Now that the roster for the upcoming quartet of USMNT games has been announced, we’ll take our weekly look at how Gregg Berhalter’s selections – and a few others with World Cup aspirations – did in MLS play over the weekend.
The earlier-than-expected announcement of Berhalter’s roster of 27 players for the two upcoming friendlies and subsequent CONCACAF Nations League games provides a more focused view into which players are at the top of the heap in fighting for those final 23 spots on the plane to Qatar.
The result is an overall trimming of our weekly MLS-based watch-list, as several generally downward-trending players on the bubble noticeably missed the cut, likely representing a death-knell for their chance, while only one of the upwards-trending hopefuls was thrown back into the mix.
From now on, we’ll mostly focus on the collection of MLS-based players who are now clearly in Berhalter’s view. However, if one of the spurned hopefuls or rejects starts to make a strong, sustained case for their inclusion in the roster for the next round of warm-up games in the fall, we’ll give them a mention.
In fact, just to be polite, we’ll conclude the article by virtually pouring one out for those players who are likely falling out of the picture.
As always, if you have any tips for excluded players who are making a strong case to earn a spot in the narrowing window of chances before November, leave a note in the comments or drop us an email at email@example.com, and we’ll give them a nod.
Kellyn Acosta and Los Angeles FC kicked off the weekend’s MLS action with a 2-0 road victory over Columbus Crew, to keep their grip on first place in the Western Conference.
Acosta took up his usual role on the right side of LAFC’s central midfield, playing 70 minutes and completing 16 of 22 passes. During his time, he was a heavy contributor to the team’s forward push, setting up three chances for teammates, firing three accurate crosses in five attempts and nailing two of three accurate long balls.
On the defensive side he won his only attempted tackle, won two of six duels, and committed a pair of fouls, while picking up his second yellow card of the season.
Matt Turner and the New England Revolution defense were leaky, but their attack still got the job done in their 3-2 road win over FC Cincinnati.
Turner could have done better on Cincinnati’s opening goal by Brandon Vazquez, seeing the ball fly beneath his grip, but was helpless on their second shortly into the second half. Apart from the goals, he did not have to make any saves, as the team was bailed out by a strong offensive performance.
In addition to the goal from Vazquez, New England’s Sebastian Lletget also scored, perhaps lessening some of the sting that both players were surely feeling due to their omission from Berhalter’s roster announced the day before.
Walker Zimmerman played the full 90 minutes in the middle of Nashville’s three-man backline in their 2-2 home draw against Atlanta United. As usual, Zimmerman was threatening on set pieces, sending one headed corner wide. On the defensive side of the ball, he won four of five duels, made eight recoveries, was only beaten once on the dribble, and made a pair of clearances.
Atlanta is still reeling from the loss of USMNT start Miles Robinson to a ruptured Achilles, although did see distant World Cup hopeful Brooks Lennon assist on their equalizing goal.
Djordje Mihailovic celebrated his return to the USMNT fold by scoring the opening goal for Montreal less than one minute after the opening whistle, although his team ultimately fell by a 2-1 margin at home to Real Salt Lake.
He played the full game withdrawn behind the team’s center forward, and his goal was an opportunistic strike from the penalty spot that demonstrated his ability to seamlessly flot into dangerous positions.
Overall, he completed 80% of his 30 passing attempts, nailed two of three long ball attempts, only hit one of his six crosses, and won half of his six duels. Mihailovic’s goal was his seventh of the season, to go along with three assists.
Miami defender DeAndre Yedlin got the better of New York Red Bulls central defender Aaron Long in the Floridians’ 2-0 win in Red Bull Arena.
Yedlin was an active presence for Miami, with 70 total touches over 90 minutes. He completed 71% of his 42 passing attempts, won all three of his attempted dribbles and set up one shot for Indiana Vassilev early in the second half.
Long only played one hour for the Red Bulls before being pulled. During his time, he had 41 total ball contacts, completed 34 of 40 passes, earned his second yellow card of the season, and was off-target on both of his long-ball attempts.
The win for Miami still left NYRB well within the Eastern Conference’s seven playoff spots, and the visitors still just below the line.
Paul Arriola notched the lone goal for FC Dallas, his fourth straight game to find the net, as they were once again on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline, this time losing at home to Minnesota United.
While it was, in effect, only a consolation score to give Dallas hope of a comeback that would never happen, the goal itself was a spectacle that will certainly be up for MLS goal-of-the-season awards, a 24-yard rocket fired by Arriola to the upper right corner.
Apart from his score, and despite being on the losing team, the Californian put in a man-of-the-match performance, taking a total of three shots, creating four further chances for teammates, drawing a pair of fouls, and generally keeping Minnesota off-balance.
His usual attack partner Jesús Ferreira was given a rest, only coming into the game after 57 minutes and managing a single shot off-target.
Finally, both Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris started for Seattle in their 1-0 road loss to the Colorado Rapids.
Both players were neutralized along with the rest of their team. Roldan, one of the more in-form players lately in MLS, did manage one shot and drew three fouls, however was unable to create any chances for teammates.
Morris played his usual left wing role, opposite of Roldan, and also managed a single shot over 80 minutes, however only had 24 total ball contacts during that time and connected on one of three attempted crosses.
Moving up: Djordje Mihailovic
There was only so long that Gregg Berhalter could ignore a young, promising player is who is putting together a league MVP-caliber campaign. At this rate, the collection of European-based favorites need to start watching their backs.
Moving down: All hopefuls left off the roster
While the door is never shut, these players’ omission from the roster of 27 is a clear sign that the odds are stacked against them, and only MLS Best XI season can possibly prevent them from watching the festivities in Qatar from their couch. This includes Sean Johnson, Gabriel Slonina, Jeremy Ebobisse, Brandon Vazquez, Gyasi Zardes, Sebastian Lletget and Brooks Lennon.