Armchair Analyst: Goals go missing, No. 9s go endangered & more from Week 14

Sunday produced our 14th and 15th scoreless draws of the 2015 MLS season. For context: Last year, our 15th scoreless draw wasn't recorded until the first week of October, and there were 18 overall. In 2013 there were 19 scoreless draws, and in 2012 there were 22.

The highest this decade was in 2011, when there were 27. So far the league is pretty well ahead of that pace.

Goalscoring as a whole has picked up in recent weeks, and now clocks in at 2.4 goals per game, though it's still below the record low of 2.46 goals per game set in 2010.

And then there's this:

But to me, it's telling that Sherrod actually fell further in last year's draft than McNamara did.

Also telling: Davies is the only domestic, traditional No. 9 who's an every-day starter in MLS. Sherrod (once he gets un-red carded) and Philly's C.J. Sapong are knocking on the door for their respective clubs. Orlando City's Cyle Larin, Sporting's Dwyer and Kei Kamara of Columbus are the other center forward starters who have college or developmental academy experience.

In other words, there are more No. 10s who've been through the domestic pipeline getting regular time in MLS than there are No. 9s.

These things go in cycles, of course, but part of me is left wondering whether we've replaced a bias in the system against one kind of player (small, technical) with a bias against another (large, not particularly fleet of foot), or we've prized one kind of vision (face-up playmaker) at the expense of another (back-to-goal space creator), or we've told bigger kids they can only be defenders, or... well, I'm not sure what.

I am sure of this, though: Spanish clubs still are the best talent developers in the world, and it's not because they churn out an assembly line of one type of player. Talent development is not a zero-sum game – it's not "well, you can create Thiago Alcantara and Isco, or you can create Morata and Paco Alcacer."

The best teams and leagues in the world do both. And then they do more.

No talent is expendable, no matter what shape or size it comes in.


3. A Bad Switch

Nobody had a more dispiriting loss this past weekend than the Chicago Fire, who fell 3-2 to Larin and OCSC by surrendering two late goals. But the fatal wound was self-inflicted, and came when Frank Yallop moved out of the 4-4-1-1 that had worked so well and into a 4-4-2 directly after getting the go-ahead goal that made it 2-1.

The switch pulled Shipp out of his No. 10 role and moved him over to the right-hand side of midfield. In the final 30 minutes, he didn't complete a single pass in the attacking third and you can see from the graphic below that the Fire came completely unbalanced:

On the left are Shipp's first 60 minutes, when he was the best player on the field. On the right are his final 30, when he was an orange cone. He talked about it afterward to reporters, including Chicao Fire Confidential:

 

This is not the most amazing pass of the week, but it's one that illustrates a few fundamental things. Cheyrou's reading of the game for one; Altidore's understanding of his own attacking gravity (watch how the United defense moves toward him as he dummies the pass) as well as Giovinco's threat from distance; the understanding and application of smart pressure by Jonathan Osorio.

It's that last point I really want to make: Osorio could have sprinted directly at Sean Franklin and tried to force an immediate turnover. Instead he realized that would have exposed his flank, so he dropped back, cut off the easy outlet to Nick DeLeon, and forced Franklin to make the least good distributive choice.

TFC are playing smart defense by playing the percentages, and that leads to telling passes.

5. Giovinco is probably the MVP of the league at this point, but Benny Feilhaber's making it close. His late PK in Sporting's 1-0 win over Seattle came after a controversial call – you'll definitely see the whole thing on Instant Replay.

Sigi wasn't happy.

4. Vancouver ended LA's 29-match (all competitions) home unbeaten run thanks to a 1-0 win on Saturday night. Kekuta Manneh got into the open field three times in the first half thanks to some mutinous midfield passing by the Galaxy's Mika Vayrynen. Omar Gonzalez did well to contain Manneh the first two times, but... well, it's not wise to give a good attacker that much time and space to run.

3. As I mentioned above, Nagbe is still leading the league in chances created from the run of play, and he was completely instrumental in Portland's 2-0 win over New England on Saturday. He earned the foul that led to the first goal off a set piece, and his vision and patience on the ball accounted for the key pass in the sequence leading to the second goal, dragging the defense inside to give Alvas Powell time on the overlap:

Since I've been talking No. 9s for a good while here, I'd be remiss not to praise Fanendo Adi. He had two goals, both classic forward's goals, and looks to be out of the funk that had kept ahold of him for most of this spring.

2. Face of the Week goes to Jorge Villafana, who had the assist on Adi's first goal:

The Timbers have their first 3-game winning streak of the MLS era.

1. And finally, RSL's conversion to a 4-3-3 system continues to hit bumps in the road. I talked in the above video about how Joao Plata seems miscast in a winger's role, which was kind of unmissable in Sunday's scoreless draw against Colorado.

On the other side of the ball, they're flattening out a bit too easily and seem kind of confused on when to step. Part of this is no doubt due to injuries along the back line and the absence of Kyle Beckerman, but it remains weird to see an RSL team so unable to apply cohesive pressure on the ball.

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