It was another hectic week in MLS, a week of highs and lows, ups and downs, a week of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
1) The Good- Toronto Homecoming a Smash!
The Reds were rewarded for their patience on Saturday when the team finally opened the fully renovated BMO Field with a 1-0 win over FC Dallas in front of a raucous sellout crowd of over 30,000.
The natural grass field was a brilliant green, the roofs over the stands kept the noise in, making BMO a potential house of horrors for future opponents, and Japanese MLS rookie Tsubasa Endoh scored his first league goal to send those energetic fans home happy.
After starting the past two seasons on extended road trips TFC has a shiny new park to call home, and although I hate to be a party-pooper, there are a couple of concerns. First, TFC will share the stadium with Canadian Football League side the Toronto Argonauts (yes the CFL is still a thing). In addition to the Argo’s, the CFL Championship game, the Grey Cup, is scheduled for the stadium. Also on tap, the “occasional” rugby match, an outdoor hockey game, and who knows what else.
Officials have said there will be no CFL lines, and have praised the grounds crew’s ability to keep the playing surface in top condition, but we will just have to wait and see.
2) More Good- Keane Returns with a Bang, Morris keeps scoring, Dempsey Scores Too- and Check Out Jermaine Jones and Colorado!
L.A. are hot, and watch out league, now they’re getting healthy. On Sunday night, Robbie Keane returned from injury and tapped home twice from the doorstep to spark the Galaxy to a 4-2 home win over the New England Revolution.
The game featured brilliant goals from Gio Dos Santos and Steven Gerrard for L.A, some fine playmaking from Gyasi Zardes, also for the Galaxy and a couple of crackerjack tallies from Kellyn Rowe and Juan Agudelo in a losing cause the Revolution.
This pair still has a way to go before making anyone forget the Deuce and Oba Show but Jordan Morris scored for the fourth match in a row and Clint Dempsey notched his first goal from play as the Seattle Sounders evened its record at 4-4-1 as the team climbs to within a point of playoff position.
A look at the top of the Western Conference not only shows that Colorado leads MLS with 20 points but also reveals a team that is a perfect 5-0-0 at home. A shock, given that Dick’s Sporting Goods Park was hardly a citadel last year as the Rapids compiled a 5-7-5 home mark last season on the way to a Western Conference-worst 37 points. Impressively, Colorado has now matched its 2015 home win total, and there are 24 more games still to be played.
Jermaine Jones has played four so far, and the 34-year-old number 10 has already scored three goals for the Raps. Yes, I did say number 10. Colorado coach Pablo Mastroeni is playing the rugged German-American in an attacking midfield role and who could argue with the results?
Not Jurgen Klinsmann. In fact, the U.S. MNT boss joked on twitter that Jones may be in for another positional change.
3) The Bad – The Frank Lampard Affair
Frank Lampard was recently announced as part of BBC’s Euro coverage this summer and while the injured midfielder will not travel to Europe and will thus be available for New York City FC, the optics, as the saying goes, are not good.
NYCFC fans are not thrilled that the pricey DP, who has yet to play a minute for the club in 2016, has elected to moonlight while he continues to rehab his slow healing calf strain. Keep in mind that Lampard only joined NYC last July, seven months later than promised, only to be promptly injured.
That meant Lampard debuted on August 1, and played just 10 games for an expansion team that sorely needed his leadership and his goals. Lampard’s late arrival cost the team any real chance it had of making the playoffs in its inaugural season, a failure that cost coach Jason Kreis his job.
New York City FC is scheduled to play five matches during the Euro and given Lampard’s limited contribution to the club to date, it should not be unreasonable for his team, his teammates, and the team’s fans to expect Lampard to give 100% of focus to his day job.
4) More Bad – Top Trio Tumble
It was a Lost Weekend for the 2015 MLS Cup finalists Portland and Columbus, who continued their season-long struggles while highly touted Dallas suffered a third consecutive shutout loss. Portland and Columbus currently sit in 9th place in the Western and Eastern Conference respectively, following after weekend action. Defending MLS Champion Portland dropped a 2-1 decision at Vancouver while a 4-4 Columbus tie at home to Montreal saw the Crew blow a 4-1 lead while embarrassing themselves with some unprofessional behavior. (More on that later.)
Dallas can’t be faulted too much for falling to a fired up Toronto side that was debuting its newly refurbished stadium in front of a hyped up crowd on Saturday, but back to back, to back, shutouts indicate road worries that Oscar Pareja will have to sort out, and the sooner the better.
5) The Ugly – PK Madness at MAPFRE!
Columbus was cruising along very nicely on Saturday, with a 3-1 lead that was about to become 4-1, once someone converted an upcoming penalty kick. Instead, all hell broke loose with Kei Kamara looking to take the spot-kick to complete his hat-trick, only to see the club’s designated pk man Federico Higuain refuse to cede the chore or the ball.
It was a petulant display by a pair of DP’s that continued until team captain Michael Parkhurst told the two to get on with it. Higuain put the chance away but the incident did not reflect well on either of the Crew stars and the debacle raises questions over coach Gregg Berhalter’s control over the club.
Kamara signed a DP deal with Columbus just prior to the season ending a contract dispute that arose after the striker’s 22 goal season in 2015. But the new deal won’t mean much to the club if its two stars cannot get along.
6) The Interesting- Big Day for Japan!
We have added a special category this week to recognize Vancouver’s Masato Kubo and Toronto’s Tsubasa Endoh, two Japanese players who each recorded their first MLS goals on Saturday.
Both forwards are in their first year in the league, with the 26-year-old Kudo arriving in Vancouver on a free transfer while 22-year-old Endoh was a 1st round selection out of Maryland in the 2016 SuperDraft for TFC.
Both face a fight for playing time on team’s with crowded forward stables and this weekend will have done them no harm in that battle.