Toronto are no Fluke
It’s not uncommon for a team to be on a wave of euphoria when radical, good change hits the club. The Canadian revolution in Toronto is the perfect example. Gone are the vestiges of mediocrity and failure often found at BMO Field. In came players with the required tenacity and winning mentality of Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Dwayne De Rosario. With the likes of Gilberto also added, the squad neatly dovetails these big names with the potential of players like Doneil Henry.
With all these expectations and squad chemistry, it is not all that surprising that Toronto beat Seattle on opening day. What is surprising is Toronto breaking one of their unwanted records. They have now started the season with a record of 2-0-0, a franchise first. The mark of a good team is a team that can adapt and grind out results.
That other side came out against DC United. It took a while for a breakthrough, with the likes of Defoe missing many chances. The Englishman did score the go-ahead goal in the end though. Even more promising was a sequence of play that involved Caldwell, Bradley, Defoe and Gilberto. It deserved a goal, but did not get the reward. More importantly though, it showed the potential of the core of this Toronto side.
The Crew Move Away from the Past
Robert Warzycha was not exactly known for scintillating football in his time with the Columbus Crew. More often than not, they relied on a strong defensive ethos, and relied on the magic of Federico Higuain and the explosiveness of Dominic Oduro. It sometimes worked for the Crew, but quite often, it simply did not. With the former manager gone, and new man Gregg Berhalter in, he has quietly reworked this side into a more attacking and complete unit.
While DC United have been poor so far this season, Columbus showed their new intentions in their opener. In the first half, it became clear that the Crew were no longer operating with full backs, but the far more attacking wing backs. The biggest change however is a more subtle one. Higuain is now playing deeper. Rather than being deployed behind a striker, the Argentine finds himself in a more free role deeper. This allows him to dictate games more, and places more responsibility on other players to fill the attacking void. So far, the likes of Anor and Arrieta have stepped up to the plate. The win over the so far impressive Philadelphia Union makes it look all good at Columbus right about now.
The Big Names Falter
Portland, Real Salt Lake, New York Red Bulls and the LA Galaxy are among the five favorites to win MLS Cup and/or the Supporters Shield. The four mentioned all failed to win. Only Sporting Kansas City won this weekend, and it was through a Dom Dwyer penalty against the Earthquakes.
Furthermore, Portland and New York have majorly disappointed, while Real Salt Lake have picked up a habit of drawing too many games. The Galaxy are still hurting from their CONCACAF Champions League exit. Even Kansas City were ripped apart. In short, it has not been a good time for the heavy hitters. However, it would be foolish to only criticize. The likes of Philadelphia Union, FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo have all so far improved and closed the gap. Even Chivas USA have improved. All these factors have created an extremely difficult season, and it is certainly hard to pick who will win the trophies this season.
Di Vaio-less Montreal
While we talk of improvement, one team who has certainly failed to improve is the Montreal Impact. Frank Klopas left the Chicago Fire after a poor season in which his team relied heavily on one man, Mike Magee. So far in Montreal, it looks a familiar story. Di Vaio’s playoff stupidity has meant he has been absent so far for the Canadians, and it is painfully obvious. With Wenger upfront, there is a significant drop in quality and a lot of pressure on the youngster. Other problem areas such as the midfield being held together by Bernier alone has not been fixed. All these signs point to a disappointing season ahead for the Impact, even with the news of Pablo Piatti joining the franchise in June.
DC United Continue Bad Form
It would be hard for United to be as bitterly disappointing as least season, but they seem to be doing their best to continue the same way. However, the disappointment is not just towards results, but also the off-season. Realizing the state of the roster, DC overhauled it and brought experience and expected quality in the likes of Eddie Johnson. So far, they look unsure as to how to get the best out of the controversial striker. Other players such as Davy Arnaud and Bobby Boswell are yet to get going. Building a new team likes time, but the atmosphere around the club is one of low morale. It is time the franchise lifted the mood.