Week 14 in MLS was a hectic one – there were a bunch of games midweek and over the weekend, and it all had to be juggled with the U-20 World Cup, the USA's ongoing camp and other international fixtures.
So, it was a messy week, but here are some key takeaways:
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Depth was tested as players reported for national team duty
With the international break coming for World Cup qualifiers next week, many teams in MLS saw some of their top players depart. The U.S. men played a friendly ahead of the window that pulled a bunch of players away and we got a better look at each team's depth.
Winning despites absences for international duty and injuries were Sporting Kansas (Graham Zusi), FC Dallas (Kellyn Acosta, Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman), New York City FC (Yangel Herrera, Rodney Wallace) and the Seattle Sounders (Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris).
Other teams didn't look as solid without their top players, as Toronto FC (Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley) had an uncharacteristic blip and the Philadelphia Union (Alejandro Bedoya) faced a setback. Real Salt Lake have been struggling anyway, but losing a batch of players to the U-20 World Cup (Brooks Lennon, Justen Glad, Sebastian Saucedo and Danny Acosta) did not help.
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Can the Revs build some momentum?
The Revolution's talent and results haven't exactly lined up this season. They have plenty of quality with Juan Agudelo, Lee Nguyen and Kei Kamara leading their attack, but they haven't always put it together. On Saturday, however, they put it together and then some. They beat what has looked like the best team in MLS, Toronto FC, and they did it by a resounding 3-0 score.
Agudelo, who had been relegated to a super sub role, was the star, scoring New England's third goal and setting up the second. Nguyen looked like in good form, nabbing an assist and recording four key passes that led to quality goal-scoring chances. Sure, it should be noted that Toronto FC were missing Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, but this is a Toronto team that is the deepest MLS has ever seen – they still had Sebastian Giovinco and a bunch of other strong pieces.
That win for the Revs comes after a solid draw on the road to New York City FC in a midweek match, and it looks like something they can build upon.
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Stats probably do matter
We've heard it from Bruce Arena: Stats don’t matter because all that matters is who wins. (He even said something similar again this weekend when he told FS1 that possession doesn't matter.) Now it appears that idea is spreading. Pablo Mastroeni gave an impassioned speech about how "stats will lose to the human spirit every day," which has to be the best post-game press conference quote of the season so far.
The problem is, the Colorado Rapids have struggled with possession, getting shots on target and other stats that can often indicate whether a team is playing well. And the Rapids sit in last place in the entire league. Caleb Porter of the Portland Timbers couldn't help but poke some fun at it – he credited the San Jose Earthquakes with the number of shots they blocked but added: "I got my stats sheet here, but it's about the human spirit today, not the stats." Good banter.
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The Red Bulls need more from the Kljestan/Wright-Phillips duo
The New York Red Bulls continue to underwhelm, and it looks like a big reason is the struggles of Sacha Kljestan. It was notable that the playmaker not only didn't make the USMNT's World Cup qualifying roster, he missed the 40-man Gold Cup roster entirely; but it probably speaks to his form lately. Kljestan isn't getting into good spots – he's dropping too deep without Dax McCarty's help in the midfield to try to get the ball – but his off the ball movement also isn't creating any useful outlets in dangerous spaces.
When he can't get the ball in dangerous areas or make anything happen with it, then Bradley Wright-Phillips is going to have trouble getting the ball too. The Red Bulls need to figure out their midfield soon because it continues to look stuck. Their loss to the Montreal Impact is a low point.
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Video replay can't get here soon enough
MLS has always been a league willing to innovate and adopt new technology. That will be especially true when the league will implement video replay after the All-Star Game in August. And Week 14 reminded everyone again how much the new video review process has the potential to help the officiating. Orlando City went down to nine men on Sunday on the heels of an absurdly bad red card, which you can read about here.
This comes after last week saw some pretty bad calls, including a blatant dive, help decide matches. To be clear, wrong calls are a part of soccer and they affect every league in the world, but good luck telling Orlando City fans it's just part of the game. Video replay should help and the stakes are high for MLS to get it right.
After the break, midweek matches will keep coming fast and furious
After this week, teams could use a rest and they will get one. MLS won’t return until next weekend, with matches resuming on June 10 – but then midweek matches will quickly return as the U.S. Open Cup starts kicking off for MLS teams. That means a lot of teams are going to need to balance the Open Cup with the MLS regular season and decide how to rotate their squads. It's a new wrinkle in the season.
It should be fun though – D.C. United is facing off against the last remaining amateur club, named Christos FC because of a liquor store sponsor. The Open Cup just adds more chaos to a full MLS calendar, but it's worth it.