Daily KO - Cristian Roldan

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Portland come back from 3-0 down against Sporting KC

Philadelphia Union U-17s defeat LA Galaxy in Generation adidas Cup final

For the second consecutive year, the Philadelphia Union captured the Under-17 Generation adidas Cup. A penalty shootout win saw the Union retain the Championship Bracket trophy at the oldest age group, as Philly triumphed 5-4 on spot kicks after a 2-2 draw against the LA Galaxy on Sunday.

Assorted thoughts from the weekend that was

We’re pretty much 1/5th of the way through the season already. Only 4/5ths of the way to go before we can say anything about these teams with confidence. But that isn’t going to stop us from sharing a few thoughts.

Ok, I really mean it this time, here come the Sounders

It’s objectively fun when a big team struggles. It’s the same as when a movie that costs $80 million to make ends up being an incomprehensible mess about a guy being in the Amazon with someone’s mom when she was researching spiders just before she died. A lot of effort and resources went into that failure. And, because I’m a bad person, that brings me joy.

For a lot of people, the early season Sounders have been that $80 million flop. I, like the majority of people who voted in the MLSsoccer.com preseason predictions, picked Seattle to finish first in the West. I even took the extra step of picking them to win the Supporters’ Shield. I fully expected a talented roster with a ton of experience and continuity and a new DP attacker to handle a mild Western Conference from wire to wire.

Instead, they earned two points through their first five games. That didn’t mean they were doomed to miss the playoffs, but it did mean they were, for all intents and purposes, immediately out of the running for the Supporters’ Shield. Just for reference, the average Shield winner has lost 6.5 games since the Sounders’ only Shield win in 2014. Seattle have already lost three. Unless we’re about to see a run for the ages, the odds are slim they make a run to the top of the standings, or even the top of the West. For some, that might mean 2024 is already a disappointment.

But the odds that Seattle work their way back to a home playoff spot and “contender” status by the end of the year might be pretty decent. This weekend’s 5-0 exorcism against CF Montréal gave us a glimpse of the Sounders team we’d been expecting.

That came in part because of their gradual return to health. Midfielder Albert Rusnak started and went 90 and midfielder João Paulo made his return in the second half. It can’t be understated how critical João Paulo is to making the Sounders machine function at full efficiency – even at 33-years-old. Oh, and it’s time to start thinking about new DP Pedro de la Vega’s return to the lineup as well. The attacking midfielder is still a few weeks out but making progress toward a return.

All that alone would be enough to inspire some confidence, but I’m going to pile on a bit. Small sample size caveats apply to these numbers, but, per American Soccer Analysis, Seattle’s expected points per game rate is at 1.68, the fifth-best mark in the league and second-best in the West. That’s a far cry from their actual points-per-game rate of 0.83.

On top of that, they’re first in the league in ASA’s all-encompassing Goals Added metric. To be extremely reductive: The Sounders are getting the ball into good positions and keeping their opponents from doing the same. Over time, that should translate to points.

Those numbers don’t tell the full story, of course. There are genuine flaws with this group, and it’s doubtful they’ve all disappeared after one impressive performance. But flawed doesn’t mean broken. And they’ll get to prove that in their upcoming game against a floundering FC Dallas side, and they’ll keep proving it against…[checking]...uh-oh.

Ok, so, it might be tough to see a ton of progress during a run of Vancouver, D.C., Philadelphia, LA and Portland over the next month. Seattle should be fine though. Imperfect, sure. But fine.

D.C. aren’t closers (yet)

Speaking of great underlying numbers, D.C. United have some of the best in the league. And they keep showing that. But only in small bursts.

In the last four games, they’ve taken a lead against Inter Miami only to lose 3-1, taken a lead against St. Louis only to draw 2-2, taken a lead against CF Montréal and held onto it for a 1-0 win, and taken a lead against Columbus only to draw 1-1 after the Crew went down to 10 men.

The Black & Red are firmly in the “good team who haven’t learned how to win yet” category. In their first few weeks under a new manager and in a new system, though, that’s understandable. It’s also proof of concept in what manager Troy Lesesne is trying to instill. That kind of thing can lead to a positive feedback loop. D.C. aren’t contenders yet or anything, but there are signs that they’re building toward something better for the first time in a long time. The next step is figuring out how to close out games.


• The Union look a lot like the Union again. It was fair to worry that something had broken after a disastrous end to their CCC campaign. But this week saw them take down Nashville on the road to remain the league’s only undefeated team and their U-17’s won Generation adidas Cup (again). Odds are that they’re going to have 50+ point seasons until the sun explodes.

• Minnesota United still struggle to win at home.

• I’m not sure Vancouver have the high-end pieces to win a trophy this year, but you can talk me into the ‘Caps finishing on top of the West. It’s a conference up for grabs, and Vancouver have plenty of quality. It’s led them to a league-best 2.17 points per game through their first six matches, and a 4-0 rout against Toronto this weekend. Good soccer team.

• You can make a similar statement for the Red Bulls. There are questions about their ability to win a trophy, but they’re going to keep piling up points. They’re at the top of the Shield standings for now, and it feels like this particular Red Bulls side won’t have the normal summer let-off New York tend to have. They don’t need to press at 110% to get the job done. That’s at least worth a playoff spot. Maybe more.

The Reading Rainbow
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Good luck out there. Why do it once when you can do it twice?