Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

MLS midseason grades: How your team is doing halfway through 2024

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Since we’re just about at the middle of the season (roughly 45% of the year’s done), and since there’s no need for a full Sunday breakdown given there were just four games this weekend, let’s do a midseason grades piece. We’re going in order of the Supporters’ Shield standings – points, not points per game.

Let’s dance:

Inter Miami CF

What’s gone right: Right now they’re on track to produce one of the highest-scoring seasons in MLS history, and have done it by staying dangerous no matter how deep a hole they dig for themselves.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Sergio Busquets have been as advertised, and most of the young players have shown their talent when they’ve been healthy. Drake Callender has had his match-winning moments, as has Julian Gressel. It all adds up to a team that’s top in the Shield race on points despite having rotten injury luck so far.

What hasn’t: The defense is poor in open play – young Toto Avilés in particular has struggled – and beyond poor on restarts. That’s why Messi & Co. have had to author so many comeback wins in the first place.

As per the nerds at American Soccer Analysis, right now the Herons are overperforming their xPoints by a larger margin than St. Louis did last year. Even with Messi that’s not sustainable.

Grade: B-. They need to be better on the backline and with the ball in order to become the kind of juggernaut their attacking talent says they should be.

FC Cincinnati

What’s gone right: It turns out the team that’s invested more in their backline and deep midfield than any other, and that spent a high draft pick on a goalkeeper and has developed him into one of the best in the league over the past couple of years is very, very good at keeping the ball out of the net.

Lucho Acosta continuing to be an MVP-caliber No. 10 was about the only thing that went right in attack for the first three months of the season, but with the addition of Kevin Kelsy at center forward and Luca Orellano settling in at wingback (sometimes left, sometimes inverted on the right), Cincy suddenly look like a team that can just brute force some wins with firepower.

They’re now atop the Shield standings on PPG and look like a team set up to be better in the second half of the season than the first.

What hasn’t: Aaron Boupendza was bad even before he landed himself on the injured list following a late-night incident at a local bar. Not great from the DP forward!

If he – or Corey Baird, who has underdelivered after signing as a free agent in the winter – had even been an average MLS forward so far, this team might be on 2.5 ppg or better.

Grade: A-. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s still been damn good.

Real Salt Lake

What’s gone right: Chicho Arango is on pace to have a top-three season in MLS history. Maybe top two.

Everything good for RSL flows from their star forward, who’s single-handedly won them points when they’ve played poorly and who’s elevated them when they’ve played well. He’s done it mostly as a lone No. 9 in a 4-2-3-1, but has also occasionally played up top in a two and had a hat-trick (and an assist!) while playing as a sort of No. 10 last week. He’s allowed head coach Pablo Mastroeni to change the formation and the game model, and he’s given the other attackers breathing room to get their feet under them.

He’s been magnificent.

Lots of credit, as well, to Emeka Eneli and Braian Ojeda in central midfield. RSL’s underlying numbers are much better than the past three years in large part because of how good those guys have been on both sides of the ball.

What hasn’t: Diego Luna struggled to start the year, though he’s come around lately, and neither of the ‘keepers have made a rock-solid case for the No. 1 kit. And while Matt Crooks has been decent, it’s pretty obvious RSL need to splash out on a DP No. 10 this summer.

Grade: A. Honestly, though, the season thus far’s like a 95th percentile outcome for the Claret-and-Cobalt.

Los Angeles Football Club

What’s gone right: They’re still creating chances by the bushel for Denis Bouanga, who apparently lost a bet and had to spend the first two months of the season shooting only at the goalposts. Since he’s started shooting at the goal proper LAFC have been pretty, pretty, pretty good!

That has come in conjunction with Steve Cherundolo backing off the “all transition all the time” approach and having his team actually get on the ball again, which has been beautiful to watch.

The midfield’s balling. Mateusz Bogusz has been useful as a No. 9. Kike Olivera has figured out where the goal is. The defense has been excellent.

The underlying numbers have LAFC as the best team in MLS by a mile. I’m not sure I buy that, but over the past six weeks I do think they’ve played the best ball in the league. And that’s before the midseason additions arrive.

What hasn’t: The finishing to start the year was brutal, which I’m chalking up to bad luck.

