A full weekend of MLS action saw the contenders for Gregg Berhalter’s #9 spot continue to bring the heat, so we’ll take our weekly look at how all of the collection of US-based players fighting for a trip to sunny Qatar fared.
It’s temping to cheaply cut and paste half of the text from last week’s edition into this current one, as in many ways what we saw was simply an exaggerated version of what went down last weekend.
In short, the three players whose job it is to score goals all did their job, even moreso than in the previous round of games. However, the pair of players who are supposed to keep the ball out of their goal gave up even more than one week ago.
The more critical readers might notice a new name appearing below that is arguably too far out of the picture to be worthy of a mention. I’m referring to newly-acquired Cincinnati central defender Matt Miazga, who finally gave up his Chelsea dream to search for consistent playing time in MLS.
Before any of you start to compose a strongly-worded letter of complaint, let me just say that Miazga probably wouldn’t be named were Cincinnati not already an automatic inclusion due to Brandon Vazquez. Also, it needs to be said that the USMNT is in a bit of a crisis concerning the center back position…but Miazga probably isn’t the answer. Matt is on a short leash.
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.
Let’s begin with the goals.
Most notably, Jesus Ferreira ended his uncharacteristically long three-game scoreless streak by putting two past the San Jose Earthquakes in his team’s 4-1 home win. His first to open the scoring two minutes into the game was a sweeping six-yard shot following an amateurish sequence by the San Jose defense.
His second – the third from Dallas – was set up by a nice lay-off by fellow USMNT player Paul Arriola, even if the official stat sheet will show the goal as a solo effort due to a failed intervention by the San Jose keeper.
In the end, both Dallas players had efficient performances, with Ferreira scoring on both of his shots, while only having 17 touches over 63 minutes, and Arriola playing more of an unflashy supporting role.
On the San Jose side, the lone bright spot was the 60th-minute consolation goal by Jeremy Ebobisse, whose has matched Ferreira with 14 league goals this season, and is doing just enough to stay on the edge of the bubble for a September call-up.
Generally Ebobisse had a strong game amidst the otherwise embarrassing San Jose performance, coming within the last millimeters of the Dallas keeper’s fingertips of scoring what would have been a spectacular 25-yard goal earlier in the game.
Sticking with the players who actually did what they were paid to do, Brandon Vazquez further cemented his name on the list of players likely to be called in by Berhalter in September with yet another goal for FC Cincinnati in their 2-2 home draw against Atlanta United.
Vazquez was a nuisance to Atlanta throughout his 90 minutes of play, but was most deadly in the 29th minute, lurking in Atlanta’s area and sneaking between a pair of defenders to efficiently put away his eight-yard shot following a turnover.
Overall, he had 37 total touches, completed 68% of his 25 passes, had a pair of shots, and won five of nine duels.
It might as well be mentioned that former USMNT center back Matt Miazga made his debut for Cincinnati, playing 66 minutes in their three-man back line, in the processing wining half of his six duels, committing a pair of fouls, making five clearances, and attempting one header from a corner.
Enough of the feel-good stories, let’s talk about the keepers.
Gabriel Slonina had arguably his most embarrassing moment of the season for Chicago Fire in their 4-1 road loss at Philadelphia Union, although he did make three saves for the constantly under-fire Chicago defense.
It would be hard to blame the 18 year-old for Philadelphia’s first goal, which could be credited to a general breakdown of the defense, however their second was a case of him dropping the ball in the literal sense…directly onto the foot of the opposing attacker in front of goal.
The Union’s third goal saw him make a fine stop to initially deny the attacker before the rebound was put away, and the fourth goal could be chalked up to the final Chicago defenders falling asleep to leave Slonina in a no-win situation.
Still, it’s looking increasingly certain that the recent Chelsea acquisition’s next opportunity for World Cup action will be in the U-20 edition in Indonesia in 2023.
Keeping with the keepers, Sean Johnson allowed three goals in New York City FC’s 3-2 loss at Inter Miami.
Johnson did make three saves, two of them being clutch diving efforts, and had very solid distribution numbers (29 of 30 pass attempts finding his teammates). Overall, it would be hard to pin any of the goals on his shoulders, and he did nothing to hurt his chance of receiving a courtesy call from Berhalter in September if one of the three European-based keepers sprains their ankle in the airport’s check-in line.
Djordje Mihailovic had a productive, even if unremarkable, 90-minute outing as CF Montreal’s left-sided attacking midfielder in their 3-2 road win over Houston Dynamo.
Overall, he had 59 total touches, completed 79% of his 28 passes, forced three saves with his five shots, drew the penalty for Montreal’s opening goal, took four corners, drew a pair of fouls and won 5 of his 13 duels.
His drawn penalty was the only direct influence on the scoreline, although he did show his trickery on the ball shortly before half when he bamboozled a pair of Houston defenders to turn into the area, only to see his shot deflected by the keeper.
Nashville’s pair of USMNT defenders both went the distance for their team in their 2-1 home loss to Minnesota United.
Walker Zimmerman followed his script, dictating the backfield with 69 touches, 50 of 58 passing, three clearances, two fouls committed, three of four accurate long balls, as well as one forced save on a headed corner.
Shaq Moore finally played a full game, making 45 touches and completing 22 of 27 passes, taking three shots to force one save, drawing and committing one foul, but hitting none of his four cross attempts and neither of his long balls.
Aaron Long and the New York Red Bulls limited Orlando City to a single goal, however it was one goal too many. In the 1-0 loss, Long played the full game, had 44 touches, completed 87% of his 38 passes, did attempt one headed shot from a corner, created one chance, and made three clearances.
Generally, the NYRB defense limited Orlando to two shots in the game, however one of those went into the net, forcing Long and his teammates to endure the loss.
Los Angeles FC destroyed Charlotte FC by a 5-0 Margin, with Kellyn Acosta putting in his typically consistent performance on the left side of the midfield. While not taking any shots, he did set up two chances, took a pair of corners, and completed 89% of his 56 pass attempts.
Closing out the weekend is a lackluster outing from Berhalter favorites Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan in Seattle Sounders’ 2-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake.
Roldan returned to a more attacking role on the right wing following several games in the midfield. He did take one shot and create one chance, but was otherwise a non-factor for Seattle over his 77 minutes.
Morris also had a relatively quiet game, with only 23 touches over 90 minutes, 14 of 19 completed passes, one shot from a corner, and only one chance created.
Moving up: Jeremy Ebobisse
Yeah, it’s really Brandon Vazquez, again, but it would get boring to write his name here every week. To be fair, Ebobisse had several strong moments even in the heavy loss, and will be one of the first guys called in during the September window as cover in case something goes wrong with the obvious picks.
Moving down: Gabriel Slonina
One reader asked last week “why the hate?” for Slonina after I lobbed some mild criticism. There is no hate for Slonina. He is the keeper of the future for the USMNT and will become a legend for Chelsea after he’s had a few more years to ripen. He’s not there yet, simple as that.