It gives me great enjoyment to know that the MLS season is back. And I don’t mean Opening Week “back”, where the one-game sample size doesn’t really assure you that your team has made any improvements, I mean “back” as in here we can begin to see trends forming in the storylines of 2014. The season’s still fresh, so anything we see may mean nothing in six months, but they’re still interesting for now.
So give your basketball-bracket brain a rest, and check out these Week 2 MLS Stoylines:
Early Season Success For Houston, Toronto, and Maybe Columbus
Houston looks mega impressive on it’s way to the being the only club with 6 points after two weeks. Will Bruin is scoring goals and creating chances, while the defense hasn’t allowed a single goal. They’ve jumped up the boards of power rankings everywhere but destroying the struggling Revolution and fending off the Marco Di Vaio-less Impact doesn’t exactly scream Supporter’s Shield. I’m not doubting that they can win some games, but let’s just not give them the title so easily.
Two other teams with losses, Toronto and Columbus, have each played one game but each looked pretty good in those matches. Toronto’s Defoe-ing (new verb I created) of the Sounders was watchable not because of the Seattle crowd or even the Defoe goals, but just watching Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio control the midfield was entertaining. Bradley seemed to be on camera the entire game. I’d look down to find the next chip in the bag and look up to find him still within the frame of my TV. The 21-year-old Osorio made a case that he deserves a better look, and if he can remain in the form he was in against Seattle, this Toronto team is really for real.
Columbus has one 3-0 drubbing under it’s belt, but it was against D.C. who have yet to show they’ve improved at all. The addition of Michael Parkhurst added a new level of play for the yellow-clad heroes of the heartland. Last year they played so much soccer on their heels, continually backed up into the defensive third, but Parkhurst stops the attack at a higher point. This starts the attack at a higher point, making the counter attack much shorter and more successful. For Columbus and Toronto it’s too early to tell what their season holds, but at least it looks bright right now.
2013 Success Does Not Mean 2014 Success
Three teams from the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs have put on a show of stubbles. New York was whooped by the surprising Week 1 Whitecaps, and tied with wayward Colorado. Montreal has put up a fight with both Dallas and Houston, but have come away with two road losses. Worst of all is the Revolution whose young talent can’t seem to get out of a confused, unconfident stupor. These three teams combined have a grand total of one point. (LA and D.C. — who weren’t a playoff team in the first place — are excused from this argument because they’ve only played one game each.) Six games from three different playoff teams, and little to show for it except a few goals, well, except for the Revolution, who averaged 1.44 Goals per game last year and have yet to score any in 2014.
There is all kinds of time to tunnel out of the holes they’ve dug themselves, but the entire season matters. How many times does it come down to the last few points in October. “Good things come to those who wait,” does not apply in MLS, or any sport of that matter.. except when it comes to draft picks, where losing means better chances at success… But anyways, these teams already find themselves looking up in the standings, like all-the-way-up looking. Doom and gloom isn’t needed just yet. It’s just surprising to see futility from these guys after good or better 2013’s.
CCL Action Builds Yet Again
I honestly haven’t been a club soccer fan very long, and one thing I’ve noticed is the lack of enthusiasm for CCL games. It’s essentially USA v. Mexico, but yet the interest doesn’t rise like regular MLS action. There’s pros and cons to that situation of course, we all want MLS play to be awesome, but an international club competition is rather unheard of in other American sports. It’s yet again something that adds variety and interest to U.S. soccer. If any thing, there needs to be TV coverage of these matches readily available to everyone. Personally, I know I would make time to watch Sporting play an extra game if it was being shown, but currently I have no access to it.
San Jose, Sporting KC, and LA all find themselves in profitable situations to move on. Away wins are tough to get across the Rio Grande, but all of them have made it known they want to win. Sporting’s coach Peter Vermes sat Zusi this week against Dallas so he could get rest for the CCL match. That’s clear devotion to winning one but not the other, and quite honestly, I applaud in a standing fashion. For once, I want to see a club from MLS win the elusive trophy and give us some pride, not just for our country, like our national team does, but for our league. If you haven’t noticed, MLS is growing, but there are still barriers that have to be broken, and dominance of Mexican league soccer is a big one. Here’s hoping that SJ, KC, and/or LA make us proud this week.