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The Big Picture: Seba hits back, Galaxy’s star is fading and your brain on too much MLS

Massive Report’s Josh Mlot & Nathaniel Marhefka discuss Week 8’s MLS action

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Portland Timbers
The Darling-ton of MLS in Week 8.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Before you get ready for this weekend’s Major League Soccer action, you can catch up on anything you may have missed in Week 8 as Massive Report’s Josh Mlot and Nathaniel Marhefka discuss some of their observations from around MLS.

What did you notice? What are you looking forward to this week? Let us know in the comments below.


What I watched: In addition to the Columbus Crew SC game ... New England vs. San Jose Earthquakes (0-0), Philadelphia Union vs. Montreal Impact (3-3), Houston Dynamo vs. San Jose (2-0), Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (2-1), FC Dallas vs. Sporting KC (1-0), Real Salt Lake vs. Atlanta United (1-3), New York City FC vs. Orlando United (1-2), LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders (0-3), Minnesota United vs. Colorado Rapids (1-0).

Why I watched: Well, I watched nearly every game, so ... mostly it's like one big, MLS-y blur. Mostly I watched because I had a chance to, but there were a few games that had some particular interest. The most obvious, I think, is the Dallas-KC game, with as well as those two teams have been playing. I also had some interest in RSL-Atlanta to see the ongoing Petke (r)evolution and how ATLU is settling in. Galaxy-Sounders is a battle of recent Western Conference powers, and Colorado seemed like an opportunity for Minnesota to play well.

What I learned: The Earthquakes can't score and I will not be using any of them for fantasy purposes (except Nick Lima, because he's cheap). The Union and the Impact are still a mess, but that was fun for a casual viewer. I think a long-term Adi absence would hurt the Timbers, but they were just fine last weekend; Darlington Nagbe continues to impress and it's neat to see how he has evolved and developed. Petke is not a silver bullet and Atlanta continues to be a team that will ruthlessly punish you for mistakes. The Orlando City home fortress is real. Los Angeles is undergoing a reckoning. Colorado is in rough shape and has some serious questions.


What I watched: Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, Real Salt Lake vs. Atlanta United, New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC and extended highlights of LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders, and Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire (3-1).

Why I watched: First on my list was the Cascadia Cup (Portland v. Vancouver). It really might be might favorite rivalry match to watch each year. The atmosphere is always great, and last year two games produced a slew of goals, with Vancouver winning by three and Portland winning 4-2. I was interested in watching the Salt Lake v. Atlanta game because I was interested both in how Petke's RSL team would fair against a proven opponent and well, Atlanta United is simply fun to watch. I was always confident Orlando would edge NYCFC but I wanted to take another aggregate of their play and watch NYCFC for really the first time this season.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Toronto FC
Happy to hold hands ... unless you sub him out.
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

What I learned: Vancouver, in my eyes, totally quit with 30 minutes to go in the second half. They were getting sorely outplayed and despite scoring a goal in the 59th minute, in the defensive transition they looked a mess and largely uninterested. I thought RSL played really well. Atlanta is just too strong and their finishing is far superior (RSL's is really quite poor). Petke's team could use a new striker. Yura has a place, but they need someone more dynamic in the XI. Orlando City proved they can score goals via sustained possession, not just on the counter. Seattle manager Brian Schmetzer has found quite the revelation with Will Bruin as center forward and Jordan Morris on the wing. I learned nothing useful about the LA Galaxy. In Toronto I learned that Seba doesn't like to be subbed out.


NATE: Let’s start with the Cascadia Cup. Vancouver came into Portland as underdogs looking to prove themselves, but left a goal short against a very strong Timbers team. The Caps finished with 21 crosses and 17 shots. I’m curious of your thoughts — do you think the cross-heavy attack is premeditated and the finishing was just off? Or do you think otherwise?

JOSH: I think that’s just who they are. And if we’re looking at the bigger picture, it’s not like they entered Crew SC territory from the past couple of years and put up 27 or 28 crosses. They average 18 a game and are kind of middle of the pack in that sense. But as it pertains to the game, I think it’s tough for anyone to try to build through the center when Portland puts David Guzman and Diego Chara there to break things up. And it’s a team I think will be slightly more solid defensively with Liam Ridgewell and Vytas both back from injury.

I thought it was impressive Portland came up with two goals and stayed on the front foot even with Fanendo Adi out. I know everyone is hyping up Darlington Nagbe’s goal — fairly so — but to me the most impressive thing he was doing was dropping into central midfield and really finding space where he could cause some problems.

N: I, too, was really impressed with Nagbe’s play, particularly his movement off the ball. And with the ball at his feet, his decision-making was quite good too. The team has three great creators in Nagbe, Diego Valery and Sebastian Blanco. Maybe that is why they have been my favorite team to watch this season.

You watched two matches of San Jose this week. What did you think? Personally, I had less than zero interest watching them play. Was I wrong missing out? What do you think of their poor run of form (zero win in six games).

J: You were right to trust your gut.

It’s been more of the same from San Jose. It relies on its outside mids to get the ball down the wings, but there’s no real playmaker anywhere. Chris Wondolowski is expected to make his magic, and in the tail end of his career that happens a little less.

Anibal Godoy is one of my favorite midfielders in MLS, but there are holes almost everywhere else. And the strikers they brought in — Danny Hoesen and Marcos Urena — haven’t done anything (though Urena at least has provided good work rate).

