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29 Takeaways: One thought on every team after MLS is Back

February 26, 2024, by Jonathan Sigal | Courtesy of www.mlssoccer.com



It's lovely to be back.


The 2024 season got off and running in earnest over the weekend, replete with golazos, tifos and some Lionel Messi magic.


Going round the league, let's take stock of every team.


Atlanta United


Bartosz Slisz as the No. 6, Tristan Muyumba as the No. 8 and Thiago Almada in the No. 10 role. When they click, Atlanta should have one of the best midfield trios in the league. You could see glimpses of it in Saturday's loss at Lower.com Field.


Austin FC


No Sebastián Driussi, no party. Austin FC's injured captain still spoke postgame and called the first half "45 minutes wasted." It's hard to disagree. They just didn't seem up for the home opener.


Charlotte FC


Dean Smith doesn't have a full roster yet (Charlotte have two open Designated Player spots), but he's getting squad buy-in and trusting the youth (see Nimfasha Berchimas' historic debut in their 1-0 win over NYCFC).


Also: Charlotte's crowd of 62,291 fans pulled out the pre-game Poznań to the tune of "Pepas." Then post-game, Smith flashed his sense of humor.


Chicago Fire FC


Yes, late-game defensive issues re-appeared in the 2-2 draw at Philadelphia. And left back Andrew Gutman going down with a non-contact leg injury minutes into his Fire debut isn't a good sign.


But let's not forget the bright side: Brian Gutiérrez (1g/1a) was sensational and marquee offseason signings Kellyn Acosta and Hugo Cuyperslogged solid debuts. Chicago need to carry this offseason momentum forward.


FC Cincinnati


This wasn't a full-strength FC Cincinnati, even though Luca Orellano did his best Álvaro Barreal impression and fellow newcomers Corey Baird, Pavel Bucha and Miles Robinson all had their moments. Once Matt Miazga is back in central defense (his suspension's now over) and Aaron Boupendza can play a full 90, the reigning Supporters' Shield winners will be just fine.


Colorado Rapids


Oof. What a dreadful start to the Rapids' Chris Armas era, taking a 4-1 loss at Portland right on the chin.


There's improved talent after Djordje Mihailovic, Zack Steffen and Sam Vines were acquired this offseason, but it's going to take them a second to gel.


Columbus Crew


Championship ring ceremony. Incredible tifo. Cucho Hernández goal. NancyBall. Merry Crewsmas, indeed.


FC Dallas


Asier Illarramendi is a baller. Dante Sealy has a breakout season loading.

They were the goalscorers in Saturday's 2-1 win over San Jose – an impressive result when considering FC Dallas were missing all three of their DPs. Speaking of…


D.C. United


Christian Benteke in the six-yard box is a problem. The Belgian striker got a hat trick in D.C. United's 3-1 opening win over New England, and thus the Troy Lesesne era started with fireworks.


We also got this incredible line from the new head coach: "In terms of us playing into Christian Benteke, I don't know why you wouldn't play into Christian Benteke."


Houston Dynamo FC


Any points the Dynamo can pick up while they're without injured DPs Héctor Herrera and Sebastián Ferreira are good points. Simple as. Though Houston really could use a signing or two in the transfer market, especially with their open DP spot and U22 Initiative flexibility.


Los Angeles Football Club


LAFC were relentless, deservedly beating the Sounders (2-1) behind golazos from Timothy Tillman and Mateusz Bogusz. Hugo Lloris and Omar Campos were both super impressive on their club debuts, too.


But what most caught my eye was Eduard Atuesta's return to the Black & Gold midfield. He played more as a No. 8 in front of Ilie, and drew this response from Steve Cherundolo in the postgame presser:


"Eduard’s quality, he has an eye, a feeling for spaces that I haven’t seen in a very long time. His ability to float into those spaces, to recognize those spaces and to exploit spaces – his vision with the ball and his movement off the ball is something that’s going to go a long way for us.


We haven’t quite captured all of it yet, but we will. It’s going to make us a lot better."


LA Galaxy


We only saw it for about 20 minutes (plus stoppage time), but that new Galaxy front four of Gabriel Pec and Joseph Paintsil on the wings, Riqui Puig as the 10 and Dejan Joveljic up top… they're going to cause serious trouble for opposing defenses. Their average age is also narrowly over 24, reflecting LA's new transfer-market approach. And they should be force multipliers for each other.


"I think we have, for the first time, a really nice balance between guys who want to play in between the lines and guys who want to play and go to goal and get behind and take people on one-on-one. And your team always has to have balance," head coach Greg Vanney said after Sunday's 1-1 draw with Miami.


"You can't have a bunch of guys who want to come and get the ball at their feet. You have to have guys who want to run and want to play on the run and play on the move. … I'm excited about it because it's going to be tough for teams to clog up the middle of the field on us. That's what everybody did when they came here in the past or played us last year. Just create against density in the middle of the field and see if wings can actually beat you. Now we can beat you on the wings."


Inter Miami CF


This isn't going to be earth-shattering analysis. But here goes.


There were stretches against RSL and LA where Miami were far from world-beaters. They didn't have a counter-attacking outlet. They were making sloppy passes. Their ability to defend in transition looked worrisome. Injuries to Benjamin Cremaschi and Facundo Farías (guys who can run/stretch the field) have had an outsized impact.


