Daily Kickoff of MLS

By Anonymous (not verified), August 31, 2022
MLS Soccer
Good morning, y'all. Your pal Sam here. Let's soccer.


Atlanta United overcame a one-goal deficit twice against D.C. United and eventually found the winner in a crucial 3-2 victory over the Black-and-Red. Alan Franco, Josef Martinez and Juanjo Purata each scored for the Five Stripes. Atlanta United are alive in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoff race for now.Goals from Junior Urso and Maxi Moralez canceled each other out in what looked to be a 1-1 draw between NYCFC and Orlando. But then Tesho Akindele found the net on a header in the 96th (!) minute to give the Lions a critical win in their chase for a playoff spot.Daniel Aguirre and Chicharito scored in the first 15 minutes as the Galaxy dispatched New England in a 2-1 win.


MLS Kickoff StoryWe're in a weird space at this point in the season. We know so much about almost every team and almost every player in the context of 2022. But we're still seven weeks of soccer away from their definitive conclusions. We aren't learning so much anymore. It's more like we're watching what we think we know play out in front of us. Basically, we're in analytical purgatory. The only interesting results are the ones that make what we thought we knew look kind of dumb. This is why we'll start this weekend's wrap up with…LAFC can beat everyone but the plotLAFC got worked on Friday. They didn't have a prayer. And yet, the final chance creation tally ended with Austin FC putting together a little more than one xG of chances compared to nearly two xG from LAFC. Why?Well, two things. First and foremost, LAFC aren't the heroes of the story. That's Austin. We've talked about this all year. Austin are the protagonists of 2022 and it's near-impossible to beat a team with plot armor. Second, LAFC, in general, might be facing a somewhat predictable problem. They may have to reckon with the fact that putting out a team of their best 11 players isn't going to be quite the same as putting out a team that is their best XI. Essentially, the sum of their parts might be greater without some of their shiniest parts in the starting lineup.It's still hard to see how Carlos Vela and Gareth Bale are going to fit on the same field. It's even harder to see when Bale doesn't look fit. As far as the rest of the group goes, it's getting harder to see what LAFC's best XI is in general. With Brian Rodriguez out and Cristian Tello in this late in the season, you almost have to wonder if they're doing too much too late. Clarity can be an important part of an MLS Cup run. A muddled performance like they put together against Austin can make all those excellent roster moves feel useless if that performance comes in the playoffs. Having that established best XI can help you avoid that kind of thing. LAFC have seven weeks to figure it out.In the meantime, they'll go ahead and win the Supporters' Shield still and maybe even break the points record. But Austin exposed a flaw that might make them a little less invincible than we thought. Especially in the playoffs.It's *officially* time to worry about the SoundersI just haven't been able to see it. The playoffs without Seattle are a totally alien concept. How are the Sounders, of all teams, going to miss the playoffs?Well, after a timid 2-1 loss to Portland, that picture is starting to become clear. Seattle are now four points below the line and have a game out of hand on seventh-place LA Galaxy. It's a six-point gap between Seattle and sixth-place RSL. Seattle have a ton of work to do to even set themselves up for a chance on Decision Day.And now Cristian Roldan is out for a month or so at the worst possible time. We're reaching a doomsday scenario here. It's genuinely shocking.So it's officially time to actually worry about the Sounders. We're not being ironic anymore. They're in trouble. You may want to prepare yourself for what a world without Seattle in the playoffs looks like. Or you may be the kind of person who wants to prepare to say that MLS is so difficult that even the Concacaf Champions League champion can't finish in the top half of the league. Either way, there's preparation involved. We're in a totally different world here.Pozuelo should not have done thatAlejandro Pozuelo's red card this weekend is so many negative adjectives. I can't imagine how frustrated Inter Miami CF fans and Inter Miami players must be with it. Not only did it doom them against the Red Bulls, but it makes their next game, a critical six-pointer against Columbus, that much more difficult. He may even pick up a suspension for a game beyond that.For a team in the thick of a playoff race, it came at the worst possible time. And the fact that we may remember it as a turning point in Inter Miami's season and a turning point for a team below them in the standings is a testament to how much of a bad idea sticking his cleat into another dude's chest actually was.The Union have hate in their heartEveryone is in danger. The Union are liable to give you your most humiliating loss in team history at any moment.I don't really have anything to add to that other than how awesome it is. Philly have four (4!!!) wins this year of six goals or more. The next closest team in MLS history has three. That's not three in one season; that's three all-time. Holy smokes.Nashville might have turned the cornerThey really might be ok. All it took was Dax McCarty going full Dad-mode. Nashville thumped Vancouver 3-0 this weekend and seem to be getting themselves together at the right time. They're fifth in the West now and three points clear of the line with six games left. They aren't safe, but they are getting hot at the right time. And a hot Nashville team in the playoffs is extremely dangerous. Now they just have to see it through. A boost of motivation is great, but they have to turn this kind of form into a habit from here on out.Orlando keep winning because they say soAnd there's nothing you can do about it. All hail MLS's grittiest team. Full credit to them. There are very few numbers out there that suggest they should be in the playoffs. There are very few eye test moments that suggest they should be in the playoffs. Yet, after Tesho Akindele's late winner against NYCFC, they're fifth in the East and four points clear of the line. They just might pull this off.The fact that Oscar Pareja and company have been able to manufacture points so routinely is as impressive as it probably is frustrating for the team trailing Orlando to watch. The Lions have figured out how to win just because they say so. That makes them a dangerous, dangerous team in a single-elimination tournament.NYCFC…whatThey're broken. There's no other way to really explain it. They're just broken. They can't defend, they can't catch a break and they can't find the net consistently. They've lost four of their last five and are in danger of falling behind the Red Bulls in the standings. It feels like we're rapidly coming toward a conclusion where NYCFC's title defense ends with them quietly bowing out of the playoffs. Something has to change. It might be too late for whatever that change actually is to take effect.The Galaxy look safeWe'll end on a positive note. For some people, anyway. The Galaxy look increasingly safe and Riqui Puig is already out here playing pass-of-the-season caliber through balls. LA might just make it through without having to worry too much on Decision Day. They have two games in hand on the two closest teams to them in the standings and a four-point advantage on tenth place Seattle with a game in hand.