MLS Week 16 breakdown
Dallas kids shine, solid MLS youth numbers, Wooten, Portland's rise & more
June 24, 2019
IT WAS A slower weekend in MLS with just six games on the docket due to the ongoing Gold Cup and Copa America tournaments which has drained the league of several players. So, for many of the teams, it was a question of depth.
Here are a few notes about the past weekend and some of the headline moves that transpired last week.
Youth numbers remain strong
Despite the limited number of games, the number of U.S youth national team eligible players making appearances in the league remained strong.
- 2019 U-20: Frankie Amaya, Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania, Edwin Cerrillo, Jesus Ferreira (citizenship pending), Sam Vines
- 2021 U-20: Julian Araujo, Bryan Reynolds
- 2023 U-20/2019 U-17: Ricardo Pepi
- 2019 U-17: Sebastian Anderson, Efrain Alvarez (playing for Mexico at the moment)
- 2020 U-23: Justen Glad, Sebastian Saucedo, Aaron Herrera, Jerimiah Gutjahr, Brooks Lennon, Jeremy Ebobisse, Eryk Williamson, Gedion Zelalem, JJ Williams
That is a healthy number of young players getting on the field and Pepi’s debut was particularly impressive given just how young he is. But even more important that playing is the fact a lot of these players had significant and positive impacts on the game.
Pomykal was once again very impressive for Dallas in a big win. Jesus Ferreira (who is closing in on his citizenship) had two assists. Jeremy Ebobisse had a very nice goal and Julian Araujo is picking up where he left off before the U-20 World Cup.
Paxton Pomykal vs Toronto FCpic.twitter.com/Lj4ttuTj86— USMNT Videos (@USMNTvideos) June 24, 2019
Youthful Dallas demolishes Toronto
FC Dallas has earned a lot of praise with how it has backed up its talk and played young players this year. Paxton Pomykal is a potential star and Jesus Ferreira could be an impact player for the U.S. U-23 team should he get his citizenship soon. Those two have been well documented.
Jesus Ferreira (18) vs. Toronto FC:— Future USMNT (@FutureUsmnt) June 23, 2019
89 Minutes Played
76% Passing Accuracy
8 Chances Created (Game High)
6 Key Passes
2 Duels Won
2/2 Dribbles Completed (Game High)
Man of the match and one of the top performances by a player in MLS last night ???????? pic.twitter.com/yZWRQxBYtF
But keep an eye on Brandon Servania who is finally getting minutes and making the most of his chances. After scoring a special goal midweek in the Open Cup, Servania was very good again over the weekend in a win over Toronto.
The 3-0 win over Toronto was particularly impressive. Yes, Toronto was significantly drained of talent due to international duty. Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore were both gone to the U.S. team and Ashtone Morgan and Jonathan Osorio were playing for Toronto. But Dallas has also been affected with the absence of Bryan Acosta, Reggie Cannon, and Carlos Gruezo.
But Dallas thoroughly demolished Toronto and the 3-0 score was actually flattering to Toronto – which was outshot 22-6. Pomykal owned the midfield and Ferreira finished with two assists. But just look at the homegrown players which dominated this game: Pomykal, Ferreira, Servania, and Cerrillo. Meanwhile 2003-born Ricardo Pepi made his league debut and Bryan Reynolds also played. Reggie Cannon also played for the U.S. team and Dallas-academy product Reggie Cannon was on the field for the final whistle of the U.S. team’s 6-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago.
It’s one thing to play kids and try to sell them. Many clubs across the globe play kids. But it’s another thing to win with playing kids. If Dallas can remain in the top tier of playoff teams, it will be an important blueprint that winning without massive designated players and big TAM signings is also a possibility. It’s exciting to see Dallas goes from this. If Pomykal is sold, then the talented Thomas Roberts might be ready to step into his place.
Meanwhile, Toronto looks in rough shape. It is not very deep at the moment and has a ton of holes.
