Unexpected Big Days In MLS

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The MLS season ended a little over a month ago and the last few days saw some major events. Big news was that it wasn’t just player signings.

Schedule

The 24 hour sports channels make an over hyped event of most professional schedules when they are released.  The MLS released their’s today without the hype. Just the schedule please.

It starts March 6th and ends somewhere in early December. MLSsoccer.com’s Andrew Wiebe has a quick breakdown of some of the can’t miss games. It features two new clubs and an expanded playoff bracket.

Players

Steven Gerrard revealed last week that he was leaving Liverpool at the end of the season. Now we know he is going to step into the midfield in LA for the Galaxy. It’s a reuniting of Gerrard and Robbie Keane since Keane’s failed move to Liverpool back in 2008.

The New York Red Bulls are apparently zeroing in on two US Internationals, Jozy Altidore and Sacha Kljestan. While there is still a lot of maneuvering to be done but this could be a major reload for NYRB.

Roger Espinoza is back from England to help out in the Sporting KC midfield along side Graham Zusi. This move makes a solid SKC team all that much better.

The Shock

PETKE

New York Red Bulls most successful manager Mike Petke is out. His replacement is Jesse Marsch. While no one is really surprised that Marsch is getting another shot in the managers chair but it is fairly shocking that Petke would be ousted after such a successful run.

Petke is Red Bull/Metrostars through and through and is even a native of the area. Marsch is going to have his hands full in replacing him. If the Red Bulls do not win an MLS Cup next year the fan base will have something to really cry about.

 

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The Stretch Run

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

There are about two months left in the MLS regular season. Some teams will make a playoff run while others will begin playing for next season. Some players will rise to the occastion while some coaches will lose their jobs. Either way there are some intriguing match ups and interesting storylines heading into the stretch run for Major League Soccer.

The MLS Stretch Run

Can PorterBall Make the Playoffs? 

Portland has been one of the more consistant teams in the league this season. First year head coach Caleb Porter has been able to get his players to buy into his system. The result, the first ever playoff berth within reach if they can finish the season strong.

That run starts this weekend when they travel to Seattle in what should be the biggest crowd to ever see an MLS match. Some 66,000 will pack into Century Link Field in Seattle on Sunday night for a game with massive playoff implications. They also face Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake two more times, Seattle again, the LA Galaxy, Vancouver and Colorado. In other words, a playoff berth is going to be a battle.

RBNY Makes Another Run

Like Porter in Portland, first year head coach Mike Petke has the Red Bulls believing. The question for this franchise is can the overcome the playoff slump and finally win an MLS Cup?

Like Portland, it won’t be a smooth road. They travel to Houston twice in the final two months and have to make two trips to the West Coast before the season is out. They have all the tools, including some of the most consistent goalkeeping in franchise history thanks to Luis Robles.

Who Gets Fired? 

The biggest surprise disappointment this year has to be DC United. They sit at the bottom of the league table with only 13 points. They have talent but it just hasn’t come together this year and people are frustrated. No one more than head man Ben Olsen.

Olsen and Columbus Crew’s Robert Warzycha are the most noticable managers on the hot seat while disappointing results led to the mid season firings of Frank Yallop in San Jose and Chelis at Chivas USA.

Does Dempsey Make a Difference? 

Seattle is on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. They just signed America’s best player in Clint Dempsey but is that enough to get Seattle back into the playoffs?

Without Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins in the lineup, Dempsey and the Sounders were unable to get a point on the road against Houston. However, when all three are in the lineup, it could be one of the most potent offense in the league.

Dempsey can’t do it all himself. He needs help if the Sounders are to get back into the playoffs.

3 Peat?

Many consider the LA Galaxy to be the best team in the league…when they are at full strength. They are right now and if they can continue to be then they might just be the odds on favorites to walk away with their third MLS Cup.

Hang on soccer fans, this is about to get interesting.

5 Things To Watch For This MLS Season

 

 

MLS 2013

 

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

A new MLS season is kicking off in North America. With any new season in any sport there are a lot of question marks. Below are our Top 5 things to look out for during this 18th MLS season.

5. New Coaches: There are 5 new head coaches roaming the sidelines in MLS this season and that now makes 12 former MLS players now managing clubs. Two of the biggest debuts square off in week one. Mike Petke of the New York Red Bulls and Caleb Porter for the Portland Timbers. Both teams have high expectations, a rabid fan base and a longing for MLS post season glory.                                                                                                  

4. The Donovan Odyssey: US Soccer poster boy Landon Donovan has taken a leave of absence from soccer but is returning to the the 2-time defending MLS Cup Champions LA Galaxy at the end of March. Will he be the same player on and off the field? Can he lead, along with Robbie Keane, the Galaxy to a 3rd straight MLS Cup?

3. Can Toronto FC Make The Playoffs?: Only the Red Bulls have gone through more coaching changes than TFC. However, the Red Bulls have been in MLS for all 18 years (formerly known as the MetroStars) while TFC kicks off it’s 7th MLS season on Saturday. They have never made the playoffs and after another off season of sweeping changes it is left to 1st time coach Ryan Nelsen to get this team into the MLS playoffs for the 1st time.

2. Running With The Red Bulls: The New York Red Bulls have arguably the most dangerous player in MLS in Thierry Henry. They’ve shaken up the coaching staff and the team but is it enough to get them their 1st MLS Cup? Maybe. If new signee Juninho  can be half of what he was and the back-line and pull together then they may just be the team the beat. It’s a lot of ‘if’s’ but in the sports saturated New York market the Red Bulls have to win. Not just for the team but for the league.

1. No Beckham? No Problem: The loss of one of the world’s sports and entertainment icons shouldn’t slow down MLS or the LA Galaxy. The Galaxy will get Donovan back after a few games and they still have the man who lead them all the way to the MLS Cup glory in Robbie Keane. The league on the other hand is entering it’s 18th season and is bringing in more and more top talent from around the world. There is only one David Beckham but the level of play, energy and popularity of the sport are growing and with all due respect to Becks, he probably couldn’t have taken the league any further.