Voices: Andrew Wiebe

Weekend Cheat Sheet: Your guide to what to watch for in Week 18

I’ve got a self-diagnosed case of transfer whiplash. I’m not a doctor, but I know Major League Soccer, and, let me tell you, it’s bad.

The symptoms are typical, but I don’t ever remember them being this acute. I can’t focus for more than a second or two. I scroll Twitter aimlessly day and night. Names, positions and transfer fees, rumored or real life, scroll through my brain like a live ticker. I’m slightly disoriented. How much GAM was that again? Was that signing TAM? Who has how many U22 Initiative roster spots left? Atlanta United are signing who, for how much and in what window?

It’s thrilling and exhausting in equal measure. It’s not going anywhere, either. Dare I say it, all this frenzied transfer activity, incoming and outgoing, is a sign that MLS 4.0 is officially here. I’m calling it the age of the emerging market, both externally and internally, and it absolutely deserves its own designation.

Don’t believe me? I bet you’d believe Garth Lagerwey, who got a little literary after the Sounders signed 21-year-old Brazilian winger Leo Chu from Gremio for a reported $3 million on a U22 Initiative deal.

“We’re in the great game now and there’s no turning back,” Lagerwey said, dressed, I imagine, like a party guest from The Great Gatsby.

As for the cure for transfer whiplash? There isn’t one, I’m afraid. Just 13 more games this weekend, all on MLS LIVE on ESPN+. If you can’t keep track of it all, you’re not alone. Treat your symptoms with Thursday’s Extratime. We’ll be back on Monday to sift through all the action.

Here’s your weekend cheat sheet (AKA the three games I am most excited to watch).

Welcome to San Jose, Jebo!

San Jose Earthquakes vs. LAFC — Sunday, 7 pm ET

C’mon, Matias. We both know Jeremy Ebobisse should go straight into the starting lineup. Let him figure out his teammates and the whole man-marking thing on the fly. Do all of us tuning in for this game a solid. Do it for your team and your season. Turn the page.

Your team has scored multiple goals four times in 17 games, and just once in the last 12. Cade Cowell and Javier “La Chofis” Lopez are your joint leading scorers with four goals apiece. You didn’t pay $1.167 million in GAM for the guy not to give him the keys to your striker-less car. Ebobisse didn’t even play midweek so the trade could be finalized! He’s fresh. He’s got a new opportunity. He’s finally a center forward full-time (please?). Have Wondo give him a pep talk and get him out there against an LAFC defense that just shipped four goals to Sporting KC.

Let it be known that I’m classifying this trade a “blockbuster,” a term I suggest we reserve for trades involving, at minimum, seven figures of allocation bucks. What makes it even better is everybody won in this deal.

Gio Savarese has two starting-caliber starting forwards he clearly prefers in Felipe Mora, a Chile international, and Jaroslaw Niezgoda, a 26-year-old Designated Player who’s still recovering from an ACL injury. This is addition by subtraction for the Timbers, who get the allocation money they need to fund other deals and stay roster compliant. Portland aren’t standing pat. U22 Initiative signing Santiago Moreno is proof of that. Ebobisse just wasn’t a snug fit and now they can use that cap space elsewhere.

For the Quakes, I think $1.167 million might turn out to be a bargain for a 24-year-old domestic forward with 15-goal-a-season (maybe even more) potential. I don’t think/I can’t believe there’s any chance they paid that price to play Ebobisse on the wing. That sort of production from a transfer from outside the league would cost at least four times the price San Jose paid and there would be no guarantees. San Jose’s recent track record outside the league is … poor. Be like the Rapids. Become a playoff team via trades and players you know will translate.

Ebobisse, meanwhile, gets his bag via a new contract and a big-time professional opportunity. The man is a center forward. He should be playing there every week. Having Cowell and Cristian Espinoza on the wings providing service and getting behind opposing defenses via Ebobisse’s hold-up play sounds like it could work quite nicely. He ought to be able to handle Almeyda’s physical demands, too. If it does work to the tune of 15 goals per season, then bigger opportunities will arise, whether in the international game or perhaps via a European transfer.

I’ll say it again … please Matias, start Ebobisse. LAFC don’t have any healthy central defenders outside Tristan Blackmon. Let him feast.

Daniel Salloi … for MVP?

Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting Kansas City — Saturday, 9 pm ET

This is the Western Conference’s best team against the fourth-best team — at least based on the standings. This is a measuring-stick game, especially for the Rapids, who aren’t getting nearly enough respect for what they’ve built or the success that’s come with it. Colorado are trying to prove they belong among MLS’ elite teams, and Sporting Kansas City have a Supporters’ Shield to chase. This game could tell us a lot.

I expect Mark-Anthony Kaye to debut with the Rapids after his own blockbuster trade from LAFC last week. Alan Pulido is back from the Gold Cup and already scoring for SKC. This is the best game of the weekend, both because of the stakes but also because of the quality of the soccer on both sides.

Oh, and there’s an MVP candidate involved as well.

I see Chad’s point, but also Carles Gil has 15 assists all by himself for the Revolution. If we’re going just by non-penalty goals + assists + team position, then Gil has 16, his team is in the Supporters’ Shield lead and his chance creation numbers, never mind assists, are astronomical. He is, right now, the clear MVP.

But, and it’s a pretty big but, the Spaniard may also be injured and unavailable for a few weeks. Nothing official yet, but Gil missed the midweek draw against Nashville and early reports are he could have a sports hernia injury. That means he could miss a good chunk of games, which also means there is an opening for Salloi, who bagged a winger’s assist and striker’s goal against LAFC on Wednesday.

Salloi isn’t the favorite should Gil fall off. The favorite-in-waiting title belongs to Golden Boot presented by Audi leader Raul Ruidiaz or a healthy and productive Chicharito. Imagine for a second Salloi’s second half is as good as his first. What if he’s sitting on 20 goals and 10 assists at the end of the year and Sporting win the Shield? That’d be an MVP-caliber season, even if the 25-year-old doesn’t yet have a MVP profile.

Battle for Texas

FC Dallas vs. Austin FC – Saturday, 7:30 pm ET


This is the second Texas rivalry match in four days for Austin FC, who knocked off the Houston Dynamo FC by a 3-2 scoreline at Q2 Stadium on Wednesday. FC Dallas are unbeaten at home, unbeaten in three games and play a lot of homegrowns. This is their first crack at Verde and their new in-state rivals. It’s also very possibly going to be Sebastian Driussi’s debut. In other words, it’s a good game to watch.

I’m going to be paying very close attention to where Josh Wolff plays Driussi. My assumption, based on his time at River Plate and Austin’s obvious need, was the 25-year-old Argentine would be the center forward Austin FC so desperately need. However, I don’t think it’s unintentional the club calls him an attacking midfielder in all communication. I think that means Claudio Reyna and Wolff see him as an attacking midfielder.

Perhaps the plan is for Moussa Djitte, who still hasn’t arrived in Austin, to be the starting No. 9, with Jon Gallagher deputizing? Does that mean Tomas Pochettino will drop deeper to pair Alex Ring in the 4-2-3-1 with Driussi behind the striker? There’s still plenty we don’t know about this team, but we’re going to find out quickly, I expect, once all the pieces are in place.