There was a LOT of mail this week. Usually we have our staff fighting over the scraps, but there was plenty to go around this time, and I appreciate you all writing in. We've got a good round-up of thoughts coming your way. We're gonna talk coaches on the hot-seat, we're gonna talk about the league's best striking tandems, we're going to parlay about the woes of Houston and whether or not the Whitecaps are melting. There's something for all of you that are interested in Leicester City's title odds and the upcoming relegation battle. There's also something for those of you that just hit refresh on this site all day every day just waiting to hear what we think Jason Kreis is going to do next (we know you're out there. Tim). This week our panel includes such esteemed members of the staff as Dustyn, Ian, Mike, Rob, Anders, Cory, and Tyler.
Let me start by asking you this: how many red cards does Jermaine Jones have in his MLS career? No cheating! If you’re like me, you’re shocked to look up the answer and find it’s one. One red card across 37 games (including playoffs) in three years. Of course, that one red card was memorable.
So with that in mind, let’s break this down. We know Jones is a guy who can and will put in a strong tackle. We also know MLS referees have tightened up and cracked down on hard tackles this year. You slide in with studs showing, you run the risk of an early shower. That combination is enough to convince me Jones will probably see red at least once this season for a tackle destined to become fodder for Kurtis Larson’s crusade.
There are, however, a couple of factors that should keep his red card total down.
First of all, he's going to miss a few matches due to Copa America. Secondly, let's look at how he’s being used by the Rapids. Jones is being deployed much farther up the field than we’re used to. He’s not being called on very often for last-ditch defending or tactical fouls, the kind of stuff that comes with being a defensive/deeper-lying midfielder. Taking everything into account, I’ll say Jermaine Jones ends 2016 with one (controversial) red card in MLS.
It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Dynamo in 2016. The first three games saw Houston score eleven goals, while conceding seven. Since then, they’ve only scored three in five games, conceding nine times (four of those in one game). The three goals scored by the Dynamo in that time? A Giles Barnes golazo, a David Horst tally in the opening minute, and a Leonel Miranda deflected effort.
So, who are they? The high powered offense with a leaky defense or a decent defensive side that can’t score? It's hard to determine what is truly wrong with them without knowing exactly who they are between the white lines. To me, they’re a team trying to play a defensive game and grab goals on counters. This is the problem to me.
Unleash the firepower. There is zero reason for Chaco Maidana, Will Bruin, AND Cubo Torres to start a game on the bench. Run at teams, be creative, look at the Dallas game. Will this mindset lead to conceding more goals? Sure. Who cares? Like I said on the Total MLS Show this week, there’s no reason to play for a point if you're at the bottom of the table. You aren't in a relegation battle. You may lose 4-3 like you did in New Jersey but you’ll also blindside teams and blow them out, i.e. Dallas. In lieu of a detailed plan to fix the team, just let the horses out of the barn.
Good Question, Johnny V! Between Petke and Kreis, Jason is the clear frontrunner to land a job first.
As a Red Bull supporter, I was irate when Petke was unceremoniously fired by Ali Curtis and company. I did think Petke was in over his head as manager but had earned the right to keep the position after leading New York to its two most successful seasons. He interviewed for the Chicago Fire head coaching gig last fall but obviously that went to Veljko Paunović.
I do not know how many professional head coaching gigs will come his way. While I could see him being brought on as an assistant somewhere, I also question whether or not Mike wishes to uproot his family from the NY/NJ area. This of course would leave him with some limited options like another stint with RBNY (unlikely), a spot with crosstown rival, NYCFC (can’t imagine Mike doing that), or the Cosmos (more likely than the others). Petke recently accepted a position as Director of New Jersey's Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program. I don’t see him leaving that post anytime soon.
I loved Petke as a player and liked what he brought to the table as coach too but I think his current position suits him quite well. You never know, the itch may come back for him to get back into the pro game again. Personally, in a few years once the dust has completely settled from his firing, I’d like to see him as an assistant with RBNY again.
As for Kreis, after his premature removal as head man at NYCFC, he was brought into Jurgen Klinsmann’s January USMNT camp as an assistant. I think a head position in MLS is just a matter of time and fit for him. He has won a lot of games in MLS, including an MLS Cup so he will be a top candidate for any vacancy that comes about. What better way for an expansion team to makes waves than to bring on a guy like Kreis?! NYCFC was too impatient for their own good. I certainly could see him being successful with a new expansion team. Management would just need to understand the intricacies of MLS and have patience. Honestly, I’d be shocked if within the 2016 calendar year Kreis isn’t named head coach of an MLS team somewhere.
We all know the answer for this is Owen Coyle, right? The man, despite beating FC Dallas 5-0 a month ago, hasn’t won since that illustrious drubbing of their I-45 rivals. That puts the Dynamo at 1-2-5, and the proverbial basement of league. With players playing out of position and general discontent being displayed towards Coyle (even on the field. We’re looking at you, DaMarcus), it’s looking likely that Coyle will be the first manager handed a pink slip in 2016. He’s also received the dreaded vote of confidence from the board in Houston, which only really means that Oscar de la Hoya is now legally obliged to give the Scot a solid right hook, pink slip in hand, upon his exit from BBVA Compass.
Compare Coyle’s plight to that of El Chelis at Chivas USA. Chivas blazed through the first 5 games of 2013, going undefeated in that stretch. They then went winless for the next seven matches, culminating in Chelis’ sacking at the end of May. Could Coyle last that long? Which happens first: the Dynamo winning five matches or Coyle’s exit?
There are others, though.
Sigi Schmid needs to make the playoffs. Badly. It is more than likely his last year in Seattle if he can’t make the Sounders a playoff-worthy team, and especially one that can do what none of Sigi’s Sounders teams have done as of yet: make the MLS Cup final.