LA Galaxy over Cincinnati
It wasn’t surprising that the Galaxy rolled past FC Cincinnati. The Galaxy look back on track after a surprisingly poor 2018. Cincinnati are not the expansion team ready to made a big impact right off the bat – like LAFC or Atlanta.
U.S. international Sebastian Lletget played for the Galaxy despite an injury which kept him off the Gold Cup team. To get back into the U.S. team, he will have to raise his game as players like Paxton Pomykal, Jackson Yueill, and Duane Holmes are now also in the mix.
Analyst Matt Doyle raised a good point about Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his relationship with his teammates. Does he upstage them? Is he too much of an individual within the context of a team? There was an instant when he did not make much of an effort to run after a pass that was not where he wanted it to be.
In the end, this is Zlatan and at his age, he is never going to change. He’s been at the Galaxy where everyone should be familiar with how he is – for better or for worse. He’s still critical to the team’s success and one of the best players in the league. But with his personality so globally known, I think most people take his antics with a grain of salt. Not many people can get away with how he acts but Zlatan can.
From an American perspective, Julian Araujo looked strong in the start for the Galaxy. The Galaxy have done a good job developing him and getting a return on its academy is critical. For Cincinnati, Frankie Amaya was solid in the loss although if he makes the jump to the U-23 level, finding a position for him will be tricky.
Timbers look dominant
On one hand you have Dallas winning with internally developed youth. On the other hand you have Portland Timbers which are eager to spend money on good players – and not think much about development.
Brian Fernandez looks like an absolutely massive addition to Portland and he is taking the league by storm after ripping up Liga MX with Necaxa. When combined with receiving passes from players like Diego Valeri, it is easy to see Portland overcoming its sluggish start and climbing the standings quickly due to a combination of Fernandez and playing mostly home games moving forward. On Saturday, Portland rolled past Houston 4-0 in a game that was all one-way traffic.
What is interesting about Fernandez is that he is helping to elevate the players around him. U.S. U-23 forward Jeremy Ebobisse is a big beneficiary of Fernandez’s arrival since he now has more space to operate. The Duke product scored a very nice goal to round out the scoring.
LAFC and the LA Galaxy are the cream of the crop in the West but neither would want to face Portland right now in the playoffs– even at home. Portland is in 11th place out of 12 in the Western Conference but is only three points out of the playoff spots. It’s only a matter of time before they are above the line.
Wooten potential impact
Andrew Wooten, 29, signed with Philadelphia last week as was expected. The American forward joins the club after a long career in the 2.Bundesliga where he was a very good goal scorer at that level. What makes him even more impressive is that he was so good in Germany’s second tier despite playing on relegation-battling teams where getting service is not always easy.
Now for the first time in Wooten’s career, he will be playing for a winning team that is in first place in its conference and will be playing for silverware. Philadelphia made a big deal of Wooten’s singing and their new player looked genuinely happy to be a part of it. He’s made no secret of his desire to play stateside and now he will coming into the league just weeks removed from finishing his best-ever season of 17 goals for Sandhausen. Wooten should be fit and in-form to make an immediate impact.
Will he be a good fit for Philadelphia? There is plenty of reasons to be optimistic for Union fans. Wooten won’t score a lot from distance but he will a monster at cleaning up inside the box. Also Marco Fabian, Brendan Aaronson, Alejandro Bedoya, Fafa Picault, Sergio Santos, and Haris Medunjanin should be able to get him better service than he had at Sandhausen.
Philadelphia clearly has a lineup that looks like it can win the East.
Gianluca Busio is one of the best players on the U.S. U-17 team and has been receiving a healthy dose of playing time this season from Sporting Kansas City. Right now, however, he is on the shelf due to a head injury which are always serious and scary.
I've updated my #CLBvSKC preview to reflect the new injuries to Busio and Medranda.— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) June 23, 2019
A head injury to Busio is a bad sign. If that's a concussion that could linger for quite some time. #SportingKC https://t.co/jWuMx1fEUB
It is unclear how long Busio will be out but this is bad news for him, Sporting, and the U.S. U-17 team.