Orlando, SKC, and Philly shine as players make their Gold Cup cases in midweek games
June 24, 2021
THERE WAS A FULL midweek slate of games in MLS which has made it a lot of fun given the Euros and the Copa America are also going on at the same time. It truly has been a summer of soccer and we are still in June. This round of games in MLS really told us a lot about the ability of clubs to rotate squads and some teams showed an ability to handle it, while the lack of depth really hurt some times.
Here are my notes from the last round of games
Dike shines in first OCSC start
Darly Dike, 21, made his first start to the season for Orlando on Tuesday night when they hosted San Jose. After returning to the club from his successful loan to Barnsley in the Championship where he scored nine goals in 19 games, Dike made his first appearance on Saturday in a late-game sub during a late 3-2 win over Toronto.
In his first start, Dike was brilliant – scoring twice and leading Orlando to a 5-0 win over San Jose. Behind solid efforts from Nani (who was terrific and the MOTM), Chris Mueller, and Benji Michel, Orlando look to be on a different level at the moment. The team didn’t just “hold the fort” for when Dike returned, the team remained one of the better teams in the East. Now with Dike, they could turn out to be the best in the league.
Daryl Dike: raw # for Orlando, up 4-0 on Orlando— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 23, 2021
74 mins (subbed out)
0 key passes
6/10 duels won
1/1 aerials won#USMNT
That brings us back to Dike’s situation. Will he get sold? I feel pretty confident that he will get sold to a very good European team. But when I watch him and I think about how good Orlando is right now, selling Dike right now dramatically hurts their chances to compete. Dike’s value to Orlando right now is the difference between being a decent playoff team and maybe the best team in the league. That’s huge.
So unless there is a offer that Orlando can’t refuse, it is easy to see Orlando keeping him for the remainder of the season (including the possibility of selling him this summer and keeping him on loan through January).
Daryl Dike putting Orlando up 3-0 on San Jose. The gap between these teams is enormous. Orlando is a contender, San Jose is very poor. Game is in a weather delay, Dike and Mueller sharp pic.twitter.com/8ZwYlQQMdo— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 23, 2021
I don’t know what will happen. Orlando has to sell him at some point and the sting of Cyle Larin remains strong. But this team has wanted to contend in this league for a very long time. Dike is the difference.
There are a few more takeaways from this game. Chris Mueller probably had his best game of the season. I thought he was a Best XI contender last season and this season he hasn’t matched that output. Having Dike and Nani firing on all cylinders helps him but in this game, he looked like another big piece of the equation.
Regarding the national team, the domestic winger pool isn’t great. Mueller might sneak in there if he can play well between now and whenever Gregg Berhalter makes his final decision.
Chris Mueller: raw # for Orlando, up 4-0 on Orlando— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 23, 2021
77 mins (subbed out)
4 key passes
1/1 long balls
2/3 duels won
1/1 aerials won#USMNT
Also, San Jose was abysmal in this game. On a typical day, they’re not going to be this bad. This was the team’s second road game in three days – played in the head of Texas and Florida. But it shows that there is a lack of depth in this team and Matias Almeyda’s squad could be falling apart.
Revs hold off RBNY comeback
The New England Revolution took a 3-0 lead on the New York Red Bulls and were able to hold off a comeback en route to a 3-2 win.
This game didn’t reveal anything we didn’t know. New England isn’t particularly deep, but they have Carles Gil and he is playing like the runaway league MVP at the moment. In this game, he assisted on all three Revolution goals. What’s particularly amazing is that the Red Bulls likely came into this game knowing they had to stop him – and came up woefully short.
The Revs also have a good supporting cast around Gil. Matt Turner is the best keeper in the league at the moment. Gustavo Bou scored his fourth of the season. Tajan Buchanan is playing well. Adam Busaka isn’t playing at a DP level, but doesn’t have to be right now.
When the playoffs roll around, Gil is the perfect type of player in that environment. The regular season is when depth and systems make a difference. The playoffs are when special players make a difference. For the Revs, they need to just stay healthy and rotate squads to ensure everyone isn’t overworked in the postseason. They’re obviously a contender but they can’t afford anything to happen to Gil.
