The soccer news starts with the MLS schedule. Showing some respect to the international break, there are only five games in an abbreviated week 4. There’s certainly an argument for that being five too many.
In the league’s own media roundup, they pointed to the “80 MLS stars set for National Team action” over the break. That’s the standard reason for topflights taking the international break off rather than coming up with ways to play through. It could be worse. The league could press on with a complete schedule. Still, it’s not exactly optimal from a competition standpoint.
Columbus is at Philadelphia on Saturday night without Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes. Zack Steffen would’ve also been unavailable due to international duty had he not picked up an injury. That changes what Columbus does best, a team dependent on its USMNT players. Philadelphia has its own issues with their Concacaf players.
FC Cincinnati is losing key players to Costa Rica and Jamaica, turning the expansion side’s squad into something different at New England. The Red Bulls play this weekend with starters missing. And so on.
Advantage to the MLS clubs not missing as much, a situation that isn’t about competing with best available lineups. That’s sort of the point of the league schedule, something that might be less of an issue in 2019 but is still a problem. It’s not fair, turning an already problematic league schedule into hoping that the call-ups aren’t completely disruptive.
“I’ve obviously been in this league and I know you’re going to lose guys to international duty, you’re going to have to rotate,” Columbus coach Jason Kreis said following his club’s win over FC Dallas. “I never lose sight of that, I need everyone. I say that all the time and I’m not shallow in saying that, I mean it.”
That full availability remains such a challenge in this league has a simple answer. It’s the same one from the era when the league played on regardless of the FIFA calendar. No games during the international breaks.
Pro Soccer USA’s Jordan Culver reports from USMNT training in Orlando. SBI Soccer’s Ives Galarcep has the positioning for the US defense. NYCFC’s Simreen Kheraj talks to USMNT player Jonathan Lewis. AP’s Ronald Blum looks at the tactics for the USMNT in March. ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle updates the situation with FIFA and training compensation for DeAndre Yedlin. The Independent’s Jack Pitt-Brooke on the US clubs pressing FIFA to address the lack of promotion and relegation.
The Guardian’s Sid Lowe on Lionel Messi’s latest exploits. BBC Sport with the state government stepping in to operate the Maracana Stadium.
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Photo courtesy of MLS