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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MLS 2013 Schedule and Another Big Loss

Right after MLS Cup 2012 we pointed out that MLS was running into some huge question marks when it came to 2013 season. No David Beckham and possibly no face of US soccer in Landon Donovan. Now as it announces its 2013 schedule it’s faced with yet another loss, that of Seattle Sounders goal scoring maestro Fredy Montero.

Montero

Montero had been Seattle’s main offensive weapon during it’s 4 MLS seasons. With his transfer to a Colombian club all but signed, MLS and the Sounders face the very real truth of losing a young goal scoring machine that they could have built a very prosperous future upon. Tie this into the release of the 2013 schedule and you can’t help but wonder if the travel has something to do with it.

MLS is a hard league. While other North American sports are just as tough travel wise few leagues have the influx of foreign players that MLS does. From LA to New York, Montreal to Houston and Seattle to…well anywhere, the airline miles rack up pretty fast.

Besides the time on airplanes, the MLS plays in 4 different time-zones and multiple climates and elevations. From the rainy soaked Pacific Northwest to the high altitude of Salt Lake and Denver to the heat and humidity of south Texas and the freezing temperatures of eastern Canada during the early spring. It’s a commitment to the team, fans, league and sport just to play a season in this league.

Look at the Barclay’s Premier League. They play in a country the size of California’s Central Valley.Travel is a non factor their while in MLS it can mean the playing in the playoffs and having an early off-season.Does this travel affect foreign players? Absolutely. Does it shorten the career of US born players? Maybe. One can’t help but wonder how Landon Donovan would feel if he didn’t fly all of these MLS miles plus the US National Team plus the loan spell to Everton.

The MLS should really look at this seasons exodus of talent and PR with a spoonful of salt. The scheduling needs to improve but before it can the league needs to get a 20th team in the door and fast. Whether it’s New York or Atlanta just get a team up and running. Having Montreal play matches at San Jose then in New York 4 days later in the first month of the season is just draining. There is a better way to do this, not a perfect way, but a better way and with that better way comes players like Donovan, Beckham and Montero sticking around with their clubs.