What you need to know

Inter Miami forward Higuaín to retire after 2022 MLS season:

Inter Miami CF forward Gonzalo Higuaín will retire after the 2022 MLS season. That decision will cap a 17-and-a-half-year career for the longtime Argentina national team standout, having joined Inter Miami midway through their expansion campaign in 2020. It will also open a Designated Player slot for the Herons heading into 2023.

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One reason each eliminated team didn't make the playoffs

We can’t really boil down a team’s entire season into one single flaw. But we can try. It may at least help fans of these teams process why they’re not playing for anything on Decision Day while everyone else has fun.

(Not) Under (that much) pressure

Toronto FC pressed a ton this year, which isn’t a bad idea in MLS. Of the top eight teams by pressure in their opponent's third of the field, Toronto are the only one who won’t be playing for stakes on Decision Day. Even though they were relatively successful applying pressure (most turnovers created in their opponent's third this season), Toronto are ending the season as the second-worst transition defense in the league, allowing 25 goals in transition. In short, when they swung and missed, they swung and missed big. If opponents got through their press, they were likely to find a high-quality chance on goal.

William Agada didn’t start the year with them

It’s wild to think about what this team might have been if William Agada (and to a lesser extent Erik Thommy) had been around all year. SKC were really bad at the beginning of the season. But since Agada and Thommy have arrived, they’ve climbed their way back up the standings to the point where they may finish within two points of a playoff spot. If Agada had been around or if Alan Pulido had been healthy, we could be thinking about this team in a very different way.

Joao Paulo is a Best XI-caliber midfielder

Should your entire operation be quite so dependent on one guy? Probably not. But you can’t go into the year assuming that you’re going to lose your best midfielder for the season to an ACL tear and then lose his outstanding teenage backup to stress fractures in his back. A lot of teams dealt with injuries, of course, but Joao Paulo’s absence lowered the floor significantly for the league’s most notably high-floor team.

Matias Almeyda got an extra year

I understand why they gave Almeyda a little more time, but once they decided to move on from him a few weeks into the season it was clear they were rearing back and punting on 2022. It was always going to take a while to get rid of some of the bad habits of the Almeyda years and it hasn’t happened yet. The Quakes are still struggling defensively. Luchi Gonzalez has a long road ahead when he takes over as manager for 2023.

Their debt came due

After winning an MLS record worth of one-goal games in 2021, the Revs regressed hard in 2022. Pretty much across the board, the players that remained from last year took a step back, the new players that arrived couldn’t stay healthy (besides Djordje Petrovic) and the team as a whole simply was not good at soccer. Seriously, the underlying numbers have them as the fourth-worst team in the league. The only reason they survived as long as they did is that Petrovic is just Matt Turner 2.0. Everything that went right for them in 2021 went wrong. Except at goalkeeper. MLS just doesn’t let luck happen for long.

The pieces didn’t fit

This is broader, but it explains all the little problems Houston had. The players they had didn’t fit into Paulo Nagamura’s system or culture. Obviously, both those areas were so bad Houston felt they needed to move on from Nagamura after less than one year.

I doubt Houston’s roster would have done too much more in a system that amplified their strengths. But being in an SKC-esque setup certainly didn’t help.

Hernan Losada’s management

For all of the advantages Losada’s style of play can bring in a league like MLS (see: Red Bulls, New York), it doesn’t work if you don’t have buy-in. Once the relationship between him and a few of D.C.’s players reportedly became untenable, the system was never going to work. After his departure, they were doomed to a rough road to recovery in the locker room, in the makeup of their roster and their tactical identity. And thus, your 2022 Wooden Spoon winners, D.C. United.

They got rid of a bunch of good players

And they did not replace them. Turns out, that’s a bad way to win soccer games.

Sam Vines, Kellyn Acosta, Cole Bassett, Auston Trusty and Mark-Anthony Kaye all left the team in either the offseason or midseason. Colorado didn’t make serious moves to fill those roles. That’s a really good way to take a major step back from a first-place finish in the West. I’m not mad, I’m disappointed.

Jhon Duran didn’t start starting until it was too late to get started

This kid can ball. And there’s no way to really know whether or not the 18-year-old’s extended presence throughout the season would have saved a lackluster attack entirely, but he has eight goals and three assists in 13 starts so far this season. He didn’t truly get a runout in the starting lineup consistently until August. In his six starts since then, he’s scored five times. Those five goals alone would be enough to place second on the team this season. He now leads the team with eight goals on the season.

It’s harder to win soccer games playing from behind

Far too often and far too easily this season, Atlanta United conceded the first goal. Per Eliot McKinley, Atlanta United spent the second-most time of any team in the league trailing their opponent. They often had enough talent to come back and at least make the game interesting, but no team can be down that often and earn consistent points. Especially not when you’re surrendering goals that seem to manifest from crippling individual mistakes and errors more often than not. Atlanta performed far below their station defensively this season.

Other Things

Charlotte FC's Ríos named Week 33 Continental Player of the Week: One week after Karol Swiderski took home MLS Player of the Week presented by Continental Tire honors, forward Daniel Ríos has earned the same award following a four-goal showing in Week 33. Ríos scored all four goals in Charlotte’s 4-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union, preventing the Eastern Conference leaders from staying in Supporters’ Shield contention and keeping their own Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs hopes ticking.

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Good luck out there. Make your night memorable.