MLS 2021: On a scale of 1-10, my baby's 26

Titans Bastard

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I'd say that Philly is (obviously) in very good position, whereas Columbus and Portland are in mildly bad positions, and Atlanta and Toronto are toast.
 

67YAZ

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Early kickoff for Fire at Red Bull. Pineda back in the XI, but in the DM role...pushing Medran to the left wing? Not enough attacking thrust or creativity out there with this line up.

But Medran covers for Bornstein maybe? Still love Johnny, but he’s lots a couple steps and gets by on savvy and anticipation now.

yep, now Chicago is having a hard time processing the ball out of their own half. Gonna be a long day...
 

67YAZ

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As soon as you get passed the first line of Red Bulls’ press, it’s fast break attack. Not that the Red Stars are doing it too often, but man - a team that can counter would rip NY apart.
 

67YAZ

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We got the full Calvo experience today.


Right now, Chicago is a lot less than the sum of its parts.
 

Titans Bastard

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Cowell wasn't that good in the opener, but he had a goal and a NICE assist yesterday. One to watch. I still wonder whether he's more of a high floor player than a high ceiling player for the reasons above, but the larger perspective is also that he doesn't turn 18 until October and it looks like he's going to get a lot of reps this year.

View: https://twitter.com/BrianSciaretta/status/1386066021920952321
A goal and two assists for Cowell last night as my take already threatens to age poorly.
 

Awesome Fossum

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re: pro/rel -- I think an in-season model could be interesting and realistic. Imagine a 30 team league, split 15/15 East/West. Each team plays its conference home and away for 14x2 = 28 matches. Then the top 5 in each conference advance to the second phase of the season, where they play the other conference's top 5 teams home and away as well for 5x2 = 10 matches. (The bottom 10 play another 10 games against each other.)

That gives you a 38-match season, gives you a taste of pro/rel without actually ruining a club's next season, gives you a sense of urgency in the middle of the season (even a "mid-season finale" you can market) and manufactures a pseudo-balanced schedule for the Supporter's Shield (you could only consider the points from matches amongst "promoted" clubs). I also think a nice benefit is that it gives you a big dose of regionalism and then an extended break for the promoted clubs, so if New England and Philadelphia meet in the first round of the playoffs, it feels fresh again.

Obviously you can tweak the number of conferences to whatever works best. Maybe it's three 10 team conferences, so you play your 18 matches in the first phase and then the top 5 in each advance to play another 18 matches. That gives you more teams in the mix and the separator in the middle of the season, if that's what you want.
 

Titans Bastard

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There are a number of mid-tier European leagues that have experimented with that sort of split-season format over the years, except there's actual relegation at stake for the bottom cohort.

The trouble is that 100% of the games for the bottom cohort would be totally meaningless without the threat of true relegation.
 

Awesome Fossum

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Yeah, that's valid. I would ask how meaningful are those games currently for MLS teams in that tier? Obviously the upper half are fighting for a playoff spot, but the rest are just playing out the string either way. And to that end, maybe you give the relegated winner a spot in the playoffs, or maybe a play-in spot to reduce the chances of a team "tanking" midseason for an easier path. Definitely something you'd need to dial in.

That's interesting that it's been tried elsewhere -- I didn't know that.

Edit: Maybe you give one play-in spot to the overall points leader (considering both phases) and another spot to the phase II points leader. So even if you're winless at the mid-season relegation, there's still a realistic chance to make something of your season.
 

Titans Bastard

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Yeah, that's valid. I would ask how meaningful are those games currently for MLS teams in that tier? Obviously the upper half are fighting for a playoff spot, but the rest are just playing out the string either way. And to that end, maybe you give the relegated winner a spot in the playoffs, or maybe a play-in spot to reduce the chances of a team "tanking" midseason for an easier path. Definitely something you'd need to dial in.

That's interesting that it's been tried elsewhere -- I didn't know that.

Edit: Maybe you give one play-in spot to the overall points leader (considering both phases) and another spot to the phase II points leader. So even if you're winless at the mid-season relegation, there's still a realistic chance to make something of your season.
Yeah Austria does it that way:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020–21_Austrian_Football_Bundesliga

Scotland doesn't formally split the groups into a "championship group" and a "relegation group", but the last chunk of matches are scheduled so that only the top 6 play each other and only the bottom six play each other, and (I believe) nobody from the bottom 6 can move into the top 6 in the final table even if they accumulate more points against the patsies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020–21_Scottish_Premiership

Belgium has a convoluted playoff system that is something the Rube Goldberg wannabes at MLS would be jealous of.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020–21_Belgian_First_Division_A


I want to say some leagues in eastern Europe have done something like this at times too, but I can't remember who or when.
 

