Once again, MLS squeezed in a short round of midweek games including several USMNT locks, hopefuls and long-shots, so we’ll dive into their performances to see who made headway for those 26 coveted tickets to Qatar.
Since there were only six games in this brief midweek round, I’ll skip the meaningless blathering and simply say: Jesus Ferreira proved that he is still the best American #9 option in MLS.
And for the fans of Americans playing abroad, I don’t care how well Josh Sargent plays against the mighty, fearsome gladiators of the English second-tier known as Huddersfield Town, Ferreira is still a better option.
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 an email at email@example.com, and he’ll get a nod in the future.
With none of his other MLS #9 competitors in action during the week, Jesus Ferriera took every bit of the spotlight in the 1-0 win by FC Dallas over Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union.
Ferreira scored the only goal of the game in the 34th minute, perfectly timing his run into the area and making Vancouver defender Jakob Glesnes look like a drunk, bleach-blond Norwegian traffic cone, being the nearest victim unable to impede his instinct-driven 15-yard strike.
The goal was an impressive reminder of his place in the USMNT pecking order ahead of fellow MLS standouts Brandon Vazquez and Jeremy Ebobisse, and came on top of an overall man-of-the-match performance that saw him force another two saves amongst his four shots, set up three chances, and dangerously connect with all three of his attempted crosses.
Paul Arriola did his job in the supporting role, setting up Ferreria’s goal for his third assist of the season, having 48 total touches, completing 77% of his 26 passing attempts, taking a pair of shots, and setting up two chances.
Taking a quick look at Philly’s stock of U-20 players, only Jack McGlynn had any significant role, playing the final half-hour in their midfield and forcing a save with his lone free kick attempt. Paxten Aaronson also made it off of Philadelphia’s bench, but was only a desperation-time substitute in the final moments.
Kellyn Acosta did his usual thing in Los Angeles FC’s midfield, as they had a surprisingly tough time to beat MLS dumpster-fire DC United, needing a goal after their opponents were reduced to ten men to eke out the 1-0 home win.
Acosta was very Acosta-like in the performance, completing 88% of his 49 pass attempts, taking three shots to force one save, setting up two chances for teammates, taking six corners, and generally contributing on both ends of the field.
Almost immediately after being dumped upon in recent edition, Aaron Long started rebounding in his performances for the New York Red Bulls and is, at the very least, beginning to look like a slightly above-average MLS defender.
This trend continued in Thursday night’s 2-1 road win over Atlanta United. The Red Bulls were utterly dominated by the ambitious hosts who held nearly three-fourths of possession, however did an excellent job to mitigate the danger to escape with an impressive road win.
As with the rest of his teammates, Long spent most of his 81 minutes chasing down Atlanta attackers, however he and the rest of the back line did well to limit their hosts to only 12 shots and a pair of close calls. Long had 18 total touches and only attempted 12 passes, but made four clearances, one interception, won half of his six duels, and did it all cleanly with no fouls to his name.
Momentarily dipping down into the youth pool, U-20 stalwart Daniel Edelman played the full game for the Red Bulls in the midfield, while Caleb Wiley started and played 64 minutes at left back for Atlanta.
Sean Johnson was inconsistent in New York City FC’s 3-1 home loss to Charlotte. He simply fell down on Charlotte’s first goal (although it took a VAR decision to confirm the score), saw the 2-0 slip by his fingertips, and dove the wrong direction on the third goal, scored from the spot.
That said, he demonstrated his shot-stopping abilities with a pair of saves, in particular preventing the scoreline from being even worse for the hosts thanks to a one-handed deflection shortly after halftime.
Finally, in news that might horrify a number of USMNT fans, ███████████ put in another strong performance for Colorado Rapids in their 2-1 road loss at Vancouver Whitecaps.
Unlike his recent performances in the USMNT jersey, ██████ actually scored a goal – his eighth of the season and sixth since early-July – and overall took five shots, created three chances, and completed all of his 11 passing attempts.
Rest assured, Gregg Berhalter was watching.
Moving up: ███████████
I’ll use the excuse that this midweek round only included six games, and it wasn’t enough to judge whether any players helped their chances releative to the rest, in order to avoid naming that guy who scored for Colorado…and had a hat trick two games ago…and has generally been playing well lately. Oh god no. Gregg is going to do it again, we all know it. Why won’t he ever learn????
Moving down: Sean Johnson
Here’s my bold prediction: no keepers currently playing in MLS will be on the USMNT roster in Qatar in November. Prove me wrong…because Johnson and Gabriel Slonina are proving me right every week.