Warshaw: 23 thoughts for 23 teams after Week 34

Atlanta United

What would Atlanta look like without Miguel Almiron in the lineup? The difference was clear, and this summed it up pretty nicely:

Atlanta didn’t play poorly – they just played differently. Almiron should be back for the playoffs, but I wouldn’t expect a fast-twitch player to fully recover from a muscle injury in just five weeks, so expect more of this … even if Almiron is on the field.

Chicago Fire

Brandt Bronico is good. We don’t usually get calm, clean midfielders who spent four years in college, but Bronico is one. He can be a starter on a good team in this league. I have no idea what Chicago will do with their midfield over the offseason – do they still see Bastian Schweinsteiger as a midfielder or is he a defender now? – but they shouldn’t be in a rush to upgrade over Bronico.

Columbus Crew SC

A story: After Sporting Kansas City’s resounding win in Dallas, MLSsoccer.com reporter Jillian Sakovits asked Peter Vermes what has made his attack so good this year. Vermes responded, “Players. You can spend so much time on shooting exercisers and patterns player but at the end of the day you need to have talented individuals who can stick the ball in the back of the net.” Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter must have heard that and slumped in his chair. Crew SC rank 12th in expected goals (xG) this season, but next-to-last in actual goals. The system is getting the players into the right spots, but the players haven’t been finishing them.

Colorado Rapids

After failing to get a shutout in their previous 12 games, Colorado now have two clean sheets in a row. Yes, they were against Minnesota and San Jose. But a good result on Decision Day presented by AT&T could create a positive vibe around the club for the offseason, which makes players more excited for 2019, which means players work a little harder in the offseason, which matters for the actual season.

D.C. United

Every time we say a player isn’t good enough or can’t cut it, remind yourself of the summer of 2018. Players thrive or fall based on the players around them and the system they are in. Every single player on D.C. has looked better in the second half. It’s partly due to Wayne Rooney’s arrival, partly due to Russell Canouse’s do-everything contributions, and partly due to Ben Olsen’s evolution as a coach. But it just shows that almost every player can go from “not good enough” to All-Star with the right parts around him.

FC Dallas

Same old story for Dallas. In the 35th minute, Dominique Badji had as open an opportunity as a professional player can hope to get. He hooked the shot wide. If he had scored, Dallas wouldn’t have just been up 1-0, they could have played the more reserved style they prefer and hit SKC on the counter.

Houston Dynamo

Before the 2018 U.S. Open Cup final, we wondered whether an Open Cup can salvage a season. A month removed from Houston’s Open Cup win, I feel confident saying that answer is “yes.” Everything Houston has done since then has had the shine of “Well, they’re building toward Concacaf Champions League.” They have one game left this year; the next one after that is a big CCL matchup.

LAFC

Diego Rossi scored off an outside-in run from his left wing. Rossi always scores on outside-in runs from the left. He’s been doing it since literally the first day of the season. How do teams still let Rossi slide through their lines with his outside-in runs? Also, it shows how amazing Rossi is with his runs.

LA Galaxy

Behind any resurgence, there’s usually a defensive midfielder or center back at the (quiet) core. For LA, it’s Sebastian Lletget. After missing the second half of 2017 due to injury, Lletget had struggled to find his form in 2018. Consider it found. It was buried right in the middle of the park. Lletget, who’s spent time on the wing and as an attacking mid, has played as a box-to-box center mid next to Jonathan dos Santos in the last four games. The Galaxy have won all four, and Lletget has been excellent.

Minnesota United FC

Allianz Field looks amazing.

Montreal Impact

I’m grateful for Montreal. While New England, Orlando, Chicago and Toronto all wilted in the second half, Montreal have gotten better. In doing so, they’ve kept the Eastern Conference playoff race interesting. There were a couple weeks in July when I was worried that nobody in the East would really earn that 6th playoff spot. But Montreal have gone 11-5-4 in the second half of the year and raised the overall excitement in the East race.

New England Revolution

It's been a tough year for the Revs but even with a game left to play, they're looking to the future, on and off the field. The plans for the new training center look dope, and investment like that makes a huge difference for player in all of the little ways that end up impacting the results on the field.

New York City FC

I have a lot of negative observations about NYCFC, but I learned a lesson from Seattle this year. I stressed over the Sounders' early-season struggles and then their actual starters got healthy and they returned to the league’s elite. As much as I want to call NYC dunzo for 2018, they should have Yangel Herrera, Jesus Medina, Maxi Moralez and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi all back and playing together soon for the first time in a long while, and that’s an entirely different team than the one they’ve been fielding.

New York Red Bulls

Chris Armas made a series of calculated risks when he took over as head coach. He tinkered and tried to help the team improve in various aspects; as we’ve seen around the league this year (Portland, Montreal, NYCFC), that doesn’t always work out. But the Armas tweaks have worked out for the Red Bulls, and he deserves credit for it.

Orlando City SC

They won, they scored (not to be taken for granted) and they had the tweet of the weekend:

Philadelphia Union

The Union lost, but I’d bet they feel even better about their playoff odds than they did before Sunday. When you’re an upstart team that’s playing well, there’s a seed in your brain wondering if you can catch the league’s elite. It’s been pretty clear all year that the Red Bulls and Atlanta are the best two teams in the league. Philadelphia didn’t look out of their depth at all against Red Bulls. The Union can rip that seed of doubt out and toss it in the river. The Union could have won on Sunday, and they can now go into a two-game series feeling like it’s there to take if they play well.

Portland Timbers

A low-key prize on the line come Decision Day: As it stands, Portland and Seattle would face off in a Knockout Round match. Seattle currently sit fourth and would host.  If Portland win (at Vancouver) and Seattle lose (home vs. San Jose), it would flip, giving the Providence Park faithful a Cascadia encore.

Real Salt Lake

I don’t blame Mike Petke for putting his starters (and stars) back into the starting lineup after his reserves got a huge midweek win. I probably would have made the same decision. But as a learning opportunity, it was the wrong decision. RSL looked just as helpless as they had two weeks earlier when Portland rocked them 4-1. Confidence and variance can matter as much as talent. I’ll store this game in my memory bank for the next time something similar comes up.

San Jose Earthquakes

Wondo saying Hi to Lenny Legend made my Monday.

Seattle Sounders

If you were to create a rating for “Ability to Score” in the multiple categories – possession, transitions, and set pieces – Seattle would top the West. They might not be the most likely to score via possession, or via counters, or via set pieces, but they do all three better than most and would have the highest cumulative score. It means they have a variety of ways to win, and a lifeline even when they aren’t playing well.

Sporting Kansas City

Start Khiry Shelton, have Diego Rubio as the ace in the hole for the last 30 minutes.

Toronto FC

The most concerning part of their season has been a seeming indifference on the field. The lineup they used on Sunday was a good lineup; they should have given Montreal more trouble than they did.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

One more week to enjoy Alphonso Davies in MLS. I imagine this is what it feels like watch your kid get married: Happy for them, even as part of you wishes you could've somehow gotten more time.

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