Senator Donut

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Atlanta, Philly, and Portland all lost while Columbus had a scoreless draw. Winless Toronto was idle. Would Leon and Monterrey even be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference? Also, when will MLS send its best clubs to Champion League?
 

Titans Bastard

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Last night the results were predictable: Philly advanced over Atlanta, Toronto were eliminated by Cruz Azul.

Tonight, Columbus and Portland take draws down to Monterrey and Club América respectively. Chances are that neither will advance, but we'll see.
 

dirtynine

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Timbers’ goalie having a nice couple moments in the 20’.

edit - jinx! CA scores on a header a minute later, nothing to be done about it
 

Pesky Pole

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In case you missed Jim Curtin's post-game presser. Heinze decided to lecture him after the game the other night. His response was pretty awesome.

 

Titans Bastard

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Orlando City is on the verge of being sold to the Wilfs. The Wilfs initially tried to get the Minnesota team, but were beaten out by another ownership group.

View: https://twitter.com/byjuliapoe/status/1390746210470879241


LAFC signed Atuesta to a one-year contract extension. This is huge for them because it allows them to keep an absolutely pivotal player for the whole season without worrying about him walking on a free in the winter. I expect Atuesta will be sold after the season.

https://www.lafc.com/news/lafc-and-midfielder-eduard-atuesta-agree-to-contract-extension
 

Titans Bastard

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Bangers only in MLS this year:

View: https://twitter.com/realsaltlake/status/1390854936745844737



As an aside, is Rubio Rubin back from the prospect graveyard? He has 3 goals and 2 assists in 3 starts so far. He also had 7 goals in 5 games for a brief stint with San Diego Loyal last year. All this comes after ~5 years in the journeyman wilderness after being an 18 year old Eredivisie starter for Utrecht and then getting injured.
 

67YAZ

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Shuttleworth with a great save, but it came off a cross fired past Bornstein. Philly is picking on the old man.

it took the Fire over 12 minutes to get a spell of possession.
 

67YAZ

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Curtin completely out-coached Wicky today. This has been a string of embarrassing performances for the Fire, all down hill since that second goal against New England. This team needs a shake up, a spark from some place. This is miserable stuff so far.

At least we have Tony Meola calling the matches. He cracked me up talking about how Jim Curtin would have racked up the yellow cards if the refs called games this right back when.
 

Titans Bastard

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Senator Donut

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Chicharito going from the potentially the worst signing in league history to early MVP frontrunner has been quite a trip.

El Traffico always delivers the most entertaining MLS matches, but having a good-size crowd has made this game one best viewing experiences since March 2020.
 

Awesome Fossum

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I think what really makes this an unforced error is that Columbus probably could have gotten away with a rebrand that would have been really well-received and moved a lot of merchandise. Precourt oversaw the current branding, correct? They could just done a throwback-focused rebrand and people probably would have loved it.
 

Titans Bastard

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I think what really makes this an unforced error is that Columbus probably could have gotten away with a rebrand that would have been really well-received and moved a lot of merchandise. Precourt oversaw the current branding, correct? They could just done a throwback-focused rebrand and people probably would have loved it.
Precourt updated the logo and changed the official name from "Columbus Crew" to "Columbus Crew SC". But even though Precourt is a reviled figure in Columbus, the truth is that the new logo was really good. His insistence in the media guide that the team be referred to as "Crew SC" was really annoying, but relatively small potatoes.

We just had an epic #SaveTheCrew moment in which a grassroots pressure campaign helped preserve the club's existence. The team then unexpectedly won an MLS Cup. This is great stuff. Build on this instead of hitting a reset button for no apparent reason.
 

SoxFanInCali

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California. Duh.
So, they send out a 2 minute video that repeatedly uses and points out the historical connection of the word "Crew" to announce that "Crew" is no longer in the team name?
 

ThePrideofShiner

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Stefan Frei's knee just gave out in the 92nd minute. Alex Roldan is now in goal and San Jose has about three minutes to rally from a 1-0 deficit.
 

Senator Donut

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It's pretty wild that the Sounders are only paying Lodeiro and Ruidiaz 2.12 and 2.0 million, respectively.
I’m impressed that the Sounders and Timbers can spend so little on their back line, yet get solid defensive results. (Although the downside is very little depth. Remember when Jordan McCrary started a Champions League match?)

Likewise, it’s odd how much Atlanta has invested in the position. Paying Franco as a senior DP puzzles me.
 

67YAZ

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The Fire are starting 17yo homegrown midfielder Brian Gutierrez tonight. Maine’s finest, Wyatt Omsberg gets his second consecutive start. On Saturday, I though Omsberg made a couple notable mistakes and a couple nice plays, but definitely looked like he could hang with the pace of the game.

Wicky is definitely trying to shake things up here with some rotation. It’s sorely needed.
 

67YAZ

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There’s Omsberg bailing out Calvo by clearing one off the line. You’re real Chicago now, Wyatt.
 

