Minnesota United and a visiting Portland Timbers were set to split points following a tepid back-and-forth bout, but fate had a different outcome in mind.
Two minutes into stoppage time, following VAR review, Ethan Finlay converted from the spot, propelling the Loons to second in the Western Conference with 38 points – edging the Quakes and Sounders only on a tiebreaker.
The call made by referee Chris Penso will make the rounds, as many can argue Timbers’ defender Larrys Mabiala had limited space to move his arms away from Ike Opara’s headed ball, though.
Fair call or not, the Loons faithful had every reason to sing “Wonderwall” after securing three, crucial points ahead of a what will be a tight playoff push in the West.
But what does he really think about the quality of the stars in MLS, and overseas? And does his work with the Crew tip his hand at all in terms of how he’ll line up the Yanks.
Personnel will dictate what he sticks with, but what formation gets first dibs?
Berhalter operated in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 for most of this season, switching to the latter for the last 10 starting lineups of the regular season and three MLS Cup Playoff games.
Part of that 4-3-3 was very much akin to a 4-2-3-1, with Federico Higuain operating atop a midfield pyramid.
It’s worth noting that no teams beat Berhalter’s Crew more often than Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls (7). It’s not a stretch to say he’ll have respected impressions of Tyler Adams, Marky Delgado, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Aaron Long, and their peers (Altidore, for example, has five goals and an assist in seven games against Berhalter).
Who has caught his eye abroad, aside from Pulisic, McKennie, etc? And is this an MLS litmus test?
When you consider the men from outside MLS set to star for the USMNT in future seasons, there’s little doubt about the new guard of Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and John Brooks, but who else might Berhalter have admired in studying those who followed his career path and spent most of the careers abroad?
A deeper look, though, raises the question of how many MLS players will get continued, deep assessments given how many USMNT players or prospects are in top European environments. For example, you could call up a 23-man roster based entirely on the continent and feel confident you’ve made few errors (assuming a transfer Steffen happens).
This isn’t a shot at MLS, who developed many of these players (I’ll denote that with a *). It’s rationality, and a compliment.
Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Zack Steffen* (Columbus->Man City – reportedly), Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin)
Midfielders (8): Geoff Cameron* (QPR), Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Weston McKennie* (Schalke), Tyler Adams* (RB Leipzig), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Romain Gall* (Malmo)
Forwards (4): Bobby Wood (Hannover 96), Tim Weah (PSG), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Haji Wright (Schalke)
How big of a day is this for Wil Trapp?
The Columbus Crew defensive midfielder has already captained the USMNT eight times under Dave Sarachan. That’s 8-of-11 caps for a 25-year-old, and it’s been whispered that his continued inclusion may’ve been a sign Berhalter was coming for some time.
But is that simply connecting too many dots? Yes, Trapp was a mainstay for Berhalter with the Crew, but he’s often struggled to star when given the chance in a U.S. shirt at a time when few other players had the opportunity.
Trapp was the 12th-rated American defensive midfielder with more than 10 appearances in MLS this season, according to WhoScored. Taking away anyone not rated strictly as a holding or DCM, Trapp is behind six players: Russell Canouse, Sean Davis, Cristian Roldan, Tyler Adams, Jeff Larentowicz, and Benny Feilhaber. The first four are the same age or younger than Trapp, and 18-year-old Chris Durkin wasn’t far behind the Crew man.
Will any other Crew players get a chance to shine?
Gyasi Zardes, 27, scored 20 goals while leading the Crew in minutes this season, but Berhalter has had success with any number of strikers in his system. Ola Kamara and Kei Kamara each had prolific seasons for Columbus.
Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, 23, is already entrenched in the USMNT plans, whether he can outplay Ethan Horvath or not.
Aside from Trapp and the two above, there are not many other Americans under 30 who’ve seen many minutes under Berhalter since Ethan Finlay left town in 2017.
It’s also probably bad news for Kekuta Manneh, who washed out of Columbus and has yet to score for St. Gallen in Switzerland.
The game in 100 words (or less): Just when FC Dallas think they’ve hit rock-bottom, the fall a little bit farther. Oscar Pareja’s side saw its winless skid hit 10 games on Saturday, with a 4-1 loss away to Minnesota United, a side themselves with all of three wins from their last dozen games. Gone now are the games in hand that buoyed FCD’s hopes just a few weeks ago, as they’re now level on games played with many of the sides presently ahead of them in the race for a Western Conference playoff spot, save for Real Salt Lake (level on points) and the San Jose Earthquakes (one point ahead). Following their sixth loss in 10 games, FCD remain eighth in the West, a point behind the Houston Dynamo for the sixth and final playoff place (RSL play later on Saturday with a chance to go fifth themselves. Minnesota, meanwhile, distance themselves from the 10th-place LA Galaxy and sit just six points behind FCD, having rebounded nicely after an appalling start to their expansion season.
