Voices: Andrew Wiebe

Philly Union need another DP? Dream USMNT striker in MLS? Answering your mailbag questions

It’s been a big week in North American soccer.

For the United States and Canada men’s national teams prepping for Qatar. For every single person with even a cursory connection to MLS or who will watch a second of the league over the next decade. For 16 cities that will play host to the 2026 World Cup, the biggest soccer party the world has ever seen.

Deep breath. Exhale. Relax and enjoy the moment.

Alright, you good? We’ve got five national TV games this weekend, starting with Sounders-LAFC on ABC and ESPN Deportes (Saturday, 3 pm ET). My editors asked for a mailbag column this week, and you delivered with insightful (and highly random) queries on Twitter. Let’s do this.

Wiebe Mailbag 1

I remain a little baffled that a national team fanbase with so few in-form options at center forward would be so desperate to slag the 21-year-old dude who is:

  1. Tied for the Golden Boot presented by Audi lead in MLS.
  2. Vibes with the other top attacking players on the team.
  3. Is an advanced analytics darling.
  4. Started in a draw and win against World Cup-bound teams.
  5. Just banged four goals in a game (I know, I know, it was a long time coming).

I’m Team Jesus for the World Cup right now. It would take a lot to change that.

But that’s not the prompt, so here are the four, in order of preference, I’d consider potential upgrades on Ferreira…

Yes, finishing efficiency has been an issue … sound familiar? But good lord, the volume of chances he gets on the end of and creates for others (cough cough … Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, Weston McKennie) is mouthwatering. Plus, if Gregg Berhalter wants to press, there’s nobody better to be the point of the spear. Chippy game? Imagine Taty and McKennie wading into scrums side by side.

Yes, this is cheating, but I can do what I want. Buksa is a wonderful blend of mobility and physicality. He can get on the end of those little slip passes in the channels and dunk on the back post. The US don’t have a striker like him in the pool.

OK, so we’ve currently got the xG, but not always the goals. With Chicharito, we’ve got both, plus oodles of big-game experience! As a petty bonus, imagine the wall-to-wall coverage from Mexican media. That mental image alone made this little exercise worth it.

We want a finisher. We’d get a finisher.

Wiebe Mailbag 2

Two, which feels conservative, but it feels like there’s currently a clear break above and below the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line. If I was a betting man, I’d pick Charlotte FC and [team TBD] to drop. The [team TBD] is a “MLS is crazy, so don’t bet on the status quo” wild card (aka I am too cowardly to choose a second team).

Inevitably, someone will screenshot this and make me look stupid on Decision Day. No way only two teams flip-flop in the playoff places, right?

Wiebe Mailbag 3

I’ll take both to keep their streaks alive this weekend at home.

I don’t think there is going to be a Ronny Deila drop-off for NYCFC vs. Colorado (Sunday, 5 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) – too much talent, too much continuity in the roster and remaining coaching staff and they’ve already done this before (twice) – and there’s no way Philly drop their first home match of the season in the Jim Curtin vs. Pat Noonan battle when hosting FC Cincinnati (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+).

Wouldn’t you know it, that means NYCFC and the Union will meet the next Sunday in a playoffs rematch on the banks of the Delaware River!

That game screams draw to me. The Union’s schedule after is softer (@CHI, @CLB, DC), but I’ll take NYCFC (@CIN, ATL, NE) to keep their streak alive the longest. Feels to me like it will end for Philly at Chicago on a Wednesday or at Columbus a few days later.

Wiebe Mailbag 4

Uhhhhh, no? The Union are contending – a solitary point behind NYCFC, Eastern Conference finalists last year, Supporters’ Shield winners the year before and playoffs for four years (soon to be five) running – and that’s with their club-record signing taking months to settle in.

The international break came at a good time for Jim Curtin after a stretch that saw his team take just one win from their last six matches (but also just one loss in US Open Cup). It came at the perfect time for Mikael Uhre, who has goals in his last two appearances and should be ready to go against Cincy after a stop-start beginning to life in MLS.

So, yeah, Philly don’t need another piece to contend. They need Uhre and Julian Carranza to form the partnership they expected when they signed both in the offseason. They need Daniel Gazdag to continue being the most goal-dangerous No. 10 in the league. They need to keep choking teams out in the midfield and keep arguably the best back six in the league healthy.

Would another piece be nice? Yes, but where? And does stacking Designated Players (there’s a spot open following the Jamiro Monteiro trade to San Jose) fit the club ethos? Both starting strikers are brand new and have capable backups well-suited for the roles. Gazdag was signed last summer and is thriving. Ernst Tanner won’t want to block Paxten Aaronson’s path to minutes, and Philly don’t play with true wingers.

More important, in my opinion, is to make sure the succession plan for Kai Wagner, if he is sold, is rock solid, give opportunities to the cadre of young players pushing for more first-team minutes and get Uhre-Carranza going. It will be an interesting summer for Tanner given the open DP spot, but I don’t think he feels he HAS to fill it.

Wiebe Mailbag 5

I tend to agree with Charlie Davies, who argued on Thursday’s Extratime that Taylor Twellman, as well-connected as anyone in New England, absolutely knows something and Bruce Arena is doing his job, which is to make sure the Revs aren’t up against it in any negotiations and to ensure public expectations don’t get out of hand when it comes to the Secondary Transfer Window (runs July 7 to Aug. 4).

Best to move in relative silence when it comes to these things if you’re Arena.

