MLS

The MLS report: Homecoming week

Photo:Debby von Winckelmann, Prost Amerika

The story of the weekend was the impressive debut of Los Angeles FC’s new home, Banc of California Stadium. It was everything a game in LA should be— glitzy and star-studded.

The game was the least interesting part of the night, with Seattle Sounders trying to strangle the life out of the contest after controlling the opening 45 minutes of action. Neither team could offer much creatively, and it seemed a scoreless draw was not only deserved but destined. Fate, though, was on the side of the home squad. Sounders’ goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s absolute howler on Laurent Ciman’s free kick in the final moment of stoppage time ensured a historic result for the 22,000 fans.

As the Will Ferrell, Grant Hill, and the rest of the black and gold crowd celebrated, I couldn’t help but make a simple comparison.

Can LAFC be to MLS what the Showtime Lakers were to the NBA?

The Lakers, as much as it pains me to admit, helped elevate their league to a national audience. The NBA transitioned from tape-delayed championships to must-watch television. It wasn’t about appealing to those who already followed the league. It was about captivating the casual fan with flash as well as substance.

It’s the same pathway LAFC need to follow. They need to be more than good. They need to be glamorous.

And it’s crazy to think an expansion side is already this good this quickly. Head coach Bob Bradley has his team sitting with a 5-2-0, with four of those wins coming on the road. Bradley has proven to be a very talented manager in his career, yet one particular coaching stop helps explain LAFC’s success. An expansion team is very similar to a national one. A coach needs to cobble together a cohesive unit from a collection of unfamiliar parts.

Glamour, though, is a much more difficult thing to achieve.

They already have the grand palace. At $350 million, Banc of America Stadium was by far the most expensive of the 15 MLS-specific venues. And it’s location in the heart of Los Angeles gives LAFC an advantage over their biggest rivals, LA Galaxy, who play in Carson, CA.

Dynamic No. 10 Carlos Vela might be the best player in the league, but he’s no David Beckham or Zlatan Ibrahimovic in terms of attractive the spotlight.

If LAFC can find that player who will make the rounds on the late night talk shows continue to play with the pizzazz of Atlanta United, the health of MLS will be that much better.

And showtime will return to Los Angeles.

Awards section

Goals of the week

Union legend Kevin Kratz was the fifth player in league history to score twice from direct free kicks in a single game, helping Atlanta extend their unbeaten run to seven matches. The second goal was particularly beautiful.

Player of the week: David Villa

This is about more than David Villa’s  performance in New York City FC’s win over FC Dallas. This is about the culmination of a sensational career. Let’s flash back to Oct. 10, 2001. On that day, Sporting Gijón, of Spain’s Segunda División, faced off against Oviedo in the Copa del Rey’s round of 64. It was here a relatively unknown David Villa scored his first professional goal. Fast forward to Sunday. “El Guaje” stood a few paces behind a ball resting still on the spot in the 36th minute. Villa, like he’s done so many times, made no mistake converting the penalty. It wasn’t only the game-winner, but the 400th goal of his sparkling career. The world class forward is in world class company. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are the only other active players to reach that milestone.

Runner-up: Laurent Ciman (LAFC)

Tifo of the week

Credit where credit is due.

Local player of the week: Keegan Rosenberry

It’s always nice when the Union play well. It basically doubles the choices available for this spot. LAFC and Columbus goalkeepers Tyler Miller and Zack Steffen both picked up wins, but neither were all that impressive. So let’s give this “award” to Philadelphia’s left back from Lancaster, PA, Keegan Rosenberry, who picked up an assist on Ilsinho’s opening goal.

