Daily Kickoff - 6.11.24
What you need to know

Messi leads top-selling MLS jerseys in 2024

During his second season with Inter Miami CF, Lionel Messi has the top-selling jersey in Major League Soccer. The Argentine icon is followed by Inter Miami teammate Luis Suárez (No. 2). FC Cincinnati midfielder Luciano Acosta, the reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP, is No. 3. Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernández (No. 4) and LA Galaxy midfielder Riqui Puig (No. 5) round out the top five.

LA transfer Aguirre to Chivas

The LA Galaxy have transferred midfielder Daniel Aguirre to Liga MX side Chivas. The 24-year-old joined LA midway through the 2021 season after starring for LA Galaxy II (now Ventura County FC). He departs with 2g/5a in 60 matches across all competitions.

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Who's set for a big second half?

We’re halfway through the 2024 season. It's as close as we can be to an actual halfway point anyway. A decent chunk of teams have played 17 games or more and most others have played 16. This international break feels like a nice line of demarcation. And if we’re at the halfway point, that means it’s time for some team to get inexplicably hot and for us to drastically overrate their prospects for 2025 because of it. Hello, Orlando City! Hello, Sporting Kansas City!

So, who’s it going to be this year? You’ll never believe this, but we have some thoughts.

St. Louis CITY SC

Before I start throwing numbers at you, I wanted to get a couple of thoughts out there based purely on vibes (and the return of their best player to the starting lineup). This St. Louis team has been about as nondescript as any other in the league this year. They haven’t done much particularly well or terribly. That’s just how things are when you have more draws than anyone else in the league.

With so many draws, a slight advantage or disadvantage could tilt things either way for this group. Well, re-enter Eduard Löwen. Löwen has recently returned to the starting lineup after missing the majority of the first half due to personal reasons. He started the last two games and helped guide St. Louis to… well, two draws. But, hey, one of those came on the road against Inter Miami. And Löwen is still getting reintegrated.

If Löwen is on the field, this team becomes notably different. He’s one of the single-best all-around midfielders in the league and transforms an otherwise lackluster midfield. That might be enough in the short-term to start pulling out wins and it feels like long-term changes might be coming elsewhere in the summer transfer window. That could be enough to pull themselves out from below the playoff line and into a playoff spot by the end of the year. It’s not like the rest of the bottom half of the Western Conference is stacked right now. Someone has to finish above the line.

(Oh, and there are numbers: St. Louis are underperforming their expected points total at the same rate as Colorado and Seattle. Only San Jose are underperforming by a more notable amount in the West.)

Ok, wait so, why didn’t you pick San Jose, Colorado or Seattle then?

Colorado and San Jose have a chance, but they need to do something about their goalkeeping and I don’t know what the answer is. Per FBref, San Jose are last in shot-stopping (post-shot xG faced - goals allowed) and Colorado are second to last. And I mean, incredibly last and incredibly second to last. Both teams have allowed about eight more goals than expected. The next closest team, Orlando City, have allowed two more than expected. That’s no way to live and a huge detriment to going on a run.

Seattle’s goalkeeping is technically middling (despite what happened on Saturday), but mostly I’m just done waiting around for them. I have to move on with my life and stop reminding myself every day that I picked them to finish first in the West. I love Seattle. But Seattle have decided to not love me back.*

*I reserve the right to be right back on the “Seattle are good actually” train if Pedro de la Vega goes supersonic and they find a way to get a new DP in during the summer transfer window.

D.C. United

D.C. United are an odd team to try and figure out. They have underlying numbers on par with LAFC and FC Cincinnati, but here they are, messing around just below the playoff line in the Eastern Conference.

Honestly, it might be as simple as “team with a new coach and new style doesn’t know how to put together a full 90 yet.” Normally, that’s a little too much of a hot-take-based analysis for my tastes, but I can’t really point to much else. They blew a ton of leads at the start of the season and they’ll pay for it the rest of the year.

In theory, those things improve over time. And good teams regress to the mean over time. D.C. United are second in MLS in American Soccer Analysis’ expected points metric – basically how likely a team is to win their games based on the chances they create and allow – and are underperforming that metric by a historic amount. If they kept underperforming their expected points at the same rate, they’d be the most underperforming MLS team in ASA’s database, which goes back to 2013. They’d also be the first team to ever underperform by -0.6 tenths of a point or more.

It really feels like they’ll come good eventually and at least nestle into a playoff spot. Then again, Christian Benteke is dealing with an injury for a couple of weeks and they probably need a little more help in attack. What if they missed their window at the start of the season?

Atlanta United

Hey, remember that whole thing about D.C. underperforming at an all-time rate? Well, guess who’s currently second on that list?

The Five Stripes have been marred (yet again) by comically bad injury luck and luck in general. They work the ball into good areas and keep the ball out of good areas. The clear problem, though, is they have too many moments where they either shut off for an instant or come out flat for minutes at a time. Their opponents have a remarkable knack for capitalizing on those.

But this roster is really good and has a chance to improve this summer. It seems like Giorgos Giakoumakis is on his way out, but he couldn’t stay healthy during his time in Atlanta. You have to think the Five Stripes will spend big to lock down his replacement.

Plus, Atlanta will be working under interim manager Rob Valentino for at least the foreseeable future. Maybe Gonzalo Pineda’s dismissal represents enough of a change to refocus this group after a miserable run.

…Or things just kind of stay the same and this team keeps sputtering as they deal with numerous international absences and probably more injuries. Still, I had to put them on this list for numbers purposes (at the very least).


Ok, last one. And, yes, I know it’s kind of cheating. But still.

I wouldn’t be surprised if LAFC end up controlling the Shield race from about here on out. They’ve been fantastic, they have multiple tactical clubs in their bag, Denis Bouanga is starting to find the net and they’re adding key pieces like Olivier Giroud in the summer transfer window. They can stay hot through the next few games, then get a potential refresh over the window to keep staying hot as they pick on the rest of a mostly mediocre Western Conference. There are a lot of points on the way for this group.

Other Things

New England's Ivačič named Player of the Matchday: New England Revolution goalkeeper Aljaž Ivačič has been named MLS Player of the Matchday for Matchday 19. The 30-year-old former Slovenian youth international made five saves while keeping a clean sheet in Saturday's 1-0 home victory over the New York Red Bulls, giving the Revs their first winning streak of the 2024 season.

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