Narrative: Ambition Rankings
If there is one day on the MLS calendar that I dread with a clarity and purity often seen only in very expensive diamonds (let’s call them “diamonds of ambition”), it’s Grant Wahl’s annual musings on which MLS teams have proven their ambition the most. For those unaware, every year our nation’s preeminent soccer scribe sends out a questionnaire to every MLS team asking them to flex their financial bonafides and then ranks them according to how expensive their DPs are, whether or not they get good crowds, and that “it” factor that you can’t explain but Grant knows it when he sees it. Unsurprisingly, Atlanta tops this year’s list and Colorado pulls up the rear, but the middle is just gluttonously full of incisive takes. “We’ve invested 10 million dollars in our academy says one team”, “oh yeah well WE expanded our stadium so suck it” says another. “Tell me more” says Grant Wahl, and we’re left with a bunch of people squabbling over whether Jan Gregus or Pedro Santos is a more ambitious signing. Read More
It’s always fun to see what happens in MLS when the player store is about to close for the season. Some teams, having resolved all of their player needs early, get to relax and stand in judgment of those teams forced to scamper about on deadline day looking for oh god just ANY decent midfielder please. There’s a parable about an ant and a grasshopper you’ve no doubt heard. The ant stores up all the food they need for winter, while the grasshopper spends its time, I don’t know, hopping on grass I suppose. When winter comes the grasshopper begs the ant for some food but the ant is like lol, and there’s a lesson to be learned in that. Anyway, LAFC are the ant, Colorado are the grasshopper, and New England is the heretofore unseen third character - a drunk shirtless carpet beetle rolling around the snow screaming how they’re going to live forever. Read More
I was five years old when I made my first team debut for the Kickerz’ Recreational Soccer League Under 7 Reds. I'll never forget what it felt like to pull on that red tee shirt with the number fifty nine emblazoned across the back in the traditional white Bauhaus ITC font. After our customary pre match traditions, the lineups were announced and I made my way to the substitutes bench. I waited with equal parts anticipation and dread for the gaffer to call my number. I wasn’t made to wait long. We were 12 minutes into our opening 15 minute half when I was summoned to midfield to make my long awaited entrance. I was told that I was to play “stopper” I had never heard of this position before, and little did I know at the time that I was playing an integral role in the tactical development of the defensive midfielder. Too nervous to ask for further clarification on my role in the boss’ system, I just assumed that as I was QUITE bad, I was meant to play some form of defense. Read More
It finally happened! I got one right last week! I did! I was doing a sarcasm and lo and behold I got a take dead on. ANALYSIS! Yes Atlanta and Cincinnati did in fact turn out to be a low scoring affair between two evenly matched sides. It feels like six months ago I was called a straight up hater for raising my eyebrows at De Boer’s most recent entries on his resume, but now discussing whether or not he knows what he’s doing is the take du jour. What can I say folks? I was bashing FDB before most of you had even heard of him. I have it on vinyl. Read More
We’re back! MLS has returned and as goeth MLS so too goeth the takes. Now, it would obviously be silly to make any grand sweeping proclamations based on only one week of soccer. It would be pointless, likely incorrect, and wildly irresponsible. So obviously we’re going to do it anyway. Let’s get that narrative machine cranked up!
Chatter amongst the savvier MLS analysts has been about Atlanta and SKC rising to dominate their divisions. While I don’t exactly have a seat at that particularly niche Algonquin round table, I do try and make myself available to refill their drinks or mop up any spills Tenorio makes when he gets over excited about a scoop, and impressionable as I am, I too was convinced of these teams being unmatched in their respective divisions. I think a good many MLS enthusiast was surprised to see the opening weekend come and go with neither of the presumptive divisional favorites taking even a point, and Atlanta being the only team in the entire league that couldn’t even muster a goal.
