Monday’s soccer news starts with FC Dallas beating New England 2-1 at home with both goals from Ricardo Pepi. With the win, Dallas moves up into a group of clubs tied on 10 points, 11th in the table but with a game in hand over 10th-place San Jose. In other words, the win makes Dallas slightly better than bad in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, New England remains top of the East with a two-point lead and an extra game played over Orlando City.
“First of all, first place or last place, all that stuff doesn’t mean a whole lot now,” New England coach Bruce Arena said. “We’re eleven games into the season. We’re a third through the season. We don’t talk about what place we’re in right now. So, who cares in that part of it? I know nothing about the history of the Revolution playing in Dallas or that they haven’t won since 2008. I don’t think that’s anything but a statistic. It could be anywhere. In the summer months in our league, heat and humidity everywhere. If you think Dallas is bad, you should try Florida.”
With Arena well known for what we’ll politely call “candor,” he touches on the two biggest points for trying to figure out MLS right now. The small sample size and the weather. Add in the unbalanced schedule, and it’s Major League Soccer’s regular trifecta that tends to hold longer than it should. Short a massive gap in points, it’s difficult to judge quality until late in the season.
That brings us to another cliche of MLS, something Arena addressed in response to a question about his defense.
“We’re not talking about competing for a championship right now. We’re talking about building our team into a good team. So, as we move along through the season and we get towards the end, hopefully we’re positioned to compete and win playoff games. Right now, we’re not talking about winning a championship. Right now, we’re talking about building our team to be a better team.”
In a playoff league where success and failure can mean the difference between finishing 7th or 8th, the contender talk tends to start early. That’s followed by the basic premise that “anything can happen in the playoffs.” That creates a strange understanding of success that takes in half the conference table in the 14-team East and more than half in the 13-team West.
Arena is right, but it’s the kind of statement that tends not to land in Major League Soccer. This is a week-to-week league in a lot of ways, with wins and losses overvalued in the big picture. There’s plenty of games left on the schedule for the standard MLS version of parity to readjust the conference tables. FC Dallas didn’t suddenly become good any more than New England quickly became average. One game in late June means less than what some might want it to, the nature of a summer league churning through games.
Staying in MLS, the Houston Dynamo announced the transfer of Christian Ramirez to Aberdeen in the Scottish Premier League. “We’d like to thank Christian for his contributions to the club, both on and off the field since joining us in 2019,” Houston GM Matt Jordan said in a press statement. “We wish him well with this next step in his career and all the best moving forward.”
MLSsoccer’s Matthew Doyle reviews week 10 of the 2021 MLS season. The Guardian’s Jonathan Liew argues that Germany is overrated in advance of their knockout round game with England. The NY Times’ Rory Smith argues for EURO expansion.
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