USMNT World Cup Hopefuls: Slonina Heats Up

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With just over four excruciating months of waiting before the USMNT kicks off their World Cup campaign against Wales, we will once again dive into the performances of the MLS-based players eyeing a spot on the 26-man roster.

The league schedule has been on hyperdrive this month, giving the teams barely a moment to catch their breaths amidst the July 4 holiday schedule and a round of midweek games several days ago.

All 28 teams were in action on Saturday and Sunday night, providing hours of tape for USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff to review, in order to see which players are on upwards or downwards trajectories.

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, and we’ll give them a nod in future editions.

The most notable performance of the weekend from the national team perspective was perhaps the shortest and least eventful. Montreal attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic finally returned to action after recovering from an ankle injury that knocked him out of the last quartet of games for the Stars and Stripes.

In the 1-0 home win over Toronto, Mihailovic played the final half-hour in the center of his team’s midfield, having 22 total touches, completing 11 of 14 passes, creating a pair of chances, but taking no shots himself.

While the ill-timed ankle injury in May was a hit to his World Cup hopes, a strong run with Montreal during the rest of July and August could give him a leg-up on a September call from Berhalter.

Gabriel Slonina kept his recent resurgence on-track, racking up his ninth clean sheet of the season in Chicago Fire’s 1-0 home victory over Seattle Sounders. The heavily rumored Chelsea target did what was necessary between the sticks, making two saves, as the Chicago defense did well to mitigate the danger from Seattle’s 15 total shots.

For the visitors, Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris took up their usual spots on the right and left of the attack, respectively, each playing the full game.

Once again, Roldan was the more active of the two, with 63 total touches, 30/38 passing, one drawn foul and a pair of chances created, although he took no shots of his own.

Morris was effectively neutralized for large swaths of time, with only 23 ball contacts over 90 minutes, although he did force a pair of saves with his two shots, drew one foul, and was caught offside one time.

Down in Texas, FC Dallas’ pair of USMNT attackers – Paul Arriola and Jesus Ferreira – had a strong outing, but it wasn’t enough to lift their team over the visiting Austin FC in the 1-1 draw.

Arriola was denied an early score with a point-blank shot off the post in the seventh minute, but came good with three minutes left in the half to finish off a counter-attack with a smooth five-yard finish.

Apart from the goal, he took three total shots, had 45 touches, created a pair of chances, was caught once offside, had one accurate cross in three attempts, and was accurate on three of five long-ball attempts over his 90-plus minutes on the right side of the attack.

Ferreira was most influential in setting up Arriola’s goal with a good cross from the left, but also forced a pair of saves from the Austin keeper amidst his three shots, and created a total of three chances of his fellow FC Dallas attackers.

DeAndre Yedlin took up his usual starting spot at right back for Miami in their 3-2 win over Charlotte FC, playing a direct, even if statistically uncredited, role as they returned from a two-goal, first-half deficit.

He was beaten by half a step on Charlotte’s first goal by Yordy Reyna seconds after the opening whistle, although a poor turnover on the other edge of the field was more the culprit. He perhaps gave Reyna a bit too much space to cue up fantastic curling shot for Charlotte’s second goal, however it was simply a moment of brilliance from the Peruvian international that was most responsible.

However, he more than made up for any culpability by participating in the build-up on Miami’s second goal late in the second half, and his heavy pressure deep in their opponents’ territory was the trigger on their eventual winning goal in overtime.

All in all, Yedlin had 67 total touches, only misplaced four of 42 pass attempts, created three chances, won five of eight duels, and beat opponents on two of three dribble attempts.

The Hudson River Derby saw New York City FC come away from Red Bull Arena with a narrow 1-0 victory over the hosts.

Sean Johnson notched his league-leading tenth clean sheet of the season for the visitors, and overall made four saves throughout the game to keep the overmatched Red Bulls off the scoreboard.

Aaron Long started for the hosts, playing the full 90 minutes in the three-man back-line. To his credit, he was not the man beaten on NYCFC’s goal (that honor goes to Sean Nealis), however was kept on the back foot by an opponent that held 65% of possession and took 19 shots.

A pair of potential (even if controversial, amongst many readers) hopefuls at center forward – Brandon Vazquez and Jeremy Ebobisse – were unable to add to their impressive scoring totals in weekend losses.

Vazquez managed only a single shot, although he did set up three chances, in FC Cincinnati’s 2-0 loss at Columbus Crew. Similarly, Ebobisse attempted a pair of off-target shots for San Jose Earthquakes in their 2-1 home loss to Houston Dynamo. He was also largely kept out of the action, having 22 touches and only attempting 15 passes from whistle to whistle.

Finally, a freshly reinforced Los Angeles FC came away from Nashville SC as 2-1 winners, with both Kellyn Acosta and Walker Zimmerman going the distance for their respective teams.

Once again, Zimmerman’s performance could have been written before kickoff; he had a total of 88 touches over 90 minutes, completing 64 of 77 passes from the backfield, including seven of 14 accurate long balls, committed a pair of fouls, and took one shot, an off-target header from an early corner.

For LAFC, Acosta lined up on the left side of the three-man midfield, had one shot off-target, completed 87% of his 47 passing attempts, and created a pair of chances, although he was uninvolved in both of his team’s goals.

More notably, the game saw the MLS debuts of Giorgio Chiellini and Gareth Bale for LAFC, with the latter ending Zimmerman’s reign in MLS as the undisputed king of the man-bun.


One of Berhalter’s MLS favorites – Gyasi Zardes – scored in a second straight game for Colorado, likely reactivating the USMNT coach’s subconscious, irresistible itch to give him yet another chance to sorely disappoint US fans in the national team jersey.


David Smith

I'm YA's resident doctor, but not the kind of doctor you would want giving you an examination anywhere outside of a lecture hall. I've been YA's feet-on-the-ground in Germany since 2008, have an affinity for overly verbose descriptions of irrelevant minutiae, keep an eye on YAs in most of the destinations on mainland Europe, and watch a whole lot of Serie A.

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