MLS breakdown

Kids shine again, Armas fired, Tessmann transfers, DC & RBNY rising

Kevin Paredes, Ricardo Pepi, and Cade Cowell keep the bal rolling with the youth movement, the Red Bulls finished a decent road trip, DC United had a historic win that ended Chris Armas' tenure as Toronto's head coach.. ASN's Brian Sciaretta chimes in with his thoughts from the weekend. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 04, 2021
10:45 AM

THE MLS SEASON HEADS into its final week before yet another break, this time for the Gold Cup. This weekend proved to be quite surprising on many different fronts and it actually led to our first coaching casualty of the season.

The weekend was, unfortunately, more revealing in who lost as opposed to who won. Teams who generally had the occasion to earn a valuable win failed to deliver – Orlando, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Portland were all favored in their games, but lost.

On the youth front, it continues to be a defining story of the season (or the past few stories) as top young homegrowns continued to put on extremely impressive performances on a consistent basis and this week we could see at least one more transfer to one of Europe’s top leagues.

With all that said, here were my top thoughts on what transpired.


Youth report: another good weekend


It was another good weekend full of goals, assists, and top performances from young Americans in this league. Even as players get sold, more are rising to take on prominent roles. Here were the highlights from the past week.

Ricardo Pepi: The FC Dallas forward was the best young American player in the league this past weekend. The El Paso native scored his third goal of the past two games in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Vancouver and also had three key passes. He had a big shot in the dying minutes that also forced a big save.

Kevin Paredes
: The DC United outside midfielder had a huge outing in Saturday’s 7-1 romp over Toronto FC. He opened the scoring just the second minute when the took advantage of a ball rolling through the box to beat Alex Bono. It was his first MLS goal. He also won 13/15 duels and did just about everything else right. His defensive marking needs a tad bit more work but that will come with experience. For now, he’s playing fantastic soccer.



Cade Cowell: The San Jose Earthquake winger joined Pepi and Paredes to become the third 2003-born player to score in the league this weekend. He took advantage of a poor Minnesota United turnover to open the scoring of what would be a 2-2 draw. It was his fourth goal of the season and second game in a row finding the back of the net.


Gianluca Busio: As he gets ready to head into his first tournament with the United States national team, Gianluca Busio was once again outstanding for Sporting Kansas City in a 2-0 away win over the LA Galaxy. While he only had 67 touches in this one (down from his typical 85-105 for a 90 minute game), he still completed 49/52 of his passes to dictate the game and was 7/9 in his long balls attempts. He’s becoming a master of the possession game – but it remains to be seen if that will translate over the U.S. team where that role typically hasn’t existed.

John Tolkin: The New York Red Bulls left back continues to start, play well, and make the club’s offseason acquisition of Andrew Gutman an afterthought (and Gutman generally played quite well early in the season). It’s pretty amazing that the league has been developing quality left backs lately with Tolkin joining Sam Vines and George Bello. It’s a production that American soccer fans would have been envious of in the not-too-distant past. It remains to be seen if Tolkin has the athleticism to play at the highest levels of the game, but he’s impressing.


Jesus Ferreira: Still just 20, it seems like Ferreira has been around forever. Since returning from injury, Ferreira has been playing very well for FC Dallas the past few weeks and his wonderful cross set up Pepi’s opening goal in the 2-2 draw. It’s always a question of what position is best for Ferreira and whether that position exists on his club. Right now he’s playing a false-nine position with freedom to get out wide when necessary – and it’s working.


Griffin Yow: The 2002-born Yow doesn’t play too often but his production rate is quite positive when he does play. On Saturday, he had a goal and an assist in just 28 minutes of action for DC United in a 7-1 win over a Toronto team which had just given up. Yow should eventually come to a point where he plays regularly but he’s a great option off the bench for an improving DC United team.


Josh Atencio: Playing in Seattle’s midfield isn’t easy as it is typically loaded with talent but the 2002-born Atencio has been helping the team get through a tough period with Lodeiro injured and Morris out for the year. In the 1-1 draw with Colorado, Atencio was sharp with his passing and his defense up the middle. He remains one of the more unexpected successful youth stories this season.


Tessmann close to joining Venezia


On Saturday, ESPN reported that FC Dallas midfielder Tanner Tessmann was on the verge of transferring to Venezia – which earned promotion to Serie A in May. ASN can confirm the said report.


It would be an enormous step up for Tessmann who hasn’t quite locked down a consistent starting spot for FC Dallas. Tessmann, 19, has a lot of talent but would probably need to go through an adjustment period moving into Serie A. Still, it’s very easy to see him becoming successful at some point. Venezia has ambitious owners but it will be a challenge to remain in the top flight next season.

FC Dallas has been willing to sell and loan players from its impressive academy but if the deal happens, it will give rise to the question whether or not Dallas sells its players too early and before they can leave a mark on the first team.

The problem with Dallas hasn’t been the homegrowns, it’s been the imports. But then why sell the players who are typically coming from its best-performing avenue?


RBNY passes test vs. Orlando


This three-game road trip (at New England, Atlanta, and Orlando) was always going to tell us a lot about the New York Red Bulls. This team has been inconsistent at times and tough to read, but it is still a very young team without much continuity from years past.

