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Game of the year in Atlanta and Galaxy fire their president and win immediately: 5 takeaways from MLS Matchday 16

While most European leagues are reaching their gripping conclusions, MLS is still very much up for grabs with 16 matchdays completed. The table has taken shape, but anything is possible in America’s top flight. From last-minute equalizers to incredible displays of impotence in front of goal, there was something for everyone on Matchday 16. 

5 takeaways from MLS Matchday 16

#1. Game of the year contender in Atlanta

Far too often, two top sides meet and decide to play with conservatism in mind. Tactical battles played out over 90 minutes can be fascinating to the trained eye, but there will always be something glorious about an all-out brawl. Opposing sides throw everything forward and are rewarded for their efforts, in turn passing the rewards onto those in the stands and watching at home, who get to end their day knowing they spent it correctly. 

Atlanta hosted New England in the first match of the day, and as soon as the opening whistle left the referee’s lips, all hell broke loose. Carles Gil opened the scoring after just 21 seconds thanks to a mistake from veteran goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The Revs doubled their lead, on the road mind you, in the 36th minute as Bobby Wood bundled home a cross from close range.

Make no mistake, this game had been all Atlanta up to this point. World Cup winner and MVP candidate Thiago Almada had struck the crossbar with a free-kick and created multiple scoring opportunities, but somehow none were converted. That is, not until Giorgos Giakoumakis found an inch and took a yard 10 minutes into the second half. 

The Greek forward halved the deficit with his ninth goal this term and gave Atlanta the goal it so desperately needed. Then came the slighted Almada, whose brilliant run led to a shot that led to a deflection which, unfortunately for Đorđe Petrović who had been brilliant up to that point, led to Atlanta’s equalizer. But just when you think it couldn’t get any more manic, Miguel Berry comes on for the hosts. 

The Spanish midfielder does not score often. In fact, up until the 87th minute, he still hadn’t opened his account for his new club. But perhaps that was all so this moment could be made that much sweeter. Berry collected a loose ball from outside the 18-yard box and unleashed the most tethered of volleys. As if it was lashed to a rope and pulled by the gods, the ball left his foot and soared into the top corner past the helpless Petrović. 

Not to be outdone, Bruce Arena’s side threw caution to the wind and pushed for a goal in the dying moments, hoping to still salvage something from their trip down south. Luckily for New England, they have a magician in their ranks, a man able to conjure the impossible and instill his vision upon reality. 

In the third minute of stoppage time, Gil found himself on the end of a failed clearance attempt just inside the penalty area. Under this intense pressure, he faced five defenders, faked a shot with his left, put it on his right foot and smashed his effort into the net at the near post, making Guzan look like a young child, still struggling to keep his feet beneath him as he learned to walk.

Both teams are packed to the brim with talent and are led by coaches who are great at getting the best out of their players. While far from guaranteed, it would take some freak accident to prevent one or both of these teams from making the postseason. No doubt, this game was one of the classics, we just hope we can get more of the same come the MLS Cup Playoffs.

#2. Inter Miami continues its losing streak

Before jumping into this, let's first break down Inter Miami’s season into wins, losses, and ties after 14 games.


Now, if we were to expect Miami to follow the trend it has set for itself, the club should now go on a four-game win streak before losing three straight, followed by five successive wins and finally two more losses. I’m all for committing to the bit, but at a certain point, Miami has got to learn how to avoid losing soccer games with any sort of consistency. 

Also, quick sidenote, how has Inter not tied yet? For reference, Chicago and Toronto have each tied eight times this season, including this week when they played each other in a match that ended 0-0. It’s not like Miami is getting blown out either, they’ve played 11 games that have been decided by just one goal and yet, not a single one has ended in a tie. It's almost impressive. 

After this most recent streak, Phil Neville and his side now sit bottom of the Eastern Conference, behind four teams who have won fewer games. When looking at xG, Miami is in the negative for both xG differential (expected goals minus expected goals against) and xG vs. Actual (the team's actual goals scored against the expected goals scored). 

