The FIFA break is over and the playoffs are back, so let’s check in with another MLS Big – 5.
1) 3 in For MVP – But No BWP
Robbie Keane, Obafemi Martins and Lee Nguyen are all very worthy finalists for the league Most Valuable Player Award, but New York Red Bulls sniper Bradley Wright-Phillips must be wondering what more he needed to do to make the shortlist.
Because equaling the league record for most goals in a season with 27 apparently was not enough. Wright-Phillips already has three playoff goals this year, so New England will be hoping that this snub doesn’t inspire the Englishman to even greater heights this Sunday when New York host the Revolution, and its MVP finalist Lee Nguyen.
2) Chivas USA Expansion Draft
Veteran goalkeeper Dan Kennedy went to keeper rich FC Dallas in Wednesday’s draft, while the rest of the league went for youth, or just took a pass.
Three may be a crowd in the FCD net, at least for now, as Kennedy joins Raul Fernandez and Chris Seitz in Dallas’ goalkeeping rotation.
With Dallas unlikely to head into the 2015 season with three starting caliber goalkeepers on its roster, watch for one of the three to be moved before March.
Aside from Kennedy just six former Chivas players found a home Wednesday, with Thomas McNamara the oldest at 23.
Selecting second, expansion club NYC FC went for 20 year old midfielder Matt Dunn. McNamara then went to DC United with the fourth pick after Sporting KC passed.
Also selected were fullback Donny Toia, 22 by Montreal, 18 year old forward Caleb Calvert was grabbed by Colorado, while San Jose also tabbed a young striker, 21 year old Kris Tyrpak. Toronto then made the final selection of the draft with the 14th pick, taking 19 year Marco Delgado, who showed promise at both fullback positions this season for the departed Goats.
All the remaining teams passed, then all of the teams that made a first round choice elected to stand pat in the second round, leaving a couple of decent players unselected.
Best known among the unselected was Nigel Reo-Coker. The bustling two way midfielder was traded to Chivas USA from Vancouver mid-season, and his high price tag may have scared off interested clubs.
3) Don Garber’s Manifest Destiny
First came the great migration to the Northwest, with Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, then Major League Soccer set its sights on the Southeast, annexing Orlando, Atlanta, and possibly Miami, and now a restless Commissioner looks north to Minnesota.
Actually, the league has confirmed that it will also be hearing pitches from Sacramento and Las Vegas, as MLS bares down on Garber’s goal of a 24 team MLS by the end of the decade.
All of these new contenders for expansion franchises must be making David Beckham and his Miami partners nervous. Remember, Beckham and company only get a Miami club if a downtown stadium can be secured.
4) A Stadium for DC United?
And while Miami continue to hunt for a stadium site, a league original, DC United also remain in the market. With the New England Revolution, DC’s stadium situation has long been an embarrassment to the league, with two of the league’s founding teams playing in cavernous American Football stadiums.
United has been negotiating for a stadium to be built in the Buzzards Bay area of the city, not far from the Washington Nationals baseball stadium.
It has been a long, complicated, and by times torturous process, but DC’s new mayor, Muriel Browser, has stated that she is in favor of building a new soccer stadium, and would be willing to use taxpayer dollars.
But, as mentioned before this is project is anything but straightforward, so despite the mayor’s encouraging remarks, nothing is close assured.
5) They’re Back ! It’s Playoff Time Again
The New York Red Bulls host the New England Revolution in the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday at 1:30, before the action shifts to the West Coast where the L.A. Galaxy face rival Seattle Sounders.
Both games, indeed both series, seem liable to be close, hopefully frigid temperatures won’t compromise the quality of play in the eastern cities.
In the Eastern Conference New England are the more dynamic team, as we saw in their decisive playoff win over Columbus, when the Revs won 4-2 on the road 3-1 at home.
The Red Bulls managed a 2-0 home win, before falling 2-1 at RFK, enough to advance. Thierry Henry’s potential swansong and any bitter feelings Wright-Phillips may have over the MVP snub add a little spice here, but if New England can hit for a road goal or two, the Red Bulls could be in trouble.
Out west L.A. and Seattle will resume hostilities, with the Galaxy at home for the first leg. One needn’t look too hard for storylines in this one. L.A. want to send Donovan off with a final MLS Cup, MVP candidates Robbie Keane (L.A.) and Obafemi Martins (Sea.) face off. Then this series will be the last time two all time U.S. greats, Donovan and Clint Dempsey face off, even the coaching battle offers something.
Seattle’s Sigi Schmid has won MLS Cup twice, in 2008 with Columbus and in 2002 with the Galaxy. To add a third Cup, Schmid will have to get past Bruce Arena, the league record holder with four MLS Cup wins. Arena won two Cups with DC United and two more with L.A.
There is little between these two clubs, but Seattle may be without rugged midfielder Ossie Alonso. That could be enough to tip the midfield battle the Galaxy’s way, we’ll see.
New England host the return leg in the Eastern Conference Finals on November 29, at 3:00 at Gillette Stadium, with Seattle expected to draw a huge crowd to CenturyLink a day later at 9:00 o’clock, all times Eastern.