Thursday, March 19, 2015

MLS, Week 3, Ho!!

It doesn't really matter which bed you choose...
OK, still working on a name for this feature...bear with me...

Did things a little differently this week. It wasn't perfect, but it's the germ of several ideas that will, 1) let me cover soccer in a way in which I’m comfortable and, 2) yes, preserve my marriage.

Did I say I would post 5 topics this week? Madness, I tell you, like getting stoned on the urine of three motivational speakers in the saddest hotel room in the world. Three league-wide topics, plus one Timbers Review/Preview post, is clearly my cap and, no, I didn't get there this week. That said, I did get through two topics and the Timbers Review Preview. Links below:

The Columbus Crew’s Justin Meram: His Ceiling, His Upside, Etc.
Flip-to-the-Flop for the Seattle Sounders FC and Toronto FC: What’s It Mean?
The Timbers Draw Against LA and What They Have to Do to Beat Sporting KC

So that's done. I had this swell idea about creating an all-Major League Soccer (MLS) U.S. Men's National Team roster and I made good progress there. But, then I laid down nonsensical parameters and generally made a mess of the thing, so that's another post for another day. When I get my head around what I want out of that.

The rest of this post looks forward, as it will every week from here on out (ideally; or just better). First, I'm going to flag what looks like the best game of the weekend ahead – and, of course, why it's so goddamn killer – and, after that, I'm going to look back at a couple stories from the week that's just about over to chatter about the biggest stories (or, let's face it, the ones that meant the most to me...there's a theme this week).

The Big Game of Week 3
While it's not the one I’m most excited about, my guess is that it's toast of the neutrals. Yes, Red Bull New York vs. DC United, the old Atlantic Cup rears its beautiful head for the 20th year running. (NOTE: Are we sure on the math on this? Hold on: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000...feel free to count along on your fingers...well, I'll be damned. It is MLS's 20th!!) Last year's tight playoff series chummed the waters nicely for this one. Sure, some of the big names have moved on: Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, and, inexplicably, Mike Petke...anyone else noticing an imbalance on the ledger? Anyway, this game typically delivers, but it's also the Red Bulls first home game of 2015 in a very new world for them (e.g. New York City FC's opener, which was widely regarded as stellar), and both teams surely know that they'll have to row hard to keep up in a wide-open Eastern Conference in 2015.
Honorable Mentions (as in, the games I'm planning on watching):
New England v. L'Impact Montreal (my personal game of the week); Colorado Rapids v. NYCFC; and, of course, Sporting KC v. Portland Timbers.

This Week's Headlines, Several Days Too Late
Allez, You Beautiful Fucking Quebecois!
First, I salute Montreal for continuing to carry the MLS Torch in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). I'm not sure they'll survive the margin they left themselves, but I'm opting for faith over fear...especially after Club America cocked it up badly as they did. A CCL final without a Mexican club? Yes, please! And let's have one more shout-out for howwell Montreal stuffed their home stadium. Salud!

Passport(s) to Scandinavia
While I think that only New England Revolution fans can properly mourn the departure of centerback A. J. Soares for the CRA-ZY fucking cold climes of Norway, I did promise myself that, in the wake of the...whatever the fuck happened with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), I would keep track of MLS players departing for Scandinavia. This week saw two departures: Rapids forward Deshorn Brown, which looks like an actual transfer, and the Philadelphia Union's Danny Cruz, which looks...well, I'm not sure what this looks like. The official line out of Philly is that this is about getting starting minutes for Cruz. My response to that? OK...

The overarching point is that this Brown, Soares and Cruz – not to mention Heath Pearce – are representative of the kinds of players MLS is likely to lose under the new CBA. The CBA takes care of the young guys, and MLS was already taking care of the designated players, but it's the solid, steady performers the league risks losing. The league's middle class, if you will. Bottom line: any regular, solid contributor with a tangible track record or a visible upside just might bug out to The Lands of Actual Free Agency. I say let 'em go. Put the owners on notice and see what moves during the next CBA negotiations (which are, blissfully, five years off).

Cristiano Ronaldo. 2018 or...meh.
Look, I don't care. Well, hold on...doing the math. OK, assuming Ronaldo arrives in 2018, as reported, he'll be 33. While that's, literally, two years younger than I had originally believed, he's still coming to MLS for fun, games, and, frankly, to feel like a superstar again. Sure, the league does win on these deals, because butts in seats. I just can't choke down the indignity of it all, this idea that top players come to MLS to, in so many words, feel young and vital again. I have all kinds of respect for David Beckham's time in MLS. It wasn't perfect, but the man came into the league young enough, hungry enough, and with enough time to win a couple trophies. The same goes for Robbie Keane. I'm not sure we’ll see the same things from Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard...though I am willing to eat my words when it comes to Lampard. Because, fuck LA.

Anyway, yes, I know that these old guys are better in their mid-30s than a lot of MLS players in the most prime of their prime years. Even if David Villa isn't quite a full-blown geezer, watch the man's feet on this goal and tell me he’s not a step above. And yet I rage...

Well, that's all for Week 2. And it's ample. See all y'all after Week 3!

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