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What you need to know

FC Dallas forward Ferreira named 2022 MLS Young Player of the Year

FC Dallas forward Jesús Ferreira keeps on rolling. The 21-year-old homegrown star has taken home 2022 MLS Young Player of the Year honors, keeping the season-end award with FCD after fellow US men’s national team attacker Ricardo Pepi earned the nod a year ago. In September, Ferreira also garnered the No. 1 ranking in MLSsoccer.com's 2022 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR list.

Vancouver announces year-end roster moves

The biggest contract decision in front of the Whitecaps this offseason revolves around DP center forward Lucas Cavallini. No decision has yet been made as the Whitecaps announced their first roster update of the offseason. Vancouver did leave open the potential for a solid amount of roster flexibility. The club declined options for four players, while another seven players in addition to Cavallini are in talks about potentially returning, but nothing has been decided yet. See all those moves and more here.

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A case for the best conference semifinals ever

It’s tough to go back and compare separate MLS Cup playoffs year by year, but darn it if we’re not going to try. There have been plenty of variations on the format of the league and the playoff setup, but I think there’s an easy case to make that we’ve been gifted with the best group of semifinal games ever.

These are the four best teams from each conference

This is the easy part. Out west, you just have to look at the standings. Seeds 2-4 all survived Round One and there really wasn’t a case for seeds 5-7 as “better” than the teams they faced. Nashville didn’t have the firepower to keep up with the Galaxy, and Minnesota and RSL were good enough to bring Dallas and Austin to penalties over one game, but they’re not winning a seven-game series against those two. They’re just not.

Meanwhile, the story is mostly the same out East. With the notable exception being Cincinnati “upset” the Red Bulls. Considering how unlucky the underlying numbers suggest Cincy has been this year and the fact they’ve got one of the best attacking trios in league history, I don’t think it’s unfair to say they’re the better team overall than a Red Bulls team who had just one player score more than five goals. Which brings us to...

Goodbye, defense

Well, not entirely. Maybe that should be “Hello, attacking firepower and teams with the kind of ethos that leads to exciting, high-event frequency soccer games.” Because you still have the Union, who allowed the fewest goals in MLS history. You still have LAFC and Dallas, the only other teams who allowed fewer than 40 goals. And you still have teams like CF Montréal and NYCFC, whose defensive records aren’t quite as exemplary, but who still actively work to control games and have the personnel to do it effectively.

However, it also just so happens that every single one of these teams can score. In bunches. Out east, the team with the fewest goals scored is NYCFC. They scored 57 times this year and just finished bulldozing Inter Miami with the most impressive attacking performance of the playoffs so far. Out west, the team with the fewest goals scored is Dallas. They only scored 48 times and are the only team left with fewer than 57 goals on the season. But hey, they have Jesus Ferreira, Paul Arriola, Alan Velasco, Sebastian Lletget and Paxton Pomykal on the field. They put up 19 shots against Minnesota in Round One. It’s not like they’re boring.

No one is going to just sit in and call it a day until they get to penalties. Everyone has the ability to light up the scoreboard at a moment's notice. And even if these games don’t turn into goalfests, it’s a decent bet we’re going to see some of the best soccer top to bottom in the history of the league. Put these eight teams against any other eight teams from past semifinals and I have a good feeling this group would be the most talented and the deepest collection of any of them.

The final boss in each conference is genuinely terrifying

The Union and LAFC have just been waiting at home and getting well rested to build off two of the most memorable seasons in MLS history. LAFC have stockpiled more weapons than a doomsday prepper and the Union just finished a season in which they scored nearly triple the amount of goals they allowed. If any seed beside the one seed makes it out alive, they’ll have earned it.

Most importantly though...

Just look at these matchups. We’ve been delivered a playoff El Trafico and a Texas Derby. The Union are facing off against a team built in their image with a front office leader and a head coach that came from the Union organization. And CF Montréal and NYCFC…well, that doesn't really have anything all that special attached to it, but have you seen these two play soccer? It’s some of the most aesthetically pleasing ball MLS has produced.

I don’t know how or why all of this fell into place the way it did. I just know that I’m grateful.

Other Things

Vancouver Whitecaps captain Teibert undergoes ankle surgery: Vancouver Whitecaps captain Russell Teibert underwent successful right ankle surgery. The 29-year-old midfielder is expected to recover in time for the 2023 preseason.

Vancouver Whitecaps sign fullback Martins to new contract: Vancouver Whitecaps FC have signed fullback Luís Martins to a new contract. The deal will keep Martins with Vancouver through 2024 and includes a club option for 2025.

The Reading Rainbow
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Good luck out there. Plan accordingly.