The more frustrating thing to me is, even with Eduard Atuesta back, Cherundolo has refused to use anybody but Ilie Sánchez as the No. 6. I’m picking nits here, but it bothers me that as soon as Ilie had to miss a game it was 5-4-1-and-counter.

Atuesta can play as a No. 6! He arguably should play as a No. 6! It’s a long year and injuries happen – why not try him there in a regular-season game in mid-May? What happens if Ilie gets hurt in October? Is it back to the one-dimensional (and significantly less effective) LAFC side we saw down the stretch last year?

Grade: B+.

New York City FC

What’s gone right: I don’t think any one player has had an otherworldly ascent*. Instead it’s been a case of last year’s young team maturing by a year, aging into their respective primes and just playing better. They’re smarter, they trust each other more and they’re more cohesive. It’s been good.

() Matt Freese has an “otherworldly ascent” argument. He’s been excellent.*

Baked into this is that manager Nick Cushing has adjusted the game model to more of a low-block and counter approach, which suits their starting No. 10 Santi Rodríguez and new winger Hannes Wolf. But now with Maxi Moralez back, he’s also got the old positional play club in the bag again.

Couldn’t have asked for much more so far this season.

What hasn’t: Except, maybe, for a few more goals from Mounsef Bakrar. The kid knows where the goal is, but so did Cristian Colmán.

It’s a spot that needs to be sorted out.

Grade: A-

Minnesota United FC

What’s gone right: If you went out and spent $15 million on a DP No. 9 and got this kind of production, you’d say he was worth every penny:


On a per-minute basis Tani Oluwaseyi has been every bit as good as Chicho, or Luis Suárez or Christian Benteke. Getting this kind of across-the-board production from a second-year MLS SuperDraft pick (and not even a high pick at that) is bonkers.

I do think he’s bound to regress some, but everything about the way he’s constantly translated his production up a level, and then up one more, and then up again suggests he won’t be regressing much.

A big chunk of the credit for that has to go to Robin Lod, who’s been one of the best No. 10s in the league upon taking over for the departed Bebelo Reynoso. Add in Eric Ramsay’s shift to a wonky 5-3-2 and Kervin Arriaga taking to the backline like a fish to water, and there’s just a ton of stuff to be excited about.

What hasn’t: The Reynoso affair was sad. They’re clearly better off without him, but to see a player that talented submarine himself (and try to do the same to his team) so thoroughly is just crappy.

(The other centerpiece DP, Teemu Pukki, hasn’t delivered, either, but that’s just made room for Tani’s rise, so I’ll allow it).

The real warning sign here is, by the advanced metrics, the Loons are just about treading water. They give up a lot of chances – Dayne St. Clair’s been mostly very good – and that midfield often gets overrun. They need to fix that.

Grade: A. They have a lot of flexibility to add a significant piece this summer. They should do so.

New York Red Bulls

What’s gone right: Emil Forsberg has been as advertised, Lewis Morgan has come back healthy, and young players like Frankie Amaya, Peter Stroud and Wiki Carmona have taken steps forward. Meanwhile, U-22 Initiative center back Noah Eile has been pretty great slotting in next to Sean Nealis.

All this has happened while new head coach Sandro Schwarz has adjusted the game model. The Red Bulls still can spring an energetic high press on you, but it’s not the first club in their bag. They actually prefer to sit deeper and counter into space, and when they do go direct it’s more often to feet rather than into the channels.

It’s a more pleasing aesthetic experience.

What hasn’t: Against the best teams they’ve looked a piece or two short. Sometimes that’s been in attacking midfield, but mostly it’s been in the box, where DP Dante Vanzeir just hasn’t consistently been a difference-maker.

He’s managed just two goals all season, and the worrying part is he’s not actually finding many chances, either. He’s just kind of… there.

Grade: B+. They’re better and more interesting than I thought they’d be, but still miss some top-end quality.

LA Galaxy

What’s gone right: The offseason makeover was very good, as Joseph Paintsil, Gabriel Pec, Miki Yamane and even goalkeeper John McCarthy have looked like solid-to-excellent starters. Paintsil, in particular, has had MVP-caliber moments.

All of this has made it easier for Riqui Puig to both pull the strings and create chances from central midfield. The Galaxy run the most heliocentric attack in the league – think 2021 New England with Riqui in the Carles Gil role – and they’re right to do so since Puig’s a magician.

