xN is our weekly look at what you can expect to read, write, and discuss about Major League Soccer this week. We take a look at each prospective narrative and rate it based on its strength and whether or not it has any actual merit.
And so the Stahre era has ended. San Jose sit forlornly near the bottom of the table, a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Sporting Kansas City, not being so much the straw that broke the camel’s back as someone finally coming to the realization that people weren’t going to stop dropping straws on this poor broken camel unless somebody moved it.
I’ve been quietly optimistic about San Jose for a couple of seasons now, and I maintain that there is real talent on that team in the form of Florian Jungwirth, Luis Felipe Fernandes, Danny Hoesen, and the nigh-indefatigable Wondolowski, but unless there are fundamental and I mean earth shattering shakeups, I can’t see this franchise pulling out of this repeated spiral. It’s as though San Jose are the oft eulogized Sisyphus eternally pushing a rock up a hill, only in their case when the rock rolls back down to the bottom of the hill, it picks up a few overpaid DPs from Eastern Europe on the way.
Perhaps this is all karmic for the Steven Lenhart years, and in that case nobody has any right to complain.
Alas, that’s not the only management shakeup in California, as the LA Galaxy are no longer led by Sigi Schmid. It’s hard to argue with Sigi’s resume in Major League Soccer, but the Galaxy have been so fundamentally bad at some pretty basic things for a while now. Tapping Dominic Kinnear is not likely to inspire much, and I think we’re all just sitting here waiting patiently until Zlatan decides he’s just going to player/manage this thing.
NARRATIVES: Let’s call time on some teams.
I think we’re close enough to the end of the season that we can officially call time on a few of our friends 2018 campaigns. Godspeed and good luck next season.
Orlando City: Arguably the saddest thing in Major League Soccer right now is imagining Sacha Kljestan having to deal with this mess. Orlando are on pace to give up historic amounts of goals and I wouldn’t trade places with James O’Connor or anybody in the front office who have to try and make this work next season. A few weeks ago, I said that I didn’t think Orlando City were the biggest trash fire in the league. I have reconsidered that position.
Chicago Fire: Remember when the Chicago Fire were kind of good last year? It didn’t end super well, but there was a time when they were in the Supporters Shield race. David Accam was in MVP form for a couple of months, Nikolic looked like a masterstroke of a signing, and Bastian Schweinsteiger silenced everybody who would dare doubt his bonafides. Now, I don’t know. Now they’ve signed Yura Movsisyan on waivers for the rest of the season. I would be shocked if Paunovic returns next year, and with the club mainly making waves this year for antagonizing the media and their supporters groups, I wouldn’t blame anybody for having better things to do next spring.
San Jose Earthquakes: You got Luis Felipe Fernandes, and that’s great but we’ve already covered what a disaster you are.
Colorado Rapids: A while back I saw a chart marking out the “biggest homefield advantage” for all major sports in the United States. In nearly every league, it was the team from the Denver area. That elevation is no joke, and yet the Rapids have been completely unable to even break even there. If the front office doesn’t dump the whole sign the entire English Championship except for Johnny Russell strategy and pick up as many Bolivians (because of the altitude you see) as possible then this is exactly what they deserve.
Minnesota United: You brought us Darwin Quintero and I just can’t stay mad at you. Get it together next season though.
Houston Dynamo: How are you going to miss the playoffs when you have a player like Alberth Elis? I still recall the historic heights my eyebrow reached when I heard Wilmer Cabrera analogize his tactical strategy with an airline blanket two years ago, but I didn’t think we’d be here. Houston sorely missed Juan David Cabezas this season, and we will never forget that opening weekend when they trounced Atlanta. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where things all went wrong, although Philippe Senderos being your third highest scorer is a good start. If you’re a Houston fan, pray for the health and safety of Cabezas next season.
The rest of the teams are more or less still in the race, so we’ll hold off for a couple of weeks.
NARRATIVE: How did the LA Galaxy construct the most expensive and worst backline in Major League Soccer?