This means that Inter is both not creating as many good goal-scoring chances as their opponents and not converting the chances they are creating as much as they should. It’s kind of like the “Bermuda Triangle” of not losing games you could probably win. Other teams in this category are the Colorado Rapids, Austin FC and Minnesota United. Not exactly great company to be with. 

Some things can change. The team can revert to the mean for xG conversion over the season and/or it can alter the style of play to create more chances to hopefully capitalize on. Unfortunately, only half of that is up to Phil Neville. Good teams struggle from time to time, but it’s important to realize that sometimes a struggling team is just bad. 

#3. LA Galaxy fire their president and win immediately 

Have you ever gone through a messy breakup? The kind of breakup that’s months or possibly years in the making, but still hits you like a freight train and leaves you feeling completely empty? You think life can't get any worse as you try to move on, only to see your significant other immediately living it up with somebody else? Someone who is objectively better looking, makes more money, lives in a better house and drives a more expensive car than you? No? Just Chris Klein? 

The former Galaxy player served as the club’s president for the last 11 years and has overseen some of the toughest times in the Galaxy’s long and storied history. On Tuesday, following extensive protests from fans and one of the worst starts to an MLS campaign in history, Los Angeles fired Klein and began the process of moving on. 

Greg Vanney kept his role as head coach and sporting director and the focus immediately turned to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. Unfortunately for Klein, the Galaxy immediately won and while obviously it wasn’t him struggling to score or leaking goals between the posts, it does seem that his departure has made an instant impact. 

It remains to be seen if this change will actually change the course of the Galaxy’s season beyond a midweek game in Utah, but the alteration will almost certainly be felt much deeper into the future. 

#4. Vancouver hits six against Houston

The Whitecaps have made a bit of a habit of scoring this season, despite their midtable position in the league. In all competitions, Vancouver has scored three or more goals on six occasions and has scored the joint-fourth most goals in MLS, only behind Atlanta, St. Louis and Columbus. Their most recent foray into the back of another team’s net came against Houston, and oddly enough, they actually trailed at one point, though not for long. 

Five different Whitecaps found the net in the match, with Julian Gressel bagging a brace. His first leveled the score at 2-2 in the 18th minute (I know, crazy, right?), and his second secured the result at the hour mark, as he made it 4-2 in favor of Vancouver. 

The Dynamo had their chances but it felt as if there was some force, larger than life, stopping the ball from hitting the net. In one sequence, Houston missed a bicycle kick that struck the post, the follow-up shot from close range missed the goal and that shot’s rebound was then headed over. Not even 10 minutes later, Vancouver’s goalkeeper, Yohei Takaoka, saved a shot from a breakaway, which led to another effort on goal that was blocked by an attacking player. 

Sometimes, it's just not your day, but for Houston, scoring looked impossible. The two sides recorded relatively similar expected goals (xG) in the match and yet Vancouver won by four goals. This transcends bad luck. For 90 minutes, Houston was the statue to Vancouver’s flock of fiber-packed pigeons. 

#5. Winless in Seattle

OK, “winless” is a bit of a stretch, but this is still not a great look for the team currently sitting atop the Western Conference. With last night’s 1-0 defeat to San Jose, the Sounders have now lost three of their last four home games at Lumen Field. In those games, they’ve conceded five goals and scored just three. 

Now, I will reiterate, Seattle is currently leading the West with 26 points, but that’s not the full story. Much like in motorsports when the leader makes a pit stop and drops out of the lead despite having the fastest car, every other team from second to ninth has played fewer games than the Sounders. In fact, only two other teams, the Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City, have played 16 games. 

Seattle ranks third in the West in points per game (PPG) behind LAFC and St. Louis, who have played just 12 and 13 games, respectively. Using their PPG, Los Angeles can expect to earn at least 33 points from 16 matches while City could expect to earn around 31. That would put Seattle more realistically fighting for third while those two fight it out for the top spot and potentially the Supporters’ Shield if Cincinnati shows any signs of stopping.

Realistically, Seattle will be fine. Brian Schmetzer’s team has faced a lot of injuries this season and are still near the top of the standings. As long as the squad is fit and ready to play in October, the Sounders will definitely be dangerous. 

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