It was a big week for young Americans in MLS and beyond, so let’s get to it keeping in mind that…
1) You Never Forget Your First
Professional goal, that is. And for Seattle Sounders 21-year-old striker Jordan Morris, his memory will be doubly sweet; his 71st-minute tally held up as the match-winner in the Sounders 2-1 win Saturday in Philadelphia.
While still playing for Stanford University Morris earned eight full U.S. MNT caps and he scored his first international goal, versus Mexico no less, one year and one day before Saturday’s professional icebreaker.
Morris could have turned pro with German outfit Werder Bremen but the Mercer Island, Washington native elected to stay home with Seattle. Making a different decision was the pride of Hershey, Pennsylvania Christian Pulisic, whose rapid rise through the Borussia Dortmund system was rewarded with the first professional goal of his career on Sunday versus Hamburg.
The 17-year-old became the fourth youngest ever goal scorer in the German top flight and with Pulisic’s full U.S. MNT debut recently behind him, when American soccer fans laid their heads on their pillows Sunday night they slept the sleep of the contented, heads full with sweet dreams of Pulisic and Morris filling foreign nets and of better days to come for the U.S. MNT.
2) Let’s Play Two. Twice the Pleasure, Twice the Pain from Midweek Games
Similar to a baseball doubleheader the midweek/weekend soccer twin bill can bring heartache or happiness in double doses, that is unless your team splits, leaving you right back where you started 180 minutes and thousands of miles later.
FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids emerged from the busy schedule with a pair of wins for six valuable points, Sporting KC joined the New York Red Bulls as two-time losers, and as for Portland and San Jose, neither side progressed nor faltered.
This week’s double dip has shown up in the standings with the Western Conference especially impacted as Sporting KC slid down the table to fourth place while Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids raced past them into second and third place respectively.
First place Dallas is hardly a surprising phrase but what about “playoff-bound Colorado?” It is still early to be printing up postseason ducats but a 2-1 win in Kansas City followed by a 2-1 Snow Classico II over the reeling New York Red Bulls is to be applauded, and even though the Raps gave up a goal to the toothless NYRB attack, it was just the one in keeping with a season-long trend in which Pablo Mastroeni’s side has yet to concede more than one goal in any of the team’s seven matches.
3) The Big Least?
Sitting atop the MLS Eastern Conference with 12 points from a 4-2-0 record the Montreal Impact have been the one team in the East that can actually have been said to impress this season. Second place Philadelphia has surprised and Orlando City has shown promise, after that, the East has been inconsistent, Toronto and New England, frustrating, NYCFC, somewhat promising, Chicago, frustrating, again, DCU and confusing Columbus and the Red Bulls.
Meanwhile out West, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver have been slow to start. Houston have been explosive, but also a shambles, San Jose have been ok, maybe even pretty good, L.A. have battled the injury bug and survived, Sporting KC started fast before a two-loss week, and Colorado and RSL have started surprisingly well and trail just FCD who have gotten untracked after an up and down start and look ready to rumble.
A couple of quick, if early numbers that demonstrate the Western Conference current superiority. San Jose sit in sixth place in the West, tied with Los Angeles on 11 points. 11 points would be good for second place in the Big Least, and that second place club would trail the first place Impact by a single point.
The second number? One. As in one win. From fifth place New England through the 10th place New York Red Bulls, every team in the Conference has amassed one win each. Other than cellar-dwelling Houston, every team out West has a minimum of two w’s in the standings.
4) Drogba and Jones Back and Making it Look Easy
Didier Drogba has returned from his self-imposed turf exile while Jermaine Jones is back from his league-mandated sabbatical earned from last year’s playoff meltdown and returning veterans are making this whole MLS thing look a bit too easy.
While the New York Red Bulls have made the act of putting the ball in the other team’s net appear harder than nuclear physics this season, Jones scored just 21 minutes into his Colorado debut while Drogba, who had one previous goalless half an hour earlier in the year, netted just six minutes after jogging onto the lush, natural greenery of the Fire’s Toyota Park.
5) More, More, More is the Watchword in Don Garber’s Ever Expanding MLS
When MLS Commissioner Don Garber came to town last Thursday dangling a potential place in the league, Mayor Kevin Johnson wanted to let the Commissioner know just how badly the California capitol wanted in, so the city threw a midday MLS Block party.
Over 1,000 people attended and Garber went away impressed, saying, “we hope and expect,” that Sacramento will be an MLS city in the relatively near future. Garber said as soon as 2020, which would put Sactown at the front of the cue of the next wave of MLS expansion once the current round wraps up.
While in Sacramento Garber reiterated his previously stated plan to have Atlanta and Minnesota join MLS in 2017, with L.A.F.C and Miami coming on board the following season. Interesting given the trouble the Miami franchise has had in finding a suitable stadium site but Garber expressed confidence that the David Beckham-fronted group will be ready.
Garber also announced the formation of an expansion committee and named St. Louis and Detroit as cities the fledgling committee would rule on. San Antonio and San Diego are two of the other cities frequently linked with the league as the Commissioner continues to push MLS toward his goal of 28 teams.