Jay Heaps has heaped a ton of logs haphazardly onto his own funeral pyre in New England. They do love a good witch burning in that part of the country. But drawing seven times in ten games doesn’t inspire confidence to Robert Kraft and company. His saving grace is really just how solid New England have been for the past two seasons, and the fact that despite those draws they have only lost twice. Jay is fine...for now.
Does Jesse Marsch deserve pressure? He’s basically earned a stay of execution in New York since NYRB have won their past two matches despite losing the previous four. The Red Bulls need to help their manager win away from home this season, however, as Marsch finds his side winless away from Red Bull Arena in 2016. Mike Grella’s current form and BWP’s recently-located shooting boots should add to the chances of the Red Bulls gaining their first win outside of New Jersey/New York/Hoboken/Camden/Connecticut/Long Island. Marsch’s job remains intact for the time being.
Owen Coyle’s your guy, though. Was it ever in doubt? Fortunately, Jason Kreis is suddenly going to find himself in high demand.
It depends I guess. If we're talking about "so far', than yeah. If we're talking about "potentially", then I'd say also yeah. RSL has 14 goals this season. Plata has four of them and Movsisyan has two. To be fair, I think Movsisyan has had two goals wrongly marked off for offside infractions, but I haven't taken that into account for anyone else so that won't factor in here. It's a tough call and RSL are definitely up there. However, we also should look at the Galaxy who have Dos Santos and Keane with four and three respectively. There's also Adi (7) and McInerney (3) at Portland. Let's not forget our surprise contestants so far this season in Philadelphia who boast CJ Sapong (4), Chris Pontius (4) and Sebastien Le Toux (2). It's probably too early to say anything definitively, but I'm comfortable putting RSL in the top four or five. Their forwards are great, but it's also their midfield strength that's got them playing such eye-catching and match winning soccer.
I think I can provide you with a bit of hope. On paper, the Whitecaps are already among that top tier in MLS, as they’ve proven for the past couple of years now. They have all the right pieces from top to bottom, and with the Great Dane protecting goal, there’s no reason why this team won’t be able to turn it around and turn a rough start into a strong finish.
What it comes down to really, is production. Pedro Morales has 4 goals; a decent total thus far. However, all 4 of those goals have come from the penalty spot. Not a single one from open play or even a free-kick. Kekuta Manneh, Octavio Rivero, and Blas Perez share a grand total of just 2 goals between them. Not good. Considering Kendall Waston and Jordan Harvey, two defenders, have a combined 3 goals between them, well let’s just say their forwards need to do better in front of goal.
Defending has also become an issue. When you’ve allowed 15 goals in 10 games, it puts you top 5 in worst goals against in MLS. Not a good look for a generally strong defending team. David Ousted can only do so much, which is why, although the Whitecaps are struggling, he’s still statistically among the best in MLS.
I think you can take solace in the fact that: It’s still relatively early in the season, and with the talent they have, it’s inevitable that the strikers and midfielders responsible for scoring goals will get hot at some point…it’s just a matter of when and if it happens too late.
If you’re indirectly asking me if I think the Whitecaps will make the playoffs, I still say yes, despite how difficult the West is.
So be hopeful! It’s a long season. Things are bound to turn around eventually.
I'm not surprised that Leicester aren't odds-on favorites to repeat, and if anything they should be comfortable with this designation. I really hope Leicester do go on to repeat again. Probably my favorite thing about this entire Leicester saga was the way that it really threw the concept of conventional "soccer wisdom" out the door. Show me the pundit that said "Listen, Leicester is going to be around the top four come May" and I'll show you someone that's worth really paying attention to. Leicester's complete refusal to play ball with a standard narrative is what was so confounding to the people whose job it is to comment, analyze, and explain soccer to you. The players weren't surprised and the fans certainly didn't mind. Even when they won it, we still saw a ton of think-pieces from journalists claiming that the best team, Tottenham, had lost it. It's amazing when you see a miracle like that and then immediately try to explain it away. It's a good thing there weren't people writing think-pieces when Jesus was doing his thing. Can you imagine? "The loaves and fish were nice, and all credit to Jesus for feeding the 5000, but you've got to ask yourself if this bread and fish were merely there to mask his lack of steak and Dr. Pepper."
Anyway, I digress. Is 25-1 disrespectful? Kind of. Repeating is hard for a number of factors for even the best teams in the world. A lot of people will have viewed Leicester's ascendency this year as having more than a hint of good fortune, and staying near the top next season is the only way that they're going to prove those people wrong. Playing in Europe is also going to test their squad depth a bit as the travel and competition involved might not be something that the Foxes are quite used to just yet.
Let's not sleep on them AGAIN though. Surely we learned our lesson about counting out Ranieri's boys. Vardy and Mahrez are staying, and Drinkwater is rumored to be signing a new deal. They've got a lot more money and clout then they are used to when it comes to signing players, and I expect them to make some moves this summer. I don't see any reason to think this team won't be better come next season.
25-1 odds? Consider me in for $20.
This answer could come down to the last day of the season, but I think Norwich and Sunderland go down. With Newcastle having a one-point lead and Villa still to play (albeit both Norwich and Sunderland have a game in-hand), I find it difficult to see them going down. The Canaries’ still play Manchester United, Watford, and Everton. Sunderland still have to play Chelsea, Everton, and Watford. Given the remaining schedules and my thought on form, I would say:
Chelsea beats Sunderland, Manchester United beats Norwich, and Newcastle beats Aston Villa. I think Sunderland gets a maximum of two points from the remaining two matches and Norwich gets a maximum of one off of their remaining matches. I also think Tottenham draws with Newcastle on the final day.
Newcastle – 37
Sunderland – 34
Norwich – 32