1) Home, Sweet, Home for TFC
For the second year in a row, Toronto FC opened its season with an extended road trip necessitated by the renovation of BMO Stadium. Last season the Reds emerged from a seven-game odyssey with a respectable 3-4 record and went on to qualify for the MLS playoffs for the first time in club history.
It may be familiarity but TFC weathered the storm pretty well this year too and head into Saturday’s home opener versus suddenly reeling FC Dallas with a 3-3-2 record good for third place in the Eastern Conference.
Backboned by a new look defense led by goalkeeper Clint Irwin TFC has surrendered just seven goals, the fewest in the league. On the flip side, Toronto needs to up its goal tally. With nine goals scored, TFC is fourth from the bottom in that category, and Giovinco has notched six of the nine.
So, welcome to your newly completed home Toronto, now how about some goals from Jozy Altidore (0, so far) and company?
2) FC Dallas Ride the Road to Ruin
Well, maybe not quite ruin, third place Dallas are still level on points with shock first and second place clubs, Colorado and Real Salt Lake, but Dallas road results have to be a concern for soccer aficionados in the Lone Star State.
Eyebrows were raised when Oscar Pareja’s highly rated bunch were smacked by a 5-0 scoreline in Houston in the team’s first away game of 2016, but away wins at DC and Portland quelled any talk of a trend.
But that was before Dallas ended April with a disastrous two-game set that began with a 3-0 flop in Vancouver followed swiftly by a 4-0 demolition by the New York Red Bulls. And it’s not as if either of those opponents were hot coming in. Vancouver had compiled a 2 win, four loss, and 1 tie record before they topped Dallas and while the Red Bulls were coming off of a 3-2 win over Orlando, the Bulls sported a 2-6-0 mark before they handled FCD last Friday in New Jersey.
These disappointing results may just be a blip for this undoubtedly talented squad, but it so it is a blip that Pareja will want to remove from the team and the league’s radar.
3) Jordan Morris is Heating Up
Jordan Morris has had a very peculiar career for a modern American soccer player, starting with the fact that he received his first national team cap while still a college student at Stanford. Morris was the first college player to suit up for the U.S. MNT since Chris Albright was called into camp at the end of the previous century.
Morris had already scored a senior national team goal versus Mexico, Mexico! in an April 2015 friendly, so some jittery types got a little, well, jittery when the 21-year-old did not immediately set MLS on fire upon his debut in March.
Did Morris make the right decision when he elected to play with his hometown Seattle Sounders and not Bundesliga strugglers Werder Bremen, who tried to sign the poacher in January? Had the hype train gotten carried away with Morris, was he as good as we thought/hoped?
But then Morris scored his first professional goal against Philadelphia and everyone exhaled. When Morris netted again in Seattle’s next game, against Colorado, the U.S. soccer nation began to remember what it saw in the former Stanford Cardinal in the first place, and then when Morris pounced on a rebound to give the Sounders a late win against the Columbus Crew the engineer began pegging shovels full of coal into the furnace and the Jordan Morris hype train was fired up and ready to resume scheduled stops.
On each of the next four Saturdays, The Morris Express is scheduled to disembark in Seattle, vs. San Jose; Frisco, Texas, vs. FC Dallas; back to Seattle, to play Colorado; and then on to New England and a Wednesday stop in the nation’s capital on June 1.
Of course, Morris might not make it to all of those stations, Copa America is coming and the man who started all this Morris hype, Jurgen Klinsmann, will very likely be calling on Morris, who made the provisional U.S. 40 man roster and is moving closer to the final 23 man squad with each goal.
4) Red Bulls Turn on the Tap
Yes. I do mean the goals tap. It had been jammed pretty tightly for Jesse Marsch’s boys this season, just one year after New York led the league in goals scored and goal difference. NYRB’s goal scoring problems started right at the top this season; 2015 team leader Bradley Wright-Phillips was goalless until breaking out with a brace in a 3-2 Red Bulls win against Orlando on April 24.
New York followed that outburst with a 4-0 blowout win over FC Dallas that saw Mike Grella score for the second straight week joined on the scoresheet by Lloyd Sam, Sacha Kljestan, and Felipe, all contributors to a diversified attack that led MLS with 62 goals in 2015.
Sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, New York has work to do to get where they want to be and added veteran Aurelien Collin to shore up the defense this week. But Jesse Marsch and Ali Curtis built this team to score goals and the team’s two most recent results showed that the Red Bulls can still fill it up.
5) Taking In 1st Home Win for NYCFC
On a personal note, your trusty correspondent did things a little differently this week, eschewing the privileges of the press box to sit with his family in the Yankee Stadium seats to watch New York City FC chase its first home win of the season against the Vancouver Whitecaps. (NYCFC got that win, 3-2)
Much has been made of the oddities of the Yankee Stadium layout and you’ll find no argument here, it’s agreed; the layout at the Big Ballpark in the Bronx is ill-suited to soccer. NYCFC and its big time owners do need to get cracking on that new stadium, but narrow pitch be damned, our foursome had a great time on Sunday.
Sitting just beyond third base in the stadium’s second level the sightlines were excellent, even if we couldn’t quite make out the corner kicker taker near the left field foul pole. But there was action right from the start when NYC goalie Josh Saunders gifted Octavio Rivero with a first-minute goal when he brain locked on a back pass.
We saw a great goal from David Villa, and from my perch in the stands I never thought to ask -where was the Vancouver defense? – as my colleagues in the press box felt compelled to. No, I was content to sip a $12 beer and enjoy the game with the family and isn’t that what it’s all about?