The soccer news starts with Portland's lopsided loss at LAFC and a disappointing draw for Atlanta United at home against FC Cincinnati. Both of last season's finalists already face questions about their approach. The only answer for that is winning games, but that's not getting any easier in MLS.
For Portland, giving up four goals is an MLS cliche, but it doesn't takeaway from expectations already shifting in the Western Conference. Portland's loss adds to the pressure of keeping up even early in the season. It's not going to take long in 2019 to see the division between the contenders and everybody else in the West.
"We knew that it was going to be difficult," Portland coach Gio Savarese said of the start to the season. "We changed some things and now we need to analyze what we need to do. It’s not a result that we feel happy with, even though we played some good soccer in the first half. That is not enough, at the end the result is the most important part in the game. We need to analyze these things and continue to work."
It's tough for any MLS club to see the early results not go their way. One point in two games can't possibly suggest a trend, but it certainly can be a problem. How long a coach hangs onto ideas that don't produce wins is part of the job. So is the realization that changes can compound those problems.
Portland is far from the only team wondering if they've got the right ideas. Atlanta United is in a situation where the tactics continue to suggest a bigger issue. They've also got a wider sample set than two MLS games courtesy of the Concacaf Champions League. Five games certainly suggests a trend, and Atlanta plays their sixth competitive game of 2019 at Monterrey on Wednesday. They need to get three goals back on the road in Mexico, a scenario that simply doesn't favor them.
"Everybody was spoiled with the results of last season," Atlanta coach Frank de Boer said following that 1-1 home draw with FC Cincinnati. "So everyone has expectations, and that’s normal. But everybody also saw what happened with Toronto FC when they played in the Champions League last season. Out of nothing we were induced to playing a game every three days, so now I think in seventeen days we will play five games, which is a lot. We also play Monterrey, who is just a very good team, and not a team you just think you will beat away."
Also in the soccer news, USMNT youth international Gedion Zelalem joins Sporting Kansas City in a transfer from Arsenal. In a press statement, Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said, "Gedion is a talented player and we are excited to welcome him to the club. We look forward to his integration into the squad as the team competes in multiple competitions throughout the season." Zelalem last played for Arsenal's U-23s.
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