MLS analysis

MLS thoughts: Gutierrez shines, Youth report, RBNY & finishing, FCD & LAG impress, & more

ASN's Brian Sciaretta gives his thoughts on Week 1 in MLS including a look at young American players who impressed. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 27, 2024
9:05 AM

WEEK ONE OF THE 2024 MLS Season is in the books and given that it is a big league with a lot of teams, every round of games gives us a lot of talking points. As always in this time of the season, you can’t draw too many big picture thoughts. Teams will look vastly different in September while other teams are trying to juggle the CONCACAF Champions League.

With those disclaimers out of the way, here are some quick thoughts.


American Youth update


There are always a lot of people who want to keep track of how young American players are developing in the league – myself included. Given that this is an Olympic year, the U-23 cutoff is 2001. That’s not necessarily young in the soccer spectrum, but until the Olympic roster is named it is a cutoff that makes sense in terms of defining young. After the Olympics, we can get back to teenagers and U-20 eligible players.

Here were the American youngsters who caught my eye in week one.


Brian Gutierrez

But among the U-23 pool, no one had a better week than Brian Gutierrez who had a goal and an assist in Chicago’s impressive 2-2 away draw with the Philadelphia Union. Fresh off his new big U-22 initiative deal, Gutierrez scored a wonder goal and then had an assist late which looked as if it would win it for the Fire.

The issue for Gutierrez was always to produce more goals and assists. So far, so good.


Patrick Schulte

The U.S. U-23 goalkeeper earned a clean sheet win for the Columbus Crew in a 1-0 win over Atlanta. Schulte only had to make two saves, but he was there when the Crew needed him. Overall, it was a good outing for Schulte who ended 2023 with a title.


Aidan Morris

The Crew midfielder helped his team control the game with 79 touches, 59/64 passing (including 6/7 in long balls). At this point, he seems like a lock for the Olympics.


Quinn Sullivan

Through the Union’s first two games (Concacaf Champions Cup and MLS opener), Quinn Sullivan looks like he has taken some huge strides in his game. In the 3-2 win over Saprissa, Sullivan was important to the build-up of two goals. Then against the Fire in the 2-2 draw, he assisted on the Union’s first goal. Whether he has leveled up or this is a temporary rise in form remains to be seen. But it’s worth keeping an eye on.


Jack McGlynn

Staying in Philadelphia, Jack McGlynn is also off to a nice start with the Union. The question about McGlynn was never about his talent or skill, but rather his athleticism. Through two games, he has been holding up very well with the added responsibilities he has now to be a lynchpin in the midfield.


Dante Sealy

After a long loan to Jong PSV, Dante Sealy returned to FC Dallas in 2023 and is now thriving in a wingback role. Sealy absolutely crushed it in the Dallas preseason and while preseason numbers can be unreliable, he came out in the season opener playing left wingback and hit a 94th minute winner for FC

It’s probably going to be too late for him to make the Olympic team, but he might still have a shot with the way he’s been playing.


Caden Clark


It’s been a while, but it’s good to see Caden Clark back and playing – hopefully regularly. He helped Minnesota in setting up this late goal in a 2-1 away win over Austin. He is still Olympic eligible.


Nimfasha Berchimas

It was only a brief debut, but Nimfasha Berchimas making his debut for Charlotte is something to watch given his age and upside. He should see minutes for Charlotte this season while also taking time to play with U.S. youth national teams.


Esmir Bajraktarevic


The New England winger comes into this season with a lot of hype – and for good reason given his upside and the fact he is playing with the U.S. U-23 team up a cycle. New England lost its season opener to DC United 3-1 but that was due to the Revs going down to 10 players in the first half. Bajraktarevic still played well wining 13/13 of his ground duels and going 3/3 in dribbles. He also drew seven fouls.


RBNY and finishing


It sounds like a broken record for a number of years now, but if the Red Bulls even had halfway decent finishing, they’d be a real problem for a most of the teams in this league. That was the case in Sunday’s 0-0 away draw against Nashville.

They hit the woodwork three times and just dominated but couldn’t score.

I’m optimistic for the Red Bulls this season. I think they’ll make adjustments during the year and young players like Julian Hall will play. Lewis Morgan will make his way back. But, RBNY squandered two points in this game.

