By Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (July 31, 2012) US Soccer Players -- Tony looks at the importance of goal difference in trying to figure out a conference where all teams haven't played the same number of games. Also why are some teams successful on the road?
Montreal played well in Saturday's 3-1 victory over the Red Bulls, and now that former US National Team player Jesse Marsch has his full team together, there's no stopping the Impact, right?
Not so fast. Montreal is seven points out of 5th-place in the Eastern Conference, but they only have 30 points left to play for. The team right above them, Columbus, has a whopping 45 points left to play for, while the Fire, currently in the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, has 39 possible points on the table.
And yes, new signings and health may help, but Montreal has a road goal difference of -16 and their points per game of 1.13 have them 14th in the League. Their record of 8-13-3 doesn’t suggest a team that has been able to turn losses into ties.
Speaking of goals, how many teams in MLS have a positive road goal difference?
Thanks to MLSsoccer’s spiffy new Standings page, we learn that three franchises, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Kansas City, have a positive road goal difference, with Seattle’s at zero. Salt Lake’s -3 is skewed by their 5-0 surrender to San Jose a few weeks back.
All the teams mentioned here are in the ‘elite team’ discussion this season, and all have the defensive platform to not have to change their game on the road. These teams successfully attack and force the other team to adjust to them, whether at home or on the road. This might seem obvious, but look at the struggles in Denver and Dallas, as coaches in those cities try to take the same approach, with significantly less success this season.
How did those roster moves made before the deadline work out for Columbus?
The Crew finally signed their long-promised Designated Player on Friday, Federico Higuain, an experienced Argentinian striker.
Columbus made roster movements just before contracts became guaranteed to free up some salary cap room, but didn’t sign Higuain until Friday, after Crew Technical Director (and former US National Team Player) Brian Bliss did the necessary legwork in the spring. No one in Columbus is saying, but at the time, Head Coach Robert Warzycha said the Crew’s first choice was a European player.
With so much undecided in the Eastern Conference, how did DC United quietly get better last week?
While it’s not often you see a Congressman thanked in an MLS press release (as Representative Jim Moran was in DCU’s), striker Maicon Santos of DC received his Green Card last week, freeing up an international slot, which United quickly filled with 21-year-old Brazilian playmaker Raphael Augusto on loan from Fluminense of Brazil’s Serie A.
Why is San Jose’s acquisition of Mehdi Ballouchy from the Red Bulls a sort of homecoming?
The midfielder played his college ball at Buck Shaw Stadium for Santa Clara University. Before the first San Jose franchise was ripped out of the Bay Area, I attended a scrimmage between the Quakes and Santa Clara. Ballouchy was easily the best player on SCU and I followed him afterwards, seeing several of the Broncos games. He was a step above everyone in college, but, like Cal’s Calen Carr (another great college prospect out of the Bay Area), he’s an illustration of how big a step it is from college to the professional game.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.