Questions: Defense in New York and MLS in Control

2012 Open Cup winners Sporting Kansas City.  Credit: Brad Smith -

By Tony Edwards – San Jose, CA (Mar 7, 2013) US Soccer Players – In Thursday’s column, Tony examines the value of defensive stability in MLS, highlights changes in the US Open Cup and the NASL, and joins a US National Team player in the fondness for a postgame curry.

How many defensive combinations did the Red Bulls use last season in 34 games?

Seventeen, according to this article in the Newark Star-Ledger. While it takes some time for players to gel, and the Red Bulls made many changes to their backline during the short offseason, there were too many mistakes in communication and positioning, plus an own-goal Sunday in Portland. However, Red Bulls coach Mike Petke and assistant Robin Fraser understand the need for continuity and communication. Also, the Red Bulls scored three goals on the road, and were an own-goal away from three points.

Is MLS prepared to let its franchises entirely make their own roster decisions?

Not yet, according to Don Garber. In an interview with Jeff Carlisle, Garber commented on the league rejecting Toronto’s attempt to sign Olof Mellborg last season.

“…the league should continue to have enormous influence as to what kinds of decisions should be made so that teams don’t make decisions that can either compromise them, or have a negative effect on what it is we’re trying to achieve,” Garber said. “Our view on Mellborg was that it was just not a decision that would be smart for TFC, or smart for the league as a whole.”

What is interesting is that the Mellborg story emerged at all. It did nothing for anyone’s credibility, especially the people running TFC then. Why did Mellborg not pass the sniff test but some other signings do, like recent DPs and international signings in Seattle and Los Angeles? Do teams that have better track records get a longer leash?

What is the biggest change in the US Open Cup for this season?

Some might think it’s the prize money for the winner (up to $250,000) but that there is no bidding process for the semi-finals and finals takes top billing.

The losing finalist now will bring home $60,000, which would be significant for any team that isn’t in MLS or the NASL. Say the Atlanta Silverbacks get hot at the right time and make it to the semi-finals, facing an MLS franchise that draws well. Is it really to anyone’s advantage to have that game in Atlanta? On the other hand, eliminating a system where DC United, among other teams, doesn’t leave the DC metropolitan area for a game can be nothing but a good start.

Open Cup play begins in May.

What does the NASL need most?

Fans? Expansion franchises that take the field on schedule? Solid ownership and stadium situations for all its franchises? A good run in the US Open Cup? Yes, but how about a team named United?

The former Minnesota Stars, coached by former US National Team player Manny Lagos, is now Minnesota United FC, with some sort of bird as the focal point of its logo.It’s not ‘wanderers’ or ‘rovers’ or ‘Kicks,’ so there is that to be glad about. Still, can we put a moratorium on ‘FC’ and “United’ for a while?

What does former US National Team player Marcus Hahnemann miss most about playing in England?

His post-game Indian food. “My king prawn vindaloo post-match,” he told the Guardian. Hahnemann isn’t taking his opportunity with Seattle as a victory lap. He’s enjoying being able to pass his well-earned knowledge on to his teammates.

“… when I save stuff I’m like, ‘if you would have done this I don’t think I’d have had any chance’. And they really take it on board,” he said.

Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.

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One Response to Questions: Defense in New York and MLS in Control

  1. Tony in Quakeland says:

    Youm, vindaloo. Now we know what happened to his hair.