Meanwhile, Nashville was missing some important players but it could be a tough season for them.


Columbus makes a statement


You couldn’t help but be impressed with Columbus in the 1-0 win over Atlanta. The first half gave the Crew just one goal but Wilfried Nancy’s team really dictated how the game was played. They should have scored more than one goal. That could have been early season rust. I think by midseason, this type of performance puts three in the back of the net.

Atlanta was a little shell shocked at the start but were better in the second half after settling down and making some adjustments.  United has a lot of talent and will still be good this year with a great No. 10 and No. 9. That goes a long way.


Austin & Colorado were woeful


Without a doubt, the biggest losers of the weekend were Austin FC and the Colorado Rapids. Colorado was steamrolled by Portland in a 4-1 loss. While playing away to Portland is a tough assignment, this game was non-competitive from the start. Colorado made a lot of news in the offseason, but were any of the moves convincingly good? Chris Armas arrived with a Red Bull philosophy but is Djordje Mihailovic the right fit for that system? Meanwhile, Zack Steffen has a lot of rust and it’s asking a lot of him to bail this team out.

Meanwhile, it was even worse for Austin FC who were outplayed at home in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota.  The warning signs were there for this team last year and they did not do nearly enough in the offseason. Sebastian Driussi didn’t play in this game, but he is not going to carry this team by himself. There just isn’t a lot of substance on Austin FC.

On the flip side, they were nice wins for Portland and Minnesota but it’s tough to read much, if anything, into their respective performances given the weakness of their respective opponents. It’s hard to buy a lot of Minnesota stock, however, when the team had the entire offseason but is only getting a coach this week, after the season.


Big win for LAFC

Coming off a tough MLS Cup loss and questions about the team's direction with Carlos Vela not brought back (as of yet), LAFC returned to action with a win over rivals Seattle, who are still among the best in the league. New left back Omar Campos was impressive in this game for LAFC and the team overall just looked ready to compete.

As for Seattle, this was a tough assignment. The good news is that expensive new import Pedro de la Venga looked up to the part. Once he is fit to start, Seattle will be among the best. Seattle was also missing a lot of players in this one. This was not a Seattle team close to 100%.


Toronto impresses


It was a combination of a Toronto team playing with anger or a chip on their shoulder and Cincinnati distracted by the Champions Cup that saw the teams play to a 0-0 draw.

John Herdman was brought into Toronto to fix the dysfunctional culture, but the team also did not make as many offseason changes you would expect for team that tanked in 2023 due to culture. But the team travelled into Cincinnati and left with a point. That's certainly very good. There is a long way to go with TFC, but they'll take this result with a smile. If they can build on it, good. I still don't think they have the depth to be good this year, but rebuilding TFC is a process.

As for Cincinnati, replacing Brandon Vazquez isn't going to be easy. They're now going to feel the loss of selling their two best scorers in 2023. Corey Baird isn't the replacement for that. But they are good in the back, which should keep the floor high.


Dallas gets dramatic win


I predict Dallas to do well this season and Saturday’s 2-1 win over San Jose was a nice first step. Yes, San Jose is not a top team in the West, but Dallas was without new DP forwards Petar Musa, who is expected to be elite in MLS and they were without the injury Jesus Ferreira and Paxton Pomykal.

Those are enormous losses for FC Dallas, but they still found a way to outplay San Jose for most of the match (outshooting San Jose 21-10). It took a last gasp goal, but Dallas deserved to win this game.


 Galaxy and Miami draw


The marquee game of the weekend was the Galaxy playing Inter Miami to a 1-1 draw in LA. The Galaxy was the better team, and this should be encouraging to fans of that team who have seen their team fall by the wayside while LAFC have begun to be the top dog in SoCal.

This is where early season games can be misleading. Were the Galaxy tired from long trip to the west or were they tired from having played a midweek game? But either way, Inter Miami was a step slow in this one and needed a Messi goal to force a late draw. But Drake Callender was outstanding in this one and kept Inter Miami in the game.

This is the concern for Miami. They are going to be rolling out an old lineup and could be in trouble as the season begins to take its toll. If other teams can turn the game into a track meet, that could be the formula that makes Miami beatable.

As for the Galaxy, they played well, and this was an encouraging start to the season given how poorly last season went for them.

Post a comment