Midweek MLS: Seattle's historic win, Mueller to Hibs, Miami's mess, and much more
July 23, 2021
THERE WERE MIDWEEK MLS games and all but two games took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. Many teams remain shorthanded with players missing due to international competitions, so it was a test of depth and resolve. Some teams passed the teams, some failed.
Here a few thoughts the midweek games from Tuesday and Wednesday as well a look at a few top stories.
Mueller to Hibernian
Chris Mueller will turn 25 next month and is in the last year of his contract with Orlando City. Last season he was arguably close to being a Best XI for MLS. The winger started off slowly this season but since then has picked up his game.
After rumors surrounding his departure have intensified, Thursday became official when Hibernian announced it had signed the former University of Wisconsin standout to a precontract that will go into effect in January. Hibs finished third in the Scottish Premiership last season.
It’s a far different move from the types of moves we see these ays out of MLS for American players. Mueller isn’t a young homegrown player. It’s also obvious that Mueller isn’t in Gregg Berhalter’s plans if he can’t even make the current Gold Cup team and he also wasn’t a former standout on the U.S. youth national teams. Finally, he is not the type of player who is moving because he isn’t playing in MLS – there have been cases like this recently with Christian Ramirez going to Aberdeen and Henry Wingo going to Molde, and now Ferencvaros.
Instead, Mueller is a player entering in his prime years, who hasn’t had much involvement with U.S. Soccer but has been an important player for one of the better teams in the league and he’s leaving on a free transfer to a league outside of the “Big Five” of Europe. These types of moves are unusual these days but used to be more common (Michael Parkhurst is the best example but there are plenty of other examples – like Nate Jaqua, Chris Rolfe, Danny Califf, Khiry Shelton, Perry Kitchen).
This is a risky move by Mueller who is betting on himself. He’s probably sacrificing pay (based on whatever the final offer was for Orlando) to sign this move but long term his goal is to hope it paves the way for a bigger move soon. MLS has indeed been a selling league and it has developed and sold impressive talent the past few seasons. But those players sold were kids. The track record of selling prime age players is still not certain – and perhaps Mueller is not as confident in the future pathway abroad if he remains in Orlando.
As for Orlando, losing Mueller is huge. If Dike goes as well, it’s an enormous setback. If Orlando keeps Dike through the season (as well as Mueller), then this is the best hope to win a title for a while. It’s harder to see the club remaining competitive the same way Philadelphia did after Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie were both sold this past off season.
Seattle’s Historic win
With the Seattle Sounders having three games inside of a week, head coach Brian Schmetzer decided to start five teenagers on Thursday for a game against Austin FC – some of which are no where close to being 20 years old yet.
This is simply a historic win. Brian Schmetzer starts five teenagers in a game for the #Sounders and wins on the road against Austin 1-0. Some of these kids aren't anywhere close to being 20— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) July 23, 2021
1) Dobbelaere (18)
2) Atencio (19)
3) Vargas (15)
4) Leyva (18)
5) Baker-Whiting (16)
But on top of that, Seattle won the game, 1-0. The goal was not scored by a teenager, it was scored by Raul Ruidiaz in what was one of the nicest goal of the season.
Here are the angles to watch the wonder goal from Ruidiaz. Whoa. What a goal! pic.twitter.com/4QtJFIDx97— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) July 23, 2021
What does this mean? This doesn’t just reflect on the quality of players in the league, it shows just how impressive the Sounders organization is with their culture of winning. Even without Jordan Morris and Nicholas Lodeiro, the team finds a way to get it done.
“It's a combination of guys that are willing to step up when they're given the opportunity and just the winning mentality that the club has had for so long now,” Josh Atencio said. “When you're going through the academy, they teach the kids that you have you have to win every game that you step into, every time you have an opportunity and a game and practice, anything - you're trying to win as much as possible. That mentality starts in us when we're young and it definitely translates up through every factor in the club. Every guy in that locker room wants to win every single game. It shows in the results.”
MLS has grown younger in recent years but nothing like this. This was impressive by any standard.
