Skip to content

MLS Eastern Conference: Nashville’s historic struggles, Benteke dunks again & more on each team

We’re dissecting every MLS team in the Eastern Conference.

15 min read
Nashville SC

Welcome back our two-part weekly MLS column here at Backheeled where we break down all 29 teams in the league.

I’ve got the East. Joe Lowery's got the West. Chris Brady’s got saves. Inter Miami are the greatest show on turf. Let’s chat about the latest for each Eastern Conference squad, shall we?

To read up on the West, check out Joe’s rundown.

MLS Western Conference: Austin FC’s transformation, Atuesta’s role & more on each team
We’re dissecting every MLS team in the Western Conference.

Atlanta United

Result: 0-0 draw at Chicago Fire

There’s no reason for Atlanta to panic after their scoreless draw in Chicago. They had chances – the kind of chances that tend to find the back of the net on most nights.

Thiago Almada came close to putting it all together with 0.38 expected goals and 0.78 expected assists in a free-flowing, fluid performance underneath the striker. He popped up everywhere, dragging Chicago’s pedestrian defense wherever he felt like pulling them and feasting off of the space Giorgios Giakoumakis commands. He couldn’t find the final product, though, flashing a handful of chances off target.

He’s one of the most exciting players with the ball at his feet, but this season hasn’t had enough actual, legitimate production. Atlanta need him to level up (or they need someone to finish after Almada sets things up on a silver platter) if they’re going to truly be a contender this season.

Two goals and one assist from 720 minutes isn’t cutting it.

FC Cincinnati

Result: 2-1 win vs. Colorado Rapids

Make that two-straight games that Pat Noonan has left Aaron Boupendza out of his starting lineup. 

Will Kevin Kelsy help change the tide of Boupendza’s 2024 campaign? Kelsy, a 19-year-old Venezuelan striker who’s en route from Shakhtar Donetsk, is the Brandon Vazquez replacement.

He’s built like Vazquez and has even more athleticism that the now Monterrey man. Kelsy has already played at a higher level than any he’ll see on this side of the Atlantic thanks to his 130 UEFA Champions League minutes with Shakhtar. But after watching those minutes, it obvious that Kelsy has some of the weaknesses you’d expect from a teenager when it comes to his first touch and dialogue with midfield.

Still, Boupendza has been missing a physical strike partner who can clear him up to freelance and wreak havoc at will. Kelsy was signed to be that guy.

On Saturday against Colorado, Cincy didn’t need the Gabon international to earn three points against Colorado. It was Luca Orellano who popped off the screen at me in this game, pulling off the same rotation with Lucho Acosta that Alvaro Barreal and Acosta used to near perfection in 2023. With Acosta moving wide to stretch the opposing backline, Orellano found a pocket of space in a more central spot, allowing him to receive and find Corey Baird for the second goal of the game:

That skillful fluidity on the left was such an asset last year and looks to be one this year, too.

This post is for paid subscribers


Already have an account? Log in