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Leagues Cup continues on Tuesday

The semifinals are set for Tuesday. Philadelphia hosts Inter Miami at 7 pm ET while Monterrey takes on Nashville at 9:30 pm ET. Both games are on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

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Whose stock is down as MLS regular season return nears?

Yesterday we took a look at a few teams who should be feeling good about jumping back into the MLS season this weekend. Things are looking up for that group because they made some excellent moves before the transfer deadline or because they happened to find an extra gear during Leagues Cup or both. Some teams didn’t quite get the same boost. In fact, some teams should maybe be a little worried about how the last few weeks have gone down as we enter the final stretch.

That…could have gone better. To be fair, Seattle found themselves in the tournament’s toughest group. But I doubt that makes folks in Seattle feel any better about getting boat raced by RSL and then allowing four goals to Monterrey after going up 2-0 early.

Things didn’t exactly feel dire with this team before Leagues Cup, but nothing has felt all that enjoyable about watching Seattle this year. In fact, something has felt off ever since their 4-1 loss to Portland when things completely unraveled over the final 20 minutes. That was all the way back in April. You keep expecting Seattle to pull out of whatever funk they’re in because it's Seattle, but it hasn’t happened.

What makes that particularly odd is the underlying numbers actually feel pretty good about what Seattle has been doing. They’ve been on a 1.25 points per game pace in the 16 games following that Portland loss, but American Soccer Analysis’ “Expected Points” model suggests they’ve been playing closer to a 1.63-points per-game pace, the sixth-best mark in the league over that span. That’s due in large part to a defense that’s been the best in the league by expected goals allowed in that same stretch. But the attack isn’t clicking. Since a 3-0 win over St. Louis on April 8, Seattle have scored multiple goals in an MLS game just two times.

Seattle feel like a team that could have used a boost – either through some Leagues Cup-based momentum or a transfer or two. Both moments came and went without anything to show for it.

Now, a few things here: 1.) It’s Seattle. Everything I’ve said so far could look hilarious in December when they’re lifting MLS Cup somehow. The early Leagues Cup exit gave them a few weeks to reset. Maybe that’s all they need. 2.) Changes will come eventually. All indications are Seattle are in for a very busy offseason. 3.) There are plenty of teams that would be totally ok with sitting relatively comfortably in the top four of their conference 24 games into the season.

It’s weird. It feels off. But it’s not that bad. It’s just not up to Seattle’s standards.

Bruce Arena isn’t with the team. Star goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic is back with the team, but clearly took issue with how the Revs reportedly denied his potential transfer to a club in Europe. And now their excellent right back, Brandon Bye, is out long-term with a knee injury. It’s turning into a kind of miserable season for the Revs.

They’ve largely been excellent this year. Even with Dylan Borrero’s ACL tear in May, they’ve put together the second-best record in MLS. But the last few weeks have been a nightmare.

The good news is Carles Gil and Petrovic plus nine randoms could earn you a win on any given day. The remaining Revs roster is definitely far better than nine randoms, even without Bye. They’ll be mostly fine. But it does feel like their ceiling dropped a significant amount.

It might work out in the long term. It’s totally understandable to try and get some return on a player coming to the end of their contract. But, simply put, things don’t seem to go well for teams that trade Julian Gressel. Trading Gressel may be the new trading Walker Zimmerman in that sense. No matter what, you’re just going to have to accept it will be a while before you regain your footing.

Gressel played a critical role in Vancouver’s attack this season, generating the league’s sixth-best expected assist mark. To simplify: Gressel created chances at a level on par with Gil, Hany Mukhtar and Lucho Acosta. That’s an extremely difficult thing to replace. Even in the aggregate. With the Caps just a few points away from sitting below the playoff line, it’s going to take a heckuva effort to keep their head above water the rest of the way.

It seemed, for a brief moment, like things were coming together for the Galaxy. At least on some level. Like maybe they could get back in the playoff hunt. 

Then, midfielder Gaston Brugman tore his meniscus in his left knee against Club León. Gotta think that probably wraps things up for the 2023 LA Galaxy.

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