Clark-hype into overdrive, Philly stumbles, Galaxy implosion, Tessmann impresses
October 15, 2020
WEDNESDAY’S MLS GAMES saw some impressive highlights, some debatable upsets, some awful performances that will turn up the heat on managers, and once again impressive steps taken by the league’s young players.
With every passing week, it is becoming clearer to me that young American players are just better right now – regardless of the league. It’s not just the five young Champions League players – it is a better overall generation and this is reflected not just by the Gio Reyna’s or Chris Richards’ at huge clubs, but also by the generation here which consists of players making big impacts for their clubs at very young ages.
In particular, the 2003-born class (which are players turning 17 in 2020) are already turning the corner in decent numbers – Caden Clark, Ricardo Pepi, Caden Cowell
Meanwhile, figuring out the Western Conference is impossible. Beyond Seattle, it is a coinflip for teams that you think are doing well. Portland, LAFC, Sporting Kansas City all had big letdowns on Wednesday. The Galaxy, meanwhile, are an incredible disappointment. DC United might be worse, but the Galaxy are far more disappointing and this club has a long way to go in terms of righting this ship.
It was a good night to showcase that the “retirement league” label really doesn’t add up to reality anymore. Sure, when Gonzalo Higuain scores a free kick, it gets the headlines. But paying closer attention, there are multiple impressive contributions from young players for every highlight by designated player who first started to play in this league after turning 30. And that doesn’t even consider the struggles of teams that try to rely on these older players. Chicharito’s numbers are getting worse, and after last night, they’re shocking.
Also of note, there were some great goals scored. Ryan Hollingshead, Caden Clark, Nick Lima, Mark McKenzie, and others. It was a fun day to watch clips.
With all that said, here are my thoughts from the games.
Clark hype rockets into overdrive
It can be argued that hyping young players does more harm than good but once the hype-train starts, you can’t really stop it. That train really started for Caden Clark, 17, last week when the youngster signed a deal with the New York Red Bulls and reports surfaced the highly-regarded midfielder was likely off to Leipzig in January 2022. For the record, ASN has heard the same information that was initially reported by Matt Doyle and followed by others.
The hype train continued after Clark started against Atlanta and delivered the game’s only goal in a 1-0 win over Atlanta on Saturday and it gained steam.
Last night against Toronto? Forget it. The train hit fifth gear and there are no breaks. Any kind of debate about hype being deserved or helpful is pointless because you can’t stop it. Right now, we’re just going to have to live with it.
With the Red Bulls down 1-0 against Toronto, Clark was subbed into the game at the 59th minute. Then in the 77th minute, he did this.
Sources are telling me Caden Clark is good. Holy $*!* pic.twitter.com/5fzO8SnEUn— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) October 15, 2020
Apart from the effort from Clark, two things really standout about this play. First, Tim Parker was excellent winning the ball and getting it to Clark in a dangerous position. The goal does not happen without Parker, who made the play under pressure. Second, Daniel Royer’s reaction was priceless. He was trying to get into a dangerous position and watched the ball fly into the net. He immediately put his hands on his head in disbelief about how good the shot was. It was the league’s defining image of the night.
A truly special left-footed goal and for those who have followed his development closely, he is maturing very, very quickly.
Caden Clark’s finishing was probably the most frustrating aspect of his game at the USL level, and now he’s gone a scored two bangers in back-to-back games. Soccer makes no sense.— Justin ?????????? (@JustinSousa99) October 15, 2020
In the end, the Red Bulls played to a 1-1 draw and both teams are probably a bit disappointed. For Toronto, it didn’t capitalize on the Columbus Crew’s loss (the Crew, by the way, are starting to fade) and the Red Bulls could have put distance between itself and NYCFC and Atlanta. But the Red Bulls should manage its way into the playoffs – especially given that Aaron Long will soon return to 100% (he was carrying an ankle injury and was an unused substitute in this one).
A lot of the talk right now is Clark’s move to Europe in 15 months. I am actually more curious to see how much he can help this Red Bull team before then. Can he do what Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie are doing in Philadelphia right now in giving it a chance to win silverware?
Next year, Clark will give the Red Bulls and important part of the equation. The team isn’t as far off as its fanbase makes it sound. It needs forwards and another winger. This offseason, the club will need to promote more young players and also spend. But it has a chance to go for it in 2021.
A lot of people are urging the league to adopt a develop-sell-repeat model. That is incomplete. There are two more steps. It is develop-play-win-sell-repeat. The concept of winning is critical. At the first team level, results matter and having players contribute to winning efforts shows a different level of maturity and responsibility. Second, if teams can win with young players, it only encourages the repeated investment – both in dollars spent, and in giving meaningful playing time – to young players.
Philadelphia misses big chance
Philadelphia had a chance to move within a point of Toronto for both the best record in the East and the best record in the league. Instead, it needed to rally just to draw the worst team in the league in DC United - which was playing its first game since Ben Olsen stepped down as head coach.
Philadelphia struggled to really get going and made some costly mistakes. Team captain Alejandro Bedoya was flagged for a handball to concede a penalty (questionable decision to us) and will also miss the next game due to a yellow card suspension.
Once down 2-1, Philadelphia dominated the game for the last 30 minutes, found an equalizer but should have been able to score more. These are the games that it will regret later in the season.
