MLS analysis

MLS Youth report, Phlly & Orlando held to draws in CONCACAF, RBNY rising, Seattle concerns, & more

ASN's Brian Sciaretta writes up his thoughts on some MLS news and includes is weekly Youth Report in looking at top American USYNT eligible players in the league. Also included are thoughts on the Champions League, Seattle problems, Yedlin traded, and more. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 06, 2024
9:05 AM

THE SECOND FULL WEEK of the 2024 MLS season is in the books and we have a midweek slate of the CONCACAF Champions Cup before we get to round three. Everyone knows how difficult it is to draw conclusions with early season games, but somethings are hard to ignore too.

From a youth perspective, things are progressing nicely as just about all of the Olympic hopefuls are starting and enough of the U-20 prospects are playing regularly ahead of this summer’s U-20 World Cup qualifiers.

With that said, here are some thoughts on recent MLS games and news


American Youth update


John Tolkin: After dealing with an injury during preseason, John Tolkin returned to the RBNY for Saturday’s big 2-1 away win over Houston. Tolkin was rusty and wasn’t really himself, but the fact he was back was a step forward in his push to make the Olympic team – which is very deep at left back.

Dan Edelman: Sticking with the Red Bulls, Dan Edelman had a very nice showing in the win over Houston. The 2023 U-20 World Cup captain was solid on both sides of the ball, and offensively he played six balls into the attacking third while also winning duels and defending. He’s a long shot for the Olympic team, but is still turning into a solid professional.

Duncan McGuire: Orlando had a terrible outing in a 5-0 loss to Inter Miami. Orlando’s biggest offensive problem is that they were only able to get McGuire six touches before he was pulled at the half. That’s mostly on Orlando’s midfield and wingers, but it’s worth watching if McGuire is doing everything he can to get on the ball.

Kristian Fletcher: The U.S. U-20 forward scored an 81st minute equalizer for DC United to force a 2-2 away draw with Portland on Saturday. More is expected of Fletcher this season after a loan to Swansea’s U-21 team last fall (where he scored at a very high rate). There is still stuff he needs to work on. In his 18-minute shift against Portland, he was 0/3 in dribbles and 0/5 in ground duels. But he reads the game very well and knows where to be. With proper coaching and development, he could be an effective player.

Josh Atencio: Josh Atencio has started Seattle’s first two games out of the gate and he has done well playing as a deeper midfielder. It’s not just his defense, he’s been doing well creating from No. 6 position. He’s on the Olympic team bubble and needs to both play well and have things break his way. Aidan Morris and Tanner Tessman are in his way.

Obed Vargas: The younger Seattle midfielder looks behind Atencio on the Seattle depth chart and that likely has him far back of the Olympic team now. He’s got a big upside but he’s probably not ready to play up a U-23 cycle and he needs to be a priority for another cycle with the U-20 team.

Esmir Bajraktarevic: The New England Revolution forward is the most hyped American teenager in the league this season. He’s doing well too but is clearly finding it hard given New England haven’t been able to play with a No. 9 for most of the first two games. This was the case on Sunday in a 1-0 loss to Toronto.  

Bernard Kamungo: The FC Dallas winger is in a close race to make the Olympic team this summer but notching his first assist of the season on Saturday helps. Having Petar Musa now as the FC Dallas No. 9 will help him rack up his numbers.

Diego Luna: For some reason, Luna thrived playing in the snowstorm on Saturday during RSL’s 3-0 win over LAFC. Luna picked up an assist on the second goal and was dangerous throughout.

Jacob Davis: The Sporting Kansas City right back has not been in the U-23 picture so far as Nathian Harriel and Bryan Reynolds have been getting calls ahead of him. But he had an assist and a good performance in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Philadelphia.


Orlando and Philly draw in CONCACAF


In the CONCACAF Champions Cup, two MLS vs. Liga MX series began but the result was pro Mexico as both Liga MX teams played to 0-0 draws on the road in the United States.

Philadelphia was held 0-0 by Pachuca in a game that probably saw Philadelphia have the better of chances but could have gone either way. Pachuca had more shots, Philadelphia had the better chances.

Mikel Uhre had a good chance in the seventh minute while Danie Gazdag had a chance in the second half to give Philadelphia the win.

Meanwhile in Florida, Orlando City was even more on the front foot than Philadelphia at home against Tigres but again was held scoreless. Luiz Muriel, the new DP from Atalanta, came close in the second half but missed the target.

A few talking points on these games. First, it was unfortunate for the two MLS teams as they had their chances. But to take down teams at the top of Liga MX, MLS teams need to be clinical at home. Against mid-table teams in Liga MX, it’s more forgiving. But against the top teams in Mexico, MLS teams have to burry half chances and be crisp.

In these games, Orlando and Philadelphia each had the chances and played well, overall. But they now put themselves in a position to have to go to Mexico and get a result. Away goals could help them as a draw with goals will go their way. But playing in Mexico is always hard and MLS teams need to be flawless defensively. Offensively, they’re going to need to get a goal early when they still have energy.

On another note, it was very impressive for Orlando to play well despite coming off a 5-0 thrashing to Inter Miami over the weekend. That’s not an easy thing to compartmentalize and move on to face a good Tigres team. But Orlando was not run out of town and were firmly in this game.


Red Bulls on the rise


Four points from two road games against 2023 playoff teams is a positive start for the Red Bulls. This team had a lot of wild cards to start the season. Would Lewis Morgan return and be good? Would the team respond to Sandro Schwarz? Would Emil Forsberg be the impact player the team expects?


So far, the Red Bulls are hitting on almost all of the wildcards to start 2024. There are still some others too. Dante Vanzier and Elias Manoel at the No. 9 are two big ones that are uncertain, but can still find their way this season. If the Red Bulls can play well into the start of the summer, the team has the flexibility to make additional upgrades this summer.

As for Houston, they need to get healthy soon or else they’re not going to replicate their 2023.


Galaxy boosting stock


It is still too early to put the Galaxy as contenders but a 1-1 draw against Inter Miami and now a 3-1 win away over San Jose is a step in the right direction. Joseph Paintsil is looking like the real deal. But at the same point, Gabriel Pec is still only getting up to speed yet, and didn't start in the second game. The issue for the Galaxy will be in defense as the season wears on. When Jalen Neal returns, will he be capable of leading them in the playoffs?


But the offense? Yeah. They're good.


Yedlin traded to Cincy


We knew Miami was probably going to have to make moves they didn’t want to make given how much money they have spent bringing in Messi and Friends. Trading DeAndre Yedlin is a big loss as he provides speed on the flanks and some defensive bite. This will hurt Miami. While Yedlin is on the wrong side of 30, he can still run and Miami needs runners around their older core.


Cincinnati, meanwhile, just got stronger. It doesn’t help fix their need to find an adequate replacement for Brandon Vazquez, but they’re strong everywhere else.


De la Vena hurt


It’s early in the season, it’s never time to hit the panic button in March. But Seattle has some problems. They played a weak Austin FC team to a 0-0 draw in their home opener and lost to LAFC on the road in week 1.

Now, the team’s expensive new DP winger Pedro de la Vega is out 6-8 weeks with a right hamstring injury. Not good. It leaves this team weak on offense in a year when they were looking to build a new core after the departure of Nico Lodeiro.


The good news for Seattle is that the west is not nearly as strong as the East and most teams in that conference are in flux. But Seattle will now be looking to integrate De La Venta in May, and they’ll be behind the curve.

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