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at San Jose Earthquakes
Josh likes Anibal Godoy. Is that a good enough reason to watch the Quakes right now?
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

I also like Nick Lima. For those that haven’t been paying attention to the Quakes this year, he’s one of the brighter young outside backs in the league — rough around the edges but talented.

But enough about San Jose. How about the Atlanta-RSL game? The short Mike Petke honeymoon is over, though to be honest this wasn’t on him. His players need to not turn the ball over in bad spots against one of the best transition attacks i n MLS.

What did you take away from that game?

N: I think it still stands that Tata Martino’s Atlanta United is top-notch. They outplayed RSL, and capitalized when given the opportunity in front of net. On the other side of the ball, their defending was solid, if not as good as the attack. Meanwhile, the RSL front line needs to start converting chances.

Yura Movsisiyan has scored several goals this year, but there is too much reliance on him. He isn’t the dynamic player the team has demanded. Now, whether that’s on Yura or on the setup/teammates is up for debate. Either way, this team needs to convert better.

J: Taking advantage of another team’s mistakes is a mark of a good team, so credit to ATL for that.

I didn’t watch it, but give me your quick take on the TFC-Chicago game, since those are teams Columbus fans likely have feelings about.

N: I thought Toronto looked to be a very complete team. Nick Hagglund looked better in the middle, Seba was incredible (you have to check out his free-kick goal, by the way) and young Raheem Edwards really impressed me at wingback.

For Chicago, Bastian Schweinsteiger was a non-factor and Joao Meira is running himself out of the team. Luis Solignac looked like one of the few players to have the extra bit. Otherwise, Chicago simply got outplayed.

J: Glad to hear Giovinco was more himself. I thought his touch was off the last few weeks. MLS is better with an in-form Giovinco.

Let’s wrap things up with the Galaxy, because I think they’re one of the more fascinating narratives right now. They’ve been a flagship club for Major League Soccer, and I know they’ve had ups and downs before, but it’s interesting to watch.

Are they cycling out of the elite right now? Can they afford to do that with LAFC joining the league next year?

I wrote last week about how they’ve failed to fill the shoes of missing/departed players and they aren’t connecting in the final third. Then we saw it again against Seattle. I could be wrong, but I don’t think they connected a single pass into the box.

MLS: Playoffs-Los Angeles Galaxy at Colorado Rapids
Curt Onalfo was overheard asking, “Is that Don Ovan guy available?”
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Credit goes to Seattle for its performance, but LA is kind of a mess right now. What did you notice in watching the game and what are your thoughts on LAG in general?

N: Technically, they had six passes into the box, only two of which led to half chances, while they had a multitude of misplayed passes in the final third.

I half forgot who Seattle played, because it felt like I was only watching them. The other team was wearing white — nameless and faceless.

By the way, if this was a UEFA-sanctioned match, there’s no way we would see white vs. light grey. Let’s please change that, MLS.

J: EURO-SNOB ALERT! (Now back to Nate’s thoughts...)

N: What else? ... I forgot Gyasi Zardes was even on the pitch. The only LA attack I remember was when they almost scored off of a mistake by goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Overall, this Galaxy team seems ... stuck in the past. Stuck in their heyday and unwilling to change. The brand of soccer they play, for me, is uninspiring and behind the evolution of the game which is quickly happening her in MLS (maybe include others like San Jose as well). This team is in stark need of a new identity.

J: History says the club will figure things out and have money to spend, but Curt Onalfo was an uninspiring pick and it seems like all the kids we’ve heard about in their system have all kind of plateaued. Definitely time for some soul searching for the organization.

We’ll wrap by doing something we haven’t done the last couple of weeks: what are you looking forward to watching this weekend?

N: This weekend there isn’t a ton that totally interests me; maybe I’ve been spoiled. However, I am really looking forward to watching Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas vs. Portland timbers. Why? Goals, goals, goals.

How about you, Josh?

J: After last weekend’s MLS viewing blitz, I may take it a little easier. But the one that is a must watch for me is the Dallas and Portland game. Two of what looks like the best teams in the West, and an interesting tactical matchup. On the surface, it’s your prototypical defense-vs.-offense type of battle. It may or may not have a lot of goals, but it should be entertaining — and telling — nonetheless.


N: Seba's free-kick goal:

J: Seba’s tiny tantrum:


N: Sebastian Giovinco FC

J: Not Wondo. #neverforget

The latest transfer rumor now has San Jose signing Charlie Brown to fix its goal-scoring woes.


N: Sebastian Giovinco ... Will Bruin is the most important forward that won't score a goal all season ... Roland Alberg is the next Chris Pontius (I don't even know what that means) ... Hector Villalba is a magic man ... Oh, and write this one down, tweet this out, make it viral: Cyle Larin = The Canadian Romelu Lukaku.

J: The Galaxy will not score another goal this year that does not involve Romain Allesandrini dribbling through at least four players ... We will see at least two coach firings by the end of May ... Kellyn Acosta will start for the USMNT in the 2018 World Cup (hype train or wish list?) ... After being subbed out one more time, Giovinco will retire from soccer to start his UFC career, attaching a picture of Greg Vanney’s face to his training bag ... And, as always, Daniel Johnson.


N: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

J: Well, below New York Red Bulls, I guess.


Darlington vs. Nacho