From the promotional build-up to the 2024 season through this latest matchweek, MLS has pushed one slogan more than any other: “You’ve never seen MLS like this.”

That might be true, unless you’re talking about the coaching staff. For the first time since 2018, no MLS team has changed its manager in the first 11 games.

It’s a big change from the last three years when 22 MLS teams changed coaches.

Many of those 22 teams could simply give the new guy some time, but make no mistake: There have been plenty of teams this season that are underperforming for their relatively tenured coaches.

Some, like Nick Cushing of New York City FC and Austin FCJosh Wolff, held on despite some concerns after their teams missed the 2023 playoffs. Others, like Nashville SCGary Smith and Atlanta UnitedGonzalo Pineda has struggled to get perennial playoff contenders to perform up to that standard.

The latter pair will undoubtedly feel the added heat after this weekend. Nashville managed just five shots and put a pair of those attempts on goal for a 0.15 xG loss in a 1-0 loss at Charlotte. The club now owns two of the four lowest xG scores for a single game in 2024.

“From where I was sitting, it’s a zero game,” Smith said afterward. “I’ve just looked at the stats, I’ve compared the stats, a very close game, few chances though and, you know, unfortunately, we fall on the wrong side again.”

250 miles southwest down I-85, Pineda’s Atlanta fell to DC United 3-2 and it wasn’t that close. The 2018 MLS Cup champion’s goals came from a penalty kick in the first half and an own goal in the second half. Atlanta are now 10th in the East, six games without a win, and their supporters made their feelings known in an increasingly empty Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“It feels really bad, honestly,” Pineda said after the game. “I feel like the players are giving everything and giving everything they can.”

Star striker Giorgios Giakoumakis was more direct: “To be honest, it was embarrassing.”

It’s tempting to say that Smith and Pineda will be on the hot seat given all of this, but while fans may be unhappy, there’s little indication that’s actually the case.

The patient approach of middling teams with head coaches is not happening in a vacuum. With a week to go, this Premier League the season is well on its way to having fewer changes in training of any campaign in a decade. Teams have found that changing things isn’t as easy as replacing the voice on the touchline, and patience can often be more economical if not fruitful. And in MLS, all a coach has to do to bring some semblance of success to a season is make the playoffs and make a run once you’re there.

It’s a copycat league. Perhaps teams are determined to let processes play out before determining a coach’s fate. Perhaps the almighty dollar is limiting the freedom of some football bosses to make a new appointment. Regardless of the range of explanations, it has led to one of the least volatile seasons in recent memory — for now, anyway.

Jeff Rueter

More from the MLS weekend:

Air Benteke

The biggest reason for that Atlanta loss mentioned above? She would be Christian Bentekewho spent all of Saturday night dribbling over every poor Atlanta defender who tried to bother him in the air en route to a hat trick with three headers.

With Atlanta’s starting quarterbacks Stian Gregersen AND Derrick Williams outside, Benteke celebrated even more than usual. It was too much for the 18-year-old quarterback Noah Cobb and veteran Louis Abram.

“We had a definite plan not only to win the first header, because I think it was really difficult to win the first shot against Benteke, but instead to put people around him to win balls second. Honestly, I don’t think we did a good job of that.”

Benteke won 10 aerial duels in Atlanta and no DC United player had more assists than the goalkeeper Alex Bono in Benteke, on the 11th.

This game was not strange. Benteke’s aerial prowess might be MLS’ most dominant skill right now. Benteke is first in MLS in tackles won with 134. Toronto’s center back is second Kevin Long at 52. Third is teammate DC Lucas Bartlett at 41. Benteke has more aerial duels won by himself than 12 other MLS teams.

This continues a trend from 2023 when the Belgian forward led MLS in aerial wins with 241. Second place, Sean Nealeshad 140. Third place Andres Reyes there were 113.

This is not only dominant, it is historic. No other player who led MLS in aerial duels in any of the last seven years had more than 174, and we’re only stopping there because that far back FBRef tracks aerial duel numbers.

Benteke has almost eclipsed that benchmark in just 10 games this season.

DC United have made the most of his historic skills, as has Benteke himself. The Belgian is tied for the Golden Boot lead with 11 goals in 10 games and DCU is among the most pleasant surprises in MLS this year with 17 points after 12 games. It was meant to be a year of transition for DC, which named Ally Mackay its new general manager, coached Troy Lesesne and transferred 16 players from last year’s roster heading into 2024.

A thruline through all the change is that DC United have cleverly dictated their style around Benteke’s valuable quality, both under Wayne Rooney in 2023 and Lesense in 2024. The coaches have very different ideas about the tactics and skills they love around him, but both have changed them. system to maximize Benteke. There’s no sign of that changing anytime soon.

Think about the centre-backs clashing with Benteke over the coming weeks, because not only is it a physically demanding task, but it’s sure to be a losing one.

Tom Bogert

Detroit City starts a conversation

Just over a year ago, Don Garber raised his concerns about the standard of operation of the US Open Cup.

“Those aren’t games that we would want our product to show to a large audience.” Garber said at a U.S. Soccer board meeting last May. “So, honestly, I’m not that disappointed that the audience is small.”

On Thursday night, the competition was exposed to a live audience of around 1.4 million: specifically, that of The Tonight Show on NBC.

Among the guests on that episode was Jon Glaser, a comedian known for his acting roles on “Parks & Recreation” and “Delocated.” Glaser appeared wearing a hat, scarf and jacket from USL championship team Detroit City FC, then a day removed from a huge US Open Cup win over the defending champions. Houston Dynamo.

Glaser’s glee contrasted with Houston coach Ben Olsen’s comments after that game when asked about the quality of the USL Championship (“is it really a second division,” to quote the specific wording of the question).

“It’s a second division,” Olsen said. The reporter began to follow up with a question about “the level” before Olsen added: “Yeah, it’s a second division. It’s not even close.”

The backlash has largely focused on his dismissive “not even close” tone, which preceded further explanation that even with a rotated lineup, his Dynamo should have been able to win. On Wednesday, Houston fell to a wide shootout that saw the cup keeper Andrew Tarbell out to make some crucial saves before failing to convert the crucial try himself. This result suggests good margins.

It should be noted that it has generally been difficult for an Open Cup champion to defend his title. Four of the last eight winners failed to make it past the round of 32, including the last three. None of these teams returned to the next year’s semi-finals.

Olsen later went on to say that Dinamo could now shift their full focus to the regular season and their first game was encouraging of what could lie ahead.

Houston visited Sporting KC and opened the score with a flourish, with Hector Herrera the start and finish of a well-worked corner kick routine. Sporting equalized in the 61st minute, but Ibrahim Aliju regained the win with a well-placed shot in transition.

The decongested schedule may help Houston in the remainder of the MLS season, but Herrera’s return may have a bigger impact. The Mexico international missed Dinamo’s first seven games of the season, but Saturday saw him play more than 45 minutes for the first time this year in the league. If he can quickly replicate the kind of form that put him in last year’s top 11, he could see a quick rise up the rankings.

Get ready to learn Skyline Chili, friend

A FC Cincinnati The fan, fed up with his team’s winless record in the Columbus in the Hell is Real Derby, raised the stakes as only a true Cincinnatian can: By promising to inhale three cans of Skyline Chili.

Fortunately (?) for this guy, things went well for FC Cincy, who finally got three points in the Columbus in the 2-1 victory. He tried to delete the tweet, but the internet remembers and is waiting for the photos.

He seems to be taking it in stride, at least!

(Feature photos: Getty Images)

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