MLS Results and Moves: A Soft-Lens Impressions

Having been “underground” when Major League Soccer (MLS) Roster Compliance Day came and went (and, to celebrate, I threw out tons of crap, just like the teams I like!), motivation to soberly analyze all those rosters isn’t coming; besides, fans and fan sites have probably did all this to near-death earlier in the week. Moreover, not knowing much about the players coming in, I’m not really equipped to do a hard-data write-up. As such, a looser approach feels more appropriate – or, as I put it in the title, a soft-lens impression, which I’ll form based on what I recall of each team’s results (I’ll provide links when I have ‘em) and the moves each team has made so far. I’ll be using Soccer America’s round-up of off-season moves for this last bit.

And away we go…

Chicago Fire
So, they just tied Mexico’s Necaxa. After that, I’m pretty well tapped out on pre-season results for these guys. Given the comparative paucity of players coming in – e.g. Patrick Nyarko, Tomasz Frankowski, Brandon Prideaux, and Andy Herron (again) – the Fire still looks like the House Sarachan/Osorio Built. But without the Osorio. (Good luck, by the way, Denis Hamlett; I’m pulling for ya!) With Herron seemingly coasting on past accomplishments and Nyarko coming into the league on the back of what looks like a bunch of weird goals – emphasis on the bunch – Frankowski looks the biggest new plus on offense…and the jury remains hung on what he’ll bring. Not a lot for new excitement, but some talent – Chris Rolfe, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Justin Mapp, assuming he’s walking – to pretty up the team’s overall solidity. Bottom line, though, these guys could stand to do more.

Chivas USA
If someone could tell me whether Chivas coach Preki plans to play Atiba Harris as a forward or a midfielder, I think I’d feel more certain about where these guys are. That said, a lot of people seem to like Chivas USA in ’08 (USSoccerplayers.com, for one, had nice things to say). Yeah, they just dropped one against DC United, but I think they beat DC earlier this year…but don’t you go quoting me on that. This general enthusiasm about Chivas, looked at exclusively in terms of players they added, doesn’t quite tally for me. This is a good team, they play pretty stuff, they’re in the mix, and so on, but I’m going to check bids around the table before betting that Raphael Wicky, Jim Curtin, and Alecko Eskandarian make for a winning hand.

Colorado Rapids
I’m feeling a lot of fan skepticism about this team, richly justified given the team’s history. They did make some big pick-ups – Christian Gomez, of course, as well as Raphael Gomes – but I don’t know what to make of the latter, I don’t know how the former will fit, and there’s still the general spazzing to worry about, of which the Chase Hilgenbrinck Saga serves as a telling example. That said, I do believe this team has improved…it’s just a question of degree and keeping up with the rest of the conference. In spite of a loss to Arsenal’s reserves, their pre-season isn’t going horribly – though, in fairness, they are playing some serious “who’s that?” opposition (detailed a bit in here).

Columbus Crew
With little more to show for their labors than Brian Carroll and a 50/50-wager like Nicolas “Nico” Hernandez, the Crew effectively stood pat after 2007 – whether they wanted to or not. They’re not doing terrible in pre-season play – and a win over Blackburn Rovers reserves improves them to a 5-3-0 record – but the notion that this side strikes fear in hearts across the league seems deeply unlikely. Making matters worse, they lost so many contributors: Marcos Gonzalez (not yet replaced), Ned Grabavoy, as well as several others, giving the roster a kind of hollowed out feel. Put it together and it looks like too little done, too late in the game. Simply put, these guys need reinforcements or career years from the entire roster.

DC United
If DC doesn’t do well this year, it’s certainly not for lack of trying. Nearly every move they made speaks to their ambition; whether it also highlights transfer market savvy, we’ll have to wait to see. One has to think they’re a team to watch in the East, if not the team. If nothing else, few teams enter 2008 with as many unknown quantities on the roster.

