Perhaps the best novel by the late great author Philip Roth was American Pastoral. Roth introduced us to a character nicknamed “The Swede” who followed a legendary athletic career as a youth with equal success as an adult, and lived a life that anyone would admire. From this contented perch the reader then watches as idealism and bad luck bring his idyllic life to ruins. It’s an unforgettable story of how the American dream can swallow itself and quickly turn tragedy.
As I prepared to write this preview of Toronto FCs 2019 season this story kept resurfacing in my mind. Both are a riches to rags stories with no clear answers, and ones that grapples with the trade off of maintaining the status quo versus continuing to push. Not a year ago Toronto FC was on top of the soccer world in North America. They had just completed the greatest season in MLS history (yes, it still is) and were taking down Liga MX giants on their way to another height in winning the CONCACAF Champions League. They were achieving things like no MLS team before them. And then something happened…. Read More
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.
Last week, I asserted that if Toronto failed to secure three points this week that the talk of the league would be whether or not last year’s all conquering heroes would even manage to make the playoffs this season. Unsurprisingly, they failed to acquire those three points, surprisingly nobody is really talking about it all that much. Well, since I’m CNO (Chief Narrative Officer) of this league now (self appointed, the term is lifelong meaning it remains until such a time as I die or get bored. Smart money on the latter.), I’m going to go ahead and make it a narrative because a) it’s important and b) I can’t really think of another thing to write about this week. I mean I guess we could cover VAR again, but NAH. Read More
After years of chasing Dom Dwyer, Orlando City got their guy. They sent a whole helluva lot of various pieces of allocation, financials and back-end laden incentives to Kansas City for the newly minted US international striker.
Aside from Dwyer being a good striker—and we’ll get to that in a second—he has a lot of various marketing appeal to him. He went to the University of South Florida, is newly capped by the US men's national team, and still garners good feelings in Orlando from 2013 when he scored 15 goals in only 13 total appearances for the Lions while on loan. Read More
After years of ineptness Toronto FC finally has become a competitive club in MLS. Never afraid of spending the money, the Canadian side's results on the field never reflected the club’s ambitions for making the playoffs. They finally made it for the first time in 2015 and followed that up in 2016 by hosting the MLS Cup Championship game, though they lost to the champions Seattle. Toronto FC's success relied and will continue to rely on their three DPs: Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. The three players have a combined salary of over $20,000,000 per season and Toronto FC will be dependent on them if they expect to repeat their success in 2017. Read More
The frustration with the state of the United States Men’s soccer team is at a new peak in the Jurgen Klinsmann era. After a disastrous second half of 2015 which saw them suffer historic losses to Jamaica and Panama in the Gold Cup followed by an extra time loss to rival Mexico, the Federation was hoping 2016 was a new beginning. But following another tragedy against Guatemala in World Cup qualifying on Friday, the U.S. has now failed to win its last four competitive matches where the talent gap was not obscene (apologies to St. Vincent and the Grenadines). The demons from last year are still lurking it appears. But to what can we attribute those demons?
Is it Klinsmann or the players?
What those demons are is the subject of much debate. Many claim that Klinsmann himself is the problem as questions surrounding his tactics, player selection and the positions he prefers for those players are appropriately criticized. After promises of progressing the U.S. style of play to compete with the more proactive national teams, Klinsmann has employed a more pragmatic reactive approach since before the World Cup. He likely regrets his promise as he’s since been unable to collect a midfield with enough talent to play a possession oriented style of soccer. When he trots Alejandro Bedoya and DeAndre Yedlin out to the wings, away from their preferred positions, in a World Cup qualifier he can't be expecting a cohesive midfield performance. Nor should the fans. But the team did waste too many balls in the final third attempting high risk passes. Do we blame the tactics, the players or both?
More after the jump. Read More
Toronto FC had one goal in 2015, and that was just make the playoffs. Until that point, in their entire eight year existence TFC had never made it to the playoffs. And after an off season that included bringing in Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore to the club, making the playoffs was a must. Thankfully, the entry into the post season was expanded from five to six teams in 2015, and TFC managed to squeak themselves in and remove that wretched blemish of having never seen the playoffs from their club record.
In 2014 and 2015, TFC loaded up heavily on offense, bringing in the likes of Altidore, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Defoe to the club. But those transactions cost the Reds some vital balance to the squad and left their defense woefully exposed. All that has changed heading into 2016 as Toronto reloaded their defense this off-season, picking up former Colorado Rapids captain Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour from Vancouver to shore up the backline, added solid MLS veteran Clint Irwin to man the pipes, and picked up former Portland captain Will Johnson to dictate the midfield with Bradley.
The lack of balance from the 2015 Toronto side on defense kept them from making waves in the playoffs or securing a better playoff position. But now with a more balanced roster and excellent leadership to solidify the backline, Toronto's prospects heading into 2016 look incredibly bright.
A look at the defense after the jump. Read More
In most sports after an All-Star game, the remaining portion of the schedule is called the “second half of the season.” But with the manner in which Major League Soccer administers it's schedule and the general accumulation of games that are played during that time period,. I look at it slightly different. I look at pre-All-Star game as the first act, the All-Star game is intermission, and post All-Star is the second act.
In other words, Soccer is straight drama. The great Bill Shakespeare once said: Read More
Hey U.S. fans, look on the bright side. We get an extra soccer game this fall! The USMNT will be in a one game playoff against either Mexico or Jamaica for the privilege of representing CONCACAF in the 2017 Confederations Cup. That bit of fun was brought to you by a loss of stunning proportion to Jamaica. The U.S. gave up two goals in five minutes off of set pieces in the first half and couldn’t mount a useful attack against a determined Jamaican defense. The 2-1 loss, the first to a Caribbean side on U.S. soil since 1968, will sting for a long time, especially for yours truly who was looking forward to going to the Gold Cup Final to watch the U.S. with his son. Not all stories have Hollywood endings. And certainly sports wouldn’t be sports without the heartbreak.
This game was a perfect example of why soccer statistics can sometimes lie. If you didn’t watch the game and just looked at the box score you might think that the U.S. was simply unlucky. They held 60% of the possession and completed 82% of their passes. They outshot the Jamaicans 20-10 and put 7 more shots on goal (10-3). The U.S. won the expected goal battle by a score of 2.3.-1.0, but looked up at the scoreboard at the end and saw the final score was actually reversed. Read More
The United States still has not played close to their best soccer in the 2015 Gold Cup, but they still secured first place in Group A with a 1-0 win over Haiti in their second Group match. After Haiti’s 1-1 draw against Panama you got the suspicion this game would be tighter than expected, but it was even tighter than that. Haiti battled the entire match in impressive fashion and earned chances, but in the end the quality in their finishes abandoned them. The U.S. ultimately scored the winning goal in the 47th minute from their only shot taken inside the 18-yard box - a one-time strike from Clint Dempsey off a nice back pass from Gyasi Zardes. This is yet another case of take the win and move on, but Klinsmann has to be concerned that the team is unable to control opponents this early in the tournament. Read More
On July 7th the United States Men will play their first competitive match in nearly a year, and in so doing begin their defense of the Gold Cup. A successful run through the final in Philadelphia would guarantee their place in the Confederations Cup in 2017, and confirm them as the dominant force in CONCACAF. Failure to win would not be the end of the world, but it would put a damper on the momentum the team has recently built with a positive World Cup run followed by overall strong performances in this cycle’s friendlies. In the end, a Gold Cup win keeps the U.S. on Jurgen Klinsmann’s aggressive path to improvement. An exit of any kind will start to raise doubts if the team has the talent to make a serious run this cycle. Read More