A soccer diary from across the pond

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dispatches from Central Europe

So I go on holiday by train through Europe and all of a sudden MLS goes crazy!

Toronto looses Koevermans, trades for Hassli goes on a winning streak and has actually overtaken the Timbers on goal differential.

On that notes it seems as if it didn't help firing John Spencerp and that Portland is just a poor team.

The Galaxy also seems to have finally gotten their mojo back and it is this kind of late season resurgence that could help the 2012 Galaxy copy the 2005 Galaxy and help them win the entire tournament considering the goals by Keane and the quality play of the DPs in LA, a successful play-off run could true show the value of high quality DPs.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mariner will save Toronto FC from relegation

Had MLS had relegation TFC would be in big problems. Especially had they continued with Winter. Having seen the team under Mariner, it is now clear that Winter lacked the ability to  instill fire, passion and the willingness to fight in the players. Personally I liked what Winter was trying to do, but soccer is also about winning, about grit and fight, and the TFC of Winter lacked that.

Should MLS decide to introduce relegation tomorrow, I'm not sure if TFC would get relegated. Under Mariner they have gotten 1.25 PPG and this would mean 33 points when the season ends. This would obviously not lead to play-off participation, but in leagues with relegation and similar amount of games 33 points often would save a team from relegation, and I am also pretty sure TFC will get more points than that.

So whats the point of this, you'd might ask? Well, it shows how TFC has changed. Under Winter I almost expected TFC to lose every time (which they did), but with Mariner I really believe that we can get something out of it. Mariner has only lost two games (!) and they comeback against the Whitecaps shows that Mariner has created a team, that fights to the end and it if they sign a proper defender after the de Guzman trade, unlike the Aceval and that other guy they signed in the off-season, I think we could see a second half surge that would save Toronto from the nonexistent relegation and give the fans something to be happy about and something to hope for in the future. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

John Spencer chopped down

So that was it for John Spencer in Portland. While I find both the Timbers and John Spencer likable, I can't really say I'm surprised. After finishing 6th in the West (12th overall) with 42 points (1,24PPG) a lot of people, including myself, were expecting Portland to do better in this season, in large part because of people expecting Kris Boyd to be goal scorer that he was at Rangers.

After 19 points in 17 games (1,12PPG, 8th in the West, 16th overall), Gavin Wilkinson and Merritt Paulson had to decide whether or not John Spencer could right the ship. With only 16 goals for Portland and only 5 for Boyd, its easy to see where the problem is and the task for the new coach will be to introduce a style of play that will either give Boyd more scoring chances or work with Boyd to make him convert more of the chances he gets.

Who knows? But good luck to Merritt Paulson with putting together a good team, Portland deserves that.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The truth about TFC and MLS (sort of)

So I finally convinced someone to watch MLS with me and thanks to an early kick-off I could watch TFC play against Philly at 22pm Danish time along with my sister's boyfriend. It was cool to share it with someone else here, but I was also curious about what his thoughts on the level and style of play would be. If you have an emotional attachment to something, it is easier to unconsciously perceive it as better than it perhaps is, so it was fun getting his more independent opinion. This was the result:

He found that it was easy to see that it was a game of two bottom teams, but not a relegation fight, but was very impressed by the speed of the game. He was a bit ambivalent about the quality of the passing as there were many very good diagonal crosses (especially from Philly), but also many missed passes and bad runs.

On the more than well-known topic of the TFC defense, he noticed how they were playing very compact, but that they seemed to lack communication and little happened going forward from them.

On the other hand he was very impressed by the the wide play of Philadelphia, but also missed more attempts from outside the box from both teams.

In the end he was overall impressed with MLS and is looking forward to watching two better teams play.

Do we have a convert? I don't know yet. But he has an open mind and I will continue to expose him to the league. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Impact of Montreal's player strategy

This tweet made me chuckle, but also made me think about the pros and cons of having an old squad in the first season.

In the Montreal-Kansas City game the Impact's starting 11 had an average age of 27,8. This was however without players such as Matteo Ferrari (32), Bernardo Corradi (36) or Eduardo Sebrango (39).

Being an expansion team is difficult. Most of the players haven't played together before and at the same time you need to convince the local citizens of your product. In that sense having an older team in the beginning makes sense. You can use the experience of the old players to get instant success, which will help you established the team in the market (Yes, Montreal needs to reestablished itself - there is a huge difference between selling out the old Stade Saputo in the NASL and the new Stade Saputo in MLS.). 

With that in mind it makes sense for Joey and the Impact to go after players such as Ferrari, Corradi, Rivas, Di Vaio and Nesta. However, the strategy doesn't really seemed to have worked. The instant success hasn't appeared. They aren't Toronto FC bad (then again, who is?), but if you are going with older players in order to achieve something now, you can't really be happy about being behind New England in the standings.

At the same time Montreal soccer fans has failed to make an impact in the stands. They filled the Olympic Stadium for the home opener against Chicago and against LA, but after the attendance wouldn't even fill the new Stade Saputo. After moving into their right home, the Impact's attendance has collapsed with only 12.000 against Houston and Kansas City and only 14.000 against arch-rival Toronto.

Being a Toronto FC fan I could easily use this to make fun off and ridicule Montreal, but I won't. I want soccer to grow in North America and I want every single team to have some degree of success (obviously everyone can't have that at the same time) and I want them to fill their stadiums with passionate fans. Seeing 12.000 at Stade Saputo makes me sad and I hope Joey Saputo is taking this seriously and hopefully knows that in the long run, it will take more than signing Alessandro Nesta to put people in the seats.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

MLS and its embracement of Canada

Whenever I talk about about MLS I try to make an effort out of calling it a NORTH American  league, rather than just an American one. Obviously it hasn't always been that way, not only because the league didn't have a Canadian team, but also in the way the MLS website and its premiere podcast ExtraTime Radio have covered Canadian content.

Even after Toronto FC's entry, the league was still very much American, and the news was primarily focused on the USMNT and almost all stories had an American angle.

Having followed the league for 10 years, and having paid special attention to Canadian content the last 5, I can really say the the coverage this year has been amazing. Yes, Montreal also joined the league, but last years when it was Vancouver and Toronto, the quality wasn't there yet. The season there has been an abundance of stories about Canadian soccer in and of itself. No American angle, just Canadian soccer. The CMNT has received more prominence and Canadian players abroad have been covered more. 

MLS has stepped up its game, and embraced and included Canada, and I for one, applaud it.

 I just have to point out this tweet:
If I put on my megalomaniac hat, I'd like to think it changed after that ;-)