As for the Red Bulls, this was the start of a revealing three-game road trip against good teams. After the Revs they visit Atlanta and Orlando. Now they’re doing this without one of their best players in teenager Caden Clark (who underwent an appendectomy). It doesn’t really change that that this team will only go as far as its central defense takes it – and that a worry as that group is inconsistent.
The good news for the Red Bulls is that Patryk Klimala and Fabio continue to be a strong forward pair and both have progressed nicely. This team will need to see Frankie Amaya go from being a good player to a very good player, and also have other player like Tom Edwards and Dru Yearwood raise their games. This team isn’t a team that can make a run in the playoffs right now, but it’s not impossible in a few months if the young players showcase themselves well.
Clark transferred to Leipzig
On Thursday, the New York Red Bulls confirmed the worst kept secret in the league as Caden Clark, 18, was transferred to RB Leipzig – which finished the runners up in the Bundesliga in 2020/21 where he will be coached by American Jesse Marsch. Clark will remain with New York for the remainder of the 2021 season.
As one of the top players in the 2003-birth year, Clark has lived up to the hype since making his debut last season.
NEWS: New York Red Bulls Transfer Caden Clark to RB Leipzig— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) June 24, 2021
Clark will remain with RBNY through the end of 2021 MLS season
Congrats, @iamcadenclark! pic.twitter.com/a1QCgaLKKv
This season, he has only continued to improve and has four goals in seven games. His goals have showcased abilities to both score impressive quality goals as well as goals that show a knack of knowing where to be at the right time. He is also the complete package which fits the Red Bull system used by all its teams around the globe. He presses relentlessly, wins balls, and passes effectively.
So far with the New York Red Bulls, Clark has seven goals through just 15 games and while things have been happening quickly for him the past year, it will only continue to accelerate.
Success in Germany should be expected. He thrives in the pressing system utilized by Red Bull and in addition to scoring goals, he wins balls, forces turnovers, and makes smart passes. He is an advanced player for his age. Marsch will know what to expect with Clark and will now have a growing American core at his club which includes Tyler Adams – and maybe Salzburg’s Brenden Aaronson down the line.
In the meantime, Clark's appendectomy is a temporary setback that will likely cost him a spot on the Gold Cup team - but it is clear he has an extremely bright future.
SKC finds another level
When Sporting Kansas City hosted Colorado on Wednesday night, it seemed as if it could be one of the best matchups this round. Colorado had won five out of six and Sporting KC was in second place in the West.
It turns out that this game was no contest. Sporting Kansas City’s Hungarian winger Daniel Salloi had a terrific game and was the best player on the field, scoring two goals and assisting on a third en route to a comfortable 3-1 win over Colorado.
Colorado just didn’t have it in this game. Kellyn Acosta has been great for Colorado this season, but he couldn’t stop SKC’s aggressive attack by himself. Cole Bassett (who is on the U.S. team’s preliminary Gold Cup roster) couldn’t get anything going. Sam Vines, as well, was pinned back from his left back position and unable to play his normal game.
Gianluca Busio: raw # for SKC in 3-1 win vs Colorado— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 24, 2021
1 key pass
3/3 long balls
4/8 duels won
3/4 aerials won#USMNT https://t.co/xCly9LJjR4
From an American perspective, Gianluca Busio had another nice game for SKC. He is thriving in the deeper-lying playmaking role and continues to get on the ball 90-110 times per game. That works for Sporting but the question for the U.S. national team is whether he can have the defensive abilities to play the No. 6 role. While it’s very positive to have great passing from the No. 6, having defensive abilities remain the most basic and necessary skillsets from that position. Everything else comes once those are in place and great passing and playmaking doesn’t replace the defensive requirements needed.
The good news is that Busio is still very young and is learning quickly. He understands the requirement and what is needed of him, but it remains to be seen how quickly he will get there.
Philadelphia’s big win over Crew
The Philadelphia Union hosted reigning champions the Columbus Crew on Wednesday night in the most high-profile matchup of the night and certainly a pivotal early-season contest in the Eastern Conference.
The game turned out to be chippy and lacked the flow you’d expect from two top team. Columbus tried to rotate squads but was forced to bring in Lucas Zelarayan in the second half when Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead on a goal from Jamiro Monteiro in the 24th minute.
