It is just about time to COPA but MLS is not quite ready to stand down, so let’s look at the week gone by and the week to come in this edition of the MLS Big – 5.
1) Another One Bites the Dust
Foreign coach in MLS, that is. The Houston Dynamo and manager Owen Coyle agreed to part ways last week after an uninspiring year plus stint that leaves the last place Dynamo in worse shape than it was when the former Bolton boss first appeared at the BBVA Compass Stadium.
Coyle came to the league with a reputation as a hard-working coach who kept things simple and got the most out of teams devoid of star players and big contracts. With his straightforward demeanor and his experience with cash-strapped English clubs Coyle seemed a better bet to succeed in North America than say, Ruud Gullit, who famously big timed his way through a desultory reign in Los Angeles a few years back.
But Coyle never did get it right in Houston and so the Dynamo move on. GM Chris Canetti appointed a temporary coach by committee and the team responded with a decent effort in a 1- 1 draw at Vancouver.
Who’s next for Houston? Canetti vowed to take his time but MLS experience would seem to be a prerequisite as Houston make a second attempt at replacing Dominic Kinnear, the franchise’s gold standard in the coaching position.
2) Kamara Bags Hat Trick for Columbus
Wait, didn’t he get traded to New England? No, that was Kei, this is Ola. If you are not familiar with him that is understandable, the three goals Ola scored in Saturday’s 4-3 home win vs. Real Salt Lake were his first in MLS.
Kamara was making just his third start for the Crew when he scored that hat-trick on Saturday, but the Norwegian striker figures to see plenty of playing time now that his namesake has moved on.
Oh, and Kamara was honored as the MLS Player of the Week for his hat trick heroics, so welcome to Major League Soccer.
3) 7-0: The Aftermath
Last Wednesday’s’ 7-0 demolition job by the Red Bulls on derby rivals New York City FC figured to leaves scars on Patrick Vieira’s side while possibly launching Jesse Marsch’s band of brothers on a rapid trajectory up the Eastern Conference standings.
With both teams in action at home over the weekend, we didn’t have to wait long for answers, partial though they may be.
And what were those early returns? How about a 3-0 win over Toronto for the Bulls? Bradley Wright-Phillips notched a hat trick to bring his total to eight, good enough for a four-way share of second in the league behind NYC’s David Villa, and good enough to make BWP’s early goal scoring struggles seem a distant memory.
Sacha Kljestan assisted on the first two goals, raising his league-leading helper total to 10 and all looks well in Harrison. The only caveat being that TFC came into the match missing Jozy Altidore(injured) and Michael Bradley (COPA prep) and then lost Sebastian Giovinco to injury in the 22nd minute. Gio’s knock is said to be minor and he should be back soon.
The one black mark on the Red Bulls day came when Gonzalo Veron was shown a straight red card for a stamp on TFC midfielder Marky Delgado.
So, what about NYCFC? A 2-2 draw sounds like a decent response to the derby drubbing but the manner of the draw and players reaction to it, made Sunday seem nearly as dark a day as Wednesday for the Bronx soccer squad.
Leading 2-0 after a sublime Pirlo to Villa goal, New York was set to put the match to bed with a penalty kick as Villa stepped up to the spot. But where the Villa goal was highlight reel stuff, his pk attempt is one for the blooper reels. Villa slipped, the ball sailed high and out of play, and before the day was done Orlando had completed a remarkable comeback to gain a 2-2 tie.
Julio Baptista scored in the 72nd minute and then Kevin Molino powered home a header four minutes into added time after racing past an inattentive Andrea Pirlo, who might have been subbed out for defensive help by then, right?
NYCFC is back in action Thursday at Yankee Stadium, another quick turnaround and still another chance to put things right. NYC are still in fourth place in the East. Not bad, considering. The New York newbies are two points behind first place Philadelphia, on the other hand, the Bronx boys are just two points ahead of eighth-place Orlando.
Meaning things can go either way for New York City FC, and quickly.
4) Zardes on the Move?
Reports from Turkey say that Super Lig giants Galatasaray are eyeing Los Angeles Galaxy striker Gyasi Zardes. Gala finished sixth in the Turkish league this year, making next season a rare year without of European play for the club.
But Gala don’t figure to be down for long, so if the rumors prove true then Zardes will have to give any offer a serious look.
And if he needs any advice Zardes can turn to U.S. U19 coach Brad Friedel. The U.S. MNT legend guarded the Galastaray net back in the mid 90’s.
5) MLS Goes COPA!
The final 23 man rosters are in for all COPA teams and MLS fans will have plenty to cheer with eight nations selecting 29 players from the North American domestic league. The U.S. leads the way, as expected with 11 players, with Jamaica(6), Costa Rica(5) and Panama(3) all bringing multiple MLSers to the party.
Brazil added Kaka as an injury replacement for Douglas Costa and like Ecuador, Haiti and Paraguay, the Brazilians will have one MLS player on its COPA roster.