Weighty expectations exacerbating Sounders' sophomore slump
Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things to take away from Week 16:
The Seattle Sounders know a bit about this poisonous effect. A sophomore side would typically be satisfied with a 5-8-4 mark -- not completely sated, but not reaching for the reset button, either -- but last year's blazing-fast start robbed the Sounders of the chance to grow slowly into their own skin. Any club's paying customers want to see yearly improvement, and last year's eye-opening start and eventual playoff appearance recalibrated how Seattle fans measure success. Now, there are an awful lot of yellers and screamers adding pressure and multiplying the burden of expectations.
As it is,
And while the Ljungberg drama plays out, management must answer for another choice that now looks awful: leaving
Le Toux is having a phenomenal year. He has seven goals and seven assists, putting the unheralded Frenchman among the league leaders in both categories. He's a huge part of the reason Philadelphia is well positioned at this point -- relatively speaking, of course.
The Union hve at least one game in hand on most Eastern opponents. And because of the June completion date of the Union's awesome new PPL Park, league officials back-loaded the Philly schedule with home matches. So while that 4-8-2 record may not overwhelm, consider it was built while playing twice as many road matches as home.
"I say that this is still a work in progress, and it really is," Nowak said after Saturday's late win over Toronto. But he also noted his players are getting better, and smarter.
Considering all that, and considering how little was expected of Nowak's young team, Philadelphia doesn't look too shabby at all. Young talents like
Few MLS players are more valuable to their team right now. Le Toux drives the attack with a fearless audacity and tremendous store of energy. He hits great restarts, including Saturday's perfectly placed corner kick to the near post that led to
SuperLiga's time may have already come and gone.
In 2007, the league had a hot, fresh property in
Beckham, of course, isn't even the league's most high-profile man anymore. That'd be
MLS more or less made up a reason to put the Galaxy in SuperLiga in '07, but it won't have as easy a time shoehorning Henry and the Red Bulls into the money-making fray.
More importantly, we now have the CONCACAF Champions League. In terms of brand equity and market recognition, the so-called CCL remains a small order of fries. Still, it's a legitimate regional tournament with a real reward: admittance into the FIFA World Club Championship.
SuperLiga? The trophy does look pretty nice. But that's about it.
It's also difficult to look past SuperLiga's redundancies. New England played Chicago over the weekend -- not as part of MLS action, but in SuperLiga. Same with Houston-Chivas USA.
What's more, truly name-brand clubs are lining up to take part in the North American money grab. Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenman, Club America, Celtic, Real Madrid and European champion Inter Milan are among the teams currently here or set for arrival for training and exhibitions. After seeing that list, it's difficult to get fired up over the Pachuca-Puebla we had Sunday in Houston. At the very least, it's hard to see how an afternoon against Morelia of Mexico will do as much for MLS (and for the economic bottom line) as a friendly against one of these other power clubs.
This is how the DP dance in MLS really should work. And this is how it will continue to work; anybody sitting around waiting for
Now Castillo joins Chicago on loan. The club has an option to buy, but the price may climb beyond reach if the Mexican international does well. Still, it's a shoe that fits for MLS -- an attacker in the sweet spot age-wise, but one who needs his career shocked back to life. For now, everybody wins. Castillo gets back to a place where global soccer deciders will see him and Chicago supersizes an attack that already has the dynamic
Of course, all the positive DP vibes could go the other way if