But just as we mentioned above, youth is on full display at the moment and both of Philadelphia’s goals came from young, homegrown players who could feature on the Olympic team.
Anthony Fontana, on his 21st birthday, scored his fifth goal of the season on a scramble in front of the box. It was his first goal that wasn’t a true goalazzo. The Delaware native should be a key factor in the Union’s plans in attacking midfield once Brenden Aaronson (who had a quiet night) moves to Salzburg.
The equalizer was scored by Mark McKenzie, who had yet another very good game for the Union and should be a key player on the U.S. U-23 team and a potential option for the U.S. team down the road. He is also a player who could fetch the Union with millions more with a sale to Europe in 2021.
His goal was a rocket. While it was aided by a slight deflection, McKenzie hit it extremely well and deserved the goal.
Mark McKenzie is one of the best young American central defenders. Here he is delivering a late equalizer for Philadelphia. It was aided by a deflection but McKenzie hit it extremely well pic.twitter.com/etJa0xc0E5— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) October 15, 2020
Mark McKenzie: raw # for Philadelphia in 2-2 draw vs DCU— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) October 15, 2020
0 key passes
4 aerials won
8/15 accurate long balls pic.twitter.com/nMYSNCOH5Y
Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin told ASN earlier in the year: “every time I've given a younger player an opportunity, they've proved me right.” Even on a disappointing night in terms of a result, Curtin continues to be correct.
The universe is a dark and chaotic place. With a large telescope, you can watch stars implode on distant galaxies millions of lightyears away. If you don’t want to go through all that trouble, you can go to Los Angeles and watch the LA Galaxy implode with a much better view.
On Wednesday, the Galaxy were pounded by the San Jose Earthquakes by an embarrassing 4-0 score line. It was the Galaxy’s sixth loss in a row. The team is so bad with Chicarito on the field that the numbers seem like you can’t make it up.
- In 9 appearances with Chicharito, the club has 0 wins, 7 losses, and 2 draws.
- Chicharito has 1 goal and 0 assists in 652 minutes.
- The Galaxy are being outscored 14-4 in the 652 minutes Chicharito is on the field
Sure, Jonathan Dos Santos left to play for Mexico, but San Jose is still a beatable opponent. And it almost seems as if the managerial hotseat is too hot for Guillermo Barros Schelotto to survive at this point. At this point, the Galaxy are going to have to cut as much deadweight as possible in the offseason and start from scratch.
Chicharito will have to return given his salary and the investment the club has for him. But he’s been poor. He’s not the reason why the Galaxy are so bad right now and the problems are much deeper (and have been for a long time. It was only Zlatan covering them up). But the Mexican is not showing himself to be part of the solution.
The problem, is that Chicharito almost requires the system and the team to be built around him. He needs service. He’s not going to create. But how do you build around a player who is playing poorly? Does that just make the problems worse?
Meanwhile, San Jose is generally on the upswing and is taking advantage of a very bad Western Conference. With four wins in five games, a post-season berth looks likely right now. Matias Almeyda’s seat was once hot, and now its cooling off. That has been an ongoing thing with him. Just when it looks like he is done, the team rallies.
What is interesting about San Jose, is that when they are playing well, they’re fun to watch. In the beatdown of the Galaxy, Nick Lima scored two nice goals.
The second was assisted by another 2003-born American and Cade Cowell.
One final note from this game. Christian Miles should be applauded for putting it so bluntly – and accurately.
FC Dallas impresses
FC Dallas had its best game of the month and snapped a four game winless skid on Wednesday when it downed Sporting Kansas City 1-0. The game’s only goal came in the 43rd minute and it was a very well-taken goal from Ryan Hollingshead on an assist from Bryan Reynolds.
But one thing to take note is that U.S. U-20 midfielder Tanner Tessmann had his best game of the season, or his pro career. Playing as a holding midfielder, Tessmann did it all. He passed from range and was involved. His defensive and physical game was also a lot more noticeable as he used his big frame to really serve as a disruptive force against Cincinnati.
Tanner Tessmann: raw # for FCD in a 1-0 win vs SKC— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) October 15, 2020
2 key passes
7/11 passing in final third
2 blocked shots
5/6 accurate long balls
- strong game from the US U-20 midfielder pic.twitter.com/gOssuJldJA
Dallas will likely have problems against Seattle, but if it comes down to the playoffs with one game on the line? They can pull an upset. The West is such an unpredictable mess, Dallas could do well if it peaks at the right time. It simply needs more offensive weapons right now and for Jesus Ferreira to get back on track.
Mueller Best XI?
Finally, a shout is in order for Chris Mueller. His goal on Wednesday in a 1-1 draw with New York City brought his season totals to eight goals and five assists in 1350 minutes. He’s been a big part of Orlando’s success this year and it should hardly be a surprise if he finds his way into the league’s Best XI at the end of the season.
The U.S. national team should also be within reach for Mueller right now. The wing options beyond Christian Pulisic and Jordan Morris aren’t really settled and there is no reason he can’t compete for a backup spot. I think he’ll at least get a shot at some point in 2021.
Quelle belle saison pour Chris Mueller ???????? qui marque le 1er but du match pour #OrlandoCity malgré l’égalisation de #NYCFC pour le partage des points ! C’est son 8ème but de la saison ! ???? pic.twitter.com/nGgQM51Djl— La MLS en Français ???????????????????????? (@MLS_FRA) October 15, 2020