When they’re at their best the attack’s been an avalanche.

What’s gone wrong: It’s needed to be because their defense, after a promising start to the year, has trended steadily downhill.

How’s that? Well, they didn’t give up 1.5 or more xG in any of their first three games. In the 14 since, they’ve allowed at least 1.5 xG in 10 of them, including a pretty humiliating thrashing in El Tráfico. That’s added up to the second-worst xG allowed in the West.

It manifests as massive struggles against the better sides in the league, as the Galaxy have just two wins in eight against teams above the playoff line. And oh by the way, six of their next nine are against playoff teams.

Grade: C. I like the roster build more than the results or performances.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

What’s gone right: The ‘Caps have mostly looked like the team they were last year, with a few tactical tweaks thrown in. Vanni Sartini has:

• used a double pivot more often.
• noodled around with inverted wingbacks.
• had those wingbacks taking higher starting spots.
• even toyed around with Brian White as a target winger for a hot minute.

None of it has fundamentally changed who Vancouver are as a club, though I do think the aggressive disposition of the wingbacks have made them more likely to stuff disorganized opponents into a body bag.

What hasn’t: White hasn’t been as productive as last year, either in terms of boxscore numbers or underlying. Neither has Ryan Gauld.

Meanwhile, Pedro Vite hasn’t taken a step forward. He’s still a nice little connector in midfield rather than a true playmaker, and so when the ‘Caps face the best teams, they are still at a significant firepower disadvantage. It’s the same gap we’ve seen repeatedly over the past two years in both the playoffs and continental play.

Grade: C. This is a team stuck where they are until/unless they can address their talent disparity.

Charlotte FC

What’s gone right: More than anything else it’s the center back pairing of Andrew Privett and Adilson Malanda. Getting those two guys on the same page and mostly keeping the game in front of them to start the year, then slowly incorporating a more aggressive press as the season’s worn on has given the Crown a good foundation for success.

Those guys don’t make mistakes, and Kristijan Kahlina has been mistake-free in goal as well. The midfield and fullbacks have been functional, and the front line has been relentlessly vertical. There’s no wasted motion with this team.

It’s not always the most aesthetically pleasing soccer, I don’t think they care about that. Nor should they at this point.

What hasn’t: They have zero natural creators in the rotation, and the price for that is a lot of low-scoring games and few chances for the attackers.

They have the ability to add two new DPs this summer. Good bet one’s going to be a chance creator (the fact they were linked with Marco Reus gives you an idea of their ambition) and the other will be a goalscorer. Probably a No. 9, since Patrick Agyemang probably hasn’t done enough to show he can own that spot.

Grade: A-. I just wish they’d gotten a playmaker signing across the line before the Primary Transfer Window closed.

Toronto FC

What’s gone right: Everybody and their brother picked the Reds to finish at or near the bottom of the East again, but even in the midst of injuries and suspensions and sundry other absences, this team has mostly stayed together, mostly played good ball and mostly gotten results.

Lorenzo Insigne has been a match-winner when available. Prince Owusu has taken his opportunity at the 9. Federico Bernardeschi has been willing to suffer as a two-way player. Deybi Flores and Kevin Long have solidified last year’s disastrous defense, and Sean Johnson has bounced back.

All of this has come out of a fun and flexible 3-4-2-1 under new manager John Herdman, who’s gotten buy-in across the board.

What hasn’t: Between the spate of red cards, histrionics and postgame drama, there is a hint of coming-unglued about this team for one, and for two, they have just one win all year against a playoff side (three months ago vs. Charlotte).

They’ve won just once in their past six and after a promising start, their underlying numbers are starting to head in the wrong direction. Which is to say their poor record over the past month doesn’t really feel like a mirage.

If they can get healthy and get their heads about them, they should be ok in the back half of the season. But we’ve been saying that about this group for two years now.

Grade: A-. Would’ve been an A+ if not for all the red cards.

Columbus Crew

What’s gone right: They’re 12th in points, but tied for 7th in PPG with at least two games in hand on everybody they’re chasing. They’ve done that while juggling a couple of injuries, one big manager-imposed suspension, and an ultimately fruitless run all the way to the Concacaf Champions Cup final.