FC Dallas
One of the few non-expansion team trying to keep up with DC, FC Dallas enters ’08 a little like they did in ’07: looking strong, but dogged by the under-performing funk they seem to pull on with their jerseys. They’re currently in Brazil and, last I read, doing well enough; if memory serves, they have done well enough throughout the pre-season. They added some of the more interesting rookies through the draft(s) – I’m thinking Brek Shea and Eric Avila – they brought in new attacking blood like Andre Rocha, as well as bringing some experience to their back-line in Diulio Davino; even if not everyone is sold on the latter, the fact that they return a good foundation from last year makes me think they shouldn’t need all that much. Put another way, they’ve done some interesting things; the question is whether they have done enough in the right places.

Houston Dynamo
Yeah, there’s the pure horror of coughing up nine goals over the past two games – that can’t feel good for Dynamo fans – but the champs remain a solid bunch. Franco Caraccio working out would do wonders – hell, Kyle Brown working out should be enough – but you have to wonder what a defensive collapse from the Dynamo would do to Bobby Boswell’s career/reputation. Truth to tell, I’m not sure what to think here. They added players in the correct spots – e.g. forward and goal – but did they add the correct players?

Kansas City Wizards
KC fans feel good about where things are…so maybe I should? As much as I know the game isn’t played on paper, I’m still not seeing “Wizards” as a stand-in synonym for “contender.” Chance Myers, Roger Espinoza, and Ivan Trujillo: can they be enough? Especially in the East? Their season was so up-and-down last year that it’s sometimes hard to remember they reached the Western Conference semifinals. True, they weren’t the exciting team that started the year by then, but they still gave Chivas a little something to sweat about. Let’s just say, if they stand pat to the start of the season, I’m going to have a hard time believing they did enough….current results notwithstanding.

Los Angeles Galaxy
Something about this team makes it genuinely hard to accept their mediocrity. Maybe it’s the hype? Beating up on Asian club teams is all well and good, but Hong Kong clubs aren’t exactly the toast of Asia. Then there’s the Rapids-worthy spazzing, albeit on a higher profile: after the strange tale of Celestine Babayaro’s American Vacation, the image of Alexi Lalas sitting in his office bellowing, “We need a forward! Go get me a goalkeeper and a banana smoothie!” seems all the more plausible. Is it fair to say no signing matters to these guys like Carlos Ruiz? I liked that Alvaro guy, even if he doesn’t yet look official, and, as noted above, can’t seem to accept LA will suck like they did last year. Still…what have they actually done to make me believe they’ll improve? I can tell you it isn’t the Ruiz signing. So what is it? Reflex?

New England Revolution
On the subject of signings I believe for no particular reason, I can’t explain why I think Mauricio Castro kicks things up a gear for New England. Maybe it’s more to do with Kenny Mansally showing well in preseason, or maybe it’s more big picture than that: e.g. the fact that this year’s preseason looks virtually identical to last year’s, down to their most recent win in Mexico (I swear it was the same team, same score just last year). There’s just this feeling (and it’s kind of an awful one) that Revs coach Steve Nicol has this league and his team’s place in it so figured out that they’ll keep coming back again and again. At the same time, though, a cold-eyed look at the roster tells me they just didn’t do enough, not in terms of quality and not in terms of replacing the right personnel. For what it’s worth, Mansally strikes me as the X-Factor for this side.

Red Bull New York
How good is Oscar Echeverry? Seriously, I just think I want to know. But I think the big questions for Red Bull go something like this: can they either staff or build a competent midfield to feed those wonderful forwards before the start of the season? Second, are reports that Osorio has the defense working accurate or just a pre-season mirage? I’m more inclined to believe the second question than the first and it’s the first that has me thinking New York hasn’t yet done enough….though it’s not for lack of trying/being thwarted, is it? What I’m getting at here is I’m not sure Echeverry can be good enough.

