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MLS Western Conference: Chicho Arango is the selfless superstar, LA Galaxy’s no-brainer & more on each team

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

16 min read
Real Salt Lake

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 West. Ben Wright’s got the East. Chicho Arango’s got my brain in a pretzel. Let’s chat about the latest for each Western Conference squad, shall we?

To read up on the East, check out Ben’s rundown.

MLS Eastern Conference: Columbus Crew flop in the CCC final, Atlanta United crumble & more on each team
We’re dissecting every MLS team in the Eastern Conference.

Austin FC

Result: 5-1 loss at Real Salt Lake

Hey Austin fans, quick note from the author here: I, uh, don’t think you want me to spend this whole section talking about how absurdly poor your team was against RSL on Saturday. So…I’m not going to do that! Brad Stuver can’t save everything every week, it turns out. Oh, and Sebastian Driussi is important! Who knew? Anyway, let’s talk about something more fun than a 5-1 drubbing.

There’s a new winger in town, people.

Now that Emiliano Rigoni is officially no longer an Austin FC player, sporting director Rodolfo Borrell made his first big move since being hired to replace Claudio Reyna nearly a year ago. Borrell and Austin signed 25-year-old Ghanaian international winger Osman Bukari from Red Star Belgrade in Serbia.

Bukari is a speedy, right-footed winger who loves to dribble at opposing fullbacks and thrives when he’s running in behind the backline. He also played as a striker at times for Red Star against higher-quality opposition, using his vertical threat to pose real problems on the counter. He has 17 caps with Ghana and played 500 minutes in the UEFA Champions League, starting against Manchester City and RB Leipzig. 

There isn’t an established path from the Serbian top flight to MLS — according to Transfermarkt, there have only been 16 transfers from the former league to the latter. Bukari will be the 17th. Still, the winger was effective in Belgium with Gent to start his career and put up 0.64 goal contributions per 90 in Serbia (granted, for the best team in Serbia). It’s easy to like Bukari’s speed and ability to cut the ball back from the endline.

He’ll be an immediate upgrade on Rigoni when he debuts next month.

Colorado Rapids

Result: 2-1 loss at Vancouver Whitecaps

There wasn’t a ton of standout stuff from a partially rotated Rapids team on Saturday. But you know what there was? Trickery. On-brand trickery for this publication, at that.

Cole Bassett whipped out this lovely little backheel in the buildup to Colorado’s lone goal against Vancouver:

I didn’t include Bassett in my All-Star ballot, but there’s a reason why I made sure to specify that he should feel aggrieved by that choice. The 22-year-old has been consistently impactful in the attacking third as a box-to-box No. 8 under Chris Armas. 

Zooming out to look at the entire goal sequence there from Colorado, it was a classic example of what Jesse Marsch — Armas’ former boss — calls “quickplay”. Quickplay, as Marsch has defined it in the past, involves rapid-fire touches, flicks, and passes to break through the opposing defense, all while keeping a tight network of players to win the ball back with an aggressive counter press if the ball turns over. Kevin Cabral does an excellent job of initiating the quickplay, Bassett continues the theme, and Omir Fernandez finds Djordje Mihailovic for the finish.

This Rapids team doesn’t always play like the old Red Bull teams that Marsch and Armas coached together, but every now and then? The methodology comes through.

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