Tuesday talk

Pineda out, MLS Youth report, league thoughts, Veneiza up, USMNT talk, and more

ASN's Brian Sciaretta writes up his thoughts in MLS from the Crew, to Pineda's firing, to a look at Young Americans in MLS. Then there are thoughts on Venezia's promotion with the two Americans playing a part, plus USMNT meets the media. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
June 04, 2024
9:50 AM

THE WEEKEND IN AMERICAN soccer was up and down. The Columbus Crew came up short in Mexico in the CONCACAF final and another poor Atlanta performance saw Gonzalo Pineda axed. On the other hand, the New York teams are rolling – as are Real Salt Lake and LAFC. Meanwhile, who saw both the New England Revs and the Chicago Fire both winning. In Europe, Venezia and its two Americans were promoted.


Anyway, let’s just get right into it.


Pineda Out in Atlanta


In a move that should not surprise anyone, Atlanta United president Garth Lagerwey fired head coach Gonzalo Pineda on Monday following the team’s 3-2 loss to Charlotte FC on Sunday. It was the fifth home loss in a row for Atlanta, which fell to 13th place in the 15-team Western Conference.

Assistant Coach Rob Valentino will take over on an interim basis. This is the second time he had the job on an interim basis. The first came in 2021 after Gabriel Heinze was fired.  Valentino posted a 4-2-2 record during his interim run.

The good news for Atlanta is that MLS is forgiving. The team is just three points out of the play-in positions (8th and 9th place). They are eight points out of the automatic playoff positions. The bad news is that the team looks extremely broken right now. Mentally the team is off and it is struggling badly in defense.


This is essentially a move that had to be made. Atlanta United is one of the most ambitious teams in the league. Was Pineda the problem? That’s unclear. But it became gradually clearer he wasn’t the solution.

But the big takeaway is that Lagerwey will now have to make a coaching change. When he was at RSL, he inherited Jason Kreis. In Seattle, he was there when Sigi Schmid left by mutual consent and was replaced by Brian Schmetzer, who was a long-time assistant.

Atlanta United has struggled with coaching hires ever since Tata Martino left. Frank de Boer and Gabriel Heinze were poor fits. Lagerwey is going to have to get this right considering the investment in the club, the size of the fan base, and the expectations.


Columbus falls to Pachuca


It was always an uphill climb, literally and figuratively, for Columbus to win in Pachuca which is another 1200 feet higher in altitude than Mexico City. After getting past Tigres and Monterrey to make the final, Columbus fell 3-0 to a Pachuca team that was playing for the first time since May 11.

What is interesting is that I was expecting Columbus to come out strong and then struggle at the end due to the altitude. This isn’t what happened. Pachuca came out with a blistering pace.

Columbus players were also battling illness this week but it wasn’t an excuse as Pachuca were the best team in the tournament. But Columbus deserved to be the runner-up after a hard road to the final.

Meanwhile, CONCACAF needs to rethink this format. Two legs were a fairer way to determine the title. If it must be one leg, a neutral site game would be far better.


MLS weekend


Soccer in the Big Apple is in a good place. New York City FC destroyed San Jose 5-1 in a game that was 1-1 in the 80th minute before NYCFC found another level. Part of this was due to the return of Maxi Moralez, who worked his way back from an ACL tear last September. The Argentine entered the game for the first time since his injury in the 74th minute. Adrian Martinez also had a hat trick off the bench – with his first goal coming in the 85th minute.

NYCFC is in a great spot. After a poor start to the season, Nick Cushing has led a turnaround – something that I did not see coming – nor did most fans, as “Cushing Out” signs were prevalent.

As for San Jose, they didn’t play poorly at all for 75 minutes. But they just fell off. The big risk is that the complete collapse might hurt the confidence of the squad. Luchi Gonzalez has to do what Cushing did, but with less talent.

As for the New York Red Bulls, they continued to keep pace with NYCFC with a 1-0 win over  Orlando. The two New York teams are even on 29 points from 16 games. They’ve both behind Inter Miami and Cincinnati. Along with Columbus, who has been involved in CONCACAF games, those five teams are the cream of the crop for the East.

As for Orlando, there are just too many holes. They struggle to create and they struggle at goalkeeping.

Did anyone see both the New England Revolution and Chicago winning on the same day? Both teams have been in the mix as the worst in the league.

Nashville’s loss to New England shows how weird this league could be. How does Atlanta United win in Miami and then lose at home to Charlotte? How does Nashville win in Cincinnati last week and then lose to the New England Revolution at home? It makes no sense.

Nashville needs to get its coaching situation sorted quickly. Meanwhile, it’s still too early to think New England is on the right path – but any turnaround needs to start somewhere.

Speaking of bad teams, FC Dallas were swept by the Los Angeles teams over the past week, first a 3-1 loss away to the Galaxy and then a 1-0 away loss to LAFC. Two away games against two good LA teams is a tough assignment, but FC Dallas made it easy. With a team that features an attack with Peter Musa, Paul Arriola, and Jesus Ferreira, they’ve scored the fewest goals in the Western Conference. It’s a team that is coming up way short.

