Here is Your Bag of Mail.

Happy April Fools Day.  We are committed to providing reliable professional journalism here at TotalMLS so we will spare you a wacky April Fools' gag.  I mean honestly, we just didn't think of a a very good one. I was going to do a press release stating that TotalMLS has been sold to the Chinese Super League, but would you all really have enjoyed that?  I didn't think so.  It's been an exciting week out there in soccer land. I don't know about all of you, but I feel refreshed and invigorated after the international break, and an interested in getting back to what matters: criticizing sub par Major League Soccer teams.  It's Mailbag time!

I can't think of an instance where a player has been retroactively awarded a yellow card.  Or had one rescinded other than due to mistaken identity.  I think if you get caught during a match a yellow card is fair.  it changes the way a cautioned player can go about playing the rest of the match.  It also serves as a fair warning to all the other players as well.  The punishment is harsher if you get away with it and alter the course of the match.  This seems fair to me.  If you are really good at embellishment and simulation, you get rewarded by not being penalized during the match and possibly winning your team a free kick or penalty.  But being good at embellishment and simulation is not something for which you should be congratulated. Hence, since the damage has already been done, the punishment is and should be harsher. 

-Ian L. 

Columbus will bounce back. In the East, it’s nearly an inevitability that the good teams will find their way to where they’re supposed to be. Looking back on last year, they began the season with five points in five games, and 17 points in the first 15. The first half of 2014 was abysmal after March with the team not gaining any traction until after the World Cup (11 points in 16 matches)! Despite their early season setbacks, they managed 2nd and 3rd in the East respectively. 

This April, on the surface, looks no different. Five matches, with three of them against West opponents, and trips to the far south (Dallas), far northeast (Montreal), and far west (Seattle), aren’t doing the club any favors. Compound the fact that the form of Steve Clark (not me, I swear) has been less than stellar, it becomes the responsibility of the front line of Higuain, Kamara, Finlay, and Meram to prove that the mantra of “offense is the best defense” isn’t just a 2015 Toronto thing.

Speaking of offense, I foresee a fun couple of evenings coming their way. Two of April’s opponents, NYCFC and Houston, lead the league in allowing shots (and Montreal isn’t far behind); and if it wasn’t for Luis Robles’ 2.66GAA, Willis and Saunders would lead that stat as well.

So, will the Crew find their footing and finish where they’re expected? Yes, they will. Luckily for them, they may find solid footing sooner than in years past.

-Steven C. 

Editor's Note: We’d like to introduce Steven Clark as our newest staff writer here at Total MLS! Steven will be a great addition to our staff. We hope you enjoy his contributions! Oh, one last thing… Please don’t confuse him with a certain starting GK for Columbus Crew SC

At face value there would seem to be a sort of limited return on investment for arguing with the ref.  I mean, we never really see them reverse or change a call do we?  And yet, every time there is a questionable call, the players go right to the ref and start jawing.  There is some conventional folklore in soccer where only the captain is allowed to go up and discuss things with the referee, but that certainly isn't the case any longer. I suppose that one could make a case that getting in the official's ear about your disgruntlement may subconsciously make him want to perhaps be more lenient or strict in the near future.  Make up calls DO happen even if they aren't supposed to. But, more to your question, where are the yellows?  A ref certainly has the right to dispense yellow cards for dissent.  You see it happen pretty frequently, but it is almost always given to one person who just simply won't back down.  I suppose when the players do surround the ref that he could technically caution each and every one of them, but it rarely happens.  This lesson sort of applies in other facets of rule enforcement.  It's a lot harder to enforce a rule that everybody is breaking.  I think that fans, officials, and players would prefer that cards be handed out only over dangerous play or outright cheating.  Nobody wants to see players get thrown off for dissent, even the refs, who are the ones being disrespected and intimidated.  Personally, I get a bad taste in my mouth when I see 9 players circling an official before a difficult call is made, but unless you want to see 9 cards handed out the discipline will probably need to be handled after the fact by the disciplinary committee.  Start docking allocation bucks for every time the ref's surrounded and you can bet those instances will stop in a hurry.  

- Ian L. 

If the first 4 weeks of the season are any indication of what we can expect from DC United in 2016, fans are in for a long and painful year, and it’s unfortunate. But then again, we’re only 4 games in…it’s kind of difficult to write someone off already. DCU’s biggest issues have clearly been defending and being able to find a consistent goal scorer. 4-1 and 3-0 losses to two teams that will likely be in the running for some silverware this season will be par for the course for more than just DC, but those losses exposed some key, fundamental issues facing this team. Two goals from 4 games is not going to cut it. With guys like Wondo and Amarikwa running at your back line for 90 minutes, DC cannot afford to make the same mistakes in defending that they made against Dallas. It’s easier said than done, I know, but we need to see the best of Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum to neutralize the creativity of San Jose, and that’s no simple task. In attack, it basically seems to fall on the shoulders of Lamar Neagle to produce due to Espindola’s inconsistency. Having Saborio back will hopefully give them a good shot in the arm though. 

