It was Rivalry Week in MLS this week but this edition can only start in one place…
1) Derby Debacle in the Bronx
New York City sat atop the Eastern Conference when they kicked off on Saturday afternoon in the Bronx against cross-river rivals New York Red Bulls.
Less than three minutes later 5’9” (?!) Dax McCarty headed home from a Sacha Kljestan corner kick and the home team were on the ropes. It would end up 7-0, with a pair of late first-half goals setting the stage for the rout that was to come.
The Red Bulls pressed high and aggressively from the start and NYC simply couldn’t handle it. NYC stubbornly stuck with its plan of playing out of the back with turnovers leading to near total NYRB domination.
The Red Bulls scored four of its five goals from dead balls, three directly, with McCarty adding a second early in the second half that left the home team in tatters.
It was so bad for NYC that even Frank Lampard’s long awaited return brought no relief, in fact, the $6 million man was booed on his introduction.
Bradley Wright-Phillips bagged a brace, including a very nice bicycle kick just before halftime. Mike Grella was excellent, McCarty’s hunger was even more impressive than his goals and, well, it was 7-0, so all the Red Bulls played well.
For NYCFC, it is all in how they respond to this debacle. The team is at home on Sunday to Orlando. It will be worth watching to see how NYC fans react to this Derby Debacle. Will they show up? Will the New York City Football Club?
2) Giovinco Snubbed and Conte Blames MLS
Italian national team coach Antonio Conte named his Euro roster this week and the Chelsea boss couldn’t find room for Azzurri legend Andrea Pirlo or 2015 MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco, even on a 30 man provisional roster.
At 37 years old it is hard to get too upset on Pirlo’s behalf but the Giovinco snub needed some explaining. So Conte explained and that explanation infuriated MLS followers. “I sent people to America for seven days to evaluate him (Pirlo) and Sebastian. It’s clear that if you make such choices in football then at the end you might pay the consequences.”
3) MLS Internationals
Fortunately, Conte’s view of the league is not unanimous. The Copa will feature numerous MLS players and Montreal defender Laurent Ciman has been selected by Belgium, the second-ranked soccer nation in the world, so Marc Wilmots apparently does not share Conte’s MLS-phobia.
To that end, MLSsoccer.com has been nice enough to provide a list. You’ll find is the link below.
Included are Seattle forward Nelson Valdez, who could face the U.S. in the Group stage with Paraguay and Irish forwards Robbie Keane (L.A. Galaxy) and Kevin Doyle (Colorado) who are on Ireland’s preliminary Euro squad. Remember too that Keane’s Galaxy teammate Giovani Dos Santos turned down a COPA invite from Mexico.
4) Seattle Suffer Oba Effect
Seattle knew they were going to miss Obafemi Martins when he made his move to China in the offseason but did they know they would miss him this much?
The Oba and Deuce Show was meant to be replaced by committee, featuring hyped rookie Jordan Morris and Nelson Valdez, plus an uptick in goals from Dempsey.
How has that worked out so far? It hasn’t. The Sounders are in ninth place after finishing the season fourth in the West in 2015. And why are Seattle leading only Houston in the standings? Because they have scored just 10 goals, fewer goals than any team in MLS with the exception of the league’s worst team the Chicago Fire, who have managed nine.
Morris, who leads the Sounders with four goals has done well, although not well enough to make the COPA roster for the U.S.A., but after that, the goals dry up. Dempsey has two, defender Chad Marshall has two, and two players have one apiece. And that’s it.
With Dempsey and Valdez off to the COPA the scoring weight will fall on Morris, too bad he doesn’t have an Oba like strike partner to share the load.
5) COPA Time
After a full slate of games on June 1st and MLS will take a break until June 18th when the league will play two matches. From there on the league will resume its schedule playing games around the COPA knockout rounds.
With U.S. MNT supremo Jurgen Klinsmann’s declaration that he intends to take his team to the semifinals or better, a lot of MLS players would be unavailable to the teams.
So, subs get ready to pick up the slack.