Rivalry Week

360 View: Guti's time to shine? Atlanta's tactical solution?


Hello there, beautiful people. Welcome back to 360 View with yours truly, Kevin Egan!

My jaw is still on the floor after what Lionel Messi did in 45 second-half minutes last week. Week after week, it’s record after record that the GOAT is breaking. We’re so lucky to witness the greatest thriving in Major League Soccer.

Speaking of great, it’s Rivalry Week presented by Continental Tire! I’m so glad I’ll be home with my feet up on Sunday evening to devour and dissect all that Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders offers (4:45 pm ET | Apple TV - Free; FOX, FOX Deportes). It’s No. 12 hosting No. 11 in the Western Conference, which doesn’t seem right typing that out. This is the murky water that these two big-time clubs find themselves in. The Timbers had a bright start to the season, but are now eight games winless. As for the Sounders, this is by far and away their worst-ever MLS start through 11 matches. Providence Park will be a cauldron of both sound and pressure.

As fans, we often hear people say “Who’d want to be a coach?” The pressure can be overwhelming. So much of what plays out is beyond your control. That pressure is something Gio Savarese dealt with every day for six years as Timbers head coach, and while we may see him return to the sidelines at some point, I think we should highlight how much fun Gio’s having in our TV world! Every week Gio hops on to MLS 360 in English for an hour, and without fail, it’s the craziest hour of the week. This chant has become a staple on 360, and this past week it was Kaylyn Kyle taking a quick break while the in-form Savarese stepped in!

Needless to say, I’m buzzing that we get to cover Hell is Real on MLS 360 this Saturday (7:45 pm ET | Apple TV - Free; FS1, FOX Deportes). Columbus Crew vs. FC Cincinnati has quickly become my favorite rivalry in the Eastern Conference. Ohio is the capital of soccer in the US right now. MLS champions vs. Supporters’ Shield champions. Cucho vs. Lucho. This match will deliver, and I can’t wait!

During MLS 360, the esteemed analysts to my left always offer such insightful and valuable takes on the game, so going forward I want to make sure some of them are discussed here.

Kaylyn Kyle: Make Guti the man in Chicago

Chicagoans love to hate on St. Louis teams. Folks in ‘The Gateway to the West’ will never miss a chance to rip on Chicago’s teams. The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry has 133 years of rich history. It’s always spicy. As is the Chicago Blackhawks vs. St Louis Blues in the NHL.

In many ways, I’m a Chicago boy. My mother was born and raised there. I grew up wearing Cubs and Bears gear. My wife is Northside Chicago proud. Every loved one in The Windy City could easily spell out why St. Louis is a sporting rival, so it won’t be long before we see the Fire and second-year club St. Louis CITY ignite this historic city rivalry, only this time on the pitch.

The only previous MLS meeting between Chicago and St. Louis was last season, and the Fire bagged a 1-0 win, with captain Rafa Czichos scoring the only goal. The absolute star in that contest, though, was then-teenager Brian Gutiérrez. The homegrown Chicago starlet was ‘man of the match,’ displaying his true potential.

That match was one year ago this week, and Guti is now the focus, at least for us in studio. There may not be a bigger fan of Guti than our MLS 360 analyst Kaylyn Kyle. Last week, Kaylyn proclaimed that the time is now for the 20-year-old homegrown.

“Gutiérrez has to play. People talk about his inconsistencies, but his inconsistencies within the starting XI plays a huge factor. Make him your focal point. Give him the confidence that he is your starter and you are relying on him.”

Gutiérrez is Chicago’s leading scorer with three goals this season. He’s played 606 minutes from 10 games, and at times he’s found himself on the outside looking in. As mentioned by Kaylyn, the criticism has often been inconsistencies, drifting in and out of games. That’s also been the case for Xherdan Shaqiri, one of the league's highest-paid players, who has two goals this season, both from the penalty spot.

Both need to step up. Hugo Cuypers is a record signing that’s leading the line, and fresh off a Golden Boot-winning season in Belgium. The man needs service.

What better way for Guti to grab the keys, and for Chicago to get back on track, than a ‘Route 66’ win at a raucous CITYPARK on Saturday (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

Sacha Kljestan – Tactical accountability in Atlanta

Pressure is mounting in Atlanta. Without a win in five matches, and now sitting below the Audi MLS Cup Payoffs line, the Five Stripes will look to bounce back when they welcome D.C. United to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

Here’s the crazy thing about Atlanta’s season – even though their defense has been decimated through injury, they’ve been statistically one of the best in the league. Heading into last week’s home clash with Minnesota, Atlanta had only shipped nine goals, tied for best in the Eastern Conference with Columbus and Cincinnati. The issue has been scoring goals. They’ve scored five goals during this five-game winless run, and that’s hard to believe given the amount of chances they’ve created. I have a strong sense that when the dam breaks, the goals will flow.

Sacha Kljestan’s eagle eye for the game led him to say this last week on the show:

“I’d like to see more accountability from Tristan Muyumba and Thiago Almada in the midfield. I want to see them tactically stay in their position, take less touches, make the game move. Then in the final third, that’s where you can take more touches, that’s where you take more risk. Sometimes we see Almada drop all the way deep because he wants more touches. He can wiggle out of anything, he can drift past people, we know that, but do it in the final third. That’s where I think Gonzalo Pineda has to ask these players to have tactical discipline to make the game better. Dax McCarty keeps the game simple and organizes the game around him, and Atlanta need more of that.”

BWP then followed up, agreeing he wants Almada higher up the field. Brad says the young World Cup winner “finds himself going into pockets that he shouldn’t be going into. And with that Giorgos Giakoumakis finds himself waiting too long for service”.

All the advanced data says Atlanta should’ve had more than three points from their last five games, and the eye test confirms that as well. If Atlanta’s attack clicks this Saturday, that spells serious trouble for D.C. United.