Another week in the books and another weekend where I binge-watched this crazy/amazing league (seriously from about 11am till 9pm on saturday, I couldn't quite make it through the end of the Quakes game, but *shudders* it's the Quakes). Sunday we took in the Galaxy and Portland Timbers (from our perch in section 230).
I've decided to put my ramblings, thoughts, and musings together on the weekend that was.
Started the marathon with the Chicago Fire taking on Real Salt Lake. I have to say that rebuilt midfield with Dax McCartyand Juninho controlled the game and helped to create dangerous chances for the Fire. Nemanja Nikolić bagged a goal David Accam looked dangerous getting forward (as he always does). The Fire should have had a third goal and would have had it not been for a fantastic finger-tip save by Nick Rimando. I think they are much improved this year and look to be the eastern conference version of the Colorado Rapids from 2016. I'm not willing to anoint them post-season contenders yet (the 2016 Houston Dynamo had a lot of people fooled early on) but they look much improved from last year. A little bit more consistency from the back line would most likely propel them into the top six in the east.
I had to pick and choose the games I watched (due to some games airing simultaneously) as such I only saw a bit of the New York Red Bulls and Colorado Rapids match. My biggest takeaway from this match is the return of Tim Howard. He made some solid saves and looks to be coming back from injury at just the right time for the USMNT considering we have a World Cup Qualifier in eleven days. Not sure if Bruce Arena will start him over Rimando (who he has spoken highly of in recent Facebook live videos) but it at least gives the option.
I rather enjoyed this match. The Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC both brought it. Though it was a shame to see so many players subbed due to injury. Hopefully they are not severe and will be back to their respective first team soon. Despite the cold on saturday afternoon in Philly the fans turned out and were ready to go from kickoff to the full 90. I love the Sons of Ben (and if you haven't seen their documentary I highly recommend it). I was once again pleased to see Oguchi Onyewu in the starting XI for the Union and overall he had a fantastic game absolutely smothering Sebastian Giovinco (and ultimately being the reason Seba was subbed off, after a particularly hard tackle). Good on Jay Simpsonfor opening his account in MLS, I'm not particularly sure what to expect from a striker most recently playing for Leyton Orient in League Two, the fourth tier of the British soccer pyramid. For reference our own Jack McBean was in League One while on loan with Coventry City. Alejandro Bedoya clanked a penalty kick of the cross bar and this game ended with in a draw. I'm not sure either team will mind the result. TFC looks to be the class of the east (at least on paper) and Philly is a solid side though a definite step below Toronto. Probably the best bit of this match was the back and forth (in the media and on twitter) with Bedoya and Altidore (if you haven't seen it, you should totally look it up).
The Montreal Impact seem to be doing exactly what they did so well in their run to the postseason which is bunker and break and good for them it's what their team is built to do. However, I think they need another lockdown defender in that back four to be able to execute this strategy at a high level, or someone who can handle the larger forwards in the league Laurent Ciman is a fantastic defender and Víctor Cabrera is a solid developing player I just think they need someone else. When encountering teams with a dynamic playmaker (or two) like the Seattle Sounders (or Toronto in the MLS Cup Playoffs) their defense can be broken down. Now who can truly stop Giovinco or Nicolás Lodeiro for a full match (let alone a two legged affair) particularly when you have other high level talent on the field like Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris. It's too much (even for the most stalwart of MLS defenses). They have the talent to steal points and again contend for a playoff spot, but the east looks to be improved this season and I'm not sure they have done enough to their roster to sneak into the playoffs and make some noise, that said, Ignacio Piatti is an absolute beast in this system and it's a joy to watch him work. Truly after Patrice Bernier left the game the Impact just seemed to get pulled a little too far and Seattle was able to find the equalizer and split the points on the day. Final thought on this game... the turf in the Olympic stadium looks painful, they need to upgrade the turf if they plan on continuing to use the stadium during the late fall/winter.
I had to skip the Houston Dynamo and Columbus Crew SC game. I will say that Houston looked scary the first few matches of last year, just this team feels different, maybe it's that they poached two championship winning defenders from the Galaxy, maybe it's that I am still sad about AJ. Either way, prove my faith right Houston (or don't, you know whatever, it is a free country after all).
