely as a precaution after he picked up a slight knock one week prior.
DeAndre Yedlin played the full game at right back for Miami in their 2-2 home draw against DC United, playing a minor role in their attack, with no chances created nor any shots towards goal.
Finally, Gabriel Slonina continued his slump for Chicago, letting in a pair of goals and making one major gaffe for Chicago in their 2-1 home loss against FC Cincinnati. More details of his game can be found in this week’s U-20 tracker.
Moving up: Jesus Ferreira
The FC Dallas star is unstoppable at the moment and is leading MLS in scoring. This isn’t a fluke.
Moving down: Gabriel Slonina
Nobody wants to pick on a kid, but he’s stuck in a major slump, and has likely been passed for the USMNT #3 slot by Sean Johnson.