Expansion teams learn hard MLS lessons

New York City FC and Orlando City are finding out just how hard it is to compete in MLS as expansion teams even when they've shelled out big money for international stars. They've learned some hard MLS lessons that Designated Players must be healthy and all DPs must be producing.

The last MLS expansion to have a winning record in its first season was Seattle -- indeed, the Sounders have had winning records and made the playoffs all six seasons -- and just two of 11 expansion teams have had winning records. (Chicago won MLS Cup in 1998.)

New York City FC and Orlando City have a combined 3-9-5 record, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Both teams were unbeaten after the first two weeks, but since then they have one win between them in their last 13 games.

NYCFC got off to a 1-0-2 record, but since David Villa was injured, it's all fallen apart for Jason Kreis' team. Since Spaniard left at halftime of the April 16 game against Philadelphia, NYCFC ended up tying the Union match it led at the half and lost its next three games, including Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Sounders in which Villa, who has been suffering from a hip injury, returned midway through the second half.

Even though he is averaging less than 50 minutes a game, Villa has more than twice as many shots and shots on goal than any other NYCFC player.

“It’s a very difficult thing in this league -- and I’ve always thought so -- when you have extremely important players like that, that you’re allocating a lot of resources to," said Kreis before the Seattle game. "You need those guys on the field. It’s not just about what David Villa is. It’s also about what he brings to the group and how everyone feels more confident and positive.’’

NYCFC is not alone in this regard in feeling the effects of the absence of DP stars. The LA Galaxy attack has been struggling without Robbie Keane, who has missed four straight games with a strained groin, while the Portland and Real Salt Lake attacks have been sputtering without Diego Valeri and Joao Plata, respectively.

Orlando City's problem has not been the availability of its star, Brazilian Kaka, but the lack of contributions from its other DP signings. With three goals and one assist, Kaka has been involved in two-thirds of the Lions' goals. The problem is, they've only scored six in eight games.

Orlando signed two other Designated Players, 21-year-old Colombian Carlos Rivas and 20-year-old Bryan Rochez, but neither has scored and between them they have played just 264 minutes.

To make matters worse for Orlando City, it lost Kevin Molino for the season with an ACL tear suffered in a friendly against Ponte Preta on Saturday.

6 comments about "Expansion teams learn hard MLS lessons".
  1. Mike Jacome, May 5, 2015 at 2:59 p.m.

    I think the lesson is for MLS. Stop giving out franchise right to teams that don't even exist yet and that should be built up from scratch like NYCFC and Atlanta. Seattle, Vancouver and portland had already a pretty strong fan-base, history, rivalry and player roster from their USL incursion... If they gave the franchise slot to NY Cosmos we wouldn't be into this conversation.

  2. Rick Estupinan, May 5, 2015 at 6:15 p.m.

    I was very surprise when they granted NYC a franchise.Don't they have enough with the Red Bulls across the Hudson?.It is only a 15 to 20 minutes ride by train from Pen Station in Manhattan to Harrison NJ,and not even with the thousands of NJ fans that go to their games,they can't attract more than 20.000 people a game.And now they have more competition with the old Cosmos coming back. Greediness is not allowing the creators of these teams to think properly and logically.

  3. Ray Shines, May 5, 2015 at 6:49 p.m.

    That's nonsense.

    Vancouver was crap when they came into MLS, lost their only playoff game the two times they've been in in their four years, Montreal missed the playoffs in two of its first three seasons and lost a one-game playoff its only time in, and Portland didn't qualify for the playoffs in three of its first four years.

    It has eff-all to do with "existing" teams (which, again, have not, outside of Seattle, done much) and everything to do with it being harder to be good in this league than people like you give it credit for.

    Cosmos? Please. Spare me that tripe. You think the Cosmos would have been competitive in MLS their first year because of Senna? Danny Szetela?

    Fanboy. Dumb, dumb, dumb fanboy.

  4. Mike Jacome, May 6, 2015 at 12:44 a.m.

    Ray, it is true that Vancouver and Portland have not been consistent making it to the playoffs but they haven't been an embarrassment either. And NY Cosmos for your information had a very rich history and titles from the old NASL.

  5. Gus Keri, May 6, 2015 at 5:44 a.m.

    The tri-state area, with more than 25 Millions people, can support three teams (RBNY, NYCFC, NY Cosmos), but they need to start winning trophies.

  6. Joseph Hul, May 6, 2015 at 12:18 p.m.

    I think the MLS should do the same thing as the European leagues do.The bottom 3 teams should be relegated and the top three of the next division down should be promoted. That way there would be financial incentives to be at least a decent team. The fact that the MLS is now looking at having 24 or more teams really waters down the competition.

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