MLS/USL Review

otienoMusa Otieno (leftmost) captained Kenya to a critical World Cup Qualifying win yesterday. But the insistence on the American leagues, MLS and USL to play through international breaks meant Otieno was not available for his club side Cleveland City who lost twice at home in three days to Miami FC.

  • ESPN 2 achieved it’s highest MLS rating in two seasons on Wednesday night. That was because the College World Series ran late and many decided to stick around for an exciting conclusion to Seattle versus DC United.
  • Real Salt Lake seems to be finally playing up to the level expected to them before the season. Four road points in the last two weeks against Western Conference rivals is a good start to try and climb up the table.
  • Gary Smith has done a remarkable job with the Colorado Rapids this year. Once again a manager with some sort of tactical gameplan and an actual coaching license from someone other than the USSF is needed in MLS. USL to their credit has a number of imported coaches which is why while I’d argue the talent in USL is inferior, the tactics and organization when you watch a USL match blow most MLS games away.
  • Jamaica did well under John Barnes and Omar Cummings got a few run outs. But now the striker is really excelling in Smith’s British tactical system. Expect Cummings to emerge as a key figure for Jamaica in the coming years.
  • Puerto Rico is re-emerging as the team to beat in USL after two victories over Charleston. Colin Clarke’s ability to field two full teams had its drawbacks early in the season due to a lack of continuity and understanding among the side. But now Clarke’s team is rising to the top due to its depth.
  • Miami FC is on a tear having won three straight league matches after going winless in six. The reason: young playmaker Paulo Junior brought in from the Brazilian league by Miami FC’s owners Traffic Sports who own his registration. For those paying attention Traffic Sports has been in negotiations with Manchester United about importing some players they own from South America.
  • FC Dallas is playing some solid football lately. Not that anyone in the Metroplex noticed.
  • I had the great pleasure of speaking with Misha Sher of Soccerex and Derby County FC TV this past week. Misha played in USL for several years before relocating to the UK and entering the football business and commentating realms. Some of his memories in USL are discussed in the current EPL Talk podcast and will be released as an add on in a future MLS Talk podcast.
  • Martin Rennie’s Carolina Railhawks side is beginning to hit a midseason swoon. The Railhawks are settling into a pattern of struggling on the road, but grinding out points while making Wake Med Soccer Park a virtual fortress.
  • As good a statement as Seattle-DC United was about MLS in front of a national audience, San Jose-LA was the type of match that turns traditional football fans against MLS. A sloppy match full of bad giveaways and players out of position, it was the wrong match for ESPN to schedule to get a lead in audience from the more sophisticated football audience that was watching the Confederations Cup.

7 thoughts on “MLS/USL Review”

  1. Kartik,
    Your comments about Gary Smith are spot on. The Rapids could have 6 fewer points, and this season would be going “well” based on some of the preseason expectations. As it is now, the have games in hand on the rest of the league and still sit in a playoff spot.

    Smith sticks to his 4-4-2 tactical setup regardless of the personel available to him, and it is clear each player knows their assignment. Not to say the Rapids don’t get beaten often, but rarely is it due to tactics and spacing.

    The other thing Colorado does an excellent job of is keeping width and using the wide pitch at DSGP to their advantage. While not evident on TV, their wide midfielders hug the touchlines, and this accounts for their good play down the wings, while rarely getting beat down the wings.

    I think all of this can harken back to your recent posts on the evolution of US tactics. I think often times, regardless of the sport, American coaches find they have to tinker with formations, tactics, and line ups to justify their job.

  2. 120 X 80 pitch at DSGP btw. I love that place…..the stadium and the pitch on my visit for its opening two years ago! (Actually that reminds me that I want to upload the DSGP pics in the near future.)

  3. “But the insistence on the American leagues, MLS and USL to play through international breaks meant Otieno was not available for his club side Cleveland City who lost twice at home in three days to Miami FC.”

    Brazil played this weekend. So did Argentina. And Peru. And Japan.

    Your insistence on putting on blinders when you criticize American soccer really dilutes your credibility and makes you just look like a bitter shrew instead of someone who should be taken seriously.

  4. Peru and Japan are in regions without qualifying. Since MLS was founded in 96 and recently with USL we’ve had a steady importation of African players. The insistence of playing right through qualifying and in fact according to a source I won’t reveal the eagerness of both leagues to take advantage of a potential spike from US national team games by scheduling MORE during breaks is troubling.

    Fan, you do make a point about Brazil. That is true and you got me there. But how many nations would allow their first division to schedule matches at the very same time as a world cup qualifier? Seriously, how many?

    Mexico also has begun playing through breaks but unlike MLS, the FMF which of course governs the national team and the league does not permit start times to conflict, unlike the situation here.

    Regarding USL this seems to be the heaviest part of their schedule. I feel bad for Cleveland. They’ve got one of the most accomplished players in the league and he hasn’t suited up yet for them because of African Qualifying.

  5. Maybe the lead in helped but if you watched the Sounders game Wednesday night the game was everything we could hope for in front of the great Seattle crowd. Maybe people saw something that was worth their time and may come back for more! Let’s hope.

  6. Quakes v. LA on Saturday was tough to watch at times. I know it is a rivalry game, but with LA missing its stars and SJ struggling to find their form, ESPN should have looked to a better match-up to showcase after the Confed. Cup game. Perhaps if they hadn’t played in a big, mostly empty baseball stadium, the atmosphere would have improved too. I did enjoy watching Ryan Johnson play for the Quakes, this guy is quickly becoming a must-see player.

  7. I agree on the USL comment. Coming from Britain the MLS game is strange and totally foreign to me. Maybe it is down to the coaches like Adrian Heath and Colin Clarke but I really prefer the USL game.

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