The MLS is back from its break, its players are back from Copa America Centenario, and a couple from Euro 2016, I’m back from chasing those Copa players from coast to coast and back again, so here is the latest Big – 5.
To the horde of MLS players that participated in Copa America Centenario, many for the Copa semi finalist’s U.S.A. Costa Rica and Jamaica had the second and third most MLS representatives and both nations bowed out at the group stage.
As for the American MLS players, the Seattle Sounders Clint Dempsey was at his goal scoring best proving that returning to the league needn’t diminish your skills, a hot topic in light the turnover-fueled struggles of Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley.
MLS was repped in Europe by the L.A. Galaxy’s Robbie Keane, the Colorado Rapids Shkelzen Gashi, and Laurent Ciman. All told it hasn’t gone well in the old world for the MLS trio.
Keane barely played for the Irish, Gashi flubbed his chance to be the hero in Albania’s opener when he failed to finish a 1v1 chance in the 87th minute with his team trailing 1-0.
It would be Gashi’s only involvement in the tourney. Ciman started Belgium’s opener, a 2-0 loss vs. Italy. The Impact center back played well at fullback but he hasn’t played since.
Belgium hasn’t lost since and faces Wales on Friday, so Ciman is still alive at the Euro.
2) Tim Howard Lands in Colorado
And welcome back too, to goalkeeper Tim Howard. It has been a long time coming. Howard, of course, left the MetroStars, now the New York Red Bulls, for Manchester United in 2004, before carving out an impressive career with Everton.
The 109 times capped U.S. MNT keeper backed up Brad Guzan at the Copa but he impressed in his one start, a 1-0 loss to Colombia in the third place game.
Now it is on to Colorado, where the Rapids are in first place behind Zac MacMath. Switching goalies on a first place team could be an unnecessary disruption but Howard is still clearly a better keeper than the 24-year-old incumbent and his wealth of experience should be a boost to the Rapids as they head into the meat of the MLS season.
3) Ft. Lauderdale Prevents MLS Sweep of U.S. Open Cup
Each year the U.S. Open Cup seems to make incremental steps into the U.S. soccer fans collective conscience, it’s just that the increments are not very large.
For two years in a row now the New York Cosmos have defeated MLS neighbors New York City FC, receiving a measure recognition for the Cup.
The U.S. Open Cup has been contested since 1914 making it the oldest cup competition in the United States soccer, so what would it take for the old gal to really capture some widespread attention?
How about a title win by a lower league side, an NASL or USL team. Not since the 1999 Rochester Rhinos has a non-MLS club won the Cup. Or, if not a title, how about a deep run from a tier 2 or three side?
Last night in Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale beat MLS second year team Orlando City SC and with the Cosmos loss by the same score to the New England Revolution, the Strikers become the last non-MLS club to survive into the quarterfinals.
Up next for Ft. Lauderdale is the Chicago Fire at a date to be determined. A victory for the Strikers might make some people sit up and take notice.
4) NYCFC Cash in on Fan Favorite, Poku
Another approach for a team or a league trying to get our attention is to splash the cash. That would seem to be the plan at NASL club Miami FC who just laid out $500,000 to $750,000 to spring Kwadwo Poku from NYCFC bench. A year ago Poku was so highly regarded that articles were written wondering if the Ghanaian could get his paperwork to play for the U.S. MNT. He did receive a nonbinding call up with Ghana but a coaching change in New York saw the fan favorite pinned to the bench, so this seems like a decent move for Poku, an excellent move for NYC, and an expensive move for Miami.
5) We’re number 9!
Hardly a chant likely to be heard ringing around a sports stadium near you, and certainly not from the rafters of CenturyLink Field in Seattle or at Crew, oops, MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus.
But one spot above the bottom feeders is where you will find the 2015 MLS Cup Finalists Columbus Crew; Eastern Conference; and the Seattle Sounders; Western; in today’s MLS Standings.
The silver lining for the Crew? They are in the Eastern Conference and sit just four points back of Orlando and DC, respectively the sixth and fifth place sides in the conference.
Seattle has it a bit tougher out west, where playoff line hugging L.A. sports a seven-point advantage on the Sounders. Seattle got a morale boosting pk shootout win over Real Salt Lake last night led by backup keeper Tyler Miller, who shone in regulation and in the shootout, where the U23 USMNT keeper saved two penos.
Stefan Frei is probably not the problem in Seattle but embattled coach Sigi Schmid might consider sitting the veteran and going with the hot hand.