The soccer news starts without the regular caveat. Two months into the 2019 MLS season, and it’s reasonable to go ahead and consider the table. There’s no longer the too few games caveat, small sample size, or any other hedge that turns a rough start into a salvageable situation. Things might change, but right now the fair assessment is that the Eastern Conference isn’t what most of us expected.
With MLS unable to design a schedule that brings teams level on games played at the end of each week, Atlanta United has the worst points total in MLS. Five from six games, with the Red Bulls in front of them on a tiebreaker but with an extra game played. NYCFC is in 9th-place, three points ahead and trailing FC Cincinnati on a tiebreaker.
The Red Bulls, Atlanta, and NYCFC were the top three finishers in MLS last season. There was no expectation that all three of them would have issues keeping a playoff spot over the first quarter of this season. Atlanta United is the outlier based on the strength of its roster. The expectation is a rough start will eventually mean a Seattle style turnaround. That’s not the same scenario for last year’s Supporters’ Shield winning Red Bulls and there are already rumors that NYCFC is considering a coaching change.
Of course, this is MLS in 2019 where the top of the table is no easier to figure out. DC United leads the Eastern Conference with 14 points, but lost 2-0 at home to NYCFC in week 8.
“I think after a win you can feel pretty… you’re going to feel pretty confident after a win,” NYCFC defender Anton Tinnerholm said. “Of course, everyone knows that we haven’t won, and it’s our first win so we’re happy. I think if you look at our defense that’s the best in four months since I arrived back here. We know they have a lot of quality players, especially in Acosta and Rooney. They didn’t score, and we scored. That’s pretty much it. We’re the bottom of the league, and they’re the top of the league.”
DC’s place at the top of the league is questionable. Toronto FC might be the best team in the East, a point behind DC but on six games played to United’s eight. That’s six potential points in a league where that’s the difference between 8th-place and the top of the table.
An Eastern Conference shakeup is certainly possible, but so is more of what we’re already seeing. No team can take much of anything as a given. Good teams with the pieces already in place can certainly keep losing in this version of MLS.
MLSsoccer’s Matthew Doyle reviews week 8 in MLS. Pro Soccer USA’s Oliver Platt has Jozy Altidore’s comments about Toronto’s decision not to retain trainer Giuseppe Gueli. The Washington Post’s Steve Goff looks at DC United’s issues at Audi Field. The LA Times’ Kevin Baxter reports on another standout performance from Carlos Vela. Goal’s Ives Galarcep’s look at LAFC’s win over Seattle to take control of the Western Conference.
The Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson with Manchester City shifting back to the Premier League by beating the team that knocked them out of the Champions League. The Independent’s Jack Pitt-Brooke’s takeaways from Manchester City’s win. Football365’s Daniel Storey has the highlights from the weekend’s Premier League games.
Remarkable what happens when your AVG basic wage bill is almost twice as much as next richest club, and 16 times as much as some teams in your division.
Serie A winners last 8 years:
— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) April 20, 2019
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