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The Big Picture: Villa, VAR and ... other non-V stuff

MR’s Josh Mlot & Nathaniel Marhefka discuss Week 22 in MLS action

MLS: New York Red Bulls at New York City FC
Stealing the show...
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

There was some excitement on the field in Week 22 of the 2017 Major League Soccer season, plus the introduction of video review.

You may not have had time to watch every game, but Massive Report’s Josh Mlot and Nathaniel Marhefka have nothing better to do than watch MLS, so they discuss some of the notable moments from this past weekend, all for your benefit...


What I watched: Montreal Impact vs. Orlando City (2-1), Minnesota United vs. Seattle Sounders (0-4), Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution (4-1), Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy (3-1)

Why I watched: This weekend I have still been in recovery from my illness that sidelined me from the podcast last week, but I was able to catch a few matches, notably on Saturday. This week was dictated mostly by what was available to me, but I was pretty interested in seeing how Chicago Fire would handle New England at home.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Sporting KC
Nate’s new favorite
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

What I noticed: I managed to watch only one close match of the weekend and happened to watch most of the blowouts. Blerim Dzemaili and Ignacio Piatti were totally dominant in the Impact's victoy over Orlando City. The score doesn't really suggest quite how dominant the Impact were. There's not much to say about the Seattle match unfortunately — it completely out-classed Minnesota and I was only surprised they score spread was not greater. Chicago was totally dominant over the Revs, and the Fire showed why they are top of the league. Jonathan dos Santos made his debut in Los Angeles to a roar of 26 minutes and a yellow card.


What I watched: Montreal vs. Orlando, Portland vs. LA Galaxy, New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls (3-2), Sporting Kansas City vs. Atlanta United (1-1), Minnesota vs. Seattle

Why I watched: I got to watch more live games than usual this week, and caught most of what interested me. Some Eastern Conference teams, my weekly does of SKC and I was curious to catch up with a Minnesota team I hadn’t watched in some time and a Seattle side I think may be finding its stretch-run mojo again.

What I noticed: Changes in Orlando weren’t a magic bullet ... yet. Portland finally looked like the Timbers of early-season days. The Galaxy is still less than the sum of its parts (and even less so without Romain Alessandrini). New York, New York showcased the best of striker play in MLS. Atlanta was incredibly fortunate to walk away with a point in a game in which it was soundly outplayed. Minnesota and Seattle ... one of these teams is better than the other.


JOSH: Let’s start with a game we both watched, Montreal-Orlando. You thought the Impact dominated. What stood out to you?

NATE: The electric performance by Piatti and smooth, dominating play in the center by Dzemaili was really something to behold. For me, this team felt on another level. Maybe they are improving that much, maybe it was just a chance for their star players to really shine, but it was really top stuff from Montreal.

Orlando scored early by way of Cyle Larin, but that was, for me, the only thing to take away from their day.

Did you have similar thoughts about this match or am I wildly off the mark?

J: I didn’t think it was that mismatched. Montreal did control the run of play, but Orlando had some decent counters, especially in the first half. But the Impact were the deserving side.

For me, it was interesting to see Larin’s role shift a little alongside Dom Dwyer. I thought he moved around more and dropped in more, rather than so often making the run to the far post.

And those two Montreal stars are so fun to watch. One my notes was simply, “Piatti is awesome.”

MLS: Orlando City SC at Montreal Impact
Nachos with cheese
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

What about the game in Minnesota? It was very clear United was missing Christian Ramirez. They missed a few chances and it really came back to haunt them once Seattle got its first two and ran off with things.

N: Man, this game was rough. Ramirez truly makes or breaks that team. Seattle steamrolled them on their own turf.

Bobby Shuttleworth wasn’t good [Editor’s note: This is paraphrased to save Shuttleworth’s feelings from Nate’s placement of him “among the bottom of my MLS goalkeepers list”] and on the other end Stefan Frei came up big when called upon.

But this could have been 6-0. I remember seeing the fourth and the broadcast accidentally changed the score to 6-0 for a few seconds and if they would have kept it I may very well not have noticed.

J: I noticed a broadcast scoreboard gaffe earlier than that too. Obviously this game felt much worse than it even was. This looked like the Minnesota of the early season and it had to be disheartening for the fans in the stands.

N: Portland and LA didn’t end up real close either, despite Jonathan Dos Santos’ debut. Did you get the same feel from this match or sense that Portland won the roll of the dice at the end of the day?

J: What a great game, just in terms of entertainment value. It was a blast. You had early scoring back and forth, video review, a golazo.

I think Portland was deserving. LA did not look as defensively organized as it did in Sigi Schmid’s first game and more like they have all season. And there just wasn’t enough up top for the Galaxy. It should be noted that Alessandrini did not play in this one.

