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Matchday 12: Watch these strikers for FREE on MLS Season Pass

BWP - Matchday 12 - Duncan McGuire

Matchday 12 is FREE on MLS Season Pass this weekend! There’s a full slate of matches to sample, starting Saturday at 7:30 pm ET.

Do you stick with your favorite team from first kick to final whistle? How about joining us on MLS 360, catching all the action whiparound-style? What about a club you don’t usually get to see play?

Here’s another option: Pick a star striker and see what magic they have in store. There’s no shortage of must-watch No. 9s in MLS – and I’ve got a handful you should pay special attention to.

Before getting underway, our “striker” framework means stars like Lionel Messi, Denis Bouanga and Joseph Paintsil miss out (they’re more wide attackers). And the Columbus Crew are on a bye, so no Cucho Hernández this go-around.

Cristian Arango
Real Salt Lake
  • WHEN: Saturday vs. Sporting Kansas City (9:30 pm ET)
  • WATCH: Apple TV - Free

If it weren’t for an incredible run from Messi, Arango would be the Golden Boot leader. He’s got eight goals and seven assists this season – contributing to nearly every goal Real Salt Lake’s scored as they sit first in the Western Conference.

What impresses me most about the Colombian is his balance between being the No. 9 and the No. 10. It's not easy to come into the hole, create plays, and then get on the end of those plays or still have as many goals. Because sometimes when you're dropping into the pocket, you sacrifice goals. Sometimes, when you're getting assists or creating the game, you sacrifice goals. But he finds a way to do both – and it’s much harder than it looks.

Also, Arango is the main character at RSL. That wasn’t always the case during his LAFC days, but it seems he thrives on being the main man. Now, it all goes through Chicho and he dictates the attack. When he says 'Let's go,' that's when Salt Lake go. They’ll go as far as he takes them.

Christian Benteke
D.C. United
  • WHEN: Saturday vs. Philadelphia Union (7:30 pm ET)
  • WATCH: Apple TV - Free

Yes, Christian Benteke is a monster when you give him service. But it's not just that – it's his timing. When you watch Benteke, when a ball comes into the box, he's up before anyone. He jumps just before and he has a little bit of hang time. He can stay there for a second and then know exactly where to place the ball.

We've got to give Benteke all the credit in the world, but also credit to Troy Lesesne and D.C. United because they play to his strengths. That wasn’t always the case last year, and the former Premier League star still got 14 goals anyway.

Now, whenever a D.C. United player goes down the right or the left, you can see the service is a clipped ball to give Benteke a chance. That's all he needs because he is so deadly in the air. Taking nothing away from him, but it's the combination of Benteke being a beast and his team understanding and playing to his strengths.

The end product? Eight goals and one assist in eight games, right in the Golden Boot hunt.

Luis Suárez
Inter Miami CF
  • WHEN: Saturday vs. New York Red Bulls (7:30 pm ET)
  • WATCH: Apple TV - Free

Back in preseason, when everyone asked if Suárez was on the decline, I wasn’t completely selling my stock. I was in the, ‘He'll get 12 to 15 goals across all competitions’ category. I wasn't brave enough to write him off. But don't get me wrong: When I saw him in preseason, I didn't think with the way he was running, the way he was moving, that he would be the Suárez I've seen throughout the years.

Well, guess what? He is and shut us all up.

Suárez's combination play, his link-up with Messi is next-level. Even when Messi's not played, he's got goals and assists. I can say, with my hand on my heart, that we're all stupid for doubting him because he's a brilliant player.

Sure, he's lost a step from those glory days at Liverpool and Barcelona. He used to go and pick the ball up from deep, drive past two or three players. Now, he picks his moments. He gets the ball closer to the goal where he doesn't have to do as much work. It's not as taxing on his body. But when he is in those moments, he's just as clinical. It's not every minute of the game now. It's something like every 10 minutes. But when he pops up in the moments, you see the Suárez of Liverpool, the Suárez of Barcelona. Class like that doesn’t just go away.

So, I'm giving Suárez 18 to 20 goals across all competitions this year.

Giorgos Giakoumakis
Atlanta United
  • WHEN: Saturday vs. Minnesota United FC (7:30 pm ET)
  • WATCH: Apple TV - Free

I wrote about this earlier this season: I remember interviewing Giakoumakis on MLS 360 last year and asking him about the Golden Boot. How serious he was in his answers – that’s a guy who’s not messing around.

I believe that goal-scoring is a mentality. Strikers need to be technical, they need to be able to strike the ball well and be comfortable in front of goal. But it's the will to want to score. And Giakoumakis is that guy. He's a shark in the 18-yard box. He has that killer instinct.

Yes, Giakoumakis can link up play, he can hold the ball up, but he doesn't care about that as much. That's not what he's thinking about. He's thinking about getting on the end of service and when he does get in there, he's clinical. My only concern is he's missed some games due to injury.

One thought that might be a little controversial? If you took Thiago Almada out of this Atlanta team and instead built the team around Giakoumakis, I think you'd see a more clinical and dangerous striker. I want to see what happens when Atlanta’s first thought in attack is “find Giakoumakis in the box” and not “find Almada’s feet.”

