5 Stripes back on the road, VAR controversies, and more: Starting Lineup, October 3
by Jason Longshore
1- Atlanta United heads up to Philadelphia for a huge match tomorrow in Chester against the Union. With this weekend's results, if Atlanta wins their remaining three matches, they are guaranteed to finish in the top 4 in the Eastern Conference and have home field advantage in the first round best-of-three series. We'll be live on 92.9 The Game tomorrow starting at 7pm, kickoff is at 7:39.
2- The Union have played 11 more games than Atlanta United this season in all competitions, due to reaching the semifinals of the Concacaf Champions League and Leagues Cup. Goalkeeper Andre Blake said, ""We’re the ones that are suffering, and the quality of the league is going to go down. Are you going to allow us to have more depth?” Read more from Jonathan Tannenwald in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The amount of games is not purely a MLS conversation, we see this come up with teams from England who play in Europe plus two different domestic cup competitions. They also play 4 more regular season games (but don't have playoffs). Other countries have a variety of competitions as well. The decisions made by managers also come into play, Jim Curtin's lack of rotation has come up in the past in years with fewer games to play.
3- In my opinion, MLS needs to increase spending for clubs which will increase the quality of the league. They need to loosen rules on using players from MLS Next Pro teams who are on professional contracts, four gameday roster appearances and two match appearances is too few. However, managers also have to play the full complement of players on their roster, with the understanding that there is a dropoff from player 1 to player 30.
I know it's easy to think that adding more roster spots and spending more automatically fixes it, but you will never have 22 players of the same level who play an equal amount. No manager can keep everyone happy in a situation like that. It's going to be interesting to see how MLS grows from here. Adding Leagues Cup was a success in my opinion, now you have to manage growth strategically while still maintaining elements of parity.
4- Other interesting games tomorrow night in MLS include Orlando paying Nashville a visit. The Lions are the only team in the East with three wins out of their last five matches, while Nashville has drawn four of their last five. The Boys in Gold are six points out of the top four with four games to play, while Orlando has a four point cushion to remain in the top four.
Another potential Eastern Conference playoff preview has Columbus going to New England. The Revs won at home against Charlotte over the weekend, while the Crew drew with Philadelphia at home. A win for Columbus would have them leap frog New England into the top four, while the Revs would then be scoreboard watching.
5- Champions League matches today are highlighted by Real Madrid's trip to Italy to face Napoli. Both teams won their group stage openers, although Madrid needed a late goal to overturn Union Berlin at home. "We'll play against one of the best teams in Italy. They did very well last year. It will be a competitive and evenly matched game as they have a high level," said Carlo Ancelotti, who once managed Napoli.
6- Inter hosting Benfica will also be interesting. Real Sociedad held Inter to a road draw in their Champions League opener while Benfica lost at home to Red Bull Salzburg. The two teams many thought would advance out of the group are facing some early adversity in this campaign.
7- VAR is all over the news in England after this weekend's calamity in the Liverpool loss to Tottenham. The referees involved on the VAR side will not be booked for matches this weekend. Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the referees' organizational body, said that the Luis Diaz goal should have been awarded via VAR intervention after the wrong call was made on the field.
VAR is a great tool for getting calls right, but it's not 100% perfect and never will be. Some in the English media who are screaming to get rid of VAR because of this mistake have completely missed the point, or are intentionally skipping over it for clicks. They're forgetting about all of the calls that have been corrected via VAR since its implementation. VAR's addition to the game is overwhelmingly positive in terms of getting calls right and anyone telling you otherwise is lying. It needs to be improved in terms of speed to get the correct decision at times, training of the individuals implementing it, and the governing bodies have to learn from mistakes so they won't be repeated.
8- Adriana's goal for the Orlando Pride keeps them alive in the NWSL playoff race as they defeated Angel City 1-0. The Kansas City Current were eliminated from the playoffs with the result. Angel City had been on an eleven-game unbeaten streak before this loss and now fall to 6-7-7 while the Pride won their ninth game of the year, the most for the club since 2017.
9- The first three episodes of Apple TV’s documentary series following Lionel Messi’s move to Inter Miami will premiere on Wednesday, October 11, the company announced Monday. The final three episodes will follow later in the Major League Soccer season, the company said.
10- On this date in 1908, an organized soccer practice was held for the second time in Atlanta at Piedmont Park. Pat Harland had been working to form a consistent team to represent Atlanta against others in the area like Lithonia and Stone Mountain and throughout the Southeast.
11- Guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan was born on this day in 1954. While his mainstream career was short, his influence on blues and rock guitarists endures today. My choice for Song of the Day is one of my all-time favorite songs and would easily make my Desert Island playlist every day: