Three Thoughts on the Last Week in MLS

Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta FC Dallas at Toyota Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta FC Dallas at Toyota Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /
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Colorado Rapids Kellyn Acosta is left back

It was a bit curious to see the Colorado Rapids deploy Kellyn Acosta at left back for last weekend’s scoreless draw at FC Dallas. Acosta is one of the league’s top central midfielders and has earned the confidence of United States national team head coach Gregg Berhalter in that role in recent friendlies.

So to see Acosta at left back for the Colorado Rapids this past weekend was a surprise to say the least. But the situation in terms of personnel necessitated the move from his natural position.

“I don’t even think I need to distinguish whether we’re talking attacking or defending – I thought Kellyn did an excellent job tonight,” Colorado Rapids head coach Robin Fraser said after the match.

“It’s a tough thing when you go through the entire preseason playing your natural position and you have a few days to prepare for playing completely out of position. I thought his commitment to doing it well was fantastic and it showed on both ends of the field. He defended really well and his willingness to, as you alluded to, get forward, create situations with Andre [Shinyashiki], combine with him to get forward, I thought it was really good.”

Despite his strong showing in the season opener, Acosta likely won’t be the first choice left back for either club or country, but his acclimation at the position and his versatility is another club to throw into his bag for the national team.

Portland and Toronto lose…so what?

The headlines from the first weekend of MLS play saw a couple of top teams losing in unexpected fashion. Toronto FC dropped a 4-2 result to Montreal with a squad that was heavily rotated coming off the midweek result that saw them advance in the CONCACAF Champions League.

And the Portland Timbers lost 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps in a match that was rather even for the most part. Portland’s skipper Gio Savarese did some squad rotation as well after his own midweek advancement in the CCL.

But neither result, especially considering the rotation and depth that were used by both clubs, should sound alarms for either club. These aren’t bellwether performances for Toronto or Portland. Full strength, both these squads look dramatically different.

And let’s give credit to the job that Chris Armas did in his first two matches in charge of Toronto FC, upended Mexican giants Leon in the CCL. The dropped points in league play were worth the price for advancing.

Armas, needlessly run out of town in his job last year at the New York Red Bulls, is a good head coach. He could well have Toronto FC poised for a CCL run.

FC Cincinnati’s spin

A dream start for FC Cincinnati, two goals in the season’s opening dozen minutes, was evaporated with a collapse at Nashville SC. FC Cincinnati is very fortunate to emerge from this road trip with a point.

“At times in these games as well, you see that you need to defend in certain games more than others, and that’s what they’ve done today as well. That’s a very promising thing. It’s an important point for us to take home. Everybody’s always talking about how difficult it is to get results away from home. We get a result and a point in Nashville, which is a positive thing,” said FC Cincinnati head coach Jaap Stam following the match.

“To get to the level of playing that we want to eventually want to go takes time, not only six weeks of preseason that will solve everything, that will make things turn around straightaway. No, it takes a little bit more time. That’s what you’ve seen today by seeing good bits and also bits that look like you need to defend a lot as well.”

That is all well and good, but there are causes for concern for FC Cincinnati.

They got outshot by Nashville 31:7 and were on the wrong end of a 13:2 disparity on goal. Nashville had 57.8 percent edge in possession as well as a not insignificant 14:1 hold on corner kicks. Stam is right about the result but there is a lot of work to be dine in Cincinnati when it comes to how they’re playing.

And another thing…

Playoffs for the USL

The USL announced on Tuesday a new format that capitalizes on regional play for the postseason. The top four teams from each division will make the playoffs in what the league is calling a “single-elimination bracket.”

Competitive matches that mean something are important for the young players in this league. Good move from the USL in their execution of the playoff format.

Follow Kristian Dyer of ‘MLS Multiplex‘ on Twitter @KristianRDyer