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We just saw the most exciting Matchday of the season so far. I have questions. Let’s talk it out.
You probably know The Daily Kickoff’s position on managers at this point. They really don’t matter as long as they aren’t either revolutionizing the sport or losing the locker room. Success is far more about the players and the folks in charge of bringing in the players. Well, in Toronto, things just aren’t going great right now for head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley.
The Reds lost to Austin this weekend. Gyasi Zardes found the net in the 91st minute to make it 1-0. They’ve won just one match in their last 11 games. They’re in last place in the East. Federico Bernardeschi has thoughts.
“Sincerely, this team, this city, the fans, everybody don't deserve this, and I think maybe we need to change something. We need to [have] a little bit more tactics. We need an idea of how we play because this is the real problem for me. It's impossible to play like this when we play without [an] idea. This is the big problem for me,” Bernardeschi said.
“We don't have a construction in the game. When the player has the ball, we don't know how to pass the ball. This is the real problem, because we don't train about that," continued the 29-year-old. "We lose every game. We tie, we lose, we tie, we lose. Sometimes we win. But I can't believe this sincerely. This is no good for the young players. They need to get better, no? And grow up with an idea of football, and the players with personality, they need to help, help us to understand and follow the idea of football. But we need the idea of football. This is the real situation.”
The roster in Toronto remains thin. They aren’t getting results. And Bernardeschi’s remarks don’t exactly reflect a locker room in harmony. That’s a dire situation in Toronto.
Although, it wouldn’t be The Daily Kickoff if we didn’t point out that the Reds have been a little unlucky. First and foremost, Lorenzo Insigne can’t stay on the field. He’s scored just once in 484 minutes this season and didn’t play this weekend. That’s not Bradley’s fault. And even without Insigne available for the majority of minutes this year, Toronto’s underlying numbers aren’t bad. Per American Soccer Analysis’ expected points model, the chances they’ve allowed and created in each game would, all things being equal, generally have them on more points than NYCFC, San Jose, Orlando and St. Louis, to name a few. They’ve been more middle-of-the-road than total tire fire. Whether or not you think that’s acceptable for a team with the spending power of Toronto is up to you. Either way, this team could use a break for the better as soon as possible. I think it will probably come. But will it break enough to matter?
After this weekend’s 3-2 win in Hell Is Real, FC Cincinnati are five points clear atop of the Supporters’ Shield standings with 30 points. That’s 2.31 points per game if you’re keeping track. That’s an absurd pace through 13 games and frankly, they just aren’t going to be able to keep that up. The record-setting Revs finished on 2.15 points per game in 2021, and Cincy don’t have Matt Turner.
But they do have a ton of match winners, a sense of overwhelming assuredness at home and they’ve figured out (like the 2021 Revs did) that one-goal wins count the same as any other win. Which is good news because they certainly aren’t running over teams still. Even when it looked like they might take off on the Crew this weekend, Columbus came back from an early 2-0 deficit to tie things up.
It’s a strange team to assess still, honestly. It could be as simple as the fact they have Lucho Acosta and everyone else doesn’t right now. It could be a really good team catching a few early breaks that make them look more great than really good. I’m not entirely sure. The underlying numbers have them closer to the sixth-best team in the league than the best by a considerable margin, but, then again, shut up nerd, scoreboard.
I’ll just say I think we’re about to find out a ton about how legitimate Cincy’s Shield dreams are. I think they’ll be fighting for it for a large chunk of the season, but running away with it seems like a stretch. However, if they maneuver through their upcoming stretch of six road trips in nine games with a points-per-game number reminiscent of past Shield winners, we’ll at least be considering them locked-in favorites for the first spot in the East. The only thing there will really be left to worry about in the Shield race is the potential CCL champions out West.
No. I promise you, it’s not a real thing. But what is real (and was real even before Gerhard Struber left) is the Red Bulls’ underlying numbers were kind of outstanding. And their general luck was kind of terrible. Maybe still kind of is. American Soccer Analysis’ expected points model has them as the best team in the East when it comes to the chances they’ve created and allowed. That’s starting to manifest in a regression to the mean that seemed to be coming regardless of who was in charge.
Either way, the Red Bulls have now taken seven points from their last nine and are allowing the fewest chances in the league. They’re going to be in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for like the 30th year in a row.
Uhhh… I mean, no. Probably, right? Look, every MLS team has their down periods in a season and Seattle still lead the league in expected points and there’s no real reason to believe they’re going to do anything but make whatever changes are needed to get out of this rut and get better as the season goes along.
Yeah, they’ve lost three of their last four with those three losses coming to SKC, Austin and a way-better-than-they’re-getting-credit-for Vancouver team. Yeah, they’ve only won twice in seven games. But they’re still Seattle.
And… uh…. it’s probably fine, right? Probably? Y’all, I’m still a bit shaken after saying all last season how they were probably going to end up in the playoffs no matter what and then just kind of didn’t. But I feel more confident in this year’s prediction that Seattle will be totally fine. Probably. It’s just… it’s not great right now. Tweaks are needed to bounce out of this one. And probably some serious consideration about moving on from Raúl Ruidíaz this summer if possible. Being healthy is a skill, right?
I think he might be. And it might not even be all that close.
Atlanta are taking their time working him back from a hamstring injury and yet, despite playing just a little over 500 minutes this season, he’s second in the Golden Boot presented by Audi race despite not taking penalties. After his brace this weekend in a chaos-driven 3-3 tie in Chicago, he has one fewer non-penalty goal than Dénis Bouanga. Bouanga has played 919 minutes.
If you’re doing the math there, Giakoumakis is averaging a totally fake looking 1.36 goals per 90 minutes. But it’s probably not all that fake. A little fake for sure given his limited minutes. But not all that fake. He’s finding a league-best 1.01 xG per 90. Again, he’s not taking penalties.
We’re talking about numbers that have him on track for the single-best goal-scoring season in MLS history. Atlanta may have gone out and replaced Josef with tall Josef. Yes, those numbers are going to even out a bit. No, he’s probably not going to set records this year. But the ability and talent are undeniable. The Five Stripes have nailed this one. Now he just needs to get fully healthy.
- Matt Doyle’s Sunday column is up and good.
- Seattle said they need to "get back to competing" after another Cascadia Cup loss.
- LAFC took the lead atop the Western Conference as the CCL final looms.
- Federico Bernardeschi vented about Toronto FC after their loss to Austin.
- St. Louis CITY "took it personal" as their rivalry with Sporting KC began.
Good luck out there. Be the capital you want to see in the world.