Saturday, March 31, 2007

MLS one week away

We're getting pretty amped up around here for the start of the MLS season. The offseason has been decent for us. InterLiga came and went. We got to take a trip to Arizona for US-Mexico and San Diego for Mexico-Venezuela. There have been a few friendlies that have kept us going but the MLS season is what will carry us through to November.

On the writing side of things, I've got a busy week coming up. Monday is the commissioner's conference call. Tuesday I've got to hit up both Chivas (after training) and Galaxy (at luncheon) and then write away the rest of the week. Saturday is the first game, Chivas-Toronto, and I can't wait.

Anyway, I've had a few thoughts rolling around in my head about the upcoming season.

> The Galaxy's schedule is going to be brutal. That's just at first glance. When you look closer, it seems ridiculously brutal. How they handle all those games in July (7 games), August (5 of 6 away), September (8) and October (4 in 3 weeks) will determine their standing at season's end. If they get through unscathed, they'll be a favorite to reach MLS Cup. If they struggle, it'll be another quiet October for the Galaxy. Not all of their games are MLS games. They've got the Chelsea match and SuperLiga. There might even be more games to follow, but if Frank Yallop wanted to ease the schedule some, well, at least keep it from getting any more brutal than it already is, he'll throw out reserves, trialists and heck even some reporters and fans for U.S. Open Cup qualifier against the Crew.

> I'm not sure how the Thursday night games will do. It's been tried before without much success, though that was a while back. In some ways, I like the change of pace with more teams on national television. But then again the Galaxy will be on Thursday nights five times after Becks gets here (and just once before). I'm holding out my final verdict on this one until later, though.

> I'm a bit disappointed in the DP rule and that only New York and the Galaxy (and Chivas to some extent) took advantage of it. We heard all these rumors about Ronaldo, Wanchope, Figo, Davids, Zidane and now Blanco and nothing has come of them. Becks came through which is great and Claudio Reyna but that's it. Again, we'll have to hold off on the final verdict until at least the end of the season, possibly longer, but right now it's helped two teams and been nothing to the rest of the league. Chivas did pick up Amado Guevara with their DP slot, so they benefited some as well.

> Final thought for right now: I like the new playoff system. Well, actually, the standings system. I still think the playoffs should all be one game series but whatever. Getting into them will now be more challenging. A year ago, the Red Bulls got in with 39 points while the Galaxy and Salt Lake were left out of the playoffs with 39 points. In 2005, the most farcical of all playoff scenarios occurred when the Galaxy got in despite finishing 9th in the overall table and won the whole damn thing. In 2004, four of the five teams in each conference got in which meant you played 32 games to eliminate two teams from MLS Cup contention. This season, it's an improvement in that the top two teams in each conference get in as well as the four best remaining teams regardless of conference. If the four best are all Western teams, it doesn't matter. This could be intriguing because you could have a final like 2001 where you had two rivals playing for the cup. So potentially you could have Chivas-Galaxy, DC-Red Bulls, FC Dallas-Houston, Salt Lake-Colorado... uh, yeah, scratch that last one.

> Okay, one last thought. Toronto has a pretty solid team, much better than the 2005 expansion teams. What was kinda lost in the whole Toronto build-up was the expansion draft. I felt that Salt Lake and Chivas should have been exempt from the expansion draft simply because they were expansion teams from two years prior. So they got punished on both ends. First, there was a different set of rules in the 04 expansion draft. Secondly, the league admitted that 2005 Chivas/RSL went so bad that they would have to reassess future expansion teams and they did. The league should have let Chivas and RSL continue their development unperturbed by not letting Toronto choose players from their rosters. Chivas would still have Tim Regan and RSL would not have suffered through their own debauchery of losing and then re-acquiring Jason Kreis, so they would have kept their partial allocation. It doesn't seem like much but when these teams each allowed more than 60 goals in 2005 and then one year later you are forcing them to make key players available, it just doesn't seem even. I had some sympathy for RSL and Chivas v.2005 but I won't have much for Toronto if they get their asses handed to them. They had more breaks than their two predecessors.

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