While Major League Soccer took a couple of weeks off for Copa America, we didn't open our mail. Now, as a result we have a lot to cover. Today: Brexit, Bruce Arena, Vancouver's DISCO troubles, Houston, San Jose, MacMath, and a whole lot more!
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The most honest answer anyone can give you right now? No idea. Like most things with the Brexit vote, it’s going to take up to several years to get all the details sorted out for how this affects British soccer. There are, however, a few good articles out that sum up some possibilities so I’ll throw out a few hypotheticals.
Players from EU countries
These guys are the ones who could be most affected. There are European countries that aren’t part of the EU (shout out to my Norwegians), but still adhere to the European Economic Area (EEA). One of the parts of the EEA is free movement of labor between members, which is what currently allows for players to move from one EU country to another without a work permit. So Britain could still be part of the EEA and there wouldn’t be much change at all in players from Europe moving there. For example, if you have an EU passport, you don’t have to get a work permit to play in Norway.
This will apply to players from outside Europe (including Americans or Canadians from MLS) the same way it always has. If a player doesn’t meet the criteria for national team games played, then the team and player can appeal and request a permit. Usually there’s not much of an issue for this, but players do get denied. Poor Juan Agudelo.
If Britain decides not to go with the EEA, all players holding EU passports will probably have to apply for work permits and that’s where you could see a bunch of guys getting denied. Could MLS pick off some of those players suddenly out of contract? Sure, but it would most likely be players coming from the lower tiers of English soccer.
In conclusion, I don’t think MLS will see much benefit from Brexit. But, like I said, no one actually knows right now. What’d I’d guess will happen is there will be some kind of special exception written that makes it easier for soccer players to come into the country, especially the Premier League. And even if new rules or laws keep players from transferring to England, I’d guess leagues in other EU countries (i.e. France, Italy and Spain) will end up being the first-choice destination rather than MLS.
Peter Vermes and Oscar Pareja are the easy answers. Vermes has an overall 116-79-61 record as a manager (since taking over Kansas City in 2009). He’s clearly done well in the Midwest since ending his playing career there. In fact, Pareja was named USSDA Academy Coach of the Year the same year Mr. Vermes took over in KC. Pareja’s record sits at 59-52-25 since taking over the Rapids in 2012, only to return to his beloved Dallas after two seasons in Denver.
The argument for Vermes is simple: he’s had an extensive career coaching and playing in MLS and for the United States at senior level. His coaching record is consistent as his teams are: Sporting KC has finished runners up in the Supporters Shield race twice, won a MLS Cup, twice won the US Open Cup, and won the Eastern Conference three times since his debut. KC is solid under Vermes, and he can take as much responsibility as anyone in the SKC marketing department for the complete revamp of that club.
For Pareja, there have been bright glimmers and also consistent displays of consistent, creative soccer for a coach that is in his fifth MLS season. He not only made FC Dallas a creative, counter-attacking set, but he did the same in Colorado his two years prior to his North Texas return. He is Colombian by nationality, but read any interview with the man and it’s easy to tell how much he believes in the talent dwelling in the bowels and on the surface of American soccer. He knows how to get it out of players as well: Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers were nearly co-Rookies of the Year. Fabian Castillo finally seemed to break out of his timid shell upon Oscar’s return. Even older league veterans like Jevaughn Watson seemed to play their best soccer under Pareja. If you do need to see an intelligent player that is built in the Pareja mould, it’s Victor Ulloa, who was brought back from non-contract obscurity by Oscar himself. His teams also play attractive soccer, filled with combinations and attacking flair.
If Klinsmann suddenly found himself heading for Southampton tomorrow, the best bet would be with Vermes. He has the pedigree. He has lived US soccer more than any other current manager around the globe. So, if the federation were to be suddenly swept up in a wave of nationalism and choose an American, there is no better choice than Vermes.
If you’d asked this question two years ago it would have been Jason Kreis, but we’ve sadly seen what oil money, the awkward and sometimes Byzantine machinery of MLS regulations, and aging European stars can do to a man.
