In less than three months, the USMNT will start their World Cup campaign in Qatar, so we’ll take our regular look at how the MLS-based players hoping to play a role fared over the weekend in league play.
The number of games remaining before the all-important roster for the final warm-up games in September will be decided is slowly dropping down to enough to be counted on a single hand. For those players who cannot be counted amongst the automatic favorites of Gregg Berhalter, this puts added significance on every single second they spend on the field (or are watching from the sidelines/injury table).
We’ve seen in recent weeks that pressure this has led to a glut of scoring from the handful of contenders for the #9 spot, even if their efforts might be for nought considering the current success of their competitors based in Germany, England and Turkey.
Nevetheless, the weekend’s slate of MLS action included several standout performances that will keep players firmly in the running, as well as some showings that might serve as a hint for other players to make sure that Ikea will deliver their new couch before November 21.
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 the 1-1 draw between the New York Red Bulls and FC Cincinnati, where a heralded, albeit often criticized product of the Red Bulls’ center back line of succession took man-of-the-match honors.
No, we’re not referring to NYRB center back Aaron Long, who has taken lot of heat lately, but rather FC Cincinnati’s recent acquisition Matt Miazga, who scored early for his new team to earn the road draw.
Miazga connected on a deep free kick from Alvaro Barreal in the 13th minute, heading in the momentary go-ahead goal. Apart from the score, he was a strong presence over his 62 minutes of play in the back-three, having 58 touches, completing 30 of 43 passes, hitting three of five long balls, making five clearances, four recoveries, winning eight of 11 duels, and only committing a single foul, although he did pick up his second yellow card in as many games.
For the Red Bulls, Long was initially rested after a long run of play, in a move that head coach Gerhard Struber might second-guess considering the easy opening goal by Miazga. He did, however, enter the game shortly before the hour with the game tied 1-1, and did no damage to his USMNT standing.
One might be tempted to overlook the fact that Brandon Vazquez started and played nearly the full game for Cincinnati atop their attack, but that would only be because he had little influence, with no shots, no chances created, and only 32 total touches over 90 minutes.
The Red Bulls also featured a pair of prominent USMNT U-20 players in their starting lineup, although neither Caden Clark nor Daniel Edelman had any major influence on the final result.
Kellyn Acosta certainly did no harm to his practically sure-fire spot on the World Cup roster by notching his second assist (and seventh yellow card) of the season in Los Angeles FC’s 2-1 road loss at the San Jose Earthquakes.
In a generally lackluster game for LAFC, Acosta was his team’s most consistent player in the middle of the park, making 75 total touches despite his team holding only 45% of possession, completing 44 of 51 passes, creating a total of three chances for teammates, taking three corners, and accurately hitting all three of his long-ball attempts.
His assist in the 54th minute was a fantastic through-ball from near the midfield that sprang his teammate in behind the defense.
For San Jose, Jeremy Ebobisse played the full game at center forward, and had a generally strong outing. While not directly contributing to either of his team’s goals, he forced the LAFC keeper into three saves from his five total shots, completed 86% of his 21 passes, won four of seven duels, and drew one foul.
Again returning to the U-20 pool, the late winner for San Jose was scored by none other than Cade Cowell, master of the mullet, whose sweeping volley from the edge of the six-yard box was the highlight of the game.
Nashville SC ended a string of poor performances by unloading on FC Dallas in their 4-0 shut-out home win. Walker Zimmerman and Shaq Moore started on the right side of the home team’s defense, with the latter having perhaps his strongest outing over 50 minutes since arriving from Spain.
Zimmerman had one shot amidst his 54 touches, completed 38 of 49 pass attempts, won two of five duels, committed a pair of fouls, and made one clearance over 90 minutes.
Moore got the hockey-assist on the opening goal by Nashville in the fifth minute, took one shot from distance, completed 19 of 24 passes, won his only tackle and didn’t commit any fouls, but was pulled after 50 minutes after going down with a knock.
For Dallas, only Paul Arriola saw action, as Jesus Ferreira was rested for the evening. Arriola played 75 minutes, and played about as well as one would expect from an attacker on losing side of a 4-0 scoreline. In short, he had little influence apart from holding the ball well on his 35 total touches.
Jordan Morris was the lone USMNT hopeful in action for the Seattle Sounders in their 3-3 road draw at the Los Angeles Galaxy, scoring the eventual equalizing goal in the 73rd minute.
Apart from the goal, a short-range clean-up job where he was the beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time, he was largely limited by the Galaxy defense in his 86 minutes, with only 20 touches and seven attempted passes. Still, he managed three shots, and applied consistent pressure on the opposition.
Cristian Roldan was rested for the game, with the team reporting that he is recovering from a sports hernia.
DeAndre Yedlin played the full game on the right side of Inter Miami’s defense in their 2-1 home win over FC Toronto. He completed 85% of his 33 passes, had 52 total touches, committed one foul, made four clearances, had six recoveries, and was caught offside once.
In Chicago, the battle between keepers aiming for the USMNT squad saw Sean Johnson come out on top over Gabriel Slonina, in New York City FC’s 2-0 road win over Chicago Fire.
In a largely defensive contest, Johnson wasn’t forced to make any saves, although took care of business in his area to ensure that Chicago’s 58% possession and ten total shots didn’t translate to any goals in his nets.
Slonina was hardly at fault for either goal by their visitors, the first a distance screamer that would have beaten any veteran keeper and the second coming in the scramble following an unnecessary giveaway by the defense. Nevertheless, despite making three saves, he was on the losing end of a shut-out at home, meaning that Johnson edges ahead on having the honor of being the MLS-based keeper to be the nearest-miss for November’s roster.
Djordje Mihailovic has been on the edge of contention for the USMNT, however was unable to make his case in CF Montreal’s 4-0 home thrashing of New England Revolution, as he was reportedly in Europe finalizing a transfer to Eredivisie team AZ Alkmaar.
Finally, closing with another note about the youth set, Philadelphia Union’s stable of U-20 players did their part in the team’s 6-0 beatdown of DC United. In particular, Jack McGlynn started on the left side of the midfield, racking up an assist, while Paxten Aaronson and Quinn Sullivan both saw substitute action.
Moving up: Matt Miazga
Is he likely to make the cut for the roster in September? Probably not. Still he deserves full credit for making an immediate impression for Cincinnati against his old tem. If he has a good run of games over the next few weeks, miracles can indeed happen.
Moving down: Familiar names
I hate to pile on the same players week after week, but picking up an injury, even after a good performance, hurts Shaq Moore, and it’s looking like a near certainty that Gabriel Slonina‘s eastward flight in November will only go so far as London.