By Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (July 3, 2012) US Soccer Players –Thursday’s questions, where we study Montreal's response to already declining attendance and other issues around Major League Soccer.
Where's the new franchise/new stadium buzz gone in Montreal?
With an announced attendance of 13,400 against Houston on June 23rd, 14,400 against Toronto on the 27th, and last night’s 12.085 against Kansas City, that's a lot of empty seats for a team that by most measures has exceeded expectations on the field, particularly offensively. If Montreal can find a way to improve its results on the road, the playoffs are not out of the question this season. Whether that can draw fans is another question entirely.
Can an occasionally healthy defender really help recreate that buzz in Montreal?
Unlike most MLS franchises, Montreal is not playing down the Alessandro Nesta speculation, with coach Jesse Marsch saying on Tuesday the club had made an offer to the classy Italian defender.
“I can tell you that Alessandro Nesta wants to be here,” Marsch told MLSsoccer.com. “We are working on making that happen. It would be incredible to be able to count on him.”
Apparently Montreal is the most sophisticated soccer market in North America if team management believes an Italian defender will move the needle in terms of ticket sales. That’s a polite way of saying that it’s a reach, putting further pressure on our first question. What will it take for fans to commit to this team. Hey, we’re not the only ones asking.
Where does Seattle Times' columnist Steve Kelley point the finger for the Sounders recent winless streak?
Squarely on the team from the top down, as Kelley wrote in a column published Wednesday morning. The absence of retired goalkeeper Kasey Keller looms large, as does the response from Seattle to physical play. Last night’s 0-0 draw against Salt Lake produced it’s share of opportunities for what Kelley outlined as a lack of discipline, but Sounders coach Sigi Schmid was looking at the bright side in his postgame comments. “I thought there were some excitable moments in the game, but I don’t think we were the ones who instigated those excitable moments.”
So, with defender Omar Gonzalez back for the Galaxy, it's nothing but blue skies ahead right?
Not so fast. First, Gonzalez admits his teammates have gone easy on him in practice, which is as it should be at this stage in his rehabilitation from knee surgery. Opposing players won’t be so thoughtful. Second, forward Adam Cristman has announced his retirement because of ongoing concussion symptoms.
Third, while the Galaxy's nine points in their last six games has helped them gain ground on every Western Conference team except San Jose, they are still out of the playoffs and their 29 goals allowed is the most in the Western Conference. As much upside as a healthy Gonzalez brings, LA has work to do.
How did Portland effectively shut down San Jose on Tuesday evening?
If you look at San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski's heat map, many of his touches came in midfield. Some of that was by design. Wondolwoski dropped back into the midfield with Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart up front. Mostly, it was because Portland did an effective job of not allowing Wondolowski the space he seems to find in most games.
Did San Jose take about a half to adjust to Portland's field? Yes. Was San Jose probably tired after Saturday night's big game against Los Angeles? Yes. Still, how about we give Portland the credit for taking their chances and successfully (for the most part) shutting down the League's most powerful offense.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.