Brian White
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
  • WHEN: Saturday vs. Austin FC (10:30 pm ET)
  • WATCH: Apple TV - Free; TSN, RDS

Nobody talks about Brian White until Vancouver plays, and even when he scores, we sometimes don't talk about him. And I sympathize with Brian because it was similar when I first came to the league. Brian often has to score, and do a lot more, to get recognition beyond the players we highlight more often.

I have such admiration for how he plays, though. He's not fancy, but he reminds me of an old-school No. 9. He holds up the ball, presses the defense, and takes a chance when he gets it. I don't know what more you want from a striker.

The biggest compliment I could give Brian is this: In 2019 at Red Bulls, he was a young kid coming out of college and I was injured. But I was doing my best to get on the field because Red Bulls, that’s my team. I felt like if I didn't do well, we wouldn't do well. So I would play injured, I would train injured. And if I didn't play, it was Brian that was going to play and I wasn't sure what he was capable of. I remember one game, I spoke with Chris Armas and he said, ‘Listen, you haven't trained much this week. You go on the bench and if we need a goal, we'll bring you on.’ So I got to watch Brian White's all-around game. And after that, I was like, ‘Nope, we're good. I trust him.’

Brian White does everything the team needs him to do – works off the ball and scores his goals. He's big, he causes defenders problems all game. He's quicker than you think. He's just a real striker, a real No. 9. We're losing them in our game.

Duncan McGuire
Orlando City SC

I remember watching Duncan McGuire for the New York Red Bulls II staff when scouting for the MLS Combine. You could tell then, he had a real instinct of doing the hardest job in soccer: scoring goals. It doesn’t always translate from college to MLS, but this guy just had it. You could tell he wouldn’t miss a beat adjusting to the new level.

Here’s the best way I can say it: Duncan McGuire scores goals like he's been scoring goals in MLS, at the professional level, for years. And I first noticed that in his celebrations. Yeah, he does the whole backflip, but it doesn't surprise him. He's not shocked. There isn't an overzealous celebration like he can't believe it. He's so comfortable in front of goal. Every time he gets in front of goal, it's the right finish. If it needs a dink, he will dink it. If it's a side foot, he side foots. If it needs power, he does that. He's very underrated.

During these two seasons where Duncan’s been in Orlando, first they had Ercan Kara as a DP. Duncan puts Kara on the bench and then he gets transferred out. Now they have Luis Muriel as a DP and Duncan’s meant to go to Blackburn, but it falls through on deadline day. He has to come back and fight for his spot again. He's outscoring Muriel, outplaying a guy who was in Serie A and with the Colombian national team.

The guy is the real deal. He's a proper striker.

Lewis Morgan
New York Red Bulls

I know Lewis isn’t a traditional No. 9, but I speak to him daily when I go into Red Bull. I promise you: He thinks like a No. 9 and is confident he can get the Golden Boot. He can use both feet and it makes him very dangerous – he strikes the ball well and has that striker’s mentality where you crave scoring goals.

Even now, Sandro Schwarz has Lewis playing as a No. 9 in a 4-2-2-2 formation. He used to be behind the strikers in one of the No. 10 spots, but now he’s on the highest line alongside Dante Vanzier. And he’s thriving in that shift with 7g/2a in 10 games.

Will Lewis’ role change this summer if Red Bulls add a No. 9 with their open Designated Player spot? Potentially, but for now he’s showing why he’s such a top all-around footballer – linking play, getting you goals, always having chances around the box.

Petar Musa
FC Dallas
  • WHEN: Saturday at Toronto FC (7:30 pm ET)
  • WATCH: Apple TV - Free; TSN, RDS

Petar Musa hasn’t scored in bunches just yet, but his finish last week against Houston Dynamo tells me there’s something brewing. FC Dallas also have Jesús Ferreira coming back from injury and this is what we've been waiting for – that combination between the club-record signing (Musa) and the attacker who drifts into the No. 10 role (Ferreira).

We need to see those two for a stretch of five games because if Ferreira gets in the hole and can find Musa on the run, he’s going to score goals. He just hasn’t had the support yet in Dallas and still has three in eight games.

Also, this is his first time it's Musa’s team, where he's the starting striker. At Benfica, he was coming off the bench – it’s a big-name club, but it wasn't his team. Now, he’s going through that adjustment period where often strikers take a full season to be settled in MLS and do well. I think Musa will kick on sooner than that. I’m not worried about him. I have faith that he’ll score more goals.

Honorable Mentions

We know Philadelphia’s front three – Dániel Gazdag, Julián Carranza, Mikael Uhre, even the youngster Quinn Sullivan at times – they're all very dangerous in transition. They'll all get into the box and get their goals, potentially double digits. Gazdag and Carranza are probably the most dangerous from that group, and something must be said about their consistency in playing together.

If Columbus didn't have a Matchday 12 bye, Cucho might lead this story. And if he were healthy instead of nursing a thigh injury, Dejan Joveljic at LA Galaxy would certainly be included more prominently.

Two more: Alan Pulido at Sporting KC and João Klauss at St. Louis CITY. I wrote about both guys in-depth earlier this season… don’t sleep on them.