By Tony Edwards – San Jose, CA (June 10, 2014) US Soccer Players – There was a brief period of time after the Seattle Sounders exited last season’s MLS playoffs where a basic question seemed appropriate. Would head coach Sigi Schmid return in 2014? There was even talk before the start of the season that Schmid might still be on the hot seat. Whatever the hot seat is when your team draws 35,000+ every home game.
How franchise management decides to put their trust in leadership is still an art, not a science. We all understand what the best practices are for hiring people, but sometimes, sometimes, the right coach is already on your bench. You have to wonder what a club thinks months after not making a move when their team has the best record in MLS.
If any coach in MLS gets the benefit of the doubt, it’s Schmid. That the results this season, after some intelligent moves in the offseason, bears this out should surprise no one.
Is it smart to value continuity in MLS?
The Philadelphia Union gave us one answer earlier today, and Seattle gives us another. In some cases, it’s absolutely the right thing. Remember that off-season hubbub about whether Seattle would bring back Sigi Schmid? Seemed pretty odd back then. It seems downright silly now.
Hey, maybe it does take health and some time for players to show their best. Four wins and a draw in their last six, the Sounders have a substantial lead in both the Western Conference and the Supporters’ Shield competitions.
The other thing that helps is talent and knowing where to make changes. I’ll stand up and say that I wondered about the signings of Marco Pappa and Obafemi Martins. Both have not only integrated, but flourished. This isn’t a blanket endorsement of stability. It’s just pointing out that at least in Seattle’s case, it was the road better traveled.
So no more MLS games for a while, right?
Well, technically MLS does stop before the first round of the World Cup starts, but that means games on Wednesday and US Open Cup games this week also. Not only are there League games on Wednesday, but there’s a national cable game, with Portland hosting Dallas for those of you on the East Coast willing to stay up late to watch Portland try not to draw again.
And for those teams not playing in the Open Cup this week, there’s games next week, on the 17th and 18th. MLS resumes on the 25th.
So, practically, this ‘three week break for the World Cup’ just becomes a way to get the fourth round of the Open Cup in with minimal disruption to the MLS schedule. As we’ve said many times, there’s no perfect schedule, especially for ambitious teams.
Which MLS team faces a no-win situation this week?
Obviously the Red Bulls, who had to play on Sunday on turf against New England. Needing the points, New York came through. Next, they travel to Hofstra to play the Cosmos on the 14th in the US Open Cup’s fourth round, again on turf.
The Cosmos Sunday game became a ‘keep everyone healthy’ exercise when Minnesota hung on for a draw Saturday to clinch the Spring NASL title, and if the Cosmos lose to an MLS club, that’s expected. However, the Red Bulls have a short roster between injuries, World Cup playing, and World Cup media duties. The Open Cup game is on turf, and the Cosmos literally have nothing else to play for before the Fall season begins.
So Minnesota is the NASL champion, right?
Hanging on for a 3-3 draw Saturday, Manny Lagos’ Minnesota United FC got to wear the t-shirts with ‘Spring Champions’ on them. Congrats to the team, but focus on the Spring.
Minnesota earns an automatic berth into the ‘The Championship,’ which is the NASL’s new four-team postseason format. Minnesota’s Championship semi-final match will take place the weekend of November 8-9.
Now, I thought last year’s playoff format was still in place, but I was wrong. Back in late February, the NASL announced that the Spring and Fall champions make the semifinals alongside the two clubs with the next best overall records from both seasons combined. The semifinal winners will compete in the final the weekend of November 15-16.
So Tony, what happens if Minnesota runs the table? Well, they get to add another trophy to their collection, but they still have to earn the NASL championship in the playoffs. If the champions stays the same, they go back to the joint season table and add another playoff team.
An even better question is how many MLS teams Manny Lagos would improve right now. I’d place the over/under number at 5.
What was the new USL team in Sacramento’s average attendance in their temporary facility?
A whopping 19,526. The team drew more than 20,000 to Hughes Stadium last weekend, as they drew with Arizona 1-1. The team moves to still-under-construction Bonney Field for their next home game on Friday June 20. Bonney seats 8,000. That’s large for the third division, especially for a purpose-built stadium.
Enough people are already jumping to the expected conclusions about Sacramento’s next step. That’s nothing new for a successful club in the lower divisions of American pro soccer. Instead of penciling them in for a future expansion announcement, how about we congratulate them on what they’re doing right now.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.