The last match I watched to completion (while sucking down my second pot of coffee and having my friends power through, oh and breakfast burritos for dinner, because come on who doesn't love Brinner, which is breakfast-dinner you get the point) was Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas. Boy was I expecting more from this match. I failed to remember that Dallas has a midweek match in the CONCACAF Champions League against Pachuca so they rested a good bit of their usual starting XI and generally parked the bus. Sporting to their credit tried to play an open and exciting brand of soccer it's just that Dallas milked every injury, took time with every goal kick and throw in, and just generally killed an rhythm and flow to the game. Óscar Pareja has to be delighted with four points in two weeks while being able to rest some of his players to keep them fresh for CCL, however Pachuca didn't have to play this week (due to the Liga MX officials protesting abusive treatment of players by striking this week) so they should well rested and well prepared for their match. For Sporting fans I have questions. Who (if anyone) is going to step up and take the goal scoring pressure off of Dom Dwyer. The man is on an island in the box nearly every time SKC gets into the final third. You're now spending designated player money on Graham Zusi (who is playing right back and while he has moments where he looks dangerous in the attack and capable as a defender, right back is not generally where you want to spend DP level money) and on Diego Rubio who is coming back from an ACL injury. It seems that their isn't much wiggle room on their roster to make improvements if Latin Blessing and Gerso Fernandes don't pan out you might have a real problem on your hands. They still have a fantastic coach in Peter Vermes and a solid foundation and should continue to be in the conversation for western conference playoff position but they have a lot of unknowns and little in the way of being able to change it.
I watched about twenty minutes of the San Jose Quakes and Vancouver Whitecaps FC match. I was sad to see Tommy Thomspon get subbed off (Shout out to Sacramento Republic FC and the USL, as he looked fantastic in Sacramento last year). Ultimately it's the Quakes, I do not want them to succeed and I'm angry that they have four points in the table. Ugh.
I have family obligations on sundays and was not able to watch NYCFC shellack DC United but holy cow, from the highlights it seems like David Villa had himself a game and conversely Steve Birnbaum forgot to show up. That is a shame, I met Steve's mother and grandmother at the MLS Superdraft back in January (yes I'm a nerd for the beautiful game and I love MLS and my daughter and I had a great time... shut up) and they seem like genuinely good people also I want Birnbaum to do well for the USMNT and playing poorly in one game against one of the best strikers (and best attacks) in the entire MLS isn't an issue but it seems to be a recurring problem for Birnbaum when he goes against other world class players he seems to get lost here's hoping he continues on an upward trajectory. For country (not so much club, though I don't really have much of a problem with DC United).
Dear sweet baby Jesus. All of the excitement surrounding these two expansion teams, the highly touted and thought of Atlanta United finally facing their expansion brothers in Minnesota United FC (I don't care if they lose every game, they still have one of the best crests in the league). The feeling of genuine excitement was present, the Dark Clouds and True North Elite were loud and ready (an aside, I love that the Dark Clouds have a few different songs, so many supporters groups use the same copy and paste formula for chants and songs that it can get a bit stale, it's part of why I am ok with Terminus Legion figuring things out on that end as they go along, let it develop organically don't force things just because you feel like you have to) the snow was falling giving a great pre-game story how will warm weather Atlanta with all of their young south-american attackers fair in the snow? Apparently, Josef Martinez doesn't care: no long sleeves, nothing extra with his tights, just laced up his boots and went about scoring a hat-trick. I know it's early but this Atlanta side looks dangerous. They played well and generated good looks against the Red Bulls last week and dismantled the Loons six to one. That backline for Minnesota, something has GOT to change right? I know they didn't really get themselves figured out with their expansion bid until the early summer, but it had been on the table for a while. They knew they were mostly likely going to be joining the league along with Atlanta why not start to prepare? Either way, they need serious defensive help. No they will not lose every game by four and five goals (and giving up 11 in two weeks is catastrophic). They will eventually figure things out, having an experienced MLS keeper in Bobby Shuttleworth taking over for the injured John Alvbage is probably a blessing in disguise. Here's hoping they figure things out sooner rather than later or rash decisions might be made.
That's all I have for this week! Did I miss anything? Lemme know in the comments below.