67YAZ

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Gutierrez hit the post and also just missed a spectacular goal. Very nice first half from the teenager.

but Calvo, what the hell man. Bad defense and he misses the frame all together with an open header off a corner.
 

67YAZ

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Very telling moment - Beric gets dispossessed, then instead of challenging the CB to win the ball back, he turns and starts bitching at the ref. They’re only down a goal, this match isn’t over.
 

67YAZ

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The Fire now have a 10 day break to overhaul the tactics and completely turnover the roster.
 

Senator Donut

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The Fire now have a 10 day break to overhaul the tactics and completely turnover the roster.
What’s your take on the roster construction? Their high wage bill released today had me take a second look at their roster. I’m surprised by their player acquisitions: very skewed to young foreign (and therefore unproven) players. There are very few who played extensively elsewhere in MLS (and those who did, such as Shuttleworth, did not impress).
 

67YAZ

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What’s your take on the roster construction? Their high wage bill released today had me take a second look at their roster. I’m surprised by their player acquisitions: very skewed to young foreign (and therefore unproven) players. There are very few who played extensively elsewhere in MLS (and those who did, such as Shuttleworth, did not impress).
When Mansueto took over, he very quickly hired Heitz, who, in turn, brought in Wicky days later. It’s clear that Mansueto bought into the FC Basel model - win league titles while also being a high-end selling club through development and shrewd bargain shopping in 3rd tier leagues.

Clearly, it is going to take several years to build the academy up, but Chicago has a huge talent pool to draw from. Heitz has already got the international scouting network fired up, plucking young guys from Venezuela, Latvia, Slovenia and some established players from France, Poland, and Argentina.

I think the theory is right - I mean, look at those MLS salaries, even back of the roster slots are good enough to attract high potential players from off the beaten path if they see the club as a quality stepping stone.

Has the player recruitment been right? Maybe? I can’t tell because the on-field product is so bad. I could understand how rough last season was - new owner, new director, new manager, logs of new players, and the pandemic. But Fire had a very active transfer window and a full preseason this year, and the football has been dreadful. No one is playing well, and the most talented are performing way below their level. Fans aren't expecting a great season, but a reasonable improvement over last season meaning some stylish play and getting into the playoffs. Right now, it’s on Wicky to get it sorted before he loses his job.

It was always going to be a multi-year project to get the Basel model running, but it still depends on playing quality stuff and putting players in positions to excel.
 
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Titans Bastard

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My understanding is that the last few players acquired ahead of the 2020 season who had MLS experience (Shuttleworth, Omsberg) were basically guys that Nelson Rodriguez brought in as the new regime was getting settled. Since then, Chicago have acquired zero players from within MLS. Obviously they've added a bunch of academy players, but Wicky doesn't seem to think most are even ready for sub minutes, and even those who play don't seem ready to be a serious contributor in 2021.

The Allocation Disorder guys were discussing how there has never been a particularly successful MLS team who had an imported GM AND an imported manager (imported meaning straight from overseas, not foreigners who had been in the US and around MLS for a while). I can't think of a counter-example.

GMs from abroad don't know the domestic player pool all that well, and consistently underestimate it. They import guys they know from abroad who are often okay-to-bad. Getting good value out of the money you spend on mid-roster players and guys at the bottom of the roster is really important in a salary capped league and it's much easier to get good value by making smart intra-league acquisitions.

A major exception is Ernst Tanner. Although Philly have developed some high-profile local talent that played a huge role in 2020 (Aaronson, McKenzie), many key players on the team were savvy, low-cost international acquisitions like Jamiro Monteiro, Kai Wagner, Jose Martinez, Kacper Przybylko, et al. Leon Flach seems like a really smart buy so far.

Despite many clubs in MLS turning toward foreign managers and foreign GMs in the last decade, only one imported manager has won MLS Cup in the last decade (Tata Martino). No imported manager has ever won the Supporters Shield in league history. This will no doubt change at some point, but you have to wonder if many clubs are systemically underrating local talent compared with the type of foreign managerial talent that's available to MLS clubs.
 

Senator Donut

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A major exception is Ernst Tanner. Although Philly have developed some high-profile local talent that played a huge role in 2020 (Aaronson, McKenzie), many key players on the team were savvy, low-cost international acquisitions like Jamiro Monteiro, Kai Wagner, Jose Martinez, Kacper Przybylko, et al. Leon Flach seems like a really smart buy so far.
I’ll add that I’m still not sold on Philly’s long-term success with their current model. Completely ignoring the Superdraft is coming back to bite them this year now that some of their homegrowns have moved on. They were eliminated from MLS Cup 2020 by a team that started 3 foreign senior DPs and 8 North Americans who played college soccer. MLS roster rules will always favor clubs who can develop young cheap America players to fill out the holes in their squad.