It’s All-Star week in MLS but before we get to that, let’s take a look at the L.A. coaching scene.
1) Bradley is Back and LAFC’s Got Him!
Two big questions were answered in one fell swoop when Bradley was announced as the first ever coach of the highly ambitious new Los Angeles soccer club LAFC.
This hiring likely ends Bradley’s European coaching career, at 59 years of age Bradley may have to settle for building an MLS powerhouse from scratch as the final addition to his coaching legacy.
As for the LA club, without going for a foreign option, a la Atlanta and Tata Martinez, the new kids on the block could have hardly done better. Bradley has the experience, the reputation, and the gravitas to put a fright into fellow Angelenos, the Galaxy.
2) Galaxy Out, Sigi Schmidt in for Galaxy
Curt Onalfo wasn’t given much time to make his mark as Bruce Arena’s successor but the bigger surprise may be that Onalfo was hired in the first place by the league’s glamor franchise.
Even with talk that the L.A. originals were turning away from the star system promised in the club’s very name, Onalfo never seemed the right fit. The narrative around his signing was that Onalfo was familiar with the next gen Galaxy players through his time at the helm of Los Dos, the Galaxy second team and that as a loyal lieutenant of Bruce Arena Onalfo represented continuity.
A bit of a contradiction, that. Then there was Onalfo’s previous head coaching experience. Fired in August 2009 by the Kansas City Wizards after compiling a mediocre 27-29-22 record, Onalfo was quickly handed the DC United job. That also ended in during the dog days of August when Onalfo was dismissed as DC floundered with a 3-12-3 mark.
This time the coach didn’t even make to August, getting the ax a couple of days shy of the calendar flip, having led the Galaxy to a 6-10-4 record.
Schmidt was let go by when he couldn’t get Seattle to the promised land of an MLS Cup win, a trick his successor Brian Schmetzer quickly accomplished on taking over the Sounders job.
A two time MLS Cup winner, 2002 with the Galaxy and 2008 with Columbus, Schmidt has all the credentials to lead L.A. back to the top, although some find his coaching style a tad conservative.
3) A Tale of Two Cities/Leagues in US Open Cup
The US Open Cup is the oldest competition by far in U.S. soccer and is, in fact, the world’s third-longest-running open soccer tournament on the planet, thanks, wiki.
Still, it has a visibility/interest problem. One that could be overcome to a degree if a lower team league made a deep run and maybe even won the thing.
Into that breach has stepped two teams from rival 2nd division leagues, Cincinnati FC, of the USL and Miami FC, representing the NASL. A quick reminder, we have two D2 leagues because the USSF stepped in to temporarily save the NASL after it came close to folding a year ago, allowing NASL to continue for now. The league has some goals to meet or the federation will pull the plug.
But to the teams. Cincinnati drew widespread attention by drawing huge crowds, including over 30,000 when they defeated fellow Ohioans, the Columbus Crew, 1-0 at their home fortress of Nippert Stadium.
Miami knocked off Orlando City, one of their in state MLS rivals 3-1 to ensure that at least one lower league side will advance to the US Open Cup semi finals where the winner will host the New York Red Bulls on August 9.
4) Joevin Jones Hitting the Road
For a league always in search of validation, which MLS certainly is, encouragement is found in various ways, one being when a player leaves the league for a traditionally powerful league.
Darmstadt, Jones’ destination, plays in the 2 Bundesliga after last season’s relegation but MLS boosters will be happy that a team chasing a quick return to the German top flight rated the Seattle Sounders fullback/winger worthy of playing a part in that chase.
The Trinidad and Tobago man played a big role in Seattle’s MLS Cup winning run last season and will move to Darmstadt in January with hopes of doing his part to return the Lilies to the top.
5) All-Stars Face Galacticos!
It’s All-Star time again and MLS has brought in an opponent that surely fits the bill, no less than Real Madrid.
All the preamble has now concluded, the last being the Homegrown MLS team versus Chivas Guadalajara U20’s. Kortne Ford scored a last second equalizer to give the league a 2-2 draw.
Bastian Schweinsteiger will captain the home team in his home stadium with the Chicago Fire. The odds are long for the MLS Stars, who may be in for a whipping from The Meringues.
Players like former Madridista Kaka, Schweinsteiger and U.S. internationals Tim Howard and Michael Bradley are unlikely to be intimidated, David Villa certainly won’t. Here is what the reigning MLS MVP had to say when asked about the challenge of facing Real Madrid.
“I can’t say that. I can’t say that because obviously for me the teams I’ve played for are better,” said Villa after the All Stars’ training session on Tuesday. “As a former Atletico Madrid and Barcelona player, it’s difficult to praise Real Madrid. What they have earned is based on merit and I have a lot of friends on that team and respect for them despite them always being my rival.
“They’re enjoying a great moment right now, but I can’t say that because for me the better teams are the ones I have played for.”