With almost a quarter of the MLS 2019 season completed thought the time is right to take a look around the league and see what’s been happening. And there’s no better place to start than in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Orange and Blue started their inaugural season with a loss on the road to the Sounders and a road draw with Atlanta. But if there was any doubt as to whether Cincinnati was ready to support another professional sports team then that question was answered in a big way on Sunday March 17th. Hosting the Timbers for their first ever home MLS match, Nippert Stadium sold out to the tune of 32,250 fans, And those fans got to witness the clubs first ever win. A 3-0 victory over the Timbers. When their new West End Stadium is ready for the 2021 season looks like they will have no problems filling it to its 26,000 fan capacity for many home matches.
But for the early part of the season there has been no bigger news than the announcement made yesterday. The league has a new lofty goal to expand to 30 teams up from the previous target of 28 teams set in December of 2015. The league has 24 teams competing this year making it the largest first division soccer league in the world! Miami and Nashville will begin play next season with Austin joining the ranks in 2021. Advanced discussions are underway with Sacramento and St. Louis for future expansion although no decisions have been made. Even if those two cities proposals are ultimately accepted it still leave another totally open slot. Let the bidding begin!
So some interesting things happening big picture wise. Now lets look at the slate of games so far to see what trends may be developing. Who’s hot and who’s not?
Hot – DC United. They have simply started the season playing exceptionally well having gone 4-2-1 with their lone loss to LAFC. Although it was a pretty bad home loss losing 4-0. But outside that match they have only allowed 3 goals in their other 6 matches. That is some solid soccer.
Not – Atlanta United FC. The reigning MLS Cup Champions find themselves in 10th place having gone a paltry 1-2-2. Now granted they have played fewer matches than most every team in the league but a single win thus far has to be disappointing for the club and their fans. However the fans continue to support their club in mass. In fact for the period from 2013-2018, their attendance average ranked them #10 in the world. So they may not be playing hot right now but their tickets are still a hot commodity.
Hot – Columbus Crew. For a team that was almost moved they have been a rock playing at home thus far with 3 wins and a draw in MAPFRE Stadium. They currently sit second in the division a single point behind DC.
Not – New York. One of two cities in the league with two clubs and both are on the bad side of the cut line. While its early, the Red Bulls sit in 9th while City sits in 11th. About all the Red Bulls can brag about right now is that they are the best team in New York. But those bragging rights mean next to nothing if you fall short of the playoffs. To be fair though both of these clubs also have only played 5 matches so their position in the standings is a bit misleading. Still the two NY clubs combined record is 1-5-4. I guess the positive is the 5 draws but a single win compared to 4 losses is flat bad. No two ways about it.
Hot – Jozy Altidore. Five goals in five matches to start the season. Jozy is making a statement and wants back on the USMNT. Can he continue to score and stay healthy? Stay tuned.
Not – Sean Johnson. For a goalkeeper trying to get into contention for minutes with the USMNT this gaffe is one of the worst ever. Pretty hard to comeback with from this kind of a mistake. This one is just gawd awful bad.
Hot – Los Angeles. The polar opposite of New York. LA, the other city with two clubs is basking in glory right now. LAFC finds itself atop the conference (although they have played the most matches thus far in the league) and the Galaxy sit in third. Both teams have 4 wins at home in as many games and their composite record so far is an amazing 11-1-2. Yikes they are going to be tough teams to recon with all season playing like that.
Not – Portland Timbers. Dead last. Bottom of the barrel. No show. What else can you say. In their first 5 matches they have managed a lone draw to go with 4 losses. Now stay strong Timber fans. The good news is that your schedule has been very unkind thus far. You haven’t had a single home game yet. Things will get better. But they better get better in a hurry or they are in for a long season. They remind me of the baseball saying. “You can’t win the championship in April but you sure can lose it.”
Hot – Seattle Sounders. They have posted the best points/game in the league thus far having amassed 16 of a possible 18 points. The flip side to the Timbers though is that they have had a heavy home slate thus far. But its hard to argue with a 5-1-0 record. Hard to do much better than no losses in your first 6 matches!
Not – Colorado Rapids. The second worst team in the league with but two draws in their first 7 matches. In fact if Portland wins their next match at Columbus tomorrow then the Rapids would have the lowest point total in the league.
Hot – Carlos Vela. The star forward for LAFC leads the league in both goals scored AND assists. With 8 goals and 5 assists in 8 games no wonder teams are dreading playing LAFC right now.
Not – Anibal Godoy. The San Jose Earthquake midfielder leads the league with 4 yellow cards this far to go along with 14 fouls. Dude, stay on your feet!
So there are some early season thoughts. A long way to go and some teams are better than they have shown thus far. But now they have to go out and prove it.
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Written by Steve Birrer.Posted 1 year ago in Soccer.
Steve is an avid fan of all things soccer and the O's. Originally from the west, he grew up in the Baltimore area. He returned to the west for college where he earned a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Montana State University and spent 36 years working at the Idaho National Laboratory prior to retiring in 2013. It was during his school years in Baltimore where he learned to play soccer and that developed into a life long passion. He played competitively for over 40 years and was a four year starting goalkeeper at MSU. He also coached and refereed in the Idaho premier soccer and High School programs for many years.