Tweet of the week

Best of the rest
  • There is no place in the sport for the homophobic chant that rang out from LAFC’s supporters Sunday night. It’s unacceptable to hear in the U.S., Mexico, or any other country. It was a stain on an otherwise perfect night in southern California.
  • LAFC aren’t the only team playing well with a collection of new pieces. Orlando City led the league with 14 new additions. After going winless in their first three, the Lions are the first club this season to win five consecutive matches.
  • Kudos to Columbus winger Mike Grella, whose scored the game-winner in his first appearance since Jun. 3, 2017, and snapped the Crew’s four game winless streak.
  • There was some poetic justice in NYCFC’s win over FC Dallas. The latter had surrendered three goals all season, which the former equaled in one match. A week after City had their own unbeaten start broken, they handed Dallas their first loss of the season. Those two, along with Atlanta United, sit with the fewest defeats in MLS.
  • “It’s unacceptable, it’s not ok, to lose three home games. This is the first time I lose three games in a row, so that is not only about me; it’s a team effort.” Take a guess who might have said this.
  • You have to applaud Vancouver Whitecaps’ dedication to a bold strategy. The Canadian club led the league with four red cards (including doubling down last week), but surprisingly couldn’t produce a victory. Instead of abandoning their gameplan, the Whitecaps committed to the approach. Head coach Carl Robinson had to have been pleased when he saw winger Cristian Techera remove his jersey during his goal celebration while already sitting on a yellow card. Not every player follows their coach’s instructions so precisely. With Vancouver now in their comfort zone of playing with fewer men than their opponents, they were finally able to see out a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake.
  • This doesn’t seem like the ideal time for the Union to head to Toronto. Anyone else feel like the Reds are angry and about to burst?

11 Comments

  1. Interesting thoughts on the LAFC/Showtime Lakers comparison. A real “showtime” team would help MLS by attracticing casuals to the league. But Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi aren’t enough. If they added a a couple big names, then, yes, it do wonders. If LA got Ronaldo, it would be showtime.
    .
    People want to see a great show. It’s why you’ll see more Barca and Madrid jerseys than anything else.

    • Or just attacking talent in general and all out attacking playing style. MLS should really be pushing to have high scoring games with great dribblers. This is what will captivate the American audience.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        wow

      • MLS is the highest scoring league among the top ten @ 3.23 Goals per Game
        .
        Some other notables:
        .
        Netherlands Eredivisie – 3.12
        Germany Bundesliga – 3.06
        England PL – 2.7
        Italy Serie A – 2.68
        France Ligue 1 – 2.67
        Spain PL – 2.64
        .
        Live stats by soccervista dot com
        google ‘Soccer leagues ordered by number of goals per game’

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Appreciate the leg work Rey…. my comment generally spoke to…MLS actually needs better defense.

      • At the risk of uttering a heresy, I have enjoyed some high scoring, poorly defended matches. Loved every minute of the 4-3 Liverpool/City match in January. But drama and technique trump goal totals. Zlatan’s outrageous volley on his debut is worth more than a 3 routine goals. And a 2-1 win is always more fun than a 5-0 thrashing. There’s nothing better in sport than tension — that fortunes may shift in a moment.

      • Yeah, I wasn’t talking about us as soccer fans just wanting high scoring. Just the general American public. The ones we need to get on board for this league to really take off.

  2. John Osborn says:

    Yeah, Carson is a hike. One time it took me over 2 hours to drive from Santa Monica to the Galaxy’s stadium on a Friday night — I think it was only 20 miles. Looking forward to checking out LAFC’s stadium. . . .

    • Tim Jones says:

      If the imagery is accurate, the slope of the stands takes me back to old St. John Arena at Ohio State in the era of Lucas and Havilecek.
      .
      Not built for old people.

  3. Yeah, it looked like a great atmosphere in LAFC’s stadium. But if MLS doesn’t force them to play the next home match in an empty stadium, then MLS is just fine with the ‘puto’ chant.

    • I think it’ll be interesting to see how they single people out. Liverpool did an HD picture of all of Anfield several years ago that was really amazing and beautiful: you could see the details on every single supporter’s face from a 360 camera. If they’re serious about rooting it out, they’ll get something similar and go fan by fan. It’s the right thing to do, but a huge undertaking.

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