14′ — Akindele arrives late, slams home for 1-0 — Tesho Akindele waltzed through the penalty area, unnoticed and unmarked, before arriving at the top of the six-yard box just in time to meet Michael Barrios’ cross.
24′ — Ramirez finishes after a beautiful through ball sets him up — Kevin Molino picked the right pass, and played it perfectly (with a bit of help from Walker Zimmerman), and Christian Ramirez made no mistake with the finish.
35′ — Ibarra volleys past Gonzalez to make it 2-1 — Ramirez turned provider on Minnesota’s second goal, lofting the ball into the penalty area for Miguel Ibarra, whose first-time take beat Jesse Gonzalez to put the home side ahead.
71′ — Finlay finishes some fancy build-up for 3-1 — Heartbreak on one end of the field, heartbreak on the other end of the field. Anything and everything that could go wrong for FCD, continues to go wrong for FCD.
While some squads appear content with their current crop of players, others went out and were active this summer in the MLS transfer market.
A little over two months remain in the regular season, and with so many teams vying for a playoff berth in both conferences we saw several high-profile moves to increase their chances of reaching the MLS Cup playoffs.
PST takes a look at the top moves from the MLS summer transfer window, which closed Wednesday night.
D.C. adds USMNT’s Paul Arriola
It’s been a really good 2017 for the U.S. Men’s National Team winger. Arriola is looking more and more like a legitimate candidate to make the Stars and Stripes roster for Russia 2018, assuming the U.S. closes out qualifying strong. There’s a number of reasons to like this move, though, from a D.C. perspective. Not only is Arriola a budding USMNT talent, but he’s a young one at that. He’s only 22. Additionally, he gives the Eastern Conference side another quality attacking threat to go along with Luciano Acosta in the near future as the club prepares to unveil its new stadium in 2018.
Orlando acquires Dom Dwyer
He’s only 27 years old and arguably a top 5 striker in MLS. While Sporting KC appears to be content with its options in the absence of Dwyer, Orlando City certainly gained a tremendous asset to partner up front in the Lions attack with Cyle Larin. It remains to be seen how long Larin will remain in a purple kit down in Orlando given the rising interest from clubs in Europe, however, the pairing of these two finishers could be the most deadly in the league once they are acclimated with one another.
Ethan Finlay to Minnesota
Finlay’s form has clearly dropped off in 2017 from his performances of past years, which signified that this was probably the right time for the midfielder to make a change. His one goal and one assist this campaign are underwhelming given his past production, but the Loons have the chance to now reinvigorate the Minnesota native with an attack in place that’s already pretty talented. Head coach Adrian Heath has pieces in place (i.e. Kevin Molino, Christian Ramirez, Abu Danladi) that will help ease the transition for Finlay, who has shone at the highest levels of MLS. Just think back to 2015. Finlay was an MLS All-Star. He was voted into the MLS Best XI. And most importantly, he had his side on the brink of winning MLS Cup against the Portland Timbers.
Atlanta trades for Bobby Boswell
Why is a 34-year-old center back important for Tata Martino’s side? Experience. Boswell has previously played in the postseason in 11 of his past 12 seasons with both D.C. United and the Houston Dynamo. Atlanta did a good job of adding MLS veterans prior to their debut in MLS this season with players like Jeff Larentowicz and Jacob Peterson, but Boswell not only adds experience but much needed depth defensively as well. There’s no question Atlanta’s attack is elite, and that’s even without Josef Martinez — who has been sidelined due to injury. If Atlanta can strengthen its back line, nobody is going to want to face them come playoff time.
Aaron Maund joins the Whitecaps
It’s surely the least sexy pick on this list, but Maund is legit. He’s become as consistent a center back option as there is in MLS, and while RSL’s poor form hasn’t help Maund’s case for being an All-Star — or even receiving significant notice in general — the 26-year-old can immediately help the Whitecaps in their starting XI and provide Carl Robinson with depth as playoff time approaches.
While this club won’t take the field until 2018, LA FC announced its first Designated Player signing this week with the acquisition of Mexican international forward Carlos Vela. The 28-year-old goalscorer currently plays in Spain with Real Sociedad, where he will reside until officially joining the expansion MLS side in January.