Hello everyone! Welcome to the first edition of the MLS Weekly Wrap-Up here on BackPage Football! This is a new weekly wrap-up that yours truly will be doing here on BPF to cover all of this highs, lows, and hi-jinks here of Major League Soccer.
We will also dabble in the NASL, the U.S. Open Cup, and pretty much everything going on here in North American football.
The reason for this weekly column is simple: it is to give you, the audience, a better idea of just MLS and, by extension, North American football is all about.
Although the game is the same (yes, we finally did get rid of the running penalty kick) its roots and history are different. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse, but always interesting.
As a journalist, what has been interesting over the past few years is watching the interest in MLS climb in places like Europe and South America. While David Beckham would like to take full credit, I personally believe it is from the work of websites BackPage Football (shamless plug) looking at the big picture of global football.
Oh, and did I mention that there will be beer recommendations for certain MLS matches? Don’t worry America makes beers outside of Budweiser and Schlitz. *Watches the page view ticker skyrocket*
So without further adieu, let’s take a look at this week’s matches!
Matches on T.V.
New York Red Bulls vs San Jose Earthquakes (4/18 0:00 GMT Sky Sports 5, 4/17 8pm EST UNiMas)
So since our audience is a mix of Europe and North America we are going to include both dates and times for matches. For those of you staying up late to watch these matches, I raise my glass to you.
While the New York Red Bulls may not have Thierry Henry or Tim Cahill anymore this is still one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference. Led by Brandon Wright-Phillips (yes, the same Brandon Wright-Phillips that played for Charlton and has a semi-famous dad) the Red Bulls have scored seven goals in just four matches.
While Henry and, to a lesser extent, Cahill were valuable pieces for the Red Bulls last season they often overshadowed the rest of the team. Without Henry dictating every pass and play it gives New York the chance to be a bit more open.
Midfielder Dax McCarty and Sacha Kljestan have developed into an effective 1-2 passing combination on the center of the pitch.
San Jose have given up five goals on the road this season and will likely struggle with Wright-Phillip’s combination of size and midfielder Loyd Sam’s speed. Earthquakes left-back Kordell Cato will be asked to contain Sam but at the same time not give Wright-Phillips space to exploit.
The Earthquakes will look towards Chris Wondolowski for an offensive spark. Although he may perhaps be best known for missing a golden opportunity at the World Cup, he has had quite the career in MLS.
Scoring 108 goals and winning two MLS Cups and two Golden Boots is a pretty succesful for a career for a guy who went to Chico State University.
Philadelphia Union vs New England Revolution (4/18 22:00 GMT Sky Sports 5, 5PM ESPN2)
Hooray! The Union won a match. After four weeks of miserable play the Union pulled out the 2-1 win over NYCFC and got their first victory of the season.
But the big winner of the match was Union goalkeeper John McCarthy, who made an excellent diving save on a free kick taken by NYCFC midfielder David Villa.
McCarthy, who played last season for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in USL PRO, took over the starting goalkeeper spot from Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi and Jamaican international Andre Blake.
Only the Union will spend Designated Player money on one goalkeeper (M’Bolhi) and the second overall pick in the SuperDraft on another (Blake) and then go with a guy who was playing in the third division of US Soccer last season.
It is going to be difficult for McCarthy to replicate his success against the Revolution with midfielder Lee Nguyen (20 goals in 2014) finally gelling with forward Juan Agudelo (one goal in five matches).
Of course the big question for the Revolution will be if midfielder Jermaine Jones is back in form. The former Schalke and current U.S. Men’s National Team regular has been sidelined for the early part of the season with hamstring issues.
The Revolution defence works best when Jones and center-back Jose Goncalves (2013 MLS Defender of the Year, formerly of Hearts and St. Gallen) can use advantage in strength and tackling to force teams to go wide.
If Jones is back in this match, expect Union midfielder Cristian Maidana to look for forwards Andrew Wenger and Fernando Aristeguieta (three goals in 2015) on the left and right flanks.
New York City FC vs Philadelphia Union (4/17 0:00 GMT; 4/16 7 PM EST)
D.C. United vs Houston Dynamo (4/19 0:00 GMT; 4/18 7 PM EST
Columbus Crew SC vs Orlando City SC (4/19 0:30 GMT; 4/18 7:30 PM EST)
FC Dallas vs Toronto FC (4/19 1:30 GMT; 4/18 8:30 PM EST
Colorado Rapids vs Seattle Sounders FC (4/19 1:30 GMT; 4/18 9 PM EST)
Los Angeles Galaxy vs Sporting Kansas City (4/19 3:30 GMT; 4/18 10:30 PM EST)
NYCFC vs Portland Timbers (4/20 0:00 GMT; 4/19 7PM EST)*
*=This match will be on Fox Sports 1 in the United States. By the way, why is Sky Sports not showing the Fox match? Both companies are owned by Rupert Murdoch. Anyone who can provide an answer wins a free drink at the bar.
Match to take a date to – NYCFC vs Timbers
Let’s face it: it can be difficult to date and be a football fan. Trying to balance the two is a very difficult task. Paying too much attention to one’s team and not enough to the special person in your life likely means that you will spending many nights on the couch.
Meanwhile abandoning your club for too many weekends on bad dates can lead to some serious ribbing from fellow supporters.
Every once in a while that amazing person comes along who both cares for you and likes going/watching football matches. I would like to call this paradise. But for those of you who looking to go on a date this weekend but also keep up with all things MLS I would suggest tuning into the NYCFC vