Well if you had told most people that LA would be the most successful team at the start of the MLS season, they would have believed you. If you had told people that the least successful team after 5 weeks would have been DC United, few would have believed you. If you had asked people if they thought the Philly expansion team would be a good team, they would have said yes. If you had asked if the defending MLS Champions Real Salt Lake would be 1-3-1, most would have said no way.
Yet after 5 weeks there are some things you can believe in and others that simply aren't what they seem like and I will try to shed a little light on a few of them:
LA is likely to be the best team in MLS in 2010: I love to hate LA for all the ways the league has bent over for them for the last few years, but reality is they had a solid team last year and finished at the top of the Western Conference both in the regular season and in the playoffs. They lost Beckham, but who cares they picked up 3 young Brazilians on loan and Edson Buddle is healthy. The only question will be what happens if Landon doesn't come back in July? That could be the only thing that derails the Galaxy from being the best team in MLS.
DC United might just be that bad: They won the CCC (Carolina Challenge Cup) but they did so playing their starters for 70-80 minutes against most teams "B" squads. The reality is that they have some talent on that team but a new head coach and a lot more questions than answers on their roster. They have allowed way too many goals, and while it would be easy to blame Troy Perkins (who has to wonder why he came back to DC) it is a lack of ability to control the ball in the midfield and a patchwork back line. You know when the all time leading MLS scoring king Jamie Moreno is on the bench that something is wrong with United. I keep waiting for Quaranta to take over this team but I think they are getting more leadership from Pontius the second year player.
The Union are a typical MLS expansion team: Listen everyone was happy last year when Seattle broke the traditional mold of expansion teams struggling for a couple years, but Philly isn't Seattle and the reality is that for a number of reason the Union are more like a typical MLS expansion team, in other words they will get a couple wins, they will do some good things but over the length of the MLS season they will be lucky to get 6 wins. A young keeper with lots of potential, heck you can say that for a majority of this teams roster. They do have some guys who can get it done, Sebastian Le Toux, Fred (well kinda), Alejandro Moreno (kinda), Danny Califf (if he could stay in a match), and Shavar Thomas, but there simply are too many holes for them to put together much this year but they do have a good core of talent that should allow them to quickly surpass the 2011 expansion teams (both of whom are already building their rosters in their USSF season).
More thoughts, including my thoughts about the RSL 1-3-1 start after the jump:
Is New York for real: This one is still up in the air, but after a 4-1-0 start and combined with a solid end of 2009 you have to believe that they might just be for real. They have started with a mixed bag of 3 home matches, and their last two have been against weak sides. I think they made some good moves bringing in some players to boost their lineup and to be honest so far this year they have only been as good as Bouna Coundoul. Can you ride a keeper who can be brilliant or baffling in the same match all year? I have liked the way they control possession, but with Ream and Miller on their backline you have to believe they are taking a large risk on unproven players. They will end May with 4 tough matches, at San Jose, Seattle and Columbus at home, then at New England. We will know by the end of May if they are a serious contender or just a quick start pretender.
The Rapids, really?: Well they made a few moves off season, but their core is still there. This is a team that was one match away from a playoff spot, granted they have started with 4 of 5 against the Eastern Conference, but they have 2 road wins in their first 5 matches. You have to wonder what will happen when Cummings and Casey start scoring in the run of play, but early on you would have to list Colorado as one of the surprises of the MLS season with New York.
Real Salt Lake, time to panic or typical start: Well we are 5 matches in and RSL have had the hardest schedule over the first month of the season, nobody else has faced 4 playoff teams in their first 5 matches and started with 4 of 5 on the road. RSL fans got their hopes up early after the 3-0 win in San Jose, then a heartbreaker in Houston (oh the sour grapes we could sow), a tough match with Seattle, a solid effort but a loss at LA, and then another heartbreaker in Columbus (you have to believe that if anyone is owed a couple calls it might be RSL).
So I wanted to see what the thought pattern out there online was so I did something I rarely do anymore, I read some threads on big soccer, I read the comments on Behind the Shield, and I wasn't surprised there are a number of people who already want major changes to the roster (despite the fact that no changes will be made until after the World Cup), some of course are already blaming Jason, and a few have already tossed in the towel. None of that surprises me, in fact it was exactly what I expected, and once again I will remind people that it is far too early to panic. We already have a road win, the earliest in RSL history, we have the only goal scored against the Galaxy, and we have had some awful decisions made by officials.
We now have 4 of 5 at home, in fact we have 6 of 8 at home, our road matches are Chivas and DC United, we could easily see RSL come out of those matches with 17-18 points. When we beat TFC and Philly the next two weeks we will be at 10 points after 7 matches, the same number we had last year. In fact after 12 matches last year we had 12 points and I can say with complete confidence that by our 12th match this year we will have more than 12 points.
That is it for now, but don't have any fear RSL fans, the best is yet to come.
OFF MY SOAPBOX