In this game, the kids all played well. Josh Atencio was probably the best of the bunch playing out of position in central defense (as he’s typically a defensive midfielder). Reed Baker-Whiting also looked well beyond his years at left midfield, playing well on both sides of the ball.
This was a win that will be talked about for quite some time.
The Revs trounce Miami
While New England is a good team, this was a game which Inter Miami should have won. New England was playing without Henry Kessler, Matt Turner, and Tajon Buchanan due to international commitments. Instead, Miami lost 5-0 at home to shorthanded New England team.
It was an embarrassing performance from Phil Neville’s side which was completely overrun. It’s beyond a discussion over tactics or squad selection, this is a basic question over the team’s willingness to fight for results. That is seriously lacking.
Miami is poorly put together, and the team failed to learn the lessons of what it takes to win in this league. Bringing in a bunch of older, European-based players and having that be the core of the team hasn’t worked since David Beckham and Robbie Keane left. Since then, it is all about spending heavily younger and prime-aged designated players. Miami instead tried to recreate an MLS team from 1996 and it’s not working.
Phil Neville didn’t put the team together, but the performances are still falling well blow the sum of the team’s parts. That is on him. Now does Beckham have it in him to put his friend on the hot seat?
Many pegged Miami doomed to failure before the start of the season. This has played out as expected and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better anytime soon.
Red Bulls and Toronto draw
The Red Bulls will be disappointed with their 1-1 draw against Toronto on Wednesday night. A draw on the road isn’t bad but this was a strange game. For the first hour, the Red Bulls dominated. Then for the final 30 minutes, the team was pinned back as Toronto raised its game. The Red Bulls just didn’t do enough when it had control of the game – and managed just one goal.
Then in the 60th minute, Toronto took over. The equalizer came in the 62nd minute when Red Bull keeper Carlos Coronel cleared a cross back into the middle of the field and Toronto teenager Ralph Priso capitalized.
The big takeaway from this game is that it was the best performance by Toronto’s Venezuelan designated player Yeferson Soteldo. When Toronto controlled the game, it was Soteldo doing everything. This was the first time he looked like the dominant player Toronto fans were expecting.
As for the Red Bulls, they lost energy but were able to secure a point. It was the first game back for Caden Clark since his appendectomy and the future Leipzig player will only help the team improve. John Tolkin continues to impress at left back. For now, it’s about getting service to Patryk Klimala and Fabio up top – something they’re not doing nearly enough.
FC Dallas fall again
It’s easy for neutral fans to want FC Dallas due to their impressive academy that has churned out an impressive percentage of the U.S. national team. But the FC Dallas first team is struggling mightily right now with just two wins from 14 games. That has the club sitting in the basement of the Western Conference.
Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to Colorado on the road was its third loss in a row for FC Dallas and the team is struggling mightily on offense and it has now been over 200 minute since the team scored a goal. Good news is few and far between for Dallas right now but news on homegrowns is about the best you can do.
Justin Che, 17, looks the part and while he probably will play central defense long term, he is very talented. Bayern Munich remains interested in him for a reason. Last night in the loss, Che won 13/17 duels – which is exceptional. He was also 4/4 on dribbles, and 3/3 on tackles, while drawing four fouls.
Aside from Che, the best you could point out is that Paxton Pomykal continues to start. After missing that much time, it is good to see Pomykal back but it might not be until next year until he looks back to his former self.
As for Colorado, Robin Fraser has been one of the best managers in MLS this season. Sam Vines isn’t coming back and Cole Bassett will continue to gain interest. But it’s easy to be pro Colorado right now because Fraser has been running a good operation in the Rockies.
Orlando downs Philadelphia
On Thursday night, Orlando City defeated Philadelphia 2-1 as Orlando took a 2-0 lead but was pinned back and forced to defend to preserve the win.
The best player in this game was Andres Perea, 20, who has been playing well as of late and looks to be far improved from the failed Olympic qualifying effort.
Orlando could be staring at a heavy rebuild after Mueller and potentially Dike as well. Perea should be the type of player that they can be part of that difficult stage.