By Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (Sep 10, 2013) US Soccer Players - In Tuesday’s column, Tony looks at which MLS teams were able to deal with scheduling and player availability difficulties, and which ones weren’t. Also, what can you count on in MLS and what goalkeepers lead the League in shutouts.
In the face of disadvantages, turmoil, and scheduling difficulties, which MLS teams stepped up this weekend?
The answer will not include Toronto, the Galaxy, Philadelphia, and Houston, while it would include the Red Bulls and Seattle. Portland winning at home against Toronto doesn’t qualify as overcoming adversity.
Seattle, you could argue, and I might not disagree too much, created many of their own problems, but ultimately they were fine once they got out of their own way. However, their backline is still an issue, as far too often, before he was hurt, Mike Magee’s intelligent runs found space. Seattle’s Sigi Schmid won’t mistake a result (their recent winning streak) for the process (Seattle isn’t a finished product) and any talk of the Supporter’s Shield goes through Salt Lake this season.
On a related note, MLS head coaches need to save their scheduling comments/excuses for their bosses, not for the press. Presumably they all knew the schedule. Just like they all know there might be a disruption next summer.
What are the three things you can probably depend on in MLS?
Some international player will tell us the quality of play is higher than anticipated. A coach will go into detail about his tactical scheme, then run his team out in a 442 with two holding midfielders. And Toronto FC will remain Toronto FC.
Look this one up in your York University Schulich School of Business textbooks. Toronto’s management decided the newest, bestest way forward was to dump the general manager/president who started the latest rebuild, as last Thursday Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (TFC’s owners) fired Kevin Payne. Say what you will about Payne, and some of his statements were odd, at best (hi Diego Forlan), but he signed some good young talent. Of course, he also traded away some good young talent, and his hiring of Ryan Nelsen hasn’t been the runaway success Payne predicted. Remember, supposedly, Payne’s remit was to clean house and remake the franchise.
TFC management then began their general manager search by committing to Nelsen as coach, which is always a good way to bring in top talent. That is, if you are hiring someone to run your organization (supposedly down to two candidates according to multiple reports), why not give them control over what happens? Then, just to rub it in, TFC supposedly traded the young striker Payne just signed (Max Urruti) for a striker who has torn his ACL and won’t be ready to play any time soon (Bright Dike).
Before Sunday, how many times had the Red Bulls won in Houston?
Now if they could just win at New England, eh? Never before had the New Jersey franchise won in Houston before three second-half goals, and Dominic Kinnear’s ejection, turned a close game into something less than how Houston wanted to perform in front of their home crowd.
While Houston and Kinnear get every benefit of the doubt, it’s September now and the Dynamo are in sixth place, mostly because Chicago is underachieving. Houston’s goal difference now stands at -8, compared with fifth-place New England’s +4.
Yes, if Houston goes to Philadelphia next weekend and wins, they could be in a better spot, but at this point, Houston needs 13 points from its final seven games to reach 50 points, the still-likely point total needed to assure a playoff berth. In 14 road games this season, the Dynamo have 13 points.
How many shutouts does Colorado’s Clint Irwin have this season?
Ten. Not bad for a guy who started as third-choice goalkeeper for the Rapids. Jimmy Nielsen and Zach MacMath also have 10.
What was the problem with the broadcast and highlights of Jair Benitez’s goal Saturday night?
It was a fantastic 50-yard strike by Jair Benitez on Saturday night that capped Dallas’ first home win in more than three months. All we saw was Benitez advancing the ball in midfield, then shooting. Then many slow motion replays of Vancouver’s David Ousted angrily throwing the ball out of his net.
Never is there a shot of the whole field from behind Benitez so we could see what he had in front of him. The fact remains that the broadcast of the Dallas-Vancouver game was all-too-typical: well-meaning but significantly lacking in quality or resources.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.