Major League Soccer
MLS Parity Party Part 2: Upsets, Shutouts, a Golazo
March 15, 2016
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER'S second week proved unpredictable, but given the the league’s huge emphasis on creating parity, that doesn't exactly qualify as a surprise.
Preseason favorites such as the Columbus Crew, FC Dallas, the L.A. Galaxy, and the New York Red Bulls all have major concerns after losing this past weekend. While having a perennially dominant small group of teams can be boring and there are some positives associated with a salary cap, it’s fair to question whether this is a good thing for MLS.
Thankfully, along with the unpredictability have come a few incredible moments of quality: Federico Higuain’s bicycle kick in week one was jaw-dropping but Quincy Amarikwa’s chip over the weekend somehow might have topped it.
Here are my takeaways from week two.
No sophomore slumps so far
As they adjust to increased expectations some rookies experience a bit of a letdown in their second season. That’s not the case so far in 2016.
Cyle Larin, who scored 17 goals in 2015 in perhaps the greatest rookie season in MLS history, scored his second goal of the season Friday in a 1-1 draw against Chicago. The 20-year-old continues to be among the most dangerous forwards in the league.
In the same match Matt Polster did well to help Chicago earn a valuable point despite having been reduced to 10 players. The central midfielder plays with a physical edge, and his passing is very accurate as well.
Fatai Alashe , meanwhile, made his season debut on Sunday night and went 71 minutes for San Jose in an impressive 2-1 win over the defending champion Portland Timbers. After collecting those three points, the Earthquakes are one of just three perfect teams through two rounds.
Shocking collapse for FC Dallas
Of all the surprising results over the weekend, the biggest was FC Dallas’s 5-0 blowout loss to Houston. FC Dallas has about as much talent as anyone in this league, but when dealing with any young roster, there can still be challenges of confidence and maturity.
“This game teaches you all the time,” Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said. “When we had a bad experience last year… [We had] days where we couldn’t put two passes together. We moved on and learned and got the team into the semifinals, so I have a group of players that I’m committed to with this project and today, obviously, wasn’t our day. It was one of those nights where nothing works out and we have to analyze the game and need to learn from it. We’ll keep pushing.”
The big question for Dallas will be how it responds next weekend when it hosts a surging Montreal, which is another of the three teams with a perfect six points through two games. It will be a great—and telling—early-season test.
Montreal looks like class of the East
On Saturday the Montreal Impact beat the New York Red Bulls—and beat them badly—by a 3-0 score. The result tells two separate stories: The first is that the Red Bulls have some serious questions to answer, and Jesse Marsch quickly has to address problems on both ends of the field. The second is that even without Didier Drogba in the lineup, Montreal is capable of producing some terrific soccer.
The fact that the Red Bulls have struggled defensively is not all that surprising when you consider that it has not replaced the injured Damien Perrinelle and the departed Matt Miazga in central defense. Until it does, defense will continue to be a weakness.
The team’s offensive shortcomings are more perplexing. After leading the league in scoring in 2015, New York returned its same group of midfielders and forwards—and has yet to tally in either of its first two games of 2016. Worse, it has produced just four shots on goal. If opponents have figured out how to neutralize the Red Bulls’ offense, Marsch needs to find a Plan B, and quickly
Montreal, on the other hand, has now taken down two of the league’s better teams in a storming start. The offseason acquisition of Harry Shipp is looking like a steal, and Ignacio Piatti has been perhaps the best player in the league after two weeks.
Just think how tough it will be to stop the Impact when Drogba actually suits up.
Quincy Amarikwa—just watch
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.