Tuesday's soccer news starts with a simple question. Of the eight MLS teams that missed the playoffs, which one has the most pressure on them? The easy answer is Atlanta. This season showed what can happen to any team in Major League Soccer when a key player isn't replaceable. That's such an obvious reason for Atlanta's issues that it's almost a given that a healthy Josef Martinez has them in the playoffs.
For other teams, it's more complicated. The LA Galaxy's issues could require more than another marquee player and a big name coach. They're the type of team right now where the questions continue down the roster, something they showed when it was Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring plenty of goals. Fixing that is likely going to take as much time as it does money, but it's also nothing new.
FC Cincinnati can still lean on their inexperience to point to better days ahead. Vancouver has had issues for so long that it makes no sense to treat this strange season as crucial. Three seasons in a row missing the playoffs doesn't make this the breaking point. Real Salt Lake and Houston need time for different reasons. RSL's investor/operator change gets at least an offseason before serious criticism and Houston is operating under a sporting director and coach who need something closer to a normal schedule.
That leaves two Eastern Conference teams. This was supposed to be the season for Chicago. A new investor/operator, coach, and a return to Soldier Field was supposed to send a clear message of intent. Instead, 2020 turned that into a near miss for the final playoff spot. That's not much consolation considering that meant finishing in 11th-place. There's no reason to think that Chicago changes course. for 2021.
Which brings us to the team that has no choice but to reset under new management. DC United finally made the tough decision to move on from the Ben Olsen era. Under interim coach Chad Ashton, not much changed. DC's season is easy to summarize with one stat. Their -16 goal differential was the second worst in MLS. They scored 25 goals, the same as Inter Miami who took the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. They gave up 41, the worst total in the league.
It's tough to see a new hire embracing the job without demanding an immediate fix to that issue. It will take doing what MLS teams normally resist, spending on defenders first. They're also going to need someone to score the goals. Ola Kamara led DC with four goals this season. Behind him were a midfielder and a defender with three apiece. That's not the type of offense that can keep a team in contention. With respect to those four Eastern Conference teams that made the play-in round, right now all they earned was an extra game. DC has to be looking at how to break into real playoff contention in 2021.
That puts more pressure on them than the other MLS clubs that missed the postseason because they have the most to do. It's not a total rebuild. A season with a healthy Paul Arriola will answer a distribution issue. Bill Hamid as the regular #1 would also help with keeping the defensive shape in front of him. Thats a couple of answers that need more to turn DC United around. It's easy to look at them as the LA Galaxy of the Eastern Conference, something that neither of those teams should take as a compliment.
The Washington Post's Steven Goff reports on DC United's coaching search. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Doug Roberson has Atlanta United already talking about its turnaround for next season. SBI's Ives Galarcep with Tyler Adams's comments from USMNT camp. American Soccer Now's Brian Sciaretta talks to USMNT U-23 coach Jason Kreis about the Olympics.
SI.com's Jonathan Wilson also asks about player overuse in the Premier League. The Guardian's Jonathan Wilson makes the case for Jose Mourinho putting together a title contender with Spurs. BBC Sport on Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney's interest in buying Wrexham.
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