A big week for young players, Brandon Vazquez is a star, and more from around MLS
- MLS has been truly wild over the last few days. Let’s walk through some of the most interesting things going on in the league right now
- From Brandon Vazquez’s excellence to young players shining to NYCFC’s issues, there’s plenty to discuss
© Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
This is an excerpt from Monday’s Weekend Recap. Subscribe to our free newsletter to get future editions of the Weekend Recap delivered right to your inbox.
So this weekend was just about the most MLS weekend to ever MLS, wasn’t it?
There was a Friday night game that started on Friday and ended well into Saturday morning Eastern Time. There were two 4-4 draws. The Philadelphia Union snagged their second touchdown of the year, this time without the extra point. Oh, and a team that started with Tommy McNamara and Sebastian Lletget on the wings drew with a team that started Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi out wide.
I mean, it just doesn’t get any better than that. Here’s my notebook complete with some takeaways from this weekend’s MLS action.
Brandon Vazquez to the USMNT
It’s time. Really, I thought it was time back in June.
Brandon Vazquez scored a brace on Saturday night against Inter Miami. He’s now up to 13 goals on the season to go along with an extremely impressive set of underlying numbers. In a year that’s been something of a renascence for American No. 9s in MLS, Vazquez has been maybe the best of the USMNT-eligible bunch. He creates space in the box, he sees space, he attacks space, and he puts the ball in the back of the net.
It’s not just goalscoring that makes the 23-year-old special, though. Vazquez does almost everything that you want a striker to do. He’s not going to drop into midfield like Jesus Ferreira, but he has a big frame, quick feet, and can hold the ball up and play off of his attacking teammates. Defensively, Vazquez presses more than the vast majority of strikers in MLS. According to Second Spectrum, he’s in the 94th percentile for pressures per 90 among strikers.
With a pair of friendlies coming up next month for the U.S. men’s national team, Vazquez is showing that he’s worth a look from Gregg Berhalter.
In their first game since Taty Castellanos moved to Girona, guess how many shots New York City FC took? Two. They took two shots against CF Montreal for a grand total of 0.07 expected goals. That’s, uh, not great.
In their first game after Taty's departure to Girona, NYCFC took two shots for a grand total of 0.07 xG against Montreal. https://t.co/fABfM2m2bh— Joseph Lowery (@joeclowery) July 31, 2022
Heber started up top as the No. 9 and then Thiago Andrade, not Talles Magno, finished the night as the striker in NYCFC’s 0-0 draw. I have some questions about what NYCFC’s attack looks like going forward – and I’m guessing Nick Cushing does, too – but there is plenty of talent in this team and they should still be able to steamroll more than a few defenses over the coming months.
That is, if they can find a way to control games again.
Since Nick Cushing took over for Ronny Deila as manager of New York City FC, there’s been a notable defensive dip from the Pigeons. They’ve been a league-average team in terms of expected goals allowed per 90 minutes since Cushing took over. They’re also pressuring the ball less under Cushing than they did under Deila, according to 2S.
In their game against Montreal on Saturday, NYCFC were passive. They were content to sit in their own half, absorb pressure, and then try to find something on the break. To be fair, they did pick up a point on the road using that strategy. But watching them play, it didn’t feel like I was watching the New York City team that won MLS Cup last year.
A lack of defensive control that leads to defensive mistakes is one thing. But a lack of defensive control that limits an attack that’s already lost its most important player? Now you’re in dangerous waters. That lack of field control wasn’t the only attacking issue for New York City on Saturday, but without Taty, the margins are thinner than they’ve been all season for NYCFC.
Rapid fire on the youngsters
Jack McGlynn scored his first career MLS goal against the Houston Dynamo over the weekend and it was a beauty. His left foot is so good.
With Mark-Anthony Kaye out injured, left winger Jayden Nelson is slotting into central midfield right now for Toronto FC. As a winger, Nelson really found his groove and he struggled to create his own shots. Now playing as a central midfielder, the 19-year-old can focus on pressing and ball progression, which fits his skillset. We could be looking at another Latif Blessing positional switch success story here, folks. Give it time.
According to reports, Chicago Fire teenage goalkeeper Gaga Slonina is headed to Chelsea for a $10 million base fee with add-ons. At just 18, Slonina is a talented goalkeeping prospect. It looks like he’ll finish out the season in Chicago on a loan from Chelsea before heading over to England permanently in the new year. I hope he finds a way to get minutes and continue his development on the other side of the Atlantic.
John Tolkin did this against FC Barcelona in one of those midseason MLS friendlies on Saturday. This kid has Mountain Dew in his veins where the blood is supposed to be.
John Tolkin, you're crazy for this one 🙃 pic.twitter.com/1IPyuiwYLF— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) July 30, 2022