1. It has been a busy week in our soccering worlds. But there is first, and most importantly, this.
2. It would be easy to get distracted, so we’ll keep these brief. MLS commissioner Don Garber hinted at an expansion team in Las Vegas, continuing to believe that growth is always the best policy as the league continues on its way to 30 or 32 teams. FC Dallas, Minnesota’s opponent on the weekend, fired their head coach, Luchi Gonzalez. The Leagues Cup has been reimagined. MNUFC announced its participation in MLS Next. The Mayor’s Cup will be played at Allianz Field this year. And, finally, two stories that seem to go together: prior to the game on Saturday MNUFC executives met with supporter’s groups to explain why they are continuing to downplay their responsibility to their fans and stadium staff and employees. On Thursday MNUFC announced a special announcement that will, presumably, announce that they are hosting the 2022 MLS all-star game. Which, together, seem to make for a very nice summary of the Chris Wright Era.
3. In his post-game comments after the loss to DC United, Adrian Heath admitted, after starting a previously unused 5-2-3 line-up, that he “wouldn’t want to talk about the shape of the team this evening or individuals.” Most of the players, he said, “have played in that position. Played in them roles before. We spoke about it and we worked on it this week. So, it’s one of them, at the end of the day, you’ve got to be flexible,” concluding that, “collectively we were second best.” A sentiment that was on his mind, as he said earlier that “regardless of the shape, like I just explained to the players, you can play with three at the back, five at the back, 4-3-3, 4-3-2-1, whichever but then you have to compete... They wanted to win the game more than we did.” The message clearly stuck. “They won all the knockdowns, they won all the second balls,” Brent Kallman offered in his own post-game comments. “There was a point in the game where it felt like it started to turn to luck, things were kind of bouncing their way. You flip a coin and they keep winning it over and over again, maybe it’s not luck, maybe they were hungrier and quicker to get around the ball.” But then Kallman added something a bit more interesting: “Their movement was really intelligent up front,” he observed. “[I] felt like I couldn’t really get as tight to [Ola] Kamara as I wanted to. Part of it was because his movement was really good, but also the other guys next to him, the midfielders are making runs in behind constantly. For me personally, I felt a step behind, I couldn’t get as tight and physical with Kamara as I wanted to.” On Saturday, after going up by 2 against Houston, the team seemed to lose its desire playing down to the level of its opponent. On Wednesday, though, the contrast was clear between a team that had a sense of identity and what it wanted to do, knew how to do it, and played into its possibility with joy and excitement and a team that was mostly lost and unsure of what was being asked of it, and so was always, as Kallman said, a step behind. Which is why a conversation about formations is always more than a conversation about formations. It is about players being put in positions to be successful, of having the confidence to play together into what is possible.