MLS Injuries Hitting Clubs Hard Early in Season

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News of crucial injuries in MLS hit the news on the day of the US-Panama World Cup qualifier. First, LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget learned that the injury he suffered on Friday while playing for the US will keep him out of action for four to six months. That’s devastating for a player who had finally been given starting opportunities for both club and country.

MLS Injuries Hitting Clubs Hard Early in Season

Montreal Impact’s Ignacio Piatti reportedly sustained a groin injury that will sideline him for “several weeks” per FourFourTwo’s Paul Tenorio. We also got the news that Atlanta United star Josef Martinez was hurt on international duty with Venezuela and will miss four to six weeks. There have been varying reports on the status of Houston Dynamo and Honduras forward Romell Quioto, who got hurt against the US last week, but the latest is that he is doubtful for Houston’s match on Saturday.

Unfortunately, it seems that the MLS injury bug has caught on early this year. All of the four above will have significant effects on the teams and the players, and will alter the course of the regular season. So it goes.

Here’s what exactly they would mean, starting with Quioto’s because his seems to be least lengthy:

Romell Quioto

The Dynamo have started this season playing a 4-3-3 reliant on speedy counter attacks from the front three and tight, narrow defensive lines. It’s worked, as the trio of Quioto, Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres, and Alberth Elis have seven goals through their first three games, which is tied for the most in MLS among clubs that have yet to play Minnesota.

There is no obvious replacement in the Dynamo squad for a player like Quioto, who fits the system perfectly and has obvious chemistry with his countryman Elis. They are lethally efficient on the counter attack:


They have become, for my money, the best front three currently in MLS. That’s saying something, especially considering the next player we’ll talk about.

Mauro Manotas, who last year projected as the forward of the future in Houston, is the likeliest replacement. He is easily better as a striker, though, and I have questions about whether his skillset fits that of a winger. He has yet to show an ability to hit a final pass in the box (he prefers to hold the ball up) and he’s not exactly going to be shredding players 1v1. Read more on him here.

Ignacio Piatti

The Dynamo’s closest MLS counterpart is Montreal, who make their living off of suffocating defense and furious counter attacking. With Patrice Bernier distributing from midfield, Piatti runs at defenders and creates chances, Matteo Mancosu scores the goals, and Dominic Oduro wins track races. It’s a good system, especially when we get to tournament time.

But if Piatti is indeed out for a month and a half, the Impact lose by far their most important attacker. No one else in their lineup can replicate both the chances created and the space created by the Argentine, which raises serious concerns about their ability to continue to be threatening on the counter without him.

Lesser-known players like Michael Salazar or Anthony Jackson-Hamel could be among the players in contention to take Piatti’s spot. We may also see former Toronto FC player Daniel Lovitz get time. There’s no obvious answer, though.

This should be a very worrying injury if you are Montreal fan.

Sebastian Lletget

After locking down his spot with the LA Galaxy and finally earning a chance to start with the US national team, Lletget went down on a yellow card tackle from a Honduran player and was ruled out for four to six months, just minutes after scoring the US’s first goal. It’s brutal for Lletget, who was in arguably the best form of his life.

For the Galaxy, Emmanuel Boateng will likely step right into the lineup and join the big jumble of attackers at the top of whatever formation they play. He will complement Giovani dos Santos (who plays centrally), Jack McBean (who is replacing Gyasi Zardes up top), and Romain Alessandrini (the right winger). Boateng is a small, fast, and tricky player who can put opposing full backs on their heels with clever 1v1 skills and superior agility. There were games last year where he would explode and almost singlehandedly win the Galaxy three points.

The problem is that he won’t fill central space like Lletget, and won’t cover the space left behind by the defending-averse dos Santos. Jermaine Jones, as we saw in the US-Panama match, has tendency to leave space open in front of the backline, so without Lletget, even more of a defensive onus will fall on D-mid Joao Pedro.

Josef Martinez

Arguably the best player in MLS so far, Martinez has five goals in three games, putting him atop the early Golden Boot race. He was injured with Venezuela and will miss four to six weeks.

Martinez dominated in the first few games by hitting the central channel between the center backs relentlessly, and finishing with effectiveness rarely seen in this league. While it also helped that he got to play Minnesota and roast Vadim Demidov for 90 minutes, his pure ability to finish every single one of his chances got him his goals more than anything else.

Atlanta should survive — if not thrive — even without Martinez, though. Kenwyne Jones, a more traditional center forward than his Venezuelan counterpart, will replace him in the starting XI, and all indications point to solid performances from the Trinidad and Tobago international. He was supposed to be the starter originally before Martinez took the job, and he will create space in a different way for players like Miguel Almiron and Yamil Asad.
More than any other team affected by this early rash of injuries, Atlanta will stay completely afloat while Martinez is out thanks to Jones, who has been waiting patiently for an opportunity to bully defenders like every CONCACAF watcher knows he can.