To say that the Seattle Sounders exist solely to confound me would simultaneously be both incredibly narcissistic and also accurate. I’ve been tasked with the preseason and postseason previews for the perennial contenders for the past few years, and every single time I’m more and more tempted to just submit this as my draft:
(Editor’s note: this would not be up to ASA’s stringent editorial standards, as we’re not Bleacher Report… yet.) Read More
At times this season the New York Red Bulls have looked like a very good soccer team, sometimes even harkening back to the 2018 Red Bull team that set (what was then) an MLS record for points in a season. Case in point, nine of New York’s 14 wins this year have come against playoff teams. That included wins over FC Dallas, Atlanta, and Real Salt Lake during a five match unbeaten stretch early in the season and back to back wins over Portland and Philadelphia during a late season run to put them into the playoffs.
There have also been times when the Red Bulls have looked exceptionally mediocre. They’ve looked like a team that not only lost its most important player in Tyler Adams, but also lost a whole lot more of something else as well, despite mostly returning their entire squad from 2018. The flip side of nine wins against playoff teams was picking up only one point from four games against Montreal and Columbus. Read More
Toronto FC’s 2019 season started off strong. They picked up 16 points in their first 8 games, including a 4-0 win against NYCFC where their marquee signing, Alejandro Pozuelo, put up 2 goals and 1 assist. Things went south after that - they got just 1 win in their next 11 games. From July onward, though, TFC were pretty good. They lost only twice, and closed out the season on a 10-game unbeaten streak. Read More
Early into the 2019 season, DC United looked like a contender in the East. Through May 15th, they had picked up 24 points in 13 games, including a win over last season's champion, Atlanta, and a 5-0 victory over RSL. Their schedule, though, was pretty soft. Those two games were their only wins over playoff teams, and they lost to NYCFC, LAFC, and Minnesota. After their first 13 games, DC played a tougher schedule, and they hit a slide. They got just 15 points out of their next 16 games, with wins over only Orlando, Cincinnati, and LA. DC United ultimately did save their playoff hopes with a 5-game unbeaten streak to close out the season, but their Decision Day draw to 9-man FC Cincinnati relegated them to playing on the road for the entire playoffs. Read More
Well, let’s just say that did not quite go according to plan. Ideally, the plan was this: survive the epic road trip to begin the season, then do a 2018 DC United and ride a tsunami of home games in front of the Timbers Army to a high seed in the Western Conference and a home playoff game or two.
For a while, it even looked like it was working. Portland did better than most expected, earning 4 wins and 2 draws against 6 losses on their road trip to pick up 14 points from 12 games.
As recently as September 7, Portland sat just 3 points outside of 2nd place, with a game in hand and 5 of 6 remaining games at home. No problem, right? Just Lock up that #2 seed. Or not. Portland won just 1 of their last 6 games and slid into 6th place in the West. Not exactly ideal, but this is MLS, and the Timbers rode a 5 seed into an MLS Cup Final appearance last year, so not all hope is lost. Read More
FC Dallas were expected by many to miss the playoffs in 2019. Following a disappointing early playoff exit in 2018 Dallas came into the season with a new coach and one of the youngest teams in the league. That mostly suggested it should have been a rebuilding year. It wasn’t, though. Luchi Gonzalez got the team playing attractive-ish, solid soccer right out of the gate. They lost just two of their first nine games. The season after that was a little more uneven, but on the whole Gonzalez managed to develop the team’s youth while implementing a fun, possession-oriented, high-pressing style of soccer that has, aside from in front of goal, been pretty effective. Read More
Philadelphia is a city that seems to adorn itself with the pageantry of blue-collar work. The philosophy of determination and deep city grit is a sort of tattoo etched upon the marrow of its teams’ legacy through the years. The Flyers, Phillies, and Eagles all have that reputation, and the city’s adopted mascot/avatar is named “Gritty” for a very good reason. This year’s Union side maybe the iteration that most embodies that most core Philadelphian philosophy.
You sometimes might hear a coach says talk about their system or style of play and they say something like “we want the team to be the star”. There is no other team in this playoff pool that embodies this theme greater than the Philadelphia Union. They’ve been built through almost every available acquisition method in the MLS GM handbook. Read More
When the assignments came out for playoff previews I begged, pleaded, and asked Ian nicely for the opportunity to write about RSL (editors note: there was literally no other person interested). I feel like I somehow owe this fanbase a little something because of the harshness with my pre-season picks. Let me start off with this: I was wrong. Very wrong.
But. Let’s talk about why I was wrong. Read More
In my view, the difference between the 2018 LA Galaxy and 2019 LA Galaxy was their willingness to come to terms with their direct style of play, their dependency upon their benevolent god Zlatan, and their need to score multiple goals to win games
No longer is there a pretentious and almost gaudy feel to the tactics employed in Carson. This is a team with fewer luxuries and is less about the use of high priced pieces in their line-up to do something amazing all leading to their unflappable success and glory. Now, there is only Zuul--errr Zlatan. But that has been good enough to buy them a lottery ticket for their sixth MLS Cup. Read More
In the 2019 Atlanta United Preview for ASA, I worried that de Boer’s preseason stated goal of “keeping everything the same in attack but improving the defense” might be a wild goose chase. After a title-winning 2018 in which Atlanta’s back 3/5 often found themselves in 1v1 duels and won them while putting up some of the best defensive metrics I’ve seen, the team opened 2019 in a 3-4-3 with Remedi and Nagbe holding and struggling to link defense and attack. Brek Shea became involved at left wing back when injuries early in the year basically put a hold on the first team career progression of young George Bello. The team quickly morphed into a 4-3-3 that de Boer seemed more comfortable with, but even after a month or so as the positive results started to show up against a run of weak competition, rifts in the dressing room were apparent to anyone who was even remotely paying attention. If it wasn’t Pity Martinez mouthing off to South American media about disagreements with the manager, and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Ezequiel Barco echoing certain of those sentiments at the All-Star break, it was Josef Martinez scoring a goal on the road and immediately and vigorously berating the coaching staff for all to see.
Whether by epiphany, mutiny, or simply good fortune, Frank de Boer permanently shifted the team away from a more “under control” 4-3-3 into a fairly wide-open and pressure-intensive 3-5-2 in July, and for the most part, the team never looked back. Read More