You might say, well Ian that’s not really a narrative that’s a question. To this I would say oh wow look over there and hope that’s distracting enough. Onwards. It’s true. LA’s backline is equal parts expensive and inept. Honestly, between this backline, Ola, three DPs, Zlatan, Perry Kitchen, I’m honestly not sure I possess the mental faculties to make heads or tails of whatever creative accounting keeps this albatross of a roster cap compliant for more than 8 minutes. Regardless, they manage, but even so the amount of capital being invested in this team with very little to show for it is staggering. This is a squad that finished dead last in 2017 and are hovering below the redline, duking it out with teams like Houston and Vancouver whose combined payrolls are dwarfed by the Galaxy’s and neither of which have the benefit of having a player like Zlatan whose charitable spirit has him willing to accept a salary that’s about a half of his worth.
So you can imagine my complete lack of surprise yesterday when reporter Kevin Baxter tweeted out an interesting tidbit regarding Michael Ciani. Namely, that he hadn’t been scouted prior to his signing. Now, I understand that scouting isn’t easy. It can be tedious, expensive, and it hardly guarantees a player’s success. Hear me out though, if you’re going to spend 650k annually on a player, it’s probably worth spending another 100k on business class airfare, accommodations, per diems, and binoculars to make sure he’s a better defender than Michael Ciani. Hell, a $10 a month subscription to Wyscout would get you halfway there. I’ll let you use my password if you promise not to rat me out.
It’s not just the cost or the complete lack of oversight. What was the point of rushing that signing anyway? Ciani was signed in SEPTEMBER of last season when it had been apparent since week 2 that this team wasn’t going to be anywhere near the postseason. I simply don’t see the urgent need to bring in a guy to help you only concede 18 times in your last eight matches. Play some kids. Try something else. Take some time in the offseason to do some research, do some scouting go out and get the right defender like (checks notes) Jorgen Skjelvik. Or whatever just do you. Maybe Landon will come back out of retirement.
If this all seems harsh, it’s because the Galaxy absolutely deserve it. They’ve done good things. Ashley Cole is a great defender he just can’t play 90 minutes. Romain Alessandrini is dreamy and great at soccer. It is excellent. Cozmo is the only good mascot in the league. But for every one of these stories, they do stuff like draft Thomas HIllard-Arce and then choose not to play him. They spend a not inconsiderable amount of TAM on one of the league’s best strikers in Ola Kamara, and then spend the rest of it on Zlatan so they can stick Ola out on the wing. Meanwhile you’ve now climbed in bed with the entire dos Santos family, and only one of those guys is any good and neither is worth half of what you’re paying. Let’s not forget the economic footprint you’ve recently laid out on guys like Jermaine Jones, Steven Gerrard, and Joao Pedro.
Spending money and star power is the LA Galaxy way. I get it. Nobody is asking your to be the Red Bulls or anything, but you’ve got to least scout your center backs. This club has too much history to be stewarded with as much negligence as it has the last two years. Farther north in Seattle, season ticket holders are being given a unique opportunity to self sabotage their franchise by voting out Garth Lagerwey. Doing that would be the height of stupidity, but LA fans? I bet they wish they had that power.
OH WAIT I ALMOST FORGOT LUIS FELIPE FERNANDES UPDATE: The boy has added assists (well..assist singular but whatever) to his game. Now the sky is the limit. Nobody in San Jose colors covered themselves in glory against Sporting KC, but I thought LFF showed decently. A coaching change is always an uncertain time for a young player and hopefully Ralston knows what he has and we don’t wind up with another (insert young promising MLS player) situation here. I expect San Jose fans to outright revolt if he’s benched. I will help cover the costs of any appropriate protest signage through my new foundation for statistically gifted but tragically undervalued domestic players.
EDIT: He did it! Ralson opted for youth against Atlanta and although his first match in charge ended in heartbreak for San Jose, I started seeing some LFF mentions from the more respectable corners of the MLS internet (and for good reason as he turned in a good shift with 11 defensive actions including six tackles.)
That’s all we’ve got time for this week. Did you all watch the Campeones Cup? I didn’t think so. Good to see MLS teams continue that tradition of qualifying for elite competition and then no longer being elite by the time said competition comes around. Spare a prayer for the Atlanta fan out there who must ponder a future without Tata Martino. When a manager is all you’ve known for the club’s 18 month existence, it can be hard to let go. I wonder what Caleb Porter is up to. We’ll deal with all of that in the next few weeks. Enjoy the weekend’s action and we’ll be back next week to talk about what we’re talking about.