MLS after week one
By Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (Mar 11, 2014) US Soccer Players - It’s easy enough to fall for the small sample size in soccer, so what do we make of the opening weekend in MLS? Is the Houston Dynamo a completely different team? Have the Seattle Sounders solved their designated player issue? Is Real Salt Lake already the best team in MLS?
Where do you start with the overreactions from the first weekend of MLS play?
Why don’t we play along and take the following MLS talking points for granted. The Houston Dynamo’s new possession-oriented game has changed their whole philosophy. FC Dallas is for real. Look out for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Sporting Kansas City's five games in 15 days schedule will hurt them. The Chicago Fire's remade defense isn't up to the task. Power Rankings anointing Salt Lake Number One!
It's one weekend where not every MLS team played. Of those that did, players such as Clint Dempsey, Thierry Henry, and others either didn't play or didn't play the entire game. Let's appreciate MLS Week 1 for the goals and some nice performances, but not read too much into it.
While not making too much of it, how many MLS games has it been since DC United won?
Saturday's loss at RFK was DC's 13th MLS loss in a row. From what I can tell, one of their most effective passing combinations Saturday evening was Bobby Boswell to Sean Franklin, and vice versa. Positively, Perry Kitchen completed a team high number of passes, and found ways to stay involved.
Which approach is better for the knockout rounds of the Champions League?
The LA Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City opted to play this weekend to get ready for their two-legged series against Liga MX clubs. San Jose delayed their MLS debut until next weekend, giving them a few extra days of training before Toluca arrives for a Tuesday night game on campus.
That neither LA nor KC got a result is meaningful, but not the entire point. They got through without major injuries (it appears) and they had time to see what worked and what didn’t. For Kansas City, especially, playing on wet turf in front of a big crowd in Seattle probably helped. They already know what they can do in arguably the highest-pressure situation MLS offers, even if they didn’t win.
Is Sporting Kansas City the most likely MLS team to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League?
‘Most likely’ might be a stretch. Sporting Kansas City’s defensive strategy, as evidenced last season and in Saturday’s game against Seattle, is apparently to slow the opposing team down (read foul in the middle of the field) and then defend well against free kicks.
This isn’t a popular or elegant way to play soccer. It makes Sporting KC games difficult to watch since there is approximately zero flow to their games. Until referees are willing to follow both the letter and the spirit of the Rules of the Game, it’s an effective way to play.
Sporting KC will have to walk a fine line against Cruz Azul during the road leg. Is the refereeing crew going to let Sporting KC play their game or will the cards fly for those Aurelien Collin challenges in midfield? If KC takes a lead into the road game, they might be well set up to advance.
Is Chivas USA's new management seeing things clearly?
Nelson Rodriguez, Chivas USA's president, told MLSsoccer.com he had no illusions about the size of the task, especially when it comes to attendance.
“I had no illusions that just a change in ownership group, or my or coach [Wilmer] Cabrera’s arrival was going to suddenly signal a change,” Rodriguez noted.
So was Rodriguez surprised at the "announced" attendance of 8300+ paying customers at Chivas USA's home game on Sunday
“The fans need to see a tangible difference, and it will take time to win them over,” he said. “That’s why our mission is on a daily basis to get better and to do the right things in the right way.”
To be fair, this is the right thing to say. We can all jump up and down, but given the alternative, maybe we can give them the benefit of the doubt.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.