Week two is in the books and there can be but one starting point, sorry Minnesota.
1) Hotlanta Causes Minny Meltdown!
Week one did not go as planned for the expansion club from Minnesota, not with a 5-1 loss in Portland to show for their efforts; but surely the home opener against fellow expansion side Atlanta would be better. Right?
Not quite. Not even the snow could help Minnesota as the southerners came to the North Star State in a soccer blizzard and with the Ghost of Bud Grant frowning down from above handed the Loons a 6-1 whooping at TCF Bank Stadium.
Free spending Atlanta United FC received a hat trick from Josef Martinez and a brace from Miguel Almiron, a nice return from the youthful DP’s that underlined the difference in approach between the two first year clubs.
Having signed no DP’s, as in zero DP’s, Minnesota’s penurious tactics led some to project the delightfully nicknamed Loons as potentially the worst expansion team in MLS history, an argument Minnesota has, so far done little to dispel.
2) Bizarro MLS
Sure it is just two weeks, but Houston is 2-0 and so is San Jose. Meanwhile, MLS Cup Champions Seattle are in seventh place in the West with a loss and a tie and Cup runner-up and everyone’s preseason favorite Toronto are in the same position in the East with two draws. Up is down, down is up: Bizarro.
3) MLS and CCL. Is This the Year?
Year after year MLS clubs bang their heads against the CONCACAF Champions league glass ceiling as if to make a mockery of Commissioner Don Garber’s familiar boast that the league would be among the best in the world by the not so distant year of 2022.
Scheduling conflicts do little to counter the continued dominance of Mexico’s teams in the CCL, so this year Garber looks to the Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Dallas and the commish hopes he sees a champion.
Can either club upset its Mexican opponent to earn a trip to the Championship and a shot a representing the region at the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup?
In an aggregate goals matchup, Vancouver get the first crack at it when they travel to Monterrey for tonight’s (Tuesday) matchup with reigning Liga MX Apertura champ Tigres UANL.
Then FCD are at home versus Pachuca on Wednesday making this the first time since 2012/13 that two MLS clubs have qualified for the final four.
At second place in the Clausura, Pachuca is off to the better start but Tigres is on a nice little run of its own with two wins and a draw from its last three games.
It won’t be easy, history tells us as much, but the breakthrough has to happen eventually, isn’t that right Mr. Commissioner?
4) New Galaxy = New Coke?
Some rebrands take, some tank, none more notoriously than the cola behemoth’s disastrous 1980’s decision to tinker with its winning formula.
When the public recoiled at its new product Coca-Cola quickly reverted to its familiar recipe. Which is not to say that two uninspired performances are enough to prompt Chris Klein to tear up the Galaxy’s new, less big name dependent game plan but the league’s original L.A. club was conceived with an eye on the heavens.
High wattage types Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Nigel De Jong and even coach Bruce Arena have departed the StubHub Center for lesser names, well Bruce is still on premises with the U.S. MNT, so an adjustment period is not too surprising.
Yes, it is just two games. But only Minnesota sit below the five-time MLS Cup champions in the Western Conference and Galaxy fans are accustomed to better than one goal in two games.
How slow of a slow start might cause L.A. to take a page from Coke’s playbook and revert to their Life Style’s of the Rich and Famous past?
Klein is unlike to panic but new strategy or no, don’t discount the Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the Galaxy rumors, especially with L.A.F.C. coming to town in 2018.
5) Viva Villa!
David Villa, that is.
In a changing MLS where 22 and 23 year old DP’s come to America to make a reputation, Villa harkens back not just to the days of David Beckham but further still to the 1970’s and another Yankee Stadium sporting icon, Reggie Jackson.
Reggie! Reggie! Reggie! did his thing at the old Stadium back when the Bronx was burning and like World Cup winner Villa, Jackson arrived fully formed. Reggie anointed himself the “straw that stirred the drink,” and he showed New Yorkers the meaning of cocky when he announced that he “didn’t come to New York to be a star, I brought my star with me.”
Villa doesn’t have Jackson’s flair for self-promotion, who does, but the 35-year-old reigning MLS Most Valuable Player brings his own brand of swagger to the pitch across 161st Street from the diamond where Reggie strutted his stuff back when he was winning World Series titles with the Yankees.
On Sunday, Villa scored a pair of goals to lead NYCFC to a 4-0 win over the Chicago Fire at a frigid Yankee Stadium. Villa’s heroics weren’t quite on par with Mr. October’s 3 home run performance at the old place in game six of the 1977 World Series but perhaps El Guaje can earn himself a new nickname with New York City FC?
How does Mr. December sound?