I’m not saying Philly is really going to contend but they haven’t fallen off nearly as much as expected after selling Aaronson & McKenzie. Even when they’re not playing great, they’ll scrap and fight for results. It says a lot about Curtin. Up 1-0 on #Crew96 #DOOP— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 24, 2021
While improving, Columbus still is struggling to score goals from the run of play. While true that this was their first loss in four games and it snapped a three-game winning streak, they not playing great. They’ll remain a threat in the playoffs as long as Zelarayan is healthy, but the team is not firing on all cylinders.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, is very well coached and that is why they have not fallen off nearly as much as thought after the sales of Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson – who were both in attendance on Wednesday for the win over Columbus.
This team knows how to scrap by and wins when it is not playing great. Philadelphia wasn’t great and lost the possession battle, but they played very well defensively. Jim Curtin told the team not to try to win the ball from Darlington Nagbe but rather try to make him give the ball up and then press the next player. It worked.
Leon Flach remains a good defensive midfielder. Even when his passing isn’t on top form (like in the 2-2 draw with Atlanta on Saturday), he is defensively strong. He is fast and can chase down players, win the ball, foul when necessary, and clog the midfield. It’s an important part of what the Union is doing.
Leon Flach: raw # for Philly in 1-0 win over #Crew96— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 24, 2021
0 key passes
7/14 duels won
3 fouls (1 YC)
- Solid shift on the defensive side from Flach #DOOP
Flach, 20, is on the preliminary Gold Cup roster and he is an interesting comparison with the other No. 6 options on the team. He’s not the passer that Gianluca Busio is right now, but he brings far more defensive bite and that is something that Berhalter might find really appealing.
Dallas youth falls short against LAFC
FC Dallas sits last in the Western Conference and had a difficult challenge facing LAFC in California with crowds now back in full force. Dallas manager Luchi Gonzalez gave Justin Che his first start and the 2003-born defender made his professional debut after returning from a loan to Bayern Munich. Che, a versatile defender who will probably settle in at central defense, played as a right wingback.
In addition, Ricardo Pepi (also a top 2003-born American player) and Jesus Ferreira earned the start in this one for Dallas.
Both Justin Che and Ricardo Pepi starting for FC Dallas tonight away at LAFC. Two of the most promising 2003-born American players. For Che, it will be his FCD first team debut after spending the first half of 2021 on loan to Bayern Munich. #USMNT— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 24, 2021
In the end, Dallas was simply outmatched against LAFC and the gap between the teams was wide. Possession was actually even but the difference in quality in the final third was significant as Dallas could muster very little.
Che struggled at times but also grew into the game and played nicely. He won 3/8 duels but had five interceptions – which was important to snuffing out several LAFC possessions. He reads the game well and has a very nice upside. His development will be critical to Dallas and it was nice to see him get a start in this game.
Pepi was unable to get involved and the FC Dallas attack is poor these days. It’s wingers and attacking midfielders are not good fits at the moment and the foreign imports haven’t been working for years.
It’s a tough environment for Pepi as most attacks die before they reach the final third. He’s a finisher but this team is not going to create a lot of chances.
DC United lacks killer instinct
DC United traveled to Florida to visit the homeless FC Montreal on Wednesday night. The game turned out to be a 0-0 draw and this will frustrate Hernan Losada. For the second straight game, DC United was up a man against a bad team for a long stretch and its offense continued to struggle.
DC United played the entire second half against Montreal up a man and this game finished 0-0. Over the weekend, DC United defeated Miami by just a 1-0 score line despite being up a man for 33 minutes (and up by two men for six minutes plus stoppage time).
Losada likes to have his DC United teams press and have teams come at them. But when they sit back, the team doesn’t look like it knows how to break down a team.
Paul Arriola hasn’t played that well in the last two games (he was sharp right before the international break) but he should still make the Gold Cup team due to the need for wingers. Kevin Paredes is a very promising young player who thrives in a pressing situation – which makes him a good fit for DC United. He still needs work in different types of approaches. He is yet another example of a player missing out due to the U.S. youth national teams continue to being out of action.