As for LAFC, they're getting it done on both sides of the ball. 

Minnesota are clinging to get to the transfer window opening as they’re already surpassing their talent (Emmanuel Reynoso is already gone and Teemu Pukki only has two goals). Robin Lod has been one of the most underrated players in the league. After two winless games, Minnesota was dealt a favorable hand with Sporting KC and were able to win 3-1.

It’s very bad with Sporting KC right now and the worst thing you can say is that it is stale.

Vancouver’s 2-1 win over Colorado is two teams heading in opposite directions. Vancouver was hot, then cold, now hot again. Colorado, is back to struggling again and is probably where they should be. Still, they are improved from last season.

Finally, Real Salt Lake is just so good right now. They’re three points clear atop the West (although second place LAFC has a game in hand). But the 5-1 win over Austin was a thumping and it saw Chico Arango get his second goal hat trick of the season. He’s now the league’s leading scorer with 16 goals.

Yes, Arango is the MVP of the league at this point of the season. Messi would win it if there is a vote. But, Arango has been spectacular.


MLS Youth


Overall, it was a nice weekend for young American players in the league. There were lots of highlights.

Brian Gutierrez: While he’s seemingly out of the picture on the Olympic front, Gutierrez has been stuck on a bad Chicago team that has struggled to get results. For Guiterrez, he has typically been better when Shaqiri has been out, and this was the case in the club’s 2-1 win over the Galaxy. The Chicago homegrown needs to be more productive and better on defense, but he was very good in the win – scoring and assisting on both Chicago goals.


Esmir Bajraktarevic: The talented teenage winger scored an important goal for the Revolution in a 2-1 win over Nashville. He might just be on both the 2024 and 2028 Olympic teams. What was interesting about the goal was the right-footed finish (he's prefers his left foot).


Diego Luna: The player has had a rough week not making the Olympic camp, but he went the distance for RSL in a 5-1 win over Austin FC and created four chances.

John Tolkin: The RBNY left back scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Orlando and had a much better outing than in the win over Charlotte the week before.


Daniel Edelman: The RBNY d-mid was very solid in helping the team keep possession and defend in the 1-0 win.

Jack McGlynn: The Olympic midfielder went the distance for Philly in a 2-2 draw with Montreal. He had 101 touches and was 81/90 in passing.

Sebastian Berhalter: The son of the USMNT manager is Olympic age-eligible but isn’t in the plans for that team. Berhalter scored on Saturday for Vancouver in an important 2-1 win over Colorado. It was a good 90 minute shift from the former Columbus homegrown.


Venezia promoted


Venezia will return to Serie A in 2024/25 after securing promotion following a 1-0 win over Cremonese in the second leg of the promotional playoff final. The first leg was 0-0. Cremonese outshot Venezia 18-6 (shots on target) over both legs but Venezia goalkeeper Jesse Joronen saved all 18 shots.

The winning goal was created by U.S. Olympic midfielder Gianluca Busio while Tanner Tessmann went a full 90.

What’s most impressive is what a big role Tessmann and Busio had this season in promotion. Busio played 3296 minutes for Venezia this season while Tessmann played nearly 3700 minutes. That’s a lot and Olympic preparations will come at a time when they need rest before preseason.

As for next year, Busio will and should go up with Venezia. He had a good season and should continue that with the club he helped promote.

Tessmann, however, will be on the shortlist of a lot of other clubs. What’s the difference between him and Busio? Both players produced but Tessmann meets the athletic requirements more for teams at the top levels.


CCV & Musah address media


Two of the USMNT’s English-American contingent spoke with the media as Cameron Carter-Vickers and Yunus Musah were on the call.

Both players came off seasons where their clubs qualified for the Champions League with CCV winning the Scottish title with Celtic and AC Milan finishing second in Serie A.

Nothing groundbreaking was discussed but it was interesting to see Musah state that Christian Pulisic was “the best attacker on our team” for AC Milan this past season.

But both players spent a lot of time talking about their different seasons. Carter-Vickers was a regular starter for Celtic while Musah had a long stretch midseason when he lost his form after picking up an injury.

“My season went really well in the beginning until December when I got a little injury,” Musah said. “Towards the end of the season I started being involved in some important games again, Europa League and the derby… It’s been a good season, I was always there pushing and staying around the team. It’s been a good first season.”

“I played a lot of games in the league and Champions League so that was really great,” he added. “That’s when you expect things will go like that for the whole season. But things happen and you have to adjust.”

As for Carter-Vickers, he has stood out in Scotland where the league drops offer considerably after the Old Firm clubs. Many of Celtic’s games are lopsided, but the pressure on the club is huge.

“I really enjoy playing for Celtic,” Carter-Vickers said. “Obviously it’s a massive club. One thing I like about it is the pressure from the fans. You can see and feel that it’s unacceptable to them for us to lose. That definitely keeps you on top of your game.”


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