By Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (June 21, 2012) US Soccer Players -- In Thursday's column, Tony asks what separates playoff teams from non-playoff teams in Major League Soccer, returns to the individual versus system debate, and predicts which MLS team will make a run up the standings.
What's the most pronounced difference in MLS this season between playoff and non-playoff teams so far this season?
Performance on the road. Of the ten teams currently in the playoff spots, Chicago, Houston, Seattle, and Colorado have losing records on the road. Is this a case of the playoff teams being that much better than the non-playoff teams or is it quirks in specific games, once you get below the surface? Given that six teams in MLS have one or less wins on the road, this suggests the teams are that much better. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that those teams we mentioned are 4th or 5th in their respective conferences.
So with Montreal's Saputo Stadium re-opening this past weekend, when is the next MLS stadium, in San Jose, scheduled to open?
Next season? 2014? Earthquakes President David Kaval isn't committing. According to an interview in the San Jose Business Journal, Kaval said the franchise is working on stadium designs and wouldn't give an estimated opening date, beyond “looking to break ground this year.”
How much freedom do you give a creative player?
Jonathan Wilson's column in the Guardian might focus on Cristiano Ronaldo and Wesley Sneijder's influence on their respective national teams, but it's just as relevant to the US National Team and MLS clubs.
Wilson asks, looking at tactics and team-building, if Portugal and the Netherlands might be better off without the player who has been each team's best during the ongoing European Cup of Nations. But how does any coach balance what a creative, attacking player, such as Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan, can bring to a team versus the needs to install a system that ostensibly puts each player in the best position to contribute to the team's ultimate success?
Which MLS team is poised to make the most progress in the playoff race over the next 11 games?
Jay Heaps's New England Revolution, who have 10 of those games at home. If the Revolution are going to establish themselves as bona fide playoff contenders, it has to happen during this stretch of games. And yes, it’s worth wondering how hard it really is to come up with an MLS schedule that avoids this sort of thing.
Which is the latest MLS club trying to build a link between its Academy and First Team?
Colorado, with the club announcing this week the signing of academy product Shane O'Neill to a three-year contract. Rapids techincal director Paul Bravo had high praise for O'Neill's play with the Rapids' Reserves. O'Neill, who turned down a full scholarship at the University of Virginia to sign with the Rapids, is playing for a coach in Oscar Pareja who was known in Dallas for giving academy graduates a fair opportunity.