With the first leg of the MLS Conference semifinals behind us, it is time for this week’s MLS Big- 5, playoff edition.
1) No US Open Cup for MLS Satellites
So this popped up on the US Open Cup website today.
“Any Outdoor Professional League Team that is majority owned by a higher-level Outdoor Professional League Team shall be ineligible to participate in the Open Cup. The Open Cup Committee shall review and determine team eligibility annually pursuant to this provision and report its decisions to the National Board of Directors.”
What does it mean? First off these league owned teams will not be eligible to compete for the Cup: Seattle Sounders 2, Portland Timbers 2, LA Galaxy 2, New York Red Bulls 2, Real Monarchs (RSL) and 2016 expansion teams Orlando City B, Bethlehem Steel and Swope Park Rangers (Sporting KC).
We haven’t heard yet from US Open Cup officials or anyone from MLS, so we will wait to see what develops.
2) NY Red Bulls Center Back Saga
New York traveled down to DC last weekend and came home with a valuable road win, but the team also came back with a host of issues in the center of its defense.
Season-long starter Damien Perrinelle tore his ACL versus United and is done for the year. After a lost year in 2014 the Frenchman made himself an automatic starter alongside Matt Miazga this season.
It was not surprising then that when GotSoccer joined a small media group at the Red Bulls Training Facility in Whippany, New Jersey this week Perrinelle was, “sad,” but sanguine. “What can I do now, nothing,” was how the defender answered our query.
Fellow French backsman Ronald Zubar stepped in for Perrinelle Sunday in DC, and many considered him lucky not to have seen red for a lunging challenge in the 69th minute. Zubar drew a yellow card and no further discipline was meted out by the league.
GotSoccer wondered if Zubar had been relieved at the news. “I really didn’t know,” Zubar said with a slight chuckle, adding, “you are the first to tell me that.”
Zubar and Miazga both enter the match with yellow cards, so DC coach Ben Olsen, who felt Zubar’s tackle warranted a red card, has that slight solace ahead of Sunday’s return leg at Red Bull Arena.
3) San Antonio Making MLS Moves
Rather than wait around to be asked the City of San Antonio went out and purchased a stadium in hopes of landing an MLS franchise.
The city bought Toyota Field, home to the 2014 NASL champion Scorpions, and awarded a 20-year lease to the Spurs Sports and Entertainment Group to operate the facility and pursue an MLS team.
It’s early days yet, but any association with the perennial powerhouse NBA Spurs can’t be bad.
4) Remember Off-Season Loans
There was a time not too long ago when they were all the rage. Major League Soccers biggest stars would head off to Europe to stay sharp, make a few bucks, well pounds Sterling or euro’s, and spread the MLS gospel.
But with recent statements from clubs and players that the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo and David Villa won’t be signing short-term deals, the loan movement seems dead in the water.
There are some good reasons for the league to be happy about this. Remember when David Beckham extended his deal with AC Milan, making the league and the L.A. Galaxy look like his second choice. More recently when Frank Lampard didn’t turn up for January training camp NYCFC looked foolish and Jason Kreis might still be employed in Gotham had Lampard shown up when promised, rather than staying on at Manchester City.
The clubs are undoubtedly better of with these vets taking it easy over the winter, but the league does lose out a little with the lack of loans for younger players.
Landon Donovan wasn’t exactly a kid when he went to Everton, but Donovan flourished and became a fan favorite, eventually declaring, “once a Toffee always a Toffee.”
Donovan’s two brief spells with Everton erased the perception that he couldn’t hack it in Europe. With so few Americans playing in Europe these days, a short-term loan might benefit some talented younger players, even if they saw little playing time.
5) 2nd Leg
Nothing has been decided after the first round leaving plenty of drama to come this Sunday for MLS fans.
As the first legs only away victors the New York Red Bulls would seem to be in the strongest position going into Sunday’s home game. Two away goals could also benefit the Bulls, who frankly look to be the better team in this rivalry with DC United.
Vancouver escaped Portland with a goalless draw, but with the worst home record of the remaining teams, the Caps home field advantage is somewhat muted.
The hosts in the other two games are in the identical predicament of having to overturn a 2-1 deficit, but at least they are playing at home.
Dallas wasted a dominant first half performance and will try to rekindle that energy far from the madness of the Seattle fans.
Columbus will also be happy to get home as it tries to rebound from that 2-1 deficit. Montreal were the better team in round one and if the Crew is going to stop Drogba, Piatti and company then Kei Kamara and Ethan Finley will have to turn up in front of the home fans.