MLS notebook

MLS notebook: a task for Messi-less Miami, Velasco's call-up, chasing DCU, Fraser fired, & more

ASN's Brian Sciaretta with some midweek thoughts on some big MLS topics. Can DC United hang on or are they just the anonymous henchman Miami and Messi will surpass? A look at Miami's chase and a game without Miami, plus writing about why Alan Velasco's call-up is huge. Finally, Robin Fraser is gone but it's probably better for him than Colorado. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 05, 2023
10:05 PM

THE WEEKEND IN MLS was dominated by Inter Miami and it’s 3-1 victory over LAFC in a high-quality and intense game that was yet another statement made by Messi since his arrival stateside. But there was plenty of other games to break down, so here are some thoughts on it all.

Labor Day pushed this column out a day and these games might be ancient history to many of you, but here are my thoughts.


Inter Miami’s statement


Inter Miami made its strongest statement yet when it travelled to Los Angeles and defeated LAFC 3-1. This wasn’t a shootout win or a close game that could have gone either way. This was a visit to a good LAFC team in front of a packed stadium, with the playoff pursuit on, with much publicity surrounding the game. Miami was able to win with goals coming in a variety of ways.

The big takeaway is that LAFC did not play poorly. The quality of this game was high – it was one of the best and most memorable games in the history of the league. I mean that.

So that leaves the question: nine games remaining, eight points back, the team they are chasing only has seven games remaining? Can Inter Miami make the playoffs.

First the good news, at the current rate they will.

The bad news: Miami is now chasing DC United, not Chicago and while DC United isn’t a good team, they’re better than the fading Chicago. DC also plays three of their next four at home. Also, Messi will not play the next game because he’s in Argentina for World Cup qualifiers. He could also miss a game next month.

The good news, however, is the two games in hand and the general lack of quality in the teams they are chasing. There is simply nothing special about DC United, Chicago, the Red Bulls, or NYCFC. Regarding missing Messi, I was on the radio and I had a debate on Tuesday morning whether Miami was a good team without Messi. I believe they are. Tata Martino is building a team with a unquestionable leader in Messi, but still a lot of talent around. It is a balanced and well-coached team.

Busquets, Martinez, Alba, Campana, Yedlin, Cremaschi, Callender, and now youth internationals abound for countries like Argentina, Paraguay, and the United States. That is more than enough talent to win an MLS game during an international window when both teams lose players.

Finally, this just feels like a team of destiny.  You can sense this with some teams that there is something about them where they refuse to lose. Giorgio Chiellini said it best after his LAFC team fell to Miami.

“That team is the best by far that I faced in MLS, to be honest. By far,” Chiellini said. “They are in a situation where it's not easy to reach the playoffs, but I bet on it. Not bet, really.”

“But I think they will join the playoffs and I don't want to be in the first seed in the East because you reach it to face Miami in the first round and you are first or second, then it's not so good. But this is the best team by far."


Fraser fired in Colorado


Robin Fraser was fired by the Colorado Rapids with the club sitting in last place in the Western Conference. With just 19 points on the season, they’re on pace to grab the wooden spoon.

Two years ago, Fraser led the Rapids to the best record in the Western Conference before an early exit in the playoffs.

My take is that the Rapids were run like a team where it is near impossible to win. The trades/sales of Auston Trusty and Kellyn Acosta were never adequately replaced. There is no depth to handle injuries – like the current one to Jack Price. Overall, the club has not brought in difference makers and there is generally no enthusiasm for the Rapids. That is not the fault of Fraser.

This isn’t to say Fraser was perfect or that he didn’t make mistakes, but he should land on his feet with another coaching job that will take him above where the Rapids stand right now.


Velasco’s Argentina call-up


Alan Velasco’s call-up to Argentina’s national team for World Cup qualifiers is significant news that is going to have a big impact. It’s one thing when an MLS teams splurges on a big star who is already entrenched into his national team.

But Velasco is earning his first call-up to Argentina’s national team after over 18 months with FC Dallas. Prior to that, he only had experience with Argentina’s U-17 team. His MLS play alone is earning him a call-up to the best national team in the world. Plus, these aren’t friendlies, these are the opening slate of South American World Cup qualifiers.

A big approach to many of the league’s teams has been to be very competitive in signing top young South American players, play them, and capitalize on the eventual sale to big teams. Miguel Almiron was a huge step in that direction but since him, it has only accelerated.

The league has encouraged this with a change in rules – the young DP rule and now the U-22 Initiative. The signings Inter Miami have made following Messi have been remarkable.

Argentina U-20 defender Tomás Avilés, Paraguayan national team midfielder Diego Gómez, Argentina youth international attacking midfielder Facundo Farías.

But part of the convincing part isn’t just money, it’s that playing in MLS is still going to keep them competitive with their national teams. That hasn’t been a problem with national teams such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, or sometimes even Colombia. But for a player to made inroads into Argentina based on what he is doing in MLS, it makes recruiting top players from the best South American leagues easier.


In total, 27 players with MLS teams were called up to South American national teams for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers this window.


Cincinnati losing at home


Another thing that got a lot of attention is that Orlando defeated Cincinnati 1-0 in Ohio.

This says more about Orlando than Cincinnati. Cincy will be fine, and it was always a matter of time before they lost a game in regulation at home. Staying undefeated at home was always a tall task.

As for Orlando, there is a lot to like. Over the last five MLS games the team has four wins and one draw. They haven’t conceded more than one goal in any of these five games and have scored nine goals. Seven of those goals have been from the run of play and there have been six different goal scorers.

Orlando is defending well, they are scoring goals, and have several different players who can score.

Orlando also recently shipped Ercan Kara off to Samsunspor in Turkey which is a great move for Orlando. Kara had been outplayed by American forward Duncan McGuire and this also gives Orlando an open DP spot for the future.

Orlando could be a tough out in the playoffs.


DC United’s playoff push


DC United now holds the final Eastern Conference playoff position and they’re the team that Inter Miami and everyone else is chasing. This comes after a 4-0 pounding of an imploding Chicago team.

The question is whether DC United can finish the job and get into the playoffs or are they just going to be an James Bond-like expendable anonymous henchman that Inter Miami will quickly and predictably surpass en route to the playoffs?

It’s going to be close. DC United is not a good team, but they are more likely to win games now than Chicago. DC United at least has three of its next four at home. Their final two games are against teams not above the playoff line.

We will find out a lot more about DC United in the weeks ahead. It is all there for the taking.

On a parting note, Theodore Ku-DiPietro scored again and looks very much like a player who could be good for the U.S. U-23 team. 


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