They’ve won three straight, all on the road, have the second-best goal differential in the East and are the only team in the league allowing less than a goal per game.

They are still possessing the ball a ton, still tilting the field more than anybody else, and still creating chances. Wilfried Nancy has, as always, brought a few more players through into more meaningful minutes, which has created more depth.

Columbus seem well set-up to bounce back from last weekend’s disappointment and charge up the standings.

What hasn’t: The forward corps of Cucho Hernández, Jacen Russell-Rowe and Christian Ramírez have just eight goals between them. The attacking midfield trio of Diego Rossi, Alexandru Matan and Marino Hinestroza have managed just six.

We know from long experience how hard it is to juggle league play and a long CCC run, so I’m not knocking these guys too much. But that level of productivity from those guys is why this team’s on 1.7 ppg.

It wouldn’t shock me at all if they flipped a switch and ended up grabbing something around 2.2 ppg the rest of the year.

Grade: A-

Austin FC

What’s gone right: It feels like a redux of two years ago when they got every conceivable bounce. I think you’ve got to give Josh Wolff credit for getting the right guys into the right spots – veteran CBs, an outstanding goalkeeper, Alex Ring back destroying next to Dani Pereira, and Sebastián Driussi playing underneath a false 9 in Diego Rubio. These pieces fit together in a way last year’s team really didn’t, and when the pieces fit together the team’s less likely to make catastrophic errors.

So they’re sixth in the West on points and seventh on PPG. That’s better than anybody could’ve realistically hoped for.

What hasn’t: Even with the better spine, most of the advanced metrics have this team as one of the handful of very worst in MLS, something their recent form makes it hard to argue against. They’re also one of the oldest, in terms of who gets minutes, so it’s not like they’re taking their lumps in service of a brighter future.

Four of their next five are against playoff teams. We’ll have a real good idea a month from now of where this group really stands.

Grade: B-. For now.

Houston Dynamo FC

What’s gone right: Surprisingly, they survived the early-season absence of Héctor Herrera pretty well. That includes a very good showing in CCC play, as they beat St. Louis over two legs before bowing out admirably to the Crew.

They still use the ball well through midfield, and – happily – Coco Carrasquilla is still in town, now on a new long-term contract. Artur is still excellent, Steve Clark is still very good, and Micael is one of the very best young center backs in MLS.

In fact the whole backline and midfield is very, very good, and the Jogo Benny-to game model allows them to use the ball for defensive purposes. It’s all added up to the Dynamo once again being among the very best defensive sides in MLS.

What hasn’t: They don’t have a starting No. 9 and the ACL injury to Nelson Quiñones robbed them of their best goalscoring winger. And so they’ve scored just 18 goals on ~18 xG, which are both among the worst marks in the league.

This team needs to do some real shopping in the summer.

Grade: C.

Colorado Rapids

What’s gone right: When Connor Ronan got hurt, Cole Bassett dropped a line deeper to play as the No. 8 in Chris Armas’s 4-2-3-1 (he was supposed to be a pressing 10) and has played so well he’s got an argument to be on the All-Star roster. Oliver Larraz, a fellow homegrown, has slotted in admirably as a backline shield next to him.

Moise Bombito has developed into a dynamic (if still mistake-prone) center back. Djordje Mihailovic has been pretty good as a No. 10, and Rafa Navarro has been pretty good as a No. 9, and Kévin Cabral (!!!) has been pretty good as a playmaking left winger.

The fullbacks have been solid. The depth has been reliable. The Rapids have a top three xGD in the West (by a fraction, but still).

What hasn’t: Zack Steffen is having – by miles – the worst shot-stopping season by any starting ‘keeper in recent MLS history.

Using the American Soccer Analysis database, which goes back to 2013, Steffen’s 2024 season thus far is 44% worse than the previous worst season they tracked (minimum 1500 minutes).

Using FBRef, he’s in the first percentile among all ‘keepers in PSxG-GA.

Both sites reckon he’s conceding about a half a goal more per game than he should. Lop eight goals allowed off of Colorado’s tally, and how many more wins do they have? How many more points?

He was a good and promising ‘keeper five years ago, but I’m afraid England broke him.

Grade: B-.