Great question. Zac had a shaky start, but he has really become a solid starter for the best-defense-in-MLS Rapids. Issue is: Zac is making far too much money to be a backup, in my opinion. Frankly, he is also ready to be a starter in this league. Zac’s play has outlined that he’s ready, and that the Rapids were not so smart in buying a 37-year-old GK for that much money and a DP slot; seemingly, solely for butts in the seats. Do I think Zac is a great GK? No. I do feel that he is better than a few starters in this league, and the Rapids would be silly to keep him and Howard long term. Should they cash in now? Depends on whom it would be to, and what they are offering in return. Let’s say they do trade/sell MacMath come July 4th and Howard gets hurt, John Berner is then the starter. Do you want to entrust a first-place team to him? No chance. So, I think they will at least hang onto MacMath until the end of the season. At that point, they should trade him. Honestly, I would just have never purchased Tim in the first place, but that’s just me.
It looks like your team is Vancouver. Let’s just check this out here. Say… you don’t think it has anything to do with all of those rules that they break do you? Vancouver has gotten dinged a lot by the DISCO but to be honest, they all look pretty deserved to me. Vancouver has picked up six red cards already (SIX!) the next closest teams have three. They’ve got 33 yellows, and have committed the second most fouls in the league. They also employ Kendall Waston. These things are always going to lead to a number of parent-teacher conferences with the league. I know what you’re going to say “but those weren’t fair”. Yes they really were. Here I even made a handy video to watch! Here are all of the incidents that ran afoul of the Disciplinary Committee. I think Kudo’s may have been harsh, but he definitely embellished. No worse than I see others do every match though.
I’ve been asked this question quite a bit and it’s never an easy answer. There’s no quick fix for the Dynamo. It’s so difficult to predict things in this league. No one would have guessed Philadelphia and Colorado would be in first place in each conference but here they are. The Union and Rapids are good but why are they good and how did they bounce back so fast? They had a plan and they stuck with it.
What is the Dynamo plan? That’s the big question. They don’t have any young players that make you raise your eyebrows and their designated players are a forward that doesn’t play and a 30 something year old left back. Wade Barrett is going to make them better. I really believe that. He’s going to make their defense much better and those results are already starting to show. They could probably use another center mid. They need to score goals. Is that Cubo? Who knows. A reasonable acquisition for them is probably a trade for a forward in MLS. I don’t know who that might be but whoever it is will be a part of the process. Houston fans should be patient. It’s going to be a journey but they’ll get there. Just look at your Astros.
Bruce Arena’s seat should have been hot the minute the team went out for de Jong and Cole. But, given those acquisitions plus Gerrard’s and Keane’s waning time professionally, my guess is that Bruce outfitted the team with a last-ditch effort to nab something of value before they all retire, including Arena. It feels, to me, as if this is his swan song team before riding off onto either bigger things, or something more comfortable. Will he be fired midseason? No. Only some stupid boneheaded action would prompt that, and Arena has shown to be far more professional than to stoop to such a move. But to answer your question, his seat is not hot, nor will it be until the end of the season.
In the weird and wacky world of Major League Soccer anything is possible. Any team can catch fire late in the season and squeak into the playoffs so nothing is out of the question. And at this moment, the Earthquakes are in the playoffs, if you base seeding off of points per game they sit fifth in the Western Conference. Now holding onto and locking up one of those spots I can assure you is going to be a blood bath.
Here are the current Western Conference standings as of today based off PPG:
Of the four teams not currently in the playoffs, I think the Timbers will find their way in the top six. I also think the Sounders will crawl their way back into the picture as well. Be it that the Rapids seem like the real deal and barring a catastrophic fall they are a lock. As are RSL and I believe the Galaxy as well. To me, it only leaves Vancouver, San Jose, and FC Dallas battling with Portland and Seattle for the final three spots. Will FCD hit the wall like they seem to do every season, and hit it so hard that they fall out of contention? Maybe but I doubt it.
For my money, of those remaining four possibilities, the teams that show the best road prowess will make it in. The Earthquakes are killing it at home but can’t buy a win away from Avaya Stadium. Vancouver needs to start turning those road losses into at least road draws (if not a few wins). The same could be said about the Timbers and Sounders. Of the aforementioned teams, whichever ones can average 1.00 or more per game on the road for the season will make the playoffs. So to answer your question, yes they certainly can make the playoffs with the talent they have on paper. Whether they do or not depends on if they up their road game or not.
- Mike Crosky