Benny Olsen should charge 200k TAM per team and offer up whatever he’s figured out that often makes Atlanta become utterly pedestrian when they come up against mighty DC. Actually, it seems like whatever the Red Bulls do also works more often than not. Read More
It was a pretty light weekend in Major League Soccer featuring a match seeking to answer that age old question “what happens when the opposite of an immovable object meets the opposite of an unstoppable force?” The answer? Colorado wins 2-0, I guess. That match will probably be remembered more for the altercation following the final whistle which featured two players being showed red cards FIFTEEN minutes into stoppage time so I guess Colorado and MInnesota aren't’ best friends now, which could be problematic as previously they seem to be the only destinations that would actually want some of the other’s lackluster players. I sure hope they work it out. I’ve got $5 on a Franz Pangop for Yannick Boli trade.
But also, Oh my god DC United are just so irresistible right now. It’s like watching Michael Jordan in that flu game but instead of Michael Jordan it’s more like BJ Armstrong and instead of the flu it had something vaguely to do with raccoons. I predicted a few weeks ago that this team would find its way to the postseason and I’m feeling more and more confident about this every week. Watching people eat their crow flavored Pot Noodle about Wayne Rooney has become appointment viewing during office hours. To say Rooney has been a revelation is only true if you’re one of these people who have apparently never once watched Wayne Rooney play soccer. You aren’t seeing some surprising late career renaissance version of a softer more reflective Rooney, you’re getting the same bullish kid in a dad’s body with an innate ability to grab a game by the scruff of its neck and drag it wherever he wants. Read More
Ok fine. Nothing Josef Martinez has or will do is within the jurisdiction of analysis. He is perfect in every way. He has created 28 goals from nothing. Where once there were scoreless games Josef declared “let there be goals” and he saw the goals and he saw that they were good. I cannot see how Atlanta fans will take issue with this, so I can’t wait to see the ways in which they will. I’m going to say something nice about Philadelphia now, because I’m jealous that other soccer writing people get their pull quotes immortalized in the awesome brushtip font on Twitter. So here we go: Read More
Ah, Rivalry Week sponsored by Heineken. Who doesn’t want to ride for this twice annual celebration of American soccer’s most storied rivalries and also some ones that MLS just went and made up? Frankly speaking, rivalry week can kiss m-(Editor’s note: I redacted like a whole paragraph here, you’re welcome. Also, Heineken is gross.) - because Atlanta and Orlando are not a real rivalry just because some marketing executive bought a billboar-(Editor’s note: yeah some more here as well) ight- and even if these ARE the most exciting rivalries in the league why not spread those out so you can have a compelling match every couple of weeks? I don’t know folks. I hate rivalry week. It makes the fans extra ultzy, it sort of cheapens the real rivalries, and all these kids will simply not get off of my lawn. Is it mainly because I never spell Heineken right? Mainly. Yes. Whatever. Read More
For many in Sports media around the world, Deadline Day is one that is circled three times on the calendar. The reason? DRAAAAAAMA. So much drama. Helicopters being deployed all over Europe, fax machine malfunctions, Harry Redknapp, players just up and showing up at rival teams training facility hoping to force a move, and of course, the heartbreak for fans and players of dream deals falling just short.
MLS does not have this. The league is too centralized. Europe has an entire industry devoted to transfer speculation and rumor mongering that gets fans into an agitated fugue state. That industry is not as well established here in Major League Soccer. Teams tend to be pretty leaky and so there are very few transactions that come as a real surprise. There is a lot of irony on Twitter about various odd situations that demonstrate how “soccer has finally made it here”, but until we get our own Harry Redknapp getting blockaded in his car by reporters on the way home from practice, we’re still just playing dress up. Read More
MLS went full MLS this past week. Unsurprisingly, Josef Martinez broke the hat trick record after escaping disciplinary action despite rather clear and damning footage of him headbutting Chad Marshall in the face. LAFC played too many internationals in their US Open Cup match and were nearly forced to forfeit despite beating Portland 3-2. If there is a hilarious irony to any of this, it’s that Portland would have gone through despite having far more internationals involved. Portland graciously withdrew their protest after learning that LAFC checked with US Soccer first and they said it was cool to play those players. The US Open Cup is an interesting tournament, and the American soccer landscape would be far poorer without it, but if the federation doesn’t actually know how all of the rules work there’s a reasonable argument that maybe teams that don’t take it that seriously are justified in their apathy. Read More