Portland Timbers

What’s gone right: Evander has, at times, looked like a top player in MLS. Diego Chara hasn’t lost to Father Time yet. Felipe Mora is still a reliable goalscorer, and each of the wingers have had some very nice moments.

Really, though, the story is that, at this point last month, the Timbers were sitting on a nine-game winless skid and staring into the abyss. They rose to the occasion with a 3W-1L-2D stretch that has pulled them above the red line.

And it’s not just the results that have been better. They’ve actually won the xG battle in three of those six games after winning it just twice in their first 12.

So it’s fair to say they’re playing better soccer, especially with the ball.

What hasn’t: Injuries and absences robbed them of any continuity for most of the season to this point. That’s more often been obvious in attack – their chance creation has been sporadic at best – but the knock-on effect is, late in games when chasing a result, they’ve had to take more risks with their fullbacks. And that in turn has exposed the center backs, which has meant many late goals conceded, and many dropped points.

They will make a big move in the coming transfer window, and consensus is it’ll be for a No. 9. I’m not sure that’s the area of greatest need, but I’d understand the decision if that’s what they go with.

Grade: C. They’re about exactly where I thought they would be at this point, all told.

Philadelphia Union

What’s gone right: Not much. A few injuries and absences have played a role (they really, really miss prime Andre Blake), but it’s mostly been young players not progressing quite fast enough, and previously elite veterans regressing to a shocking degree.

Here is the good news: They’re actually playing good soccer in terms of chance creation and chance limitation. This is a top-three team in MLS when it comes to expected goals differential as per most sites. ASA’s all-in-one metric, goals added (g+), is a little more bearish, but has the Union fifth.

To me that matches the eye test. They do a very good job of getting the ball into valuable spots and do a very good job of denying opponents the same.

I think you should get your Union stock now, while it’s cheap.

What hasn’t: Prime Andre Blake might be gone for good, but the real issue is the center backs have all taken turns being weirdly soft and inattentive in the box, while d-mid José Martínez is a shadow of the guy he was two years ago. The Union’s long run of elite contention was built on dominating in their own box, and they have not been that team this year. Not at all.

They’ve got just one win in their past 10. Five of their next seven are against teams they’re chasing in the East.

Let’s see.

Grade: C-. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I still think this group’s got one more push in them.

Nashville SC

What’s gone right: Not much, really, though a recent run of results – most of which have come under interim manager Rumba Munthali following the dismissal of Gary Smith – has pulled the ‘Yotes above the playoff line for the first time all season.

That’s coincided with the return to health of Walker Zimmerman, which obviously makes a huge difference. Since the start of May they’ve conceded just five times in seven games, which is the best mark in the league during that span. They’ve gone 3W-2L-2D.

For what it’s worth the players, following Smith’s dismissal, seemed aligned in advocating for a new, more expansive blueprint. I do think we’ve seen some glimmers of that under Munthali, but it’s too early to say if 1) that portends anything significant, or 2) Munthali’s the guy long-term.

What hasn’t: Hany Mukhtar’s regressed from his three-year run of MVP form. Sam Surridge is a pretty good – 5g on 4.9 npxG in 1043 minutes – but not great No. 9. The wingers aren’t goalscorers. The ball progression through midfield cratered with the exit of Dax McCarty. The center backs lost their way without Zimmerman.

And of course, the young (or youngish) players never developed under Smith. As a result this team has exactly zero contributors under the age of 24 and zero players from South America, which is insane in what has become one of the world’s best developmental leagues.

GM Mike Jacobs obviously deserves a portion of blame for that, but my suspicion is Jacobs was shopping for the ingredients Smith wanted. So it’ll be telling, on that account, to see what happens this summer. Does Jacobs actually bring in young players? Does whoever the coach is actually play them? Do they move the needle in terms of form or results?

Bear in mind, this would all be happening along with the reported (but not yet confirmed) changes to the U-22 Initiative program, should they go through. Nashville have the chance to be a very different team by the end of next month.

Grade: D.

D.C. United

What’s gone right: If you gave me a choice between “good process with middling-to-bad results” vs. “middling-to-bad process with good results” I’d take Door No. 1 every single time.

I understand D.C. fans, who have watched their team sink to 10th in the East on both points and points per game, probably feel differently right now. But when I watch United I see a team that knows exactly how they want to play, and then most weeks go out there and impose that upon their opponents for huge chunks of the game.

