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MLS Western Conference: Hector Herrera is back, Minnesota don’t need Reynoso & more on each team

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

16 min read
Houston Dynamo

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. FC Dallas have problems. 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: Wilfried Nancy’s new contract, trouble in Chicago & more on each team
We’re dissecting every MLS team in the Eastern Conference.

Austin FC

Result: 1-0 win at Houston Dynamo

I’ll be honest, the very first name that came to my mind when I read about the extra buyout that’s coming to an MLS team near you later this season was Emiliano Rigoni.

Signed by Austin as a DP in the summer of 2022, Rigoni struggled to find his footing to close out that year, only notched a combined nine goals and assists in 2,200 regular season minutes last year, and had done virtually nothing in terms of the traditional counting stats or the more detailed underlying data this year prior to Saturday night.

A game-winner, as it turns out, isn't a bad way to score your first of the season:

Game-winner or no, Rigoni is still a prime buyout candidate. Austin FC so badly need more top-end attacking talent to give Sebastian Driussi some help as the Argentine roams in the left halfspace. Expect a sizable chunk of the points Austin secure between now and what should be a busy summer transfer window to be the sort of smash-and-grab results they pulled off against Houston.

12 points through nine games puts Austin right in the thick of things out West.

Colorado Rapids

Result: 2-1 win vs. FC Dallas

Would I have predicted the Colorado Rapids to be sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference after 10 matchdays? Absolutely not. Would I have predicted the Colorado Rapids to be sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference after 10 matchdays with Connor Ronan missing all but 190 minutes of the 2024 season with an injury? Extra absolutely not.

And yet, here we are. 

The Rapids took care of business over the weekend in their 2-1 win over FC Dallas, out-creating the visitors without ever truly needing to break into high gear.

Now, part of that is due to Dallas’ general “bleh-ness” (more on that in a moment), but Colorado have developed a nice makeshift midfield group in the early stages this season. Without Ronan, one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise bleak 2023 campaign in Colorado, former MLS Next Pro standout Oliver Larraz and Cole Bassett have developed into a functional double pivot in Chris Armas’ 4-2-3-1.

Bassett, in particular, looks sharp in a role that asks him to dictate more of the play while still providing him the opportunities to burst into the box.

He’s averaging more passes per game than in any of his previous seasons with more than 400 minutes in Colorado and is having his best-ever season based on American Soccer Analysis’ goals added metric. He’s at home in the No. 8 role rather than playing in the attacking midfield line and should stay there even after Ronan returns.

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