At a Quakes training session Friday a colleague asked me if it felt like the MLS season started a month ago, and reflecting on all the CBA stuff I’d read and written during that time I felt compelled to agree, with a caveat.
Once games commenced, as occurred Thursday when the expansion teams of 2009 and 2010 played in the rain before a pumped-up crowd at Qwest Field, those feelings of fatigue and frustration would fade. And if the opener itself didn’t wipe them out, surely this weekend’s slate of seven games will generate far sexier talking points than unilateral options and 401(k) contributions, as important as they are.
Ridden with faults yet buoyed by the CBA agreement, MLS embarks on its 15th season with the strongest sense of stability in his history from a business perspective, yet also imbued by as much volatility as can be generated in a single-entity league festooned with parity.
Ergo, here is presented perhaps the most intriguing element of each of MLS's six Saturday matches:
CREW CALL. Preki’s move north of the border to take over Toronto has prompted a few personnel changes; right back Marvell Wynne joined the list of departees earlier this week in a trade with Colorado. Preki starts off his second head coaching job with a tough test at Columbus Crew Stadium, where the fans are still seething over last year’s playoff elimination by RSL, which rallied from a 2-1 aggregate deficit to win, 4-2 in the conference semifinals. Question: Did the Crew’s narrow 5-4 aggregate loss to Toluca in the Concacaf Champions’ League indicate the Crew is back on track?
TEXAS TEST. The retirement of left back and captain Wade Barrett casts yet another variable into the Dynamo equation from which Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark have already been subtracted. FCD Dallas nearly snuck into the playoffs last year with a late-season surge forged by some personnel changes. Question: Without Dave van den Bergh, can FCD take advantage at home of a good opponent testing out a few tweaks?
STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND. Speaking of new, Carlos de Los Cobos and Hans Backe coach their first MLS games against each other when Chicago “helps” New York unveil Red Bull Park on Saturday. The Red Bulls new playground drew rave reviews last week as the hosts dismantled the Santos Teenage All-Stars. Question: Can the Red Bulls come close to matching their spiffy, impressive surroundings against a perennial Eastern Conference contender?
REVENGE REMATCH. Curt Onalfo starts off his stint at D.C. United against the team that fired him last year, but regardless of how the Onalfo-Peter Vermes schism plays out, Wizards’ fans need assurances that the change, as well as the radical roster renovations that ensued, have steered their team back on-course. Question: Can Kansas City, which moves into a new stadium next year, shake off the malaise that has plagued it at CommunityAmerica Ballpark?
THE RSL REPEAT. San Jose sets out on its third season with political approval for the funding mechanism of its stadium project and a stronger roster than it had a year ago. It opens at home against RSL, which by building a championship-winning team constantly reminded how far behind were the Quakes in their own guest for success. A lot of elements have to fall into place for the Quakes to challenge for a playoff spot, yet they brought in Bobby Convey last year to do just that, and he didn’t make all that much of a difference. Question: Can he parlay his impressive season form into real results?
RUEFUL REVS. During their injury-riddled 2009 season, New England needed Shalrie Joseph to be superman just about every week. He played up top, he took over playmaking duties when Steve Ralston went down injured in August, he took on the burden of willing his team into the playoffs. He succeeded, but with Ralston, Jay Heaps and Steve Larentowicz gone and starting keeper Matt Reis injured sidelined for the start of the 2010 season, the Revs will play the Galaxy at Home Depot Center without Joseph as well. Question: Without so much leadership and experience, who can lead the charge?