MLS notbook

MLS: Miami in the playoffs? Young stars behind Messi shine, Herdman to Toronto, Union rising & more

ASN's Brian Sciaretta offers up some MLS thoughts in between matchdays and talks about Miami's playoff chances, Herdman's task in Toronto, and other thoughts from around the league as the playoff races come into focus
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
August 29, 2023
6:00 AM

THE WEEKEND IN MLS saw Lionel Messi make his league debut, another Argentine national team player make a case as the player of the week, and the playoff races start to become clear as to who is likely in, who is out, and who will be tough to beat there.

With all that said, here are some of my observations?


Miami's playoff chances?


This is the big question right now: can Inter Miami possibly make the playoffs? It’s going to be extremely difficult but no one has yet proven that they can beat Miami with Messi. Many fans are hoping for it (many are not), but let’s look at things.

Miami is 11 points behind Chicago for the final spot. But they’ve only played 23 games. Everyone they’re chasing has played between 24-26 games. Chicago is the measuring stick and they have played 25.

Here are the cons: or Miami, a draw is almost as bad as a loss and Miami has show that teams can take them to penalties – which would be a draw in league play.

Chicago is on pace to finish between 43 and 44 points based on their 1.28 points per game average this season.

Miami has 21 points right now with 11 games left. Over those 11 games, Miami is going to likely need 22-23 points (or 2.0 to 2.1 points per game). . Here is what they would need to do, hypothetically.

  •        There is no combination with 5 wins that gets them to the likely 22-23 points needed.
  •        6 wins could get them there, but only if the remaining results are draws (23 points).
  •        7 wins from the final 11 games and it becomes more realistic. That’s a baseline of 21 points. Then Miami could actually take a loss or two and still make it (7w, 2D, and 2L is 23 points).
  •        8 wins or more from the final 11 games means the playoffs become likely. 


But there are other scenarios. If Chicago plays better than usual down the stretch, Miami needs more points. Also, there are the variables of DC United, New York Red Bulls, Charlotte, and New York City who are all between Miami and Chicago. If any of those teams catch fire and play well, it could make things a lot more difficult.

Plus, Miami cannot play Messi every single minute. Sure, they only played Messi for 30 minutes against the Red Bulls and still won but the Red Bulls are not a playoff team given their inability to score. The next four Miami opponents will be against playoff caliber teams.

But to give you an idea of how well Miami will need to play, if you look at the nine games the team has played since Messi arrived and you count the games that went to penalties as draws, their record is 6W, 3D, and 0L for 21 points. That is a rate of 2.333 points per game.

In other words, Miami must continue to play just as well as it has over the past nine games and that might be enough. If they let up at all, it probably won’t be enough.

On the other hand, how can you count Messi out? That game against Chicago in Chicago on October 4 is going to be massive. 


Getting past RBNY


Messi’s MLS debut was, as you’d expect, a home run. Playing just the final 30 minutes, Messi scored the final goal for a 2-0 win. It was the big story in the league.

For the Red Bulls, the big story was the team’s continued inability to score. Frankie Amaya is the team’s leading scorer with just four goals and those were in a brief five-game run from the end of June into July. Their forward and wing production is terrible. Sure, Drake Callender made some very nice saves, but Omir Fernandez blew a wide-open chance in the first half that should always be converted.


The Red Bulls need to climb to make the playoffs but doing so requires a goal scorer which they do not have.

As for more notes beyond Messi, this team’s youthful contingent are a wonderful complement to Alba, Busquets, and Messi.

Young American Noah Allen, 19, assisted on the opening goal from Paraguayan attacking midfielder Diego Gomez, who is just 20.


But then you have Benja Cremaschi, 18, who assisted on Messi’s goal with a wonderful pass into the middle. Cremaschi is getting a ton of attention given his ties to both the USA and Argentina. Will he get called up to the USMNT roster this week? That would be a very big move by Gregg Berhalter.


Herdman takes Toronto


John Herdman is the new Toronto manager as he will leave the Canadian national team job to inherit the biggest mess in MLS. In as sense he is going from a team with a wonderful culture that is poorly funded to a team with a horrible culture that is well funded.


That’s the name of the game for Herdman. It’s about building a team that gets along and is all on the same page. It’s a huge task. But to watch a team with Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi struggle is extremely difficult for their fans. This should be the flagship club of all of Canada.

Yes, they need a lot more players. But they need to build a culture that draws players and allows players to play up to their potential. Can Herdman be another Tata Martino?


Other MLS thoughts


I was a bit wrong when I said Columbus was selling their season when they shipped Lucas Zelarayan to Saudi Arabia. Diego Rossi is a perfect replacement that is more mobile and is younger. Columbus is on the list of teams that can win MLS Cup. The 2-0 win over Toronto was another step in the right direction. Rossi scored his first MLS goal for the team. 

But Aidan Morris was also huge. And it's important that U.S. Soccer get the Olympic team up and going soon becuase Morris should be a big part of the team. 


Cincinnati is in great shape to win the Supporters Shield after a 3-0 thumping of NYCFC. First of all, Cincinnati has so many ways to beat teams from Luciano Acosta to Brandon Vazquez. Meanwhile, NYCFC is a mess and it’s hard to see Nick Cushing lasting beyond this season.

Speaking of Vazquez, if Josh Sargent is injured, could Vazquez sneak onto the USMNT roster for September. Pepi hasn’t been playing much but he should be there. Balogun in in the middle of switching teams and also hasn’t played. Vazquez is at least playing and playing well now as he heads into a winter where he is likely going to be sold.

Orlando won its third game in a row in a big 2-1 victory over a St. Louis team that is leading the West. The East has a lot more good teams than the west right now. Orlando has been inconsistent but they’re trending up at the right time.

The Western playoff race for the final spot is tight. Seventh place Vancouver and 10th place Minnesota are separated by just two points. Austin is trending in the wrong direction after squandering a stoppage time goal to Dallas in a 1-0 loss. The team has completely lost its magic from last year. They started the season with terrible central defense and an embarrassing loss in the Champions League. Now they’ve upgraded defense slightly and then struggle to score.

Minnesota is out of the playoff spots now, but they had a strong start. The 1-1 draw at home to Seattle is disappointing but they should be in good shape to climb into the playoffs. Five of their next seven are at home. Minnesota’s gain would be Austin’s loss.

Philadelphia is playing like the team everyone hoped and expected they would be at the start of the season and they completely played DC United off the field 3-1 in DC. Jack McGlynn has been raising his game lately. He was good in the stretch of the Leagues Cup and he’s even better now.

Post a comment