Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (Feb 7, 2013) US Soccer Players - In Thursday's Honduras-free column, Tony stops picking preseason favorites in the Western Conference, asks how Dallas will get the best out of its attacking talent and wonders why the Red Bulls aren't talking more about winning.
How long, at the most optimistic reading, will it be until Salt Lake's Javier Morales is back on the field?
Four to six weeks, according to the surgeon who operated on the midfielder's right knee.
This is the last time I pick a favorite before training camp starts. Salt Lake loses its playmaker probably until April and Seattle loses a key central defender for about the same period of time.
Salt Lake has less on its schedule than Seattle or Los Angeles in the early part of the season, and if Morales can round into form by late April, Salt Lake should be fine.
How will Schellas Hyndman organize FC Dallas to get the best out of Blas Perez, David Ferreira, Kenny Cooper, and Erik Hassli?
That's a lot of talent. Yes, Perez will be gone at times and “it's a long season, these things have a way of working themselves out.” He hasn't actually said that, but it’s not a stretch to imagine Hyndman making that statement at some point. To his credit, Technical Director Fernando Clavijo didn't use that phrase during an interview with MLSsoccer.com.
“When you look at the roster right now, it's a very credible roster,” Clavijo said. “But it's only a piece of paper. Now they have to go on the field and play.”
Even with Ferreira, Brek Shea, and Perez last season, Dallas wasn't exactly easy to watch. Hyndman has a roster with some talent on it (US National Team players George John and Zach Lloyd. Chris Seitz in goal), the question becomes can Hyndman deliver attractive, winning soccer?
Whereas Dallas has added to their attacking talent in the last week, who is going to play upfront for the Red Bulls, Cooper's last team?
According to Jack Bell's blog for the New York Times, the team has four forwards on the roster at present (Thierry Henry, Fabian Espindola, Josue Martinez, and Amando Moreno). In Bell's article, salary cap reasons are behind the Red Bulls' offseason roster makeover. Fine, in a salary cap league maybe the Red Bulls taking the 'we didn't want to do this, but there's this salary cap issue,' isn't the cop-out it seems to be.
In Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh's quote, he talks about balancing the roster and how good a professional Cooper is, but not much about winning and winning now. There are a some franchises that need to win this year to maintain or regain any credibility, and the Red Bulls are on that list (Toronto is first on that list). Shedding seven figures of salary obligations is all well and good, but the Red Bull needs to win, not just live under the salary cap.
Of everyone under contract in Houston, which player potentially will be there the longest?
Jermaine Taylor who signed a four year extension this week with Houston. We don't know contract details, but even then, committing to four years to a 28-year-old defender when there are younger, and possibly more valuable, players to keep in the fold is an interesting decision.
In the Dynamo's favor, they haven't made as many mistakes as some MLS clubs and they've put together a deep roster largely in the sweet spot of their careers, with few players older than thirty. Dominic Kinnear has been able to maintain an admirable record of success and the Dynamo have benefited from being in the Eastern Conference.
According to the 2013 competition rules, which is the first tiebreaker for two teams tied for a playoff spot?
Goals scored remains the first tiebreaker. Enough ink was spilled last summer when MLS made this public, so no need to recap the reasons why head-to-head or goal difference are better ideas.
On that same page, the League explains the scheduling procedure, with each Western Conference team playing each Western Conference team three times (24 in conference games) and each Eastern Conference team once. The Eastern Conference teams play 25 in-conference games (7 conference opponents three times and two four times). If MLS goes to 20 teams, four divisions might be a lot simpler way to organize things.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.