Just how to interpret and evaluate MLS spring training has been a source of both unbounded pride and complete shame among fans with very little changing beyond the endless flow of posts, tweets and press statements.
Interestingly enough, nearly all of the FOMO and FTW arguments used during preseason are identical to those used by the hive mind during the regular season, even through the games do not count. Such is the life of a fan.
In the interest of standing out from the ordinary, as well as to protect the names of both the innocent and guilty, I will take a slightly different look at soccer performance through the lens of motor sports. If you have never taken your sweet little ride over 100 mph just to see if it would really do it, you might as well stop reading here as I am not the one to ELI5 to you.
The MLS regular season is much more 24 Hours of Le Mans than NHRA U.S. Nationals. Over the past few seasons a number of teams (yes I am looking at you, Cascadia) have amply demonstrated that you can remain in 3rd gear for much of the season before hitting top gear for the final six to eight weeks, and then blow nitro for the playoffs.
So think of spring training as your first few attempts to drive a manual transmission. Did you stall out dead or did you actually start rolling down the driveway and gradually pick up enough speed to shift up into 2nd gear? I will leave it up to you to determine how three ties and a blowout loss across four matches would rate on this scale.
A world class auto racing team could easily have a mix of fantastically expensive imports, high performance domestics and cheap utility backups, However, regardless of the ride, what really matters in the moment is that can you open the door, sit behind the wheel, turn the key and move off into the sunset. No empty gas tanks, no flat tires, no fouled plugs and a transmission that actually turns the wheels. If this does not happen, something is going to change. And those changes tend to happen rather quickly.
Finally, when a beardless teenager, who would look natural on a skateboard or dirt bike, moves around the track looking like a tricked out classic 396 V8 compared to his teammates, you begin to wonder about the viability of all those other purchases.
Hopefully this brief comparison has been enough to help some of you evaluate the preseason in terms that you understand and feel comfortable with. Far be it from me to force any single viewpoint on the all knowing and all seeing hive mind.