Real Salt Lake
Another team positively busting its butt to build a better team…but is it any wonder people are skeptical? Well, call me one of those willing to wager RSL coach Jason Kreis is doing it right…enough. Here’s my take: between all the defenders brought on board – Ian Joy, Nat Borchers, Jamilson Olave – as well as midfield thug Dema Kovalenko, I expect RSL will be hard, if not painful, to beat in 2008. True, they could be painful to watch as well. But they also haven’t been idle on the offensive front, bringing in Matias Corboda (wish I knew more about him) and Kenny Deuchar (ditto) to complement the “Three Argies” who signed from last season. If you want to feel good about RSL’s chances, check out who made things happen for them in the recent warm-up in Argentina. Apart from the Andy Williams, the ultimate old hand, you’ll see Deuchar’s name in the mix, along with Javier Morales (one of the Argies). This could pan out, people…it’s just a sucker’s bet to believe it will. What the hell? I am that sucker.

San Jose Earthquakes
Let’s just say San Jose GM John Doyle and coach Frank Yallop are about the only people who believe the E’Quakes have enough on their roster going into the season. Sure, signing Ronnie O’Brien helped – or, rather, it should – and I do like plenty of the players I’m seeing. But there are so few of them, too few by my count.

Toronto FC
These guys might be leaving it a little late, but things may yet come together for them. Hard-fought losses to the defending champs make a good statement – even with the champs hemorrhaging goals lately. I don’t know where things are with Kiki Musampa, but he looks like he’d make a good addition – and god knows the trial has gone on long enough. New names get linked to these guys as much as any team, any unsettled player in the British Isles, especially. In the end, my bead on these guys depends almost entirely on who they can actually land between now and April 15. Go in with what they have now, though, and this season will look excruciatingly like the last one.

All right. All for now. Fortunately, there’s more pre-season ahead. I’m nothing like ready to nail things down.

6 Responses

  1. Jeff, take a closer look at those goals you saw Dynamo are hemmorhaging. In the Toronto game, the first teams only really played in the first half, and the Orange went into the break up 3-1. Wholesale substitutions were made at the half and the game turned into an extended scrimmage in the second. AND one of TFC’s goals in the second was a PK.

    In the case of Gamba Osaka, an not-yet-gamefit Dynamo fell apart in the second half after only being down 2-1 at the half. AND, the game was played without Eddie Robinson. Also, they had shut out Sydney just a few days before that. So, after considering that, I’m keeping my rose, er, orange-colored glasses on and not worrying about the back line.

    And on the Gals, I want to start a prediction league on just how many goals that team is going to score and give up this season. They are going to score, no doubt about that, but so is everyone they are going to be playing against. They are going to be the anti-2007 Dynamo. Like they say in baseball: “There’s a riot at the bat rack!! Everyone wants to get to the plate in this game. Sit down, you’ll all get your chance.”

  2. Fair points….though, I have to say: What? PK’s dont’ count as goals?

    But given all the competition your bunch has this season, the qualitative depth of your back-line matters. I’d feel good so long as your starting defense remains whole. After that…less so.

  3. PKs count, I was just inartfully making the point that it wasn’t really a goal attributable to a defensive breakdown.

    I agree about the defensive front. Robinson and Capt. Wademerica are the mainstays on the left, then a foursome of Boswell, Ianni, Waibel and Mulrooney work the right. Not a bad group of six back there. But if injuries take our Robinson and Barrett, it could get ugly fast.

  4. Good analysis of RSL…I would only add that Beckerman will be an extremely vital key to our success. The Beckerman/ Ballouchy trade already favors SLC up til now, but if we do happen to have any success that will become the trade of the expansion era for us.

  5. Agree completely, scads. I’ll touch on cats like Beckerman when I do “official” previews closer to the season…I’m still learning….

  6. [...] the question becomes where they stack up against the other three teams. With regard to LA, I found an argument laid out by Nutmegged’s Martek compelling: that they’ll score and surrender a lot of [...]

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