Minnesota United FC


If that's what Minnesota's attack looks like without Emanuel Reynoso and Bongi Hlongwane, it's exciting to think about what the full group can become. Robin Lod, Sang Bin Jeong, Teemu Pukki and Franco Fragapaneall left their mark in Saturday's "not as close as the scoreline suggests" 2-1 win at Austin.


CF Montréal


For the first 10 minutes of the 0-0 draw at Orlando, Montréal were high-pressing like no other. New No. 9 Matías Cóccaro was shooting at will. Bryce Duke was setting up chances. But a goal never came, and some heroics from goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois proved crucial.


It's going to take a beat for head coach Laurent Courtois' preferred style to take root. For now, it's a solid first step.


Nashville SC


Down Hany Mukhtar and Sam Surridge, Nashville's attack wasn't necessarily toothless (the Tyler Boyd signing is looking sneaky good). It's just they didn't have the top-end quality to really make a dent in Sunday's 0-0 draw vs. New York.


New England Revolution


Carles Gil is a magician. Esmir Bajraktarevic is saucy. They should produce special moments for the Revs in 2024.


But this 3-1 loss at D.C. will be remembered for Giacomo Vrioni's avoidable red card (two yellows) inside of 25 minutes. It just can't happen, especially from your DP striker who's already facing heat for underperformance.


New York City FC


The goals will come, right? I'm confident they will, especially given the amount of talent New York City have in the final third. But for now, that's not going to help fans' frustrations.


New York Red Bulls


RBNY settled for a 0-0 draw at Nashville, one where Dante Vanzeir, Frankie Amaya and Emil Forsberg all struck the woodwork. Three points were there for the taking, and we got treated to this gem of a post-game quote from Forsberg:


"We created chances and as long as you do that, in the end you're going to score. The guys are going to score and they're going to have what we call a ketchup effect. It's like a domino release. It's going to come, the goals are going to come. I think we just keep pushing, keep believing."


Orlando City SC


It was a much-improved second half for Orlando, who are still awaiting visa approval for DP striker Luis Muriel. Related, head coach Ocsar Pareja is taking the long view for a squad that's expected to vie for numerous trophies.


"I think we have big expectations; I want us all to know this is a long trip and we have to know how to navigate," Pareja said postgame. "It’s not like we’re going to score four goals in every single game. This is a process, and we’ll take the tie today."


Philadelphia Union


Quinn Sullivan (breakout season brewing?) has pushed his way into the Union's early-season starting XI.


The 19-year-old homegrown got the primary assist on Mikael Uhre's goal and won't get a box-score contribution on their late equalizer, but had a sick outside-the-foot pass to set things up.


Portland Timbers


Portland's 4-1 rout of Colorado probably isn't replicable (they registered just 0.4 expected goals). But for now, those like Antony and Eryk Williamson powered a dream start to the Phil Neville era. And it sounds like reinforcements are on the way, as the Timbers are linked with Club América striker Jonathan Rodríguez. Evander's injury doesn't sound long-term, either.


Real Salt Lake


Getting Matt Crooks his debut at St. Louis was a good sign, as was opening Cristian Arango's 2024 account. But RSL are at least one piece short in the final third, and banking on high-upside youngsters like Diego Luna and Andrés Gómez comes with risks.


San Jose Earthquakes


It's a double shot of déjà vu for the Earthquakes, who lost their 2023 season opener 2-1 at Atlanta United on a Thiago Almada stoppage-time brace. To start this year, Dante Sealy's 94th-minute goal handed them a 2-1 defeat at FC Dallas.


Brutal.


Seattle Sounders FC


Seattle were without five starters from the jump: goalkeeper Stefan Frei, center back Yeimar Gómez Andrade, midfielder João Paulo, midfielder Albert Rusnák and winger Pedro de la Vega.


So it's not worth reading too much into the result, a 2-1 loss at LAFC. But we did get de la Vega's debut, and he looked especially brave/creative on the ball. Plus, the Young DP scored his first Sounders goal:


Sporting Kansas City


Sporting are unlikely to fill their open DP spot until the summer window. For now, that means Erik Thommy has the No. 10 reins. And the German midfielder looks ready, scoring a peach of a goal at Houston.


St. Louis City SC


Eduard Löwen said St. Louis "played a really bad game" and "couldn't win the second balls, we were always a step late." But they found an equalizer through one of the best under-the-radar signings in recent MLS history. Enter Sam Adeniran:


Toronto FC


Toronto, as expected, were super organized under head coach John Herdman. Federico Bernardeschi and Richie Laryea had bright moments as wingbacks, as did Sean Johnson in goal.


But the Man of the Match nod? That goes to defensive midfielder Deybi Flores, their recruit from Hungarian top-flight side Fehérvár FC. We'll let Herdman explain:


"[Flores] really pushed our level of performance there. I said we have to recruit that type of player. I think the front office did a great job in bringing that profile, which is that competitive, destroyer-type profile I thought TFC lacked last season in the middle of the park.


"Him and Alo [Coello] have built a good relationship through preseason, but his intensity is special. I watched him for Honduras and have had to play against him and always worried that the player that was on his side wouldn't be left standing after the game. He is so intense and passionate."


Vancouver Whitecaps FC


Vancouver were on a bye. Their season starts March 2 home to Charlotte FC (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).


Jonathan Sigal - @JonathanSigal


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