Welcome to America to the Americans who are coming home. Get ready to play in a league that isn’t as good as the one you were sitting on the bench watching! There were some big moves for MLS teams bringing in USMNT bubble players over the past week. Joe Corona brought his talents to the LA Galaxy from Mexico since he didn’t impress Oscar Pareja in Tijuana and Miguel Herrera has decided that Club America can win LigaMX without him. Perennial next big thing Gedion Zelalem will fight for playing time in Kansas City under Peter Vermes. Also joining them is Kenny Saief who will be able to test himself against a higher level of competition in MLS than he’d find in Belgium with FC Cincinnati. What does that move mean for Corben Bone? How did Corona and Saief fare? Let’s find out.
Concacaf Champions Losers
Every single MLS based team lost in their opening quarter-final legs of the CCL. It didn’t matter who the team was, how they prepared, if they were home or away - they lost and it didn’t look good. The teams combined for one goal scored and allowed nine. The defending MLS Cup champs lost 3-0 to a very talented Monterrey team while the Supporters’ Shield winners NY Red Bulls rotated in MLS and sent their well rested starters to lose 2-0 at home to Santos Laguna. Houston lost to Tigres 2-0 and Jaylin Lindsey and Kelyn Rowe got the start against Independiente with Gianluca Busio coming off the bench for nine minutes in the 2-1 SKC loss.
Starting with Saief
The sometimes injured and in and out of favor in Belgium Kenny Saief had as ideal of a debut as he could have hoped for coming off of the bench for FCC. The midfielder came on in the 73rd minute against Atlanta United and got a game-tying assist for his club’s first ever point in MLS.
It’s not an eye-popping assist and Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez looked every bit the defender who is looking forward to having a night off against Monterrey on Wednesday, but it was a nice pass to pick out and fight for space to make late against a team that had been shutting down the Cincinnati attack until then. I think Corben Bone’s days are numbered.
Joe not quite to the rescue
Things went about as well as they could have for a team without Zlatan or their best playmaker. The LA Galaxy took on FC Dallas with Chris Pontius at striker and got shut out 2-0 in Texas. Joe Corona went the full 90 and Efrain Alvarez put a shot on goal after coming on for Sebastian Lletget in the 59th minute (that’s Matt Hedges having no idea how to defend the teenager in the highlight).
Check out the Youth Update to see Paxton Pomykal’s assist and some other young Yanks in MLS this weekend.
Goals for Gyasi
It’s March so you know what that means! Time for Gyasi Zardes to be tied for most goals in MLS once again. Everyone’s favorite American striker scored two goals against the New England Revolution. His first effort was a header in the box off of a nice service from Pedro Santos while his second one showed that if nobody challenges him he is capable of having a good first touch as he put the game out of reach for Columbus.
Like James through an hour glass
It’s early on the year, but James Sands has two starts for NYCFC and anchored the midfield against a very dangerous DC United team. Sands completed 59 passes, made four interceptions, four blocks, and five tackles in the game. His effort helped keep at cleansheet for his team in their home opener.
Learning new skills
One of the key things any American soccer player can learn it’s how to develop their Concacaf skills. Corey Baird put on an absolute clinic with his masterful drawing of a penalty against the Vancouver Whitecaps. There might not have been contact, but the forward felt contact whatever the actual and not-VAR reviewed play showed after looking at again.
Ibarra squeezing limes
Miguel Ibarra might be somewhat unsung in MLS. He’s had a career that has wound from NASL to LigaMX and then to the top domestic league. On the way he got a quick look with the USMNT, but doesn’t quite seem to have what it takes to be a regular call-up for the Stars and Stripes. He’s found a place in Minnesota playing a variety of roles across the midfield. He scored the second Loons goal against the San Jose Earthquakes on a nice run after taking a pass from Darwin Quintero. If you catch the second replay you can also see right back Nick Lima failing to keep possession of the ball as Quintero takes it from him to set up the goal.
Insert Fyre Festival joke here
Ahead of the MLS season a new sports streaming service popped up - FloSports. The service bought the rights to several soccer events including the Concacaf Nations League Qualifiers and also for DC United and FC Cincinnati broadcasts. Let’s say it’s been a rough start. For one thing, for fans in DC who already subscribe to ESPN+ they also have to subscribe to an additional service. In Cinci, similar issues popped up and fans are also upset about the move as it seems to be set to shut out viewing areas in the region. The Pride supporters group put out a statement detailing their objections to the deal:
Meanwhile, DC United fans got to not watch their team for parts of their game in New York as the stream cut in and out during the first half and was mistakenly blocked when it shouldn’t have been.
The move to ESPN+ may have resolved a problem that MLS had with needing a new streaming service for the league and perhaps made it available to an audience who may not otherwise subscribe to MLS Live. It seems like the regional streaming deals like the one with Flo Sports or You Tube is actually making it harder for local fans to access matches. The league has never had good TV viewership and it’s difficult to see how that will change with the problems that streaming services have presented.