Since the MLS schedule-masters decided to squeeze in a round of midweek games for 22 of the league’s teams, we’ll sqeeze in time to take a look at how the players hoping to earn spots for a trip to Qatar fared during the week.
The opening game for the USMNT in the upcoming World Cup is just over four months away. Even with only a pair of warm-up friendlies left to play before the big event, the race for many of the 26 roster spots is still an open game.
While the top 15 or so obvious selections in Gregg Berhalter‘s squad will depend more on who stays healthy than on how they perform in the home stretch, there are still a number of spots up for grabs, many of which will inevitably be occupied by players still calling MLS home.
Here, we’ll take a look at the performance of those who are already sure-fire selections if not starters for the USMNT, the larger number of bubble players, and a couple who are doing well enough at a position of need to warrant a second look from Berhalter and his staff.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll give them a nod.
We’ll start with 18 year-old Gabriel Slonina, who in the midst of intensifying rumors about a deal with Chelsea FC, earned his eighth shut-out of the season in the team’s 2-0 victory over FC Toronto.
Despite the Canadians holding 58% of possession, they only managed a total of five shots, however Slonina did what was needed to preserve the win in saving both attempts that the Toronto attackers managed to put on-target.
FC Cincinnati forward Brandon Vazquez added another to his already impressive scoring tally for the season, hitting the team’s second goal in the 2-2 home draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Vazquez was strong overall, managing four total shots over his 74 minutes on the field to force an additional save, while winning six of his 11 duels and beating defenders on both of his attempted dribbles.
The goal was his tenth of the season, which is two off the league lead, and one behind Americans Jesus Ferreira and Jeremy Ebobisse.
DeAndre Yedlin took up his usual spot as an attacking right back for Inter Miami in their 2-1 home loss to the Philadelphia Union. Over 90 minutes, he completed 46 of 54 passes, took one shot off-target, however only fired in two accurate crosses in seven attempts.
On the defensive side, he made three clearances and most importantly, was largely error free, notably playing no role on the two Philadelphia goals.
The midweek Yank-fest, otherwise known as Seattle Sounders’ visit to Nashville SC, ended in a 1-0 win to the hosts.
USMNT starter Walker Zimmermann had his typically solid outing that almost followed a script, attempting one shot from a corner, completing close to 90% of his 56 pass attempts, hitting five of nine long-ball attempts out of the back, making nine clearances, and winning six of nine duels, while only committing one foul.
For Seattle, Both Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris had off-nights in their typical positions on the right and left side of the front-three. Roldan did force one save amidst his pair of shots, while the only attempt from Morris was of no threat to the Nashville keeper. Morris was particularly neutralized in the game, having only 22 touches over the full 90 minutes of play.
FC Dallas, along with its pair of national team players continued, their slump in their 1-0 home loss to New York City FC.
In a change of pace, Jesus Ferreira lined up in more of a playmaker role behind Franco Jara, however it did little to help Dallas from extending their winless streak to six games.
Ferreira did attempt three shots, forcing one save, set up a pair of chances, completed 30 of 38 passes, won half of his six duels, however was only accurate on two of his nine cross attempts.
Paul Arriola was given a rest from the starting lineup and played the 23 minutes plus injury time as a sub, doing little of note in the tepid team performance.
For NYCFC, Sean Johnson earned his impressive ninth shut-out of the season, which is now tops in MLS, one ahead of fellow Qatar bubble player Slonina. Despite having the better of chances – slightly – over the course of the game, the Dallas attack only forced Johnson to make one save.
Finally, San Jose Earthquakes center forward Jeremy Ebobisse kept himself narrowly in the conversation for a surprise Qatar spot, scoring his 11th goal of the season in the team’s 3-2 in-state rivalry victory over LA Galaxy.
His strike was somewhat aided by a sloppy turnover by the Galaxy defense to begin the sequence, however was a clean, opportunistic strike from the left of the area, where he was well-positioned as an open outlet away from the main action in the middle.
Overall, he had a strong game before subbing out in the final minutes, completing 22 of 23 passes, taking a pair of shots, and generally keeping pressure on the Galaxy defense to help his team to their first road win of the season.
Ebobisse is now tied with Ferreira for second-most goals in MLS this season, and is one ahead of Vazquez.