One month of the MLS Season is in the books and as is typical of the league very few standout teams or players have shown themselves at this early stage. However some players, coaches and clubs deserve mention for both positive and negative reasons. Here is the honor roll……
Best Coaching Job: As usual Steve Nicol has done the best job melding a team together that is cohesive and plays for one another. Despite the loss of Clint Dempsey and the distraction of Shalrie Joseph’s contract dispute, the Revs are the best team in the league. Somehow Nicol managed to refocus Joseph after he had given up his captain’s armband and claimed he would never play again for New England. Andy Dorman if anything is a better fit for the team at attacking midfield than Clint Dempsey was. As always Nicol has found two young gems in Wells Thompson, and Adam Cristman.
Worst Coaching Job: John Ellinger has already been fired, but Tom Soehn of DC United gets the honor for failing to adjust his back line and not using his teams’ excellent CONCACAF Champions Cup run to create momentum for the MLS Season. Chances are very good that United will not return to the Champions Cup next season.
Best Player Acquisition (From within MLS): Many people including myself thought Colorado were crazy to trade Joe Cannon to Los Angeles when their backup goalkeeper was untested Bouna Coundal. But as it turns out Herculez Gomez who was frustrated with the Galaxy has re-emerged as a potential attacker for the US National Team with an outstanding first month of the season. Statistics do not tell the story of how Gomez has teamed up well with Colorado’s other midfielders and how he has changed the tempo and feel of the Colorado attack. Honorable Mention goes to Bruce Arena taking a chance on Clint Mathis, who has rewarded him nicely thus far.
Worst Player Acquisition (From within MLS): Amado Guevara for a DP slot that was used by Red Bull to sign Juan Pablo Angel……need I say more. Honorable Mention goes to Toronto’s signing of Richard Mulrooney who didn’t fit in Mo Johnson’s scheme from day one and was traded back to former team which now resides in Houston.
Best Player Acquisition (From outside MLS): David Beckham, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Juan Pablo Angel either haven’t played in MLS yet or haven’t played enough to be considered. It pains me to say it but the best signing thus far has been Ronald Watterhaus. Watterhaus disappointed when signed by my favorite EPL club Manchester City, but had a successful stint at Rangers and AZ Alkmar afterwards. Watterhaus began his MLS career with almost 300 scoreless minutes, and demonstrated why he has spent so much time in Dutch National Team’s player pool, backing up Edwin Van Der Sar at Euro 2004. Honorable Mention: Roberto Brown was not the most talked about Panamanian signed by MLS this season (more on that shortly) but he has clearly been the best. The Colorado Forward has already three goals in five matches this season.
Worst Player Acquisition (From outside MLS): Real Salt Lake’s continued mistakes in the personnel department cost John Ellinger his job. The latest: Luis Tejada, the highly touted Panamanian International played a total of two minutes before being waived by RSL. Honorable Mention: Conor Casey lasted one match in Toronto before being shipped to Colorado where he is having a hard time finding the field as well.
Best Fans: Is this even a contest? Toronto FC has had a carnival like atmosphere at their first two matches at BMO Park, and they have sold 15,000 season tickets. Honorable Mention: Real Salt Lake fans keep coming to the games despite three years of futility. Dave Checketts needs to stop playing the fans with bombastic public comments and reward the loyalist fans of a US based MLS club.
Worst Fans: For ten years I have heard excuses as to why the New York franchise in Major League Soccer can’t draw fans or attract local media attention. You can find the laundry list of excuses in archive at Big Soccer.com. Through three home matches the club that represents North America’s (not including Mexico) largest and most important Metropolitan area is averaging less than 9,800 fan a match. That’s an average of 6,000 fans per game less than the team representing 36th ranked metropolitan area in the nation, Salt Lake City. And this is despite the obvious fact that the Red Bulls are much better than Real Salt Lake. Does Red Bull spend any money promoting this club in the New York metro area? Likely not based on the attendance figures. Honorable Mention: As always Kansas City is last in attendance in MLS.