USMNT World Cup Hopefuls: Long’s Odds Getting Longer

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A short midweek round of six MLS games saw a surprisingly large number of players aiming for the USMNT take the field, so we’ll take a peek at who stood out or, in most cases this week, blended into the background of mediocrity.

As mentioned in the previous edition a few days ago, for bubble players, the critical time window is between now and when the roster for the September friendlies is decided, meaning that a single mediocre or simply passable performance is a de facto setback, and string of subpar performances could be setting up a knockout blow.

Or to put it more simply, the importance of both good and bad performances will become increasingly amplified over the next month to six weeks.

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.

We will begin with the player who earned the ignominy of being the subject of the embarrassingly awful play on words in the title of this article, Aaron Long, who is currently headed down a path that might cause him to fall out of favor with his seemingly biggest and most important fan: Gregg Berhalter.

The New York Red Bulls lost at home by a 5-4 score to Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night, a third straight woeful defensive performance in competitive action, during which they have allowed 13 games in league and cup action.

(note: we are ignoring the pointless, money-grabbing exhibition they played against Barcelona over the weekend, even if it’s pictured atop this article)

Long has not exactly been the worst of the NYRB defense over these three games, but has played in 225 of the 270 minutes and has certainly played his part.

Against Colorado, he was only directly culpable on one goal, the Rapids’ fourth where he was the last man loosely marking the scorer, and was lucky that the deflection off of his foot was not ruled as an own-goal. Nevertheless, being able to lay claim as being “not the worst” of that kind of defense is hardly what national team fans (and coaches) want to see.

To his credit, Long did score New York’s second goal, a nifty header from a set piece, and only committed a single foul. Still, a dramatic reversal in form beginning with Saturday’s classic rivalry against DC United is necessary, or Long can look forward to watching the World Cup from the comfort of his couch.

Sticking with the uninspiring performances (hey, eventually there will be nowhere to go but up, right? right? please?), the Nashville defensive duo of Walker Zimmerman and Shaq Moore could lay claim to being adequate in the team’s 1-1 road draw at Portland Timbers.

For Zimmerman, adequate is more than enough to keep his status as a USMNT lock in place, so we won’t fret too much over a less-influential-than-usual performance in Portland, which saw him only have 57 touches, miss all three of his long-ball attempts, win only eight of 14 duels, and commit a pair of fouls.

He did pick up his fifth yellow card, so Nashville fans will fret his absence on Saturday against Toronto (although not too much, considering Toronto is mired amongst the league’s trash heap).

Moore, however, did nothing to improve his slowly thinning chances at a September call-up over his 73 minutes at right back. While by no means disastrous, he also didn’t stand out as one of Nashville’s more influential players.

Overall, he completed 69% of his 35 pass attempts, had 63 total touches, created one chance, hit three of six crosses, was accurate on three of eight long balls, won four of five tackles and seven of nine duels, while only committing one foul.

Djordje Mihailovic similarly fell into the “solid but unspectacular” category for Montreal CF in their 2-1 road win over Columbus crew. He played 71 minutes on the left of a stacked central midfield for Montreal, making 49 touches, completing 29 of 34 passes, setting up a pair of chances, while taking four corners.

Most indicatively, he was already off the field when Montreal scored both of their goals in the victory.

Jeremy Ebobisse and DeAndre Yedlin faced off as Inter Miami stole three points at San Jose Earthquakes, despite being utterly dominated in all statistical categories other than the final scoreline.

Ebobisse played the full 90 minutes at center forward, forcing one save with his three shots, but otherwise was limited with only 23 total touches and 12 of 16 passing.

Yedlin did well alongside the rest of the Miami defense to hold off their hosts and preserve the lead after their early goal. He had 43 touches and completed 19 of 24 passes, won two of three tackles, made five clearances and won four of eight duels. However, he earned a yellow card in the second half, his fifth of the season, meaning he will sit out Miami’s visit to Montreal on Saturday night.

Finally, we’ll end with the most positive note of the otherwise drab collection of midweek results, where Seattle’s Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan were the key men in Seattle Sounders’ sleepy 1-0 home win over FC Dallas.

Morris played 88 minutes at the left wing, completing 83% of his 30 passing attempts amidst his 40 touches, while creating a pair of chances. Most importantly, his streaking run into the area in the 37th minute drew a penalty from the Dallas keeper that led to Nicolás Lodiero converting for the only goal of the game.

Roldan once again lined up behind he front three a right-sided midfielder, and was rock-solid in his 90-minute shift. He had 92 total touches, completed an impressive 93% of his 82 passing attempts, created one chance and was accurate with four of five long-ball attempts.

One of those long balls was the pass that sprang Morris into the area to trigger the deciding spot kick.

For Dallas, both Paul Arriola and Jesus Ferreira were initially rested, but came into the game at various points in the second half, to limited impact.

Ferreira entered at the half, took a pair of shots to force one save and created one further chance, while Arriola played just under a half-hour, only had 12 touches, and did nothing of note while on the field.

Moving up: Nobody
It was an abbreviated round of only six games and none of the players in question truly stood out, at least positively enough to recognized by this article’s highest honor. Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan teamed up to earn a penalty, hurrah, have a pat on the back guys.

Moving down: Aaron Long
With Miles Robinson out until after the World Cup, the hope (and seemingly Gregg Berhalter’s expectation) was that Long would return to his pre-injury form and fill in adequately alongside Zimmerman. Instead, Long has been subpar for both club and country. With the European season starting, a number of younger options looking ready to compete, and at least one former USMNT center-back veteran likely joining MLS soon to provide more domestic competition, Long could get passed by a growing number of players on both sides of the Atlantic.


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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