There can be but one way to start off this week’s MLS Big – 5, so here we go…
1) Tim Howard is back and Colorado has him!
The Colorado Rapids have been a bad team in recent years, missing the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. Even worse, the Rapids have been boring, scoring just 33 goals in 34 games last year, easily the worst in the league.
So, naturally the Rapids went out and signed goalkeeper Tim Howard and midfielder Jermaine Jones, who is many things, but a big-time goalscorer is not one of them.
Howard will be counted on to raise the Rapids profile and hopefully sell some tickets at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in suburban Commerce City, Colorado. Howard will also take over from Zac MacMath in the Rapids goal.
And pity poor MacMath, the Colorado netminder also lost his previous starting job (in Philadelphia) to a 2014 World Cup goalkeeping hero, Rais M’Bolhi who starred in Algeria while Howard was doing the same for the U.S..A.
MacMath was so bothered by the news of Howard’s impending arrival this summer in Colorado that he forgot how to catch the ball, leading to Fabian Espindola’s 80th-minute equalizer for DC United just hours after the big announcement.
Howard became a crossover star after his epic performance versus Belgium in the 2014 World Cup and even though he comes to Colorado after losing his number spot with Everton, the former MetroStar still moves to the top of the MLS goalkeeping ranks.
The question that remains to be answered is how much difference can a top keeper make to a bad team? The Rapids defended well enough last year, allowing just 43 goals against, the same number as the Supporters Shield winning N.Y. Red Bulls. Of course, the Raps scored just 33 while the Bulls banged in a league leading 62.
Howard is as big a name as there is in American soccer and he will garner attention for the struggling franchise but to reference the popular World Cup meme, can we add the Colorado Rapids to the list of – Things Tim Howard can save?
2) Gimme a break?
With international matches taking place all across the globe in the coming days most of the world’s professional soccer leagues will be shutting down for a bit, but not Major League Soccer.
This has long been a contentious issue for the league, although the league has limited the “break” games to just three this time around. NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira was philosophical when he spoke to a small group of reporters after training Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s just not us losing key players, every team in the league will lose players,” the coach said. “This is the way it is,” Vieira continued, “and we’re prepared for it.”
How well Vieira and the five other affected coaches prepared will be determined this weekend.
3) And then there was one.
Perfect team, that is. It may not mean much come playoff time but Sporting Kansas City is the lone remaining undefeated and untied team in Major League Soccer.
Dom Dwyer has two goals so far this season and Peter Vermes will need a big year from his lead striker if SKC is to improve on last season’s KO round loss, thriller though it was.
It has been a bright start in the heartland but with three one-goal victories accounting for Sporting’s win streak, no one is getting carried away just yet.
4) The Oba effect
At the other end of the spectrum, and this is a surprise, the Seattle Sounders are the only pointless club in the land. Well, not pointless, just without points.
The Sounders received a bit of a shock just before opening day when Obafemi Martins made his move to China, fattening his account while thinning out Seattle’s attacking ranks.
Sigi Schmidt still has Clint Dempsey, Nelson Valdez and newcomer Jordan Morris on hand to fill opposing nets, although none of the trio has seen his name on the scoresheet so far this year.
That will change, but sooner rather than later would suit Seattle.
5) Player Survey Says Diskerud is Most Overrated
ESPN surveyed over 100 MLS players on a number of topics and it is some ugly reading or New York City FC.
Three of the top four places on the players overrated list are on the books at the second-year club. Jozy Altidore of Toronto FC came in on Diskerud’s heels followed by Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo from NYC. The rest of the top 10 is Steven Gerrard, Gio Dos Santos, both L.A. Galaxy, Michael Bradley, Altidore’s TFC teammate, Clint Dempsey (Seattle), Aurelien Collin (Orlando SC), and Benny Feilhaber (Sporting KC).
Most of the players drawing the ire of their peers are highly paid DP’s, raising the spectre of jealousy clouding the voting. It should also be noted that several of the players on the list arrived midway through last year and it would seem a bit premature to judge those players as unworthy of their big salaries so soon.