As for summer upgrades, DC should focus their attention on finding a bonafide goal scoring threat. DCU are a balanced team as a whole; solid backline (on paper), good MLS quality midfield with depth. But in my opinion, unless Saborio and Espindola can rekindle their RSL magic from years passed, I wouldn’t be too keen on relying too heavily on them to produce at a consistent rate.

-Rob D. 

Well Kyle, I think conventional wisdom says that at some point a team with as much talent as Seattle has to stop the skid, right? I see this question having two parts. The first part being, “How good are the Sounders?” And the second part being, “How good are Montreal?” So, let’s take a look at the Sounders. If you’re a Sounders fan, there’s no questioning that this team has been more unlucky than they have been bad. They lost the first game off an error that their GK never makes. The second came from a FK that was awarded because of a flop compounded with an error from a GK making his first MLS start. And their third lost was… well… They got Geiger’d. But, I don’t think that tells the whole story. Looking at the breakdown of their chances this season, you’ll see that they aren’t finishing their chances at a rate that you’d expect them two, and also, they aren’t creating enough chances for a team of their caliber. Should the Sounders be 0-3? No, but it’s not all the fault of poor play. Secondly, you have to look at how good Montreal is. The simple answer is: they’re really good. Nacho Piatti is playing out of his mind. They have one of the best CB’s in the league in Ciman. Dominic Oduro is actually finishing his chances. And to boot, Drogba has only played 20 minutes so far this season. It’s still early in the season, but Montreal should be in contention in the Eastern Conference. As for this game though, I expect the Sounders to try to replicate what FC Dallas did with Piatti. FC Dallas neutralized Piatti going forward by marking him in the middle and not allowing him to get very many looks going forward. I expect Seattle to do the same, having Ozzie Alonso shadow Nacho. With all that to say, I think 1-1 is a fair expectation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Seattle manages to pull off a 2-1 win here. 

-Mark K. 

Looks like I got all of the officiating questions this week.  OK. This is an interesting question with a pretty simple answer.  The player gets punished for tricking the ref.  You don't punish the victim.  However, I'll go a little bit deeper because in wake of some of the controversial outcomes these last few weeks I've seen a lot of people calling for some form of punishment for referees.  Let's be clear.  Referees shouldn't get fined or suspended for missing calls, in the same way that players shouldn't be fined or suspended for misplacing passes, and managers shouldn't be fined or suspended for playing a dumb formation or making a questionable substitution.  In bigger football associations around the world, you'll see an official that has had a particularly bad match taken off the schedule for a week or two, or moved to linesman, or maybe working in a lower league for a while.  This is something that bigger organizations have the luxury of doing because they have a much larger pool of referees to draw from.  If the Major League Soccer referee pool had a sign it would say "no diving" if you know what I mean. None of this is to say that I don't get frustrated with officials, and I don't wish there was some form of accountability for truly terrible calls.  I was screaming for Geiger's head two weeks ago just like everybody else.  The fact of the matter is that sometimes a team gets lucky.  If I truly believed that the refs were corrupt or purposefully cheating, I wouldn't even be able to watch a match.  I don't. I believe they are fallible, and human, and dang if they don't have the ability to ruin my weekend.  Someday, we'll have robot refs and all of this will be a thing of the past. Until then, we got to play with the devil we know. 

-Ian L. 

If Jurgen Klinnsman has taught us one thing in his nearly 5 years as the National Team Coach, it’s that the unexpected should be expected. Every national team fan by now has probably been moaning for some time now that Jurgen tinkers with his lineups far too often. And because of that fact, fans are left unsure of the stability and foundation. This goes without saying everywhere on the roster, but certainly at Left-Back. My honest assessment of the situation is that regardless of what fans think (Hello, Robbie Rogers), Jurgen isn’t confident in any one player at the position to give that player the keys to the starting lineup. So, I think that throughout this cycle, unless someone like Brandon Vincent,  Desevio Payne, or Kellyn Acosta really comes out and blows Jurgen away, you’ll continue to see him putting players like Tim Ream (A centerback) and Edgar Castillo (someone not interested in defending very much) out there depending on what the situation calls for. 

- Mark K.