N: Portland, I agree, looked the commanding force in this match. And LA, how do I phrase it — I forgot that Sigi Schmid was in charge because the team felt no different from ArenaBall™.

Jelle van Damme didn’t play in this match either. What was the reason for Alessandrini’s absence?

J: I have no idea why Alessandrini didn’t play, and didn’t find anything online about it. His absence was noticeable, though.

N: Liam Ridgewell’s return for Portland has already had an impact, as he looked solid defensively and added a goal.

But for LA, Sebastian Lletget has been the forgotten man on the sideline. Is the Galaxy going to get that much better when he returns in a few weeks, or will it be too late to rectify their season?

J: I think LA is better with Lletget, but the team has enough other issues that it may be too late for that improvement to get them where they need to be.

I will say this: If Lletget and Sigi are enough to get them into the playoffs, that still looks like the ceiling for this team right now, which is shocking with some of the talent it has. But maybe I’m misreading it. Maybe they start clicking and make a run. They certainly have some good pieces. We’ll have to wait and see if JDS is enough to organize things and help the defense.

N: You were able to catch NYCFC vs. New York Red Bulls in the crosstown clash that I hear is one for the ages. Five goals, all coming from Bradley Wright-Phillips and David Villa. What did you take away from this one?

J: This became Villa vs. BWP in the best way. For me, this was a game that will be a part of Villa’s MLS legend.

For a good chunk of the game, the claustrophobia of the field stood out as much as any game I’ve watched played at Yankee Stadium. That field situation is just terrible from a soccer standpoint.

But then Villa overshadowed all that.

I do think we are starting to see the Red Bulls find their legs, even taking a loss here.

What about Chicago-New England? Was it as convincing as it seems at surface level?

N: Yes, if not more. Chicago was the team of the week, for me. It was so good as a unit, it totally dominated every aspect of this match and did so with quality and cohesion.

Kei Kamara may have been the only bright spot for New England. He was actually quite good. And Lee Nguyen put in a solid performance, but otherwise the Revs looked a team of pieces (which they have all season).

MLS: New England Revolution at Chicago Fire
The other Kamara
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

J: That would be two weeks in a row Kei put together a good game after questions about whether he was the square peg in a round hole there.

What are you looking forward to watching this week?

N: I would say Toronto vs. Portland and Philadelphia vs. Montreal. The latter of which I want to see which team can get an edge in this gruesome fight for the sixth spot in the East. Montreal may be the better side but it is in Philadelphia this week.

And Portland has been hot lately and I want to see how they fare against the top team in the league.

How about you, Josh?

J: I hadn’t thought about the ramifications that Philly-Montreal game could have for Columbus.

I’m looking forward to the Portland-Toronto match, and also Seattle-SKC. I thought Sporting was very good against Atlanta and was unlucky not to get three points. and I do think Seattle is figuring things out, so this could preview an important playoff series in the West.

N: Columbus could actually go down to ninth if Montreal, Orlando and Philly results continue to get results. That match has potentially tough ramifications if Columbus loses over the weekend.


N: Royal Cascadian Technology Institute of Discovery's fading star phenomenon presented by Professor Wil Lamette

J: If you didn’t watch, you didn’t see the introduction of video review, or the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), if you’d like. Most games weren’t affected, but there were two reviews on the weekend, and both goals were disallowed, including one during a wild start in the Portland-LA game that was EXACTLY the kind of thing its meant for. My takeway? The jury is still out, but I think VAR is a good thing.


N: In a week when David Villa has a hat trick it is hard to imagine that someone else could take this spot. Surprise! Patrick Doody is Player of the Week for me. He provided a stunning three assists against the Revs from the left back position! His second MLS appearance, both starts, and he has four assists in those two matches.

J: While I’ve enjoyed watching Doody play numerous times in St. Louis, I will steer clear of Nate’s hipster selection and go with the only real answer for this category, David Villa. (If nothing else, watch the second goal...)


N: Patrick Doody for Russia 2018. ... Lamar Neagle is worth a fourth round SuperDraft pick. ... Bobby Boswell is expendable in D.C. ... Crew SC sign savior Pedro Santos. ... Anthony Jackson-Hamel has potentially fatal Balotelli Syndrome. [Editor’s note: I don’t know what this means, but it sounds like a good way to go.]

J: Villa. .... Villa. .... Villa. ... I’d hate to be Jacob Peterson’s ex-girlfriend. ... All bow to our new VAR overlords.


N: Sixth in the East

J: Pedro Santos to the rescue, right?


Upon completion of this discussion, there were two moments that went overlooked that were deserving, so for your entertainment...

Diego Valeri’s golazo:

The Philadelphia Union’s total team goal (in a road win over FC Dallas, no less):