With that said, it’s hard to come away with any other conclusion that the team is on the right track. The team impressively defeated Orlando 2-1 on Saturday night to finish its road trip with four points. That was probably the breaking point to determine if the three-game swing was successful, but when considering that they played all three games without Caden Clark, it was even better.

There is so much to like about the Red Bulls right now. It’s an ideal blend of youth and experience. Clark was playing very well up to his appendectomy, Tolkin has been a very pleasant surprise. The foreign imports of Fabio and Patryk Klimala have been productive up top. Venezuelan international Cristian Casseras has made huge strides in his development. Kyle Duncan is one of the best right backs in the league. 

One side that should not be overlooked, however, is Sean Davis. The captain has been one of the more underrated players in the Eastern Conference this season and he absolutely should be on the Team of the Week for his outing against Orlando. He seems like a perfect captain for this type of team.


The Red Bulls could be a dangerous team come the fall but central defense remains a concern.

As for Orlando, this was a pretty surprising set back to drop this game. They have been winning but it has been a run of bottom feeding – defeating Toronto, San Jose, and Miami recently. This was its first test against a playoff-caliber team and it came up short at home. With Nani, Mueller, and Dike – it should absolutely have the fire power to get it done.



DC rising/Armas out


The most eye-opening score of the weekend was DC United’s 7-1 dismantling of Toronto FC in a game in which seven different players scored for DC United.

This game was a story of two different teams. First, DC United’s quiet improvement under Hernan Losada which took awhile but is gradually impressing in its high-press, fast paced, energetic style. Even in games where DC has lost, it has played well and played good teams closely (with recent one-goal losses to NYCFC, Philadelphia, and Orlando). Until Saturday, nothing has been eye-opening but the team is heading in the right direction.


Now on Saturday, Losada’s team showed a lot coming out of the gate with a ton of energy. Following last weekend’s heartbreaking 2-1 loss to NYCFC, the squad didn’t look shell shocked. Instead, it came out with enthusiasm and anger from every single player – from veteran leaders like Paul Arriola to youngsters like Kevin Paredes.

They played the game exactly how Losada wanted to play – fast paced, forcing turnovers, and quickly getting chances.


Of course, sports are a zero sum and for all of DC United’s impressive play, Toronto was equally impressive. The worst thing for Toronto, is that this was its sixth loss in a row – and by far the worst. It was so bad that it was obvious to anyone watching that the team had quit on its coach, Chris Armas. The downfall of this team since its win over Cruz Azul in March is staggering. Even with Alejanrdo Pozeuelo now back and able to play alongside Yeferson Soteldo for the first time, it made zero difference. That is an expensive disappointment.

On Sunday, Toronto announced that it had fired Armas – which anyone had seen coming. The team had quite and the manager has been unable to get a response. But front office needs to share some of the blame. It is an old roster and its defense looked weak on paper in the preseason. Toronto has been great for most of the past seven seasons but it has tried to ride out an aging core for too long – while sprinkling in designated players.



Chicago rolls past Atlanta


Is there a harder team to figure out than Atlanta United under Gabriel Heinze? It’s tough to preach patience for an Atlanta United fanbase that always wants to win, but Heinze was given a big task to revive Atlanta United after the brutal hire of Frank de Boer and a roster that had gradually been depleted from its epic 2018 season.

There is no question Heinze has brough a lot more energy to the table than the de Boer era (or the interim staff in 2020) but it’s not clicking yet. The team’s finishing is off and there are too many defensive mistakes. All that was on display on Saturday in a surprising 3-0 defeat to Chicago.


That loss saw Atlanta move to six games without a win (two losses and four draws). Heinze should have a long leash and its clear the team hasn’t quit on him, but it really can use a win midweek against Nashville.

As for Chicago, this was a surprising performance and at least Rapha Wicky can try to build on a win following a fun 3-3 draw with Philadelphia.


Wild one in new Crew shrine


Another month, another fantastic new stadium on display in this league. It’s amazing to think that the great Red Bull Arena is now one of the older stadiums in MLS.

But this was a show on Saturday night and it was unfortunate for the hosts as they were unable deliver a win against the New England Revolution and instead settled for a 2-2 draw. The Crew are beginning to look a lot more dangerous from the run of play right now but still now exit this game without a win in their last three games.


The Crew dominated this game but were the victim of just some great individual quality from the Revs with Buchanan and Bou striking early. But the Crew had a whopping 68% possession in this game and, while they needed luck to equalize with the terrible own goal from Andrew Ferrelll, the Crew would have found a winner if the game were to go on another 10-15 minutes.

Things seem to be coming together for the Crew and moving forward their stadium will be a fortress. They’re not terribly deep but when healthy, they seem to be a team that will figure things out. Once they get into the playoffs, the nature of the game changes. Then it comes down to individual quality and that’s why this team will succeed.


As for New England, the last two games haven’t been great with the loss to Dallas and the draw against the Crew. But now they’re heading into a four-game stretch against teams that they should beat - Toronto, Atlanta, Inter Miami, and Montreal.

Sitting atop the East while staring at that schedule puts them in a great place while they work out a few issues. Portland, and Colorado – and this team needs points to get out of the hole in the Western Conference.

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