Why would the Revs make a move for a DP No. 9? A few (obvious) reasons:

  1. They’ve never won MLS Cup and their title window is open as long as Carles Gil is in New England and healthy. The Revs ought to be highly motivated to do whatever possible to win a championship.
  2. They have a war chest of transfer and allocation funds thanks to the aforementioned sales.
  3. Gustavo Bou is not a traditional No. 9, and while it took time for him to get comfortable with Adam Buksa, they eventually formed a devastating partnership that fueled a record-breaking season in 2021 (73 points).
  4. Jozy Altidore was signed for this exact role, to replace Buksa in the summer when he was inevitably sold, but it doesn’t seem like Arena fully trusts him yet and you can’t bank on the same production. That may change, or it may be just the way it is.

If they do a sign a No. 9 this window, I don’t think that means they can’t go for a project or a player on the same level as Altidore. They’ve got to get a true game-changer/MLS Cup winner. Will they do that? TBD. I might argue that a dominant box-to-box midfielder would make them even more dangerous – think Jermaine Jones – but it’s up to Bruce. MLS Cup isn’t going to win itself.

Wiebe Mailbag 6

I’d give them a B-minus.

The supporters get a rock-solid A. The squad gets a B for their home form and resilience through relative chaos. The front office gets a relatively charitable C-minus given their inability to land high-profile signings despite a massive runway and they had to fire their first-ever manager before half the season was gone. It would have been a D without the Andre Shinyashiki and Daniel Rios trades.

Average that out and you’ve got a decent (but incomplete) grade. They’ve got as good an opportunity as possible to win their first on the road this weekend in Columbus.

Wiebe Mailbag 7

Great question, and one I am sure sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel and manager Bradley Carnell are mulling every single day.

Aaron Long is a great shout and feels like an ideal signing for the expansion club. First of all, Long is a free agent soon. He can choose his destination and St. Louis won’t have to shell out allocation money to get him, which means they can afford to sign him in the high TAM range and then pay it down if needed. Plus, player and manager know each other well from the Red Bulls. The style of play will fit like a glove, and Long can help the rest of the squad get on the same page.

Long could be what Walker Zimmerman is to Nashville, the rock around which the project is built and experience the heady expansion days of new stadiums and sell-out crowds. A partnership in the back with Swedish international defender and Bundesliga veteran Joakim Nilsson is a pretty good foundation for immediate MLS success. That sounds like a fun, lucrative move, though there are bound to be some growing pains, too.

As for some other names I’d look at if I was the STL brass, LAFC’s Latif Blessing (also out of contract) and Danny Musovski jump out. Omir Fernandez would be a good get as a squad piece, as would Tom Barlow.

Wiebe Mailbag 8

I’d love to see Doyle try to pull off the old-school Dominic Kinnear flow or Juan Toja’s Rolinga look.

Wiebe Mailbag 9

First off, I’m only fighting if my family is in danger. That said…

Tac-Tik (if he still exists in Montréal) doesn’t scare me AT ALL and is my zero-thought, please-step-to-me first choice. The rest of these MLS mascots have at least a little edge. Tac-Tik? Big softy. Dawg looks like he has a glass chin/nose, too. Sparky in Chicago and Blue in Kansas City can also catch these hands. They don’t put out tough-guy vibes. You tell me what it means that I picked three dog mascots to fight.

Friendly reminder, if you decide to fist fight in real life, you’ve got to be ready to get your #$% kicked. I’d recommend avoiding both fighting and getting your #$% kicked if you can help it.

Wiebe Mailbag 10

There is only one way to answer this question and it’s another question.

If you were in town for a long weekend (three days max) – either on vacation or returning home – would you go out of your way to eat said regional fast-food chain or would you skip it? In other words, do you HAVE TO have it? It could be the perfect late-night eats. It could be what you always pick up on your way from the airport to your destination, a habit you’ve worn over time. Maybe you just love it so much that it’s worth a full meal slot. Maybe you love it so much that you’re willing to eschew your health/normal calory intake and have a fourth meal.

Whatever it is, if none of that rings a bell and makes you crave your usual order right now, then the spot is not even worth mentioning. Mediocrity doesn’t inspire. Regional fast food is as much about the way it makes you feel as it tastes (and it’s still gotta taste good).

Here are my spots, depending on the destination:

Wichita, Kansas – Barn’rds Sandwiches Soups Salads (undisputed No. 1)

I haven’t been back to Wichita, where I was born and raised, in years. If I went tomorrow, I would go straight to Barn’rds from the turnpike. That food is stitched into the fabric of my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Large roast beef combo (BBQ sauce and horseradish sauce) with a chocolate shake. I might just get in my car right now and start driving…

Wichita, Kansas – NuWay Café

And if I am driving to Wichita, I’m getting some Nu-Way, too. If I had a dentist appointment as a kid that got me out of school, my mom was taking me to Nu-Way for lunch. If I was hanging at my dad’s office on a Saturday, we were probably going to Nu-Way. Crumbly is better. Just look it up.

Wichita, Kansas – Spangles/Taco Tico

Central Kansas folk stand up! If you know, you know.

Vacaville, California – L&L Hawaiian BBQ

I enjoy In-N-Out and I eat it every time we visit my in-laws, often as the aforementioned first meal on the way home from the airport. And yet, L&L’s mixed plate is what makes my mouth water most. Those short ribs are stupid.

Kansas City – Winstead’s

How many Talkin’ Touches episodes were recorded after a Double Winstead, Fifty-Fifty and Cherry Limeade? Basically all of them.

Enjoy MLS Week 15!