The 2018 MLS season got underway in March. It’s no secret that I prefer England’s Premier League over MLS. However so far in the early part of the season, MLS is making things interesting and keeping my attention. We’ve seen some things we’ve expected, some we haven’t, and some that have caught us off guard.
NYCFC has continued the positive run they had going last season. It took them getting to game 8 to lose, and they look to be running toward summer as one of the behemoths of the league. Led by Spanish legend David Villa and managed by scum (Arsenal) legend Patrick Vieira, this NYCFC squad is tearing it up.
In the midst of their great start, including wins at Sporting KC and hard-fought draws at Atlanta and New England there’s a media frenzy talking about Vieira leaving. He keeps shooting down questions from reporters since Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has announced he is stepping down and recommended Vieira for the job.
I can’t see it happening this season, but it’s certainly an enticing idea that must be floating around in the Frenchman’s head. Go back to the club you captained and won 7 trophies with? This opportunity may not come again. To be clear, I don’t think he’ll do it. He’s building something big in the Bronx and hes going to want to see it through. Though, if he does, I’m interested to see how the team reacts and continues to grow, particularly amidst the speculation of finally moving out of Yankee stadium and into their own home.
It’s Zlatan’s world – we just live in it
Zlatan Ibrahimović has come to MLS and continues to defy odds. At 36, he still tears up defenses and scores ridiculous goals. Even more impressive, he’s coming off a horrible knee injury for which he needed surgery and missed a significant chunk of time. Some would say his landing in MLS means he’s past his prime. For most players, I’d say the same after an illustrious career playing for teams like Barcelona, AC Milan, PSG, and Manchester United.
But Zlatan? This dude is superhuman. He’s one of the best talents we’ve seen. The best if you hear it from him. His addition to MLS puts him in the spotlight he’s spent his whole career wanting to be in. LA is the perfect place for someone who loves themselves that much AND is truly that talented. If you need further proof, watch this video of Zlatan being Zlatan on Jimmy Kimmel.
From First to Worst
The last two MLS Cup Finals have included the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC. They split the two and many thought they’d be able to push hard for a third straight year facing each other for the cup. It’s early and they’ve played fewer games than everyone else, but man do they look rough.
Toronto is 1-0-4 with 4 goals and 11 goals against. That said, they’ve managed to get to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League. Michael Bradley had a hell of a game in the second leg, but a penalty miss gave Guadalajara the win on away goals. They need to focus on the league and put this loss behind them. I really don’t think they’re going to stay down for long.
Seattle has managed a 1-1-3 record, but have only scored 3 goals so far this campaign. They’ve conceded fewer, but they look like a shell of their former selves. It took until that 5th game to record a win. Clint Dempsey hasn’t looked like the leader we know he can be. Although a couple wins in a row could steer their season in a positive direction, the west looks like it will be a dog fight. If it stays as tight as it is right now (with the exception of Sporting KC looking a clear favorite) Seattle may be getting to the off-season early.
Atlanta United is legit
Atlanta United has taken MLS by storm. They already have an insane attendance record (72,035). Fun fact: they sold out Mercedes-Benz Arena before the Atlanta Falcons hosted a single game. That ish is nuts. Soccer is rising in the south. Josef Martinez leads the league in goals (6) and Miguel Almirón in assists (5).
Don’t be surprised to see them make a run for the cup. They currently sit 2nd in the East with a game in hand, and I’d expect they’ll take the top spot this weekend when Montreal comes to town.
New England making strides under Friedel
Change is in the air in Foxborough. Not quite a full-scale revolution, but change. Change is good. First-year coach Brad Friedel is getting more out of the players who were already there (Rowe, Bunbury, Agudelo) and has done a good job incorporating the new crop (Penilla, Bye, Somi). In addition to that, Friedel has given the GK reins to Matt Turner, relegating veteran Brad Knighton and Cody Cropper to the bench and reserves. That has clearly paid off, as Turner has raked in 25 saves already through 7 games.
The higher press is a hard style to get used to, but as the season goes on and this team gets more comfortable, they could make a run. The best has yet to come for this Revolution squad. Saturday night against Sporting KC is going to be one of the tougher tests they’ve faced so far. Let’s see how they hold up.
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This one is a classic.