By Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (Aug 7, 2014) US Soccer Players - It's not a stretch to say that what should matter when an MLS franchise is under construction is winning. Sure, there's playing attractive soccer, player development and selling tickets, but ultimately, three points on the weekend is where it's at. Yep, that’s despite people like me whining about style of play. But the latest move by NYC FC to loan its latest star signing to its parent club in Manchester raises some serious questions about how much latitude winners such as Claudio Reyna and Jason Kreis are going to have.
What does the 'loan' of NYC FC's Frank Lampard to Manchester City say about NYC FC's place in the world?
Absolutely no one was surprised this week to learn that NYC FC's Frank Lampard would play for parent club Manchester City until NYC FC starts up. It’s a loan deal, but between clubs that share ownership. This isn’t exactly new in world soccer, but it does raise a few issues for MLS.
Lampard helps Manchester City on a many levels. Whether Lampard actually hears the Champions League anthem while wearing a Manchester City shirt is an open question, but the message Lampard's "loan" to City sends is the wrong one for MLS.
Oh, but Tony, if you are NYC FC competing in a crowded marketplace, isn't this short-term deal the cost of business? Maybe, but what it looks like is a clever runaround of European financial fair play regulations by Manchester City's management. Rather than giving Lampard time to recover, take a short break after another year-around season of games, and really acclimate to moving to the United States, we see a player who is essentially trading one shade of blue for another.
Look, players want to play. If Lampard has a chance to keep playing in the UEFA Champions League, it's understandable he'd take it. However, if MLS is to become one of the fabled best leagues in the world, all the ownership groups have to work towards that goal.
No group of owners is ever going to be entirely united, that's a given. For NYC FC to actually be successful and compete, players need to be here.
Which Supporters’ Shield contender has a better record on the road than at home?
Going into this weekend, Sporting Kansas City has 39 points in 22 games. Impressively, they sport a 7-4-0 record on the road, for 21 points. So the question then becomes, how can they be 4-1-6 at home?
Usually in MLS, we are talking about teams that struggle on the road. If Sporting Kansas City improves their home record (which admittedly is 18 points from 11 games), they might be able to hold off DC and face the play-in game winner.
That’s a big deal in the Eastern Conference. I would imagine most teams would rather not face Toronto in an opening round series, if things stay as they are at present.
Which team in MLS has the best goal difference going into the weekend?
Without looking, which team is it? Kansas City? Seattle? I would have thought so, but it’s the Galaxy with a +15 going into Friday’s national cable game at home against San Jose. The Earthquakes, with a 6-8-5 record have a +3 goal difference, mostly thanks to that 5-1 win over the Fire a couple of weeks back.
The majority of the Galaxy’s goals come from Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes. For most teams (looking at you Red Bulls), this seeming dependence on two players to score might be a weakness. With LA, you don’t get that same feeling.
Which team leads MLS in percentage of shots taken from outside the 18-yard box?
According to whoscored.com, 54% of the Whitecaps shots are from outside the box and only three percent of their shots come from within the six-yard box. Since no other team in MLS takes even 50% of their shots from outside the box (Colorado at 48%), the Whitecaps attack is an outlier this season.
Has the Premier League gone far enough with their new "concussion" rules?
After a number of high profile possible concussions suffered by players last season and in the World Cup, the EPL is introducing new rules when players might have suffered a concussion. Those rules specify holding a player out and undergoing an assessment before returning to play.
Okay, it's a start and let's not confuse a start with the end result. We're still waiting for the self-congratulatory MLS or FIFA press conference where they introduce more stringent concussion guidelines, independent medical practitioners at all sites with power to tell players they can't go back in, etc. It just takes the will to do so. Let’s hope that MLS would take the lead in player safety, rather than apparently leaving it for collective bargaining.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.