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MLS, Black Players for Change & adidas unveil initiatives to commemorate Juneteenth

MLS has announced a wide-ranging series of initiatives to celebrate Juneteenth in partnership with adidas and Black Players for Change (BPC), the league's independent organization of Black MLS players, coaches and staff working to bridge the racial equality gap in soccer and society.

USMNT, Brazil battle to draw in final pre-Copa América friendly

Christian Pulisic's free-kick goal salvaged a 1-1 draw for the US men's national team against Brazil in their final friendly before the 2024 Copa América tournament.

Messi says career will end in Miami

Lionel Messi told ESPN that Inter Miami will be the final club in a storied career that saw him win multiple trophies at FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain before his transformative move to MLS last July.

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Which players are set for a better second half of the season?

Before we return to trying to Watchgridometer our problems away, I thought we’d take one more look at who’s set to leap forward in the second half of the season. This time though, let’s focus on the players who are getting themselves or their teammates into good positions but maybe need some finishing practice or a little more luck.

Mounsef Bakrar - New York City FC

Ok, I want to start here because I want to believe he can pull this off more than I feel great about him pulling this off. Bakrar is underperforming his underlying numbers by an upsetting amount. He’s found himself on the end of about 4.5 xG worth of chances this year. That’s on par with players like Emil Forsberg, Lucho Acosta, Riqui Puig, Hany Mukhtar and Federico Bernardeschi. Basically, he’s on the same level as guys who aren’t elite strikers but still find the net relatively often. Bakrar has scored one goal out of all those chances.

That’s even with New York City FC’s attack coming good over the last couple of months. Just imagine what they’d be like if their striker could take his chances. He’s got to start at some point… right?

João Klauss - St. Louis CITY SC

Klauss hasn’t underperformed to a Bakrarian extent but has still underperformed his underlyings by a decent amount. He only has five goals on the season but his total xG is closer to seven. That’s only part of why he might be set for a big second half, though.

Eduard Löwen is back in the starting lineup for St. Louis now and the team as a whole should be much-improved because of it. That means more chances for Klauss as St. Louis chase a playoff spot. If St. Louis can go out and add a few more supporting pieces this summer (and they really should consider that) he could find himself on the end of more chances more often.

Hany Mukhtar - Nashville SC

He’s definitely underperforming a little, but I’m mostly basing this one off history and a sunny new outlook for Nashville. The team wants to play expansive soccer a little more often now that they’ve moved on from Gary Smith. Mukhtar would be the one who benefits the most from that. We’ll see if it happens, but, either way, he’s due to get hot any day now. It’s just how it’s worked for him over the last few years. He may not reach the MVP-caliber production we’re used to, but he should at least be able to outpace the four goals and six assists he had in the first half of the season. He’s averaged 18 goals and 11 assists in the last three years.

Bryce Duke - CF Montréal

Duke is your leader in expected assists underperformance this year. He wouldn’t exactly be a world-beater if he had lived up to his numbers so far, but still, it felt worth it to include him if only because Montréal are going to get healthy at some point and Duke will have starting-caliber attacking pieces around him again. With a full allotment of weapons like Mahala Opoku and Matías Cóccaro potentially rejoining the lineup during the second half, maybe Duke can leap forward in Laurent Courtois’ system.

It’s a stretch, sure, but mostly I’m just not ready to give up on this ​​Montréal side being really fun if they can get their starters back on the field.

Saba Lobjanidze - Atlanta United

It feels like Lobjandize has come up short on about a hundred high-quality chances this year. He’s underperforming his xG and xA. A new manager bump in Atlanta could do him a lot of good. The Five Stripes will kind of need that to happen now that Giorgos Giakoumakis is reportedly on his way to Cruz Azul.

Willy Agada - Sporting KC

This kind of feels like a throwback to last offseason when we all just assumed Agada would take over and become The Guy in Kansas City. That clearly didn’t happen. But he’s been getting a decent amount of minutes this year and he’s found a way to underperform his xG by the second-unluckiest per 90 margin in the league. Maybe at this point, he can take over the starting spot for good and start to find the same kind of rhythm he found in 2022. Starting Agada full-time can’t make things much worse, right?

Denis Bouanga - LAFC

Take what Bouanga has already been doing and add more firepower around him. Seems like a pretty decent bet that he goes on a heater, right? Look, I had to play it safe on at least one of these.

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Good luck out there. Find a good stopping point.