PSL Five: MLS Season 18
- Updated: March 1, 2013
This week brings a double shot of the PSL Five, a new feature where we will look at the five most pressing questions facing a particular league, team or athlete. MLS kicks off a new season Saturday, the eighteenth for the top pro soccer league in the US. Old enough to vote, old enough to go to war against the rest of CONCACAF, but not yet old enough to drink (sorry, Free Beer Movement), the league enters 2013 in a period of transition.
In a business sense it is as far from the dark days of 2002 as can be, the third best at the gate of any league in the US, and seventh in the world. They have a much improved television presence as one of the anchors of the NBC Sports Network, and growing international cachet as players like Geoff Cameron, Brek Shea & Roger Espinoza move to sides in some of the top leagues in the world. Conversely the league has lost perhaps the only player to crossover into mainstream sports culture, with David Beckham departing for the frenchier confines of Paris Saint-Germain, while the best known American player, Landon Donovan, is off playing pickup games against Tug Speedman in the jungle villages of Cambodia. Like it was for so many of us, 18 will be a confusing time for MLS, but perhaps also a defining one. Here are our five questions.
Is a three-peat in the stars for the Galaxy?
The two time defending champs will look to the local basketball team for inspiration as they attempt something no MLS side has ever accomplished, back-to-back-to-back MLS cups. The hill will be a lot steeper this time out, with no Beckham, a possibly mentally-checked-out Landon Donovan, and a year-older Robbie Keane wearing the armband. Still, they will have a full season of Omar Gonzales and a strong rookie of the year candidate in home grown Gyasi Zardes. Don’t sleep on Bruce Arena, Tim Leiweke & Chris Klein either; with an open DP slot and AEG’s bankroll burning a hole in their pocket, another impact player is a likelihood in the summer transfer window.
Speaking of stars, is El Chelis living in an absolut world?
Seeking to single-handedly undo the treat of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the new head coach of Chivas USA, brought on by now sole team owner Jorge Vergara, has conducted a gringo fire sale the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Emperor Maximilian I cleaned out his garage at the point of a bayonet. Remaking LA’s lesser club in the image of their big brothers in Guadalajara by selling off non-latin players for pennies on the dollar, bringing in Mexican-Americans and Primera reservists. Whether this is informed by tactics or marketing, its the first time its ever been done wholesale in the leagues short history (though Joey Sapputo may be trying to move the Impact into Serie A, Caleb Porter seems to be turning the Timbers into a work-study program out of the Akron athletic office and John Hackworth may replace Doop with a song from Team America: World Police). Its almost bound to fail, but if it works it could be a management revolution.
DC United, in need of a proven goalscorer to complement Dwayne Derosario & Chris Pontius, signed el Pescadito himself, Carlos Ruiz. While it might be effective in the short term, there is almost no way bringing in the infamously divisive diver ends well. In addition, it sullies the name of one of the truly great teams in the history of American soccer. DC deserves better.
Sunshine state of mind?
It’s widely expected that the 20th MLS team will be announced this season, most likely in July at the All-Star game in Kansas City. While New York getting the team has been viewed as a fait accompli for some time, a recent push by top USL-Pro side Orlando City has many seeing them as a potential dark horse. A new Brazilian investor with loaded pockets and plans to break ground on a stadium this year could see the Lions jump the queue ahead of the city that never sleeps.
Mark it down: 2013 will be the year of Michael Farfan. Every year a star emerges from the great mass of MLS players, and this season the stars all seem to be aligning for the Philadelphia Union’s nimble midfielder. Handed the keys to the offense by John Hackworth, Farfan has a team around him almost tailor made to his skillset, with speedy wingbacks on either side, a true target forward in new acquisition Conor Casey, and two steady holding mids to clean up behind him in Brian Carroll & Amobi Okugo. At 24, Farfan seems poised to make the same jump Graham Zusi made two years ago with Sporting Kansas City, from a promising attacker to an elite playmaker, with the temperment to be a true leader on the pitch. It should be an exciting season in Chester.
Agree? Disagree? Think Maximilian I was treated shabbily? Let us know in the comments.