In a week dominated by the international break, and with the U.S. MNT picking up four points to revive its World Cup Qualification campaign there was still plenty of fodder for our latest MLS Big 5.
1) Worse than World Baseball Classic
For baseball managers who haven’t quite adjusted to the concept of sending players off to international games and seeing them return in casts, slings etc. my advice is to call a soccer coach, there are plenty of MLS bosses in the same boat and just a local call away!
National teamers were dropping like flies these past few days and we needed to look no further than the U.S. MNT for examples of this disturbing phenomenon.
MLS managers watched their U.S. internationals falling in battle, like Sebastian Lletget, whose foot injury will cost the Galaxy the services of their versatile midfielder for four to six months! Jordan Morris joined his U.S. teammates but an injury picked up before the break kept the Seattle Sounders striker sidelined and eventually saw the speedster sent back to Seattle.
The U.S. MNT was also cursed by injuries to some of its foreign legion, with Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), and Michael Orozco (Tijuana) all giving their club managers selection headaches following injuries picked up while competing for the U.S.
Of course, it wasn’t only American stars that were felled. Other MLS managers are also hurting as the MLS resumes regularly scheduled programming.
Atlanta has been the talk of the league early this season and a prime reason for the expansion club’s success has been early Golden Boot leader Josef Martinez but the Venezuelan picked up a knock versus Peru and will miss four to six weeks. Houston has been a pleasant surprise in the opening stages of the 2017 MLS campaign but Oscar Pareja must have winced when he saw Romel Quintero helped off the pitch with a separated shoulder in Honduras’ brutal 6-0 beat down versus the U.S. MNT last Friday night. Quintero will be out two to four weeks.
Montreal’s Belgian defender Laurent Ciman also came back from international duty at less than 100%
2) Petke Lands in Real Salt Lake
After spending two years away from the coaching profession ex-New York Red Bulls Mike Petke was hired prior to this season to lead RSL’s USL team, the Royal Monarch’s.
So, when Cassar was axed just three games into the 2017 season Petke was well placed to step up to the big team. Oh, General Manager Craig Waibel interviewed a couple of other candidates but it is hard to get past the notion that this decision was made in December when Petke was hired for the USL gig.
Petke played 12 years in MLS, earning three All–Star nods and a pair of caps with the U.S. MNT before turning to coaching. The Red Bulls turned to Petke, an RBNY assistant at the time, only when no one else would take the job.
But Petke, a beloved former MetroStar, and Red Bulls player exceeded expectations, leading New York to a Supporters Shield title in 2013 and bringing his side to the conference semifinal in 2015 before new and since-deposed boss, Ali Curtis surprisingly fired him in favor of Jesse Marsch.
Petke has shown that he can win in MLS but New York was a veteran team led by Thierry Henry, who Petke famously and to his credit, stood up to in a verbal confrontation just a few weeks into his first season as a head coach.
Salt Lake is a younger team devoid of big name international stars. So, a different challenge for Petke. But one that the new RSL coach will not back down from.
3) BWP to DP
You may be forgiven for thinking that Bradley Wright-Phillips is already a Designated Player, he has won the Golden Boot twice and equaled the single-season MLS goals record in his three full years with the Red Bulls.
The 32-year-old was, in fact, previously a DP, then he wasn’t but with this “multi-year” extension Wright-Phillips has his elite status reinstated.
The important thing for Red Bulls fans is that the clubs all-time goals leader is not going anywhere.
4) St Louis to MLS?
It is pretty simple. If the citizens of St. Louis want an MLS team they will vote for it in the Municipal elections on April 4th. In addition to a mayoral race, a pair of linked propositions is on the ballot. One for an extension to the MetroLink transportation system and one that dedicates much of a 1/2 cent sales tax increase to a $60 million contribution by the city to a new downtown soccer stadium.
Public funds for stadiums has long been a controversial issue but Don Garber had this to say at a press conference in St. Louis on Monday: “If you want MLS, that proposition needs to be successful.”
Your move St. Louis.
5) Bastian Schweinsteiger in Chicago for the World Cup!
Just when you let yourself start to believe that the bad old days when American reporters looked at soccer as some oddball pursuit for foreigners, some guy raised his hand at Schweinsteiger’s introductory press conference in Chicago and asked the former Manchester United and Bayern Munich man if he was going to lead the Chicago Fire to the World Cup.
Naturally, the reporter’s gaffe set the internet ablaze. One of the best tweets came from the German World Cup winners new Fire teammates Dax McCarty.