Benteke’s been awesome, and the change to the 3-5-2 with Jared Stroud playing as a sort of central winger to create overloads with Aaron Herrera has been one of the more fun tactical wrinkles we’ve seen anywhere this season. Teddy Ku-DiPietro may have finally broken his slump last weekend, and Mateusz Klich has been a reliable distributor.

What hasn’t: Youngsters Gabriel Pirani, Jackson Hopkins and Matti Peltola aren’t quite up to shouldering the burden that’s been asked of them in midfield – especially with their distribution – while the cadre of center backs haven’t been able to lock down leads when the game enters the Tactics Free Zone around the 80th minute.

Pirani in particular… I get why D.C. signed him. It’s worthwhile to take a flier on young players, and Pirani has had some moments. But he’s in the 2nd percentile among attacking midfielders/wingers in xA and, at 22, is no longer actually that young.

What happens if United upgrade the No. 10 spot?

Grade: B-. I like the process. The personnel upgrade needs to come next.

Seattle Sounders FC

What’s gone right: The structure still works, as Seattle have conceded just 21 goals on ~20.4 xGA, both marks that have them comfortably in the league’s top tier. And they’ve lost just twice in their past eight, which isn’t bad, and has pulled them to within three points of the final playoff spot in the West.

But we’re kind of sugar-coating a turd here. The Sounders have been a massive disappointment.

What hasn’t: Seattle’s problem last year was failure to finish off their chances, which has continued on into this season. Raúl Ruidíaz might be cooked, and Jordan Morris is no longer a Best XI-caliber winger. Albert Rusnák has been good on the ball, but not incisive with it as a No. 10.

Pedro de la Vega, a tricky 1v1 winger with the ability to play the final ball, was supposed to be the secret sauce who could take the Sounders’ defensive structure and elevate it by adding a dash of the unpredictable in the final third. But he’s missed virtually the entire year with a hamstring injury and no one in the attacking rotation has stepped up in his stead. Which means Seattle have less margin for error than ever:

Is ownership willing to cut ties with Ruidíaz this summer so they can bring in the next Ruidíaz at the No. 9? If they are, and de la Vega’s back, I think there’s reason for optimism.

If not…

Grade: D. The foundation’s still good.

St. Louis CITY SC

What’s gone right: CITY are, I think, playing a little better this year than last in terms of their defensive structure and ability to limit chances. You can see it in Roman Bürki’s numbers, as he’s faced about 30% fewer shots per 90 than in 2023.

Célio Pompeu has developed nicely into a rotation-caliber attacker, and Chris Durkin has had some good moments. Tomas Totland is a clear upgrade over last year’s platoon at right back. The return of Eduard Löwen gives them one guy who can really, really ball in midfield.

What hasn’t: They’ve regressed to the mean in all the expected ways, both in their own box (Bürki has still been good, but not otherworldly) and in the attack – they are on 23 goals from 22.6 xG; last year they had 62 goals on 42.6 xG. It was always unsustainable.

João Klauss has 10 goals in his past 32 games, which is meh. Aziel Jackson has shrunk as he’s been asked to carry more of the load, and guys like Rasmus Alm and Tomas Ostrak haven’t been good enough.

The final third of last season, from Leagues Cup to the stretch run to the playoffs, was a giant, flashing warning sign the front office didn’t heed. They needed more reinforcements, and they didn’t get them.

Grade: C-. Big work to do in the summer window.

Orlando City SC

What’s gone right: The only thing that’s worked out this year for Orlando was Blackburn botching Duncan McGuire’s transfer paperwork, which meant the Lions got to keep the big No. 9 for at least a half year longer than expected. And it’s good fortune for them, as McGuire’s five goals lead the team and are the only thing keeping this side out of the cellar.

Shouts to Jack Lynn as well. He’s been just as productive in his limited MLS minutes as he’s been in MLS NEXT Pro, so there’s hope they can find an answer from within if/when McGuire’s moved along this summer.

What hasn’t: Facu Torres has fallen off a cliff. Luis Muriel’s been a massive disappointment. Martín Ojeda still doesn’t start. Not great when those are your three DPs!

Pedro Gallese has been a liability in goal. David Brekalo has mostly been too injured to step into a starting role at center back, and Robin Jansson has been too injured to keep his starting role at center back.

