Hey everyone, quick slate of games due to the international weekend. Matt was at a wedding this weekend so I’m on review duties.
LAFC 4, Houston 2
I EXPECTED LAFC to control the game … and they did!
They won as comprehensively as you’ll see in MLS. The scoreline doesn’t fully reflect LAFC’s dominance. Houston were missing Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, and Juan David Cabezas – probably their three most important players – and never looked close to LAFC’s level. Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen dominated possession, Carlos Vela got on the ball in dangerous positions (ending up with two goals and two assists), and Houston struggled to get past midfield.
With the win, LAFC move into the second spot out West, three ahead of Sporting Kansas City and one point behind FC Dallas. LAFC play Vancouver on Saturday (5pm ET | TSN – Full TV & streaming info) next week, then could have a huge game with Sporting on Decision Day presented by AT&T that will likely decide who gets the Knockout Round bye.
I ALSO EXPECTED Vela and Adama Diomande to clash … and they didn’t!
In fact, they appear to be getting the hang of each other. Notice how they make eye contact here as Dio fakes the near-post run and fades far post to meet Vela’s pass:
To be honest, I had mentally picked the over on Vela and Diomande jelling in time for the playoffs, that it would going to take too long and Bob Bradley would lose patience and pick Marco Ureña up top. Ureña offers a lower ceiling for the attack but a higher floor, given his proven understanding with Vela on the field. But Vela and Dio have now have a combined five goals and three assists in the last two games. The best version of LAFC’s attack appears to be coming together.
I DID NOT EXPECT LAFC to struggle building out of the back.
When Houston pressed near LAFC’s box, Tyler Miller, Walker Zimmerman, and specifically Danilo Silva struggled to connect passes forward. Even Nguyen gave a bad ball away near his own 18. Not only did they give the ball away, they looked all-around uncomfortable. I imagine teams around the West saw that and added something to their scouting report.
D.C. United 1, FC Dallas 0
I EXPECTED D.C. United to finally push over the playoff line, and do it through a late, dramatic goal.
Late craziness has kinda become a thing in D.C. games lately: the Wayne Rooney-to-Lucho Acosta winner against Orlando, David Villa’s 86th-minute equalizer at Yankee Stadium, Acosta’s goal-ahead 87th-minute goal matched by Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 90th-minute, and Rooney’s 81st-minute, go-ahead goal last week against Chicago.
Russell Canouse did it this time around, with a goal in the 86th that put D.C. into the top six for the first time all season and also gave us our Face of the Week:
Saturday night’s game had a little extra emotional tug. D.C. United’s Paul Arriola lost his father early in the week and the team wore armbands in remembrance.
I EXPECTED Dallas to punish D.C. on the break … and they did not.
It was the type of game that usually suits Dallas just fine. D.C. took the impetus at home and tried to possess, and Dallas waited for D.C. to stretch themselves before hitting them on the counter. And it worked for the most part, except Dallas failed to score their chances.
That kind of performance that probably keeps Oscar Pareja awake at night. The team executed his gameplan, but Michael Barrios rushed his shots and Maxi Urruti missed his passes. That, as Dallas are currently constructed, seems to be their likely Achilles’ heel. We know Dallas can defend, we know they can generate chances, but do they have the quality to finish when it counts? One game, single elimination – which one of the Dallas attackers will bury that one big chance?
I DID NOT EXPECT D.C.’s possession to look slow and static.
Since Rooney’s arrival, they’ve been one of the better possession teams in the league, but this marks the second week in a row they’ve failed to create opportunities through their possession.
They aren’t making the simple passes as frequently or as quickly as before. They are picking up their heads and looking for a killer pass rather than playing the early obvious options. Productive possession comes from simple decisions; Pass-trap-move, as Pep Guardiola often says. The collection of simple passes moves opposing defenses and sets up a killer pass.
For a couple months, D.C. had no problem making multiple simple passes before going for the final ball. But the last two weeks, they’ve looked for the killer pass first and settled for the simple pass, slowing down their overall possession.
It’s a natural two-steps-forward, one-step-back progression. When you succeed by doing the simple things well, you try to do the harder things, because harder things are naturally better, right? The through pass does more for us than the sideways 5-yard pass, obviously! Well, as D.C. is finding right now, that’s not always the case. They scored a really nice win over the top team in the West, but they weren’t at their best.
Minnesota 0, Colorado 2
I EXPECTED Darwin Quintero to get chances to score … and he did.
There aren’t many things in MLS you can feel more confident about than Quintero getting good looks against Colorado’s defense. The Colombian had a goal called back due to an Angelo Rodriguez offside and missed a couple other ones you’d usually bet your car he’d finish.
I DID NOT EXPECT Quintero to not actually score those chances.
Also, Minnesota didn’t win. Colorado was coming in on a seven-game losing streak and missing Kellyn Acosta (USMNT callup); the Loons had won 6-of-7 at home. Lock, right?
And Colorado didn’t just win, they looked like 2003 Arsenal. The Rapids combined through midfield, found their outside backs getting forward, and pressed Minnesota into bad turnovers. It must make Anthony Hudson feel somewhat justified about their recent struggles; when the system clicks, it looks damn good. Colorado have a template for how they want to play and who they want to be – it’s just a matter of moving it in the right direction.
I DID NOT EXPECT Cole Bassett, Colorado’s 17-year-old Homegrown, to get his first MLS start.
He played on the left side of the midfield diamond and completed the bulk of his passes:
Bassett didn’t do anything particularly special, but Rapids fans should be really encouraged by his performance. The two best parts of his game:
New England Revolution 2, Orlando City 0
I EXPECTED the Revs to shut out Orlando … and they did.
The Lions hadn’t scored in their last four games, and went to Gillette Stadium without key starters Dom Dwyer and Yoshi Yotun.
I DID NOT EXPECT New England to look so good in possession.
They completed more than 500 passes, beyond three times their season average (150 per 90 minutes). Orlando played a deep 5-4-1, resting multiple regulars, and New England effectively used the the ball to create and find gaps. It was the best Revs performance in three months.
Unfortunately, three months was too long to wait. D.C.’s win left New England mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.