Monday, March 26, 2012

MLS Week 3: What We've Learned So Far

With MLS Week 3 behind us there are several things that were of note. Here's what stuck out in my head after a third week of MLS action.

The Houston Dynamo will be a team to watch all year. While they may have fallen to the Seattle Sounders at Century Link field, they came out swinging. This is almost a direct contrast to the previous formula for away results in Major League Soccer: bunker, counter, hope.

Dominic Kinnear took his men to a stadium packed with Sounders fans and had them attack. For stretches of the match, the Dynamo looked composed and comfortable despite the environment. This shows that the team and its tactics are slowly maturing. By absolutely no means is it perfect, but long have I and other analysts noted that the difference between North American soccer and the European game is a maturity to manage a match. If the Dynamo are showing signs of doing this, along with teams like Real Salt Lake and even San Jose. By no means can we say that it is perfect, but we can be encouraged by the Dynamo coming out attacking and remaining composed for stretches.

Toronto FC do not look to have what it takes to make the post-season. It's only week three and there is certainly plenty of time to make changes, particularly in the summer transfer window. However, as it stands the team sincerely lacks the depth to make it anywhere in close to the playoffs. They'll already be stretched thin by their extra matches early on with LA and Santos, plus the Canadian equivalent of the Open Cup. This team is in desperate need of quality reserve players.

The New York Red Bulls are capable of being a powerful team. That would seem like something we should all know, but the truth is, there is nothing definite about this Red Bulls squad except that they have potential. Kenny Cooper looks like he's on the verge of a very good season, despite his team. If Thierry Henry can keep his hands out of the air and remain focused, there's a good chance that we see a lot of goals out of that tandem.

Ryan Meara, the team's new goalkeeper, looked outstanding versus Colorado. He seemed composed and calm when under pressure. Red Bulls fans may allow themselves a glisten of hope as they've certainly struggled to find stability between the posts since Tim Howard left ages ago. Provided Wilman Conde and Rafa Marquez have a solid defensive season, free of temper tantrums, then New York just might be the team we'd all like them to be when we look at the roster.

Lastly, the Philadelphia Union are in trouble and Peter Nowak is to blame. Right now Danny Mwanga is being paid plenty of money to score goals and Nowak chose to give Mwanga that money (as he came of GA status) rather than keep Sebastien Le Toux. Additionally, the Califf-Nowak controversy seemed to give the media an unexpected glimpse into possible rifts within the squad. There needs to be some damage control and it needs to be soon. For Nowak, that means being more open about team happenings and making himself a bit more available to questions than he has in the past.

Keep in mind, the Union seemed to have an almost secretive pre-season. Very little coverage was given to the Union, by comparison, than many other teams around Major League Soccer. As it stands, the Union are in desperate need of good publicity. Three losses in three games after trading away your leading goal scorer and allowing your captain to depart for reasons unclear.

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