Nico Lodeiro’s been ok playing probably a more crucial role than he should be asked to at his age. César Araújo and Wilder Cartagena have been anonymous. Iván Angulo has one goal in 16 starts.

Oscar Pareja’s toggled formations and lineups all year long and nothing’s worked. This isn’t bad luck, either: as per the advanced data, only Chicago, Montréal and the Revs have been worse in the East this year.

Grade: F. To go from 63 points to this is grim.

CF Montréal

What’s gone right: They got enough out of that six-game road trip to start the season to have some optimism going forward. But then any of said optimism was ruthlessly crushed under the boot of injuries and front office turnover.

So it’s been very difficult all year long for this team to build any kind of momentum, and new head coach Laurent Courtois has his work cut out for him trying to replicate Wilfried Nancy’s 2021 season, let alone his far superior 2022 campaign.

Sunusi Ibrahim’s recent scoring jag has been fun, and Ariel Lassiter’s been useful at any number of spots. Matías Cóccaro was excellent before his injury.

There are slivers of hope.

What hasn’t: There’s more reason for pessimism than hope, though. The way the entire team’s shoulders slumped when sporting director Olivier Renard abruptly departed two months ago was telling, I think.

A bigger long-term worry might be Montréal’s inability to do anything meaningful with the ball thus far under Courtois. He was brought in from the Crew – from Nancy’s staff – to replicate Nancy’s game model and penchant for pushing young players through into the first team. Thus far, however, Montréal have mostly been shredded when they’ve gotten on the front foot and tried to play with the ball.

It’s probably worth mentioning that virtually all of Nancy’s considerable success has come with either Victor Wanyama or Darlington Nagbe running the show in midfield. Wanyama’s still on this Montréal roster as a DP, but he’s barely played.

Boy, I dunno.

Grade: C-

Atlanta United

What’s gone right: I actually think they’ve mostly played well with the ball – they get a lot of possession and move it into good spots. Because of injuries and underperformance, though, they weren’t able to turn that into enough goals to save Gonzalo Pineda’s job.

What hasn’t: Injuries and underperformance in front of goal, and a lack of communication (brought about by injuries and underperformance) defensively.

Atlanta, thus far this season, aren’t a team that gets played off the field and battered. Rather, they’re a team that repeatedly finds a way to lose the most crucial individual moments of a match. As so:

The opposing team’s record signing has an open look from 25 yards and neither center back steps up to close him down. Why?

Moments like that have defined Atlanta’s season no matter the formation or personnel. Big roster changes – including Giorgos Giakoumakis to Cruz Azul – are almost certainly on the way.

Grade: D. They really have been more good than bad. Get ready for the interim coach bump!

Chicago Fire FC

What’s gone right: Chicago have taken five points from their past three games. The run of relatively good form (by Fire standards) has come with a formation switch to a 5-3-2 and the early release of DP Xherdan Shaqiri. The Fire sent him off to the Euros to join Switzerland and handed the No. 10 role to homegrown attacker Brian Gutiérrez, who has been energetic and mostly good (two things Shaqiri has not been since his arrival).

They are well below the playoff line and the teams they’re chasing all have games in hand, so a postseason appearance – which would be their first since 2017 – does not seem plausible.

But at least there’s more effort on display now. I think “more effort” was a realistic thing to hope for from this group at the start of the season, and they’ve kinda delivered on that.

What hasn’t: It’s just all the usual Fire stuff – high-paid players not leading the way, pieces that don’t fit together on either side of the ball, simple errors that strand poor Chris Brady.

They’ve already played the easiest part of their schedule and are now looking at seven of their next nine away. Six of those are against current playoff teams.

I do wonder how much time this front office has left. But I’ve said that each of the past six windows, so…

Grade: D. I like enough of what I’ve seen over the past three games to be generous.

Sporting Kansas City

What’s gone right: They’ve had better injury luck than last year and Erik Thommy’s scored some bangers, but yeah. That’s about it.

What hasn’t: Man I thought the version of Sporting we got over the final two-thirds of last year – the group that collected about 1.7 ppg and won a playoff series – was going to be the one we got from the jump this season. Sure, they’d let Gadi Kinda walk, but Kinda was not essential to that run (until the very end). Good health was.

