By Tony Edwards – San Jose, CA (Apr 10, 2014) US Soccer Players – With no English-language national cable MLS games this weekend, your choices are limited to your local franchise or your computer. Snarky comment about subjecting an audience to, say Chicago versus Montreal aside, this is probably the first weekend where teams can start to feel left behind.
The Eastern Conference appears to have three good to very good teams (Columbus, Toronto, and Kansas City) and it might be reasonable, already, to suggest the other seven teams in the conference are playing for two playoff spots. Injuries, the World Cup, and the usual travails of a long season will alter those perceptions. After years of being clearly the weaker conference, this is a positive step for the Conference and for the League as a whole.
So it’s not that the Red Bulls are winless because they mostly stood pat in the off season, but it’s because of the injuries?
In the New York Post, Brian Lewis wrote that while the Red Bulls expect Thierry Henry and Dax McCarthy back this weekend against DC United. Tim Cahill, Richard Eckersley, Roy Miller, and Armando are likely out.
There are 29 games left in the season, but it still wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Red Bulls to get more than one point this weekend. The advantage of the increased quality this season in the Eastern Conference is that none of the top teams are likely to run away with it. The disadvantage, of course, is that points left on the table will likely come back to haunt you.
Is Portland’s Caleb Porter considering changes in his team’s defense?
“The chemistry does seem a bit off there in the back line,” Porter told the Oregonian. “I’ve got to look at how can we get that chemistry better. Is it keeping the same group and working with it? Is it making a tweak, perhaps?”
It’s not the backline coach (well okay some members of the defense didn’t have a great second half last weekend). Still, Portland was playing Seattle, not, say a last place team.
The problems, such as they are, in Portland’s defense mostly seemed to come from not getting a lot of useful help from their midfield and allowing Seattle to maintain their momentum. That’s the famous idea of killing a game. Combine those with Seattle’s skilled attacking players finding a groove late in the game and you get your coach considering playing someone else.
It’s not an overreaction from Porter. So what if he plays the same defense this weekend and gets a shutout? Does that solve the problem? No.
What are we looking forward to this weekend when the NASL opens?
Ten teams including new franchises in Indianapolis and Ottawa. A Soccer Bowl rematch as the Cosmos host Atlanta this weekend. Opening in April means you could have your more northern teams host. The league wisely waited until next weekend to have Ottawa, Edmonton, and Minnesota open at home. If you asked, I’d expect San Antonio to do better than last season (really going out on a limb) and for Atlanta and the Cosmos to compete for the Spring championship.
It has been almost a month since the MISL took a leave for the next season. Has there been any movement on the indoor situation?
Syracuse Silver Knights coach Tommy Tanner told Syracuse.com that his team was finalizing the paperwork to join a reorganized PASL. According to the article, the new league may have between 18 and 24 teams throughout the country and perhaps Canada and Mexico. Syracuse is likely to be in a division with Baltimore, Rochester, Harrisburg, and newcomer Providence. Annual league dues are $10,000, a little less than the MISL’s dues ($12,500). There’s a meeting next month to finalize rule changes.
If the former MISL owners wanted out of the USL, fine. But that alone isn’t going to bring back the glory days of 30 years ago. Nor are scoring gimmicks (like the MISL’s three-point shots). There is, however, a lot of talent out there. That, good marketing, and useful promotions can, like any minor league situation, create a workable situation.
What can Geoff Cameron and Stoke City accomplish this weekend?
While it’s been likely for a while, with a win over Newcastle on Saturday, Stoke would move to 43 points and assure themselves of playing in the EPL next season. Fulham has 27 points and five games left. The most they can finish with is 42. How many of us see Fulham embarking on a five game winning streak?
In all likelihood, these next five games for Stoke are to see how high they can finish. Newcastle are one place and six points ahead, in 9th-place. Cameron is having an excellent season at Stoke. The website WhoScored.com rates him as the club’s third best player overall.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.