Happy Friday friends and acquaintances! Unlike a majority of MLS teams, we aren't scared to play through the International break. To be fair, nobody on staff got offered a call-up this round, but we've got a lot of high hopes for some of our more promising prospects. As we speak, the cheapest immigration attorneys money can buy are working to get Rob US citizenship so that he can represent America at the highest level. Just don't tell Rob. He's going to be very surprised.
Ok, who's first?
It's the salary cap without a doubt. The rest of the issues you mentioned are mere annoyances that can USUALLY (looking at you Drogba, and don't think I don't see you slinking away Thierry) be alleviated with a big enough paycheck. The travel can definitely be burdensome, but I can't see too many players saying "nope, not gonna fly that much". Well, I guess Dennis Bergkamp would have said that. Turf is turf. It's not going anywhere anytime soon and it's only going to get more grasslike and easier to maintain and care for than natural surfaces. You aren't likely to see any major evolutionary advancements by natural grass, so I think eventually all professional stadiums will be using an artificial surface or at least some form of hybrid. Refs are always going to make bad calls no matter what league you play in. It's not as if MLS officiating crews are out and out corrupt (although...that Geiger call. Nah...). The United States isn't going to get any smaller (probably). Grass isn't going to get any cheaper (probably), and Refs aren't going to get any less fallible (definitely). So the salary cap, and the money it can offer better talent is the main thing that needs to change before MLS can hope to become an elite league.
To me, this is a question of which teams have the staying power and which teams are slow out of the gates. 3 games is not a comprehensive data sample by any means, but it’s given us a bit of info on every team. Let’s look at the West. You currently have 3 teams above the red line that missed the playoffs last year in San Jose, Houston, and Real Salt Lake. Below the line you have the 2015 MLS Cup Champions, the Vancouver Whitecaps, and the Seattle Sounders (the only MLS team without ANY points). I think by the latter half of July, the quality of those teams below the red line will find a way to get themselves ahead of those other 3 teams.
As for the East, I think things are a little more solidified. You have two teams in the Union and NYCFC that weren’t in the playoffs last year. And then there’s Columbus all the way at the bottom. I think Columbus finds a way out of the gutter (just like Seattle), but don’t sleep on the Union or NYCFC. I think both those teams have shown that they’re different (and better!) teams than last year, and New England and DC United have shown the opposite.
I'm not sure, but I can tell you it's only going to get more expensive when you factor in the cost of therapy you're going to need after all of the withering judgmental stares you'll get for purchasing and owning that ugly shirt. Can we take a minute and recognize just how out of control the pricing for these things are. Let's add these to hotel rooms, airline fares, medical bills, and beef jerky as things that need to turn up the chill on their pricing scheme. I'd be unsure about this kind of purchase at 60 bucks.
Anyway, I actually did some research on your real question and the answer is that basically Nike did it because Nike can do it. I understand wanting to have the best, but you don't need an authentic jersey complete with extra water repellant and tighter body fit. You're going to be drinking beer and trying not to spill nacho cheese on it. Buy a counterfeit.
Ah, the big question in Houston. If only we could all get inside Owen Coyle's head. (It would be a fascinating place.)
To answer this question I need to start with Will Bruin. Houston has 13 goals in their first three games and Bruin has been fantastic as a lone striker. His hold up play is great and his finishing has improved drastically. In this current formation that the Dynamo are playing with one forward, Bruin is not going to the bench any time soon, barring an injury.
This leaves quite the conundrum for the Dynamo front office. Cubo takes up a valuable DP spot and if he's going to sit the bench, that's a waste of a big resource. Can they trade him? Sure, but they'd probably be lucky to get 50 cents on the dollar. For now, I think they play Cubo sparingly behind Bruin and quietly shop him to other MLS teams or maybe LigaMX.
My short answer to this is: No. I think that the red card issue speaks to a bigger issue of an ill-disciplined team and a leaky defense. RSL should have won against Orlando, but gave up two goals. Nick Rimando made other-worldly saves against Seattle, and a Sunny flop led to their game-winning goal. They were up 2-nil on the road against the defending champs (despite the early red), before they collapsed late again. Granted, it’s only been three games, but we’ve learned 2 things about RSL: They’re going to score a lot, and also concede a lot. I think over the course of the season, their defense will let them down too many times for them to be serious contenders.
Brek is an enigma. And I'm not talking about his hair or fashion sense. He's started to play a little higher up field in Orlando so his days as a left wing back may be over. Left midfield seems a little tricky.
If Jurgen plays a 4-3-3 he wants wingers like Gyasi Zardes, Ethan Finlay, Jordan Morris, etc. Younger guys than Shea. I personally think Brek has something to offer to the US National Team but then again, I'm not Jurgen, and I have no idea what he is thinking at times. That being said, I think Shea still may have a chance at making the roster for Copa America this summer.