MLS Weekend Review
Red Bulls Beat NYCFC as Sigi's Sounders Sputter
July 25, 2016
THE NEW YORK DERBY lived up to the hype, the Seattle Sounders are a hot mess, and one of the most exciting players in the league appears to be leaving for Turkey. Here are my thoughts on a busy weeked in Major League Soccer.
Castillo sale will alter the West
Reports surfaced that FC Dallas was close to selling Fabian Castillo to a Turkish club. This news escalated when Castillo was not on the gameday roster on Saturday night for FC Dallas’ showdown with Colorado—a matchup between the top two teams in the Western Conference.
Should the move happen, it will help FC Dallas’ bottom line. The club will have the ability to spend more on players or reinvest in its already-strong academy. Dallas is run well and seems to have a strong vision. Over the long run, the money could help the club. In the short term, this puts a huge dent in its title aspirations.
With Castillo, FC Dallas is the best and most talented team in the league. Castillo is a true difference maker who can play with the explosiveness few in the league can match. His rabona assist last weekend was one of the best plays in the history of the league.
Without Castillo, Dallas will lose a huge offensive weapon. Even when Castillo did not score or assist, he was a nightmare to contain. Other players on the team will now have to step up and play well beyond what is expected of them. It will be a huge challenge.
On the positive side, however, Dallas looks like it will cash in. If there is a team in MLS that will use the money wisely in the long run, it will most likely be Dallas. Will Oscar Pareja and Fernando Clavijo find the next Castillo? I like their chances.
Sacha and BWP shine in Derby
Sunday's installment of the Hudson River Derby was yet another dominant display of soccer from the New York Red Bulls. While New York City FC won the most recent outing on July 3, the Red Bulls own this series and have won five of six since it began in 2015.
While it didn’t match the 7-0 scoreline from May, Sunday’s 4-1 rout from the Red Bulls was entirely convincing. Bradley Wright-Phillips scored twice, Sacha Kljestan converted a penalty, and Ronald Zubar headed home a corner kick. Tommy McNamara scored a wonder goal in the loss (and almost added another which instead hit the crossbar).
Wright-Phillips has been the story of the Hudson River Derby and the Englishman truly seems to enjoy the rivalry. He has dominated the proceedings, registering eight goals in the six games.
As solid as Wright-Phillips was, Kljestan was the best player on the field on Sunday, logging a goal and two assists. The former Seton Hall University standout thrived as the Red Bulls controlled this game from the start.
It wasn’t just Kljestan who gave the game a nice local flair, Red Bulls’ rookie midfielder Alex Muyl from New York continues to shine and his fine header set up the second from Wright-Phillips.
At first, this Derby felt artificially contrived by the league—similarly to the pathetic “Superclasico” between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. But there is no question that just about every time the teams face off, there is something to talk about. Mike Grella nutmegging Frank Lampard; Matt Miazga’s dominant display and home run celebration; the 7-0 humiliation; and Sunday's clash, which saw Patrick Vieira being sent off after arguing with officials.
In the middle of the week, Jesse Marsch publically questioned the referees handling of Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, and David Villa. The Red Bulls coach was fined for his remarks. Following the game, Vieira fumed, saying that Marsch influenced the referees.
“I think there's two ways of seeing it,” Vieira said. “Yes, it can be the emotion. It can be the comment from Jesse during the week that influenced the referee. And I think everybody has to analyze the situation. I think, when you put in a question mark on the referee's credibility before it begins, that can have an impact, and I think you will agree it had an impact on the referee's performance today. And I feel sorry because we came here to play a good game and to play a Derby game.”
While Vieira was sent off, he refused to shake Marsch’s hand in the tunnel afterward.
“I mean, he never said anything to me,” Marsch said. “That's all I can say. He didn't want to shake my hand in the hallway. But I've seen this from him after the game before. So it's not a problem. I'm going to focus on us, which I think the game was decided by the players, and in every way our players put a big imprint on the game.”
Sigi could be on the hot seat
Adrian Heath and Owen Coyle have already been sacked this year and Seattle's Sigi Schmid could be next in line. The Sounders are having an awful season and with Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City, it is now 10 points out of a playoff spot.
“When a team doesn’t play well then there is a lot of things that as a coach, the guy that has to take the responsibility, has to ask oneself: Were we technically set up the right way, did we get the stuff out of them or put in the performance that we were expecting?” Schmid said afterward. “There are all kind of things. At the end of the day, we were not good today. Sometimes you have a day where you are not good.”
Schmid has won two MLS Cups, three Supporters’ Shields, and five U.S. Open Cups. But this is a high-profile team on a downward spiral. Firing Schmid would be tough, but it surely must be under consideration right now. The club has scored just 20 goals in 20 games (helped by a five-goal outbust against a Dallas team that started team mostly reserves) despite having Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris, and others.
It’s an ugly situation.
Drogba exposes a poor Union effort
Last year Didier Drogba put on an incredible performance in the second half of the season and helped lift a bad Montreal team into the playoffs.
This year, Montreal is once again flying under the radar as most of the attention in the Eastern Conference has been on the two New York teams, Philadelphia’s surprise run, and Sebastian Giovinco at Toroto.
On Saturday, Montreal demolished Philadelphia 5-1 in a performance that was even more lopsided than the score. It was a total mismatch from the opening whistle and the highlight was Didier Drogba’s hat trick—which was almost too easy.
The Impact has not been a consistent team, but when it is firing on all cylinders it is as good as any team in the Eastern Conference. If fans are looking for another surprise in a season which has been full of them, a deep run from Montreal in the playoffs seems like a good place to start.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia had its worst game of the season and it was clear that playing 120 minutes on Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup loss took its toll.
The Collapsing Crew
Coming into Saturday’s game between Columbus Crew SC and Orlando City SC, the former were looking to right the ship and the latter were prepping for Jason Kries' arrival as its new head coach.
Orlando rallied for a valuable point on the road with Cyle Larin getting the late equalizer. Columbus once again squandered more points after having a lead. Ahead, at home, against a struggling opponent, Columbus once again displayed a lack of quality.
The Crew should have been a contender to win the Eastern Conference this year. Now it will need a big run to make the playoffs. Head coach Gregg Berhalter lamented afterward when asked what he could do to save the season.
“That’s a good question,” Berhalter replied. “We’re going to have to ask some hard questions these next couple of days, and hopefully come up with some good answers because as you said, up 2-0 coming out in the second half, it should be burning. Every duel we should be going in like it’s our last one. We have a chance now to start rising. And I didn’t see that. That’s a problem.”