And they’ve mostly had that! Hasn’t mattered, though, as KC have just become so easy to play through and so slow to transition from attack to defense:

That’s a hell of a goal to concede to a rival in the 78th minute of a tie game. At home.

They snapped a seven-game losing streak (part of a larger 10-game winless skid) on Saturday with a 2-1 win over the Sounders, but I’m not reading too much into that one. Peter Vermes the manager has questioned his team’s manhood and mentality, and my hunch is Peter Vermes the sporting director is going to be wheeling and dealing this summer.

Of course, it might not matter. Sporting have one win in 14 tries against playoff sides so far this year, and each of their next five are against – you guessed it – playoff sides. And those games will all be played before the summer window even opens.

The good ship 2024 might already be sunk.

Grade: F. Just no way around it.

FC Dallas

What’s gone right: Petar Musa has been as advertised, and I think if they put out a team around him that can provide decent service, he’d flirt with 20 goals. It was an ambitious signing and, in my opinion, a good one.

Maarten Paes continues to be one of the best goalkeepers in the league, though maybe not quite as good as last year.

What hasn’t: Nico Estévez seemed to want to install a Wilfried Nancy-esque 3-4-2-1 with Jesus Ferreira and Bernie Kamungo playing underneath Musa, attacking wingbacks like Dante Sealy and Geovane Jesus, and Paxton Pomykal and Asier Illarramendi dominating the ball in midfield.

Pomykal’s out for the season. Jesus hasn’t played yet. Kamungo and Sealy haven’t been able to win starting jobs, and Ferreira has been only sporadically healthy. Paul Arriola has just one goal. Same for Sebastian Lletget.

Perhaps the most catastrophic single thing, though, is that Nkosi Tafari looks nothing like the guy he was the past two years, and has been mostly benched. With that, I don’t think there’s a single starting caliber center back in the group.

It all added up to one of the worst half-seasons in club history. And just before we hit pub on this sucker, the announcement came down that Estévez was done:

Grade: D. I bumped them up a grade for the Musa signing. He’ll be good.

New England Revolution

What's gone right: Dylan Borrero has returned healthy from his torn ACL and Esmir Bajraktarevic has had a few nice moments, including his first MLS goal a couple weeks back. Aljaz Ivacic has been good since his acquisition in April, and Carles Gil is still a high-level attacking engine even if this year’s results don’t show it.

What hasn’t: They look lost any time they build from the back, so Gil has had to drop deeper and deeper to get on the ball, which obviously has negatively affected the attack. Giacomo Vrioni has been poor, as has Tomás Chancalay.

Their build-out struggles mean the group as a whole is unreliable on the ball, which means the fullbacks can’t get forward as effectively. The center backs have struggled. Noel Buck looked like a potential $10 million sale last year; this year he barely plays.

In terms of the advanced stuff, they are the worst team in FBRef’s MLS database (which goes back to the 2019 season) at -1.00 expected goals differential per 90. They are the second-worst team in ASA’s g+ database, ahead of the legendary 2013 Chivas USA side.

Grade: F. Never would’ve dreamed this group could’ve been this bad.

San Jose Earthquakes

What’s gone right: They had an aggressive offseason, adding starters and depth along the frontline and in defense. And then, right before the window closed, they made a club record signing of Argie No. 10 Hernán López, who has been very entertaining and mostly very good in his half-dozen games.

The attack has improved immensely, and they’ve already got five three-goal games to their name. They can be a fun watch.

What hasn’t: They can also be a ponderous watch, though that’s been less true since López’s arrival.

The real disaster, though, is what’s happened in goal. Daniel was the best shot-stopper in the league last year; this year he was a nightmare before an injury ended his season. Since then William Yarbrough has been even worse, as he rates in the third percentile among all ‘keepers in post-shot xG-GA.

The only thing that kept the Quakes in the playoff race last year was their goalkeeper. I’m not saying that goalkeeper is the only thing keeping them out of it – I think the backline’s been worse, and Carlos Gruezo hasn’t covered himself in glory at d-mid – but this team’s played much better ball than their Wooden Spoon track suggests.

I wouldn’t hate it if 19-year-old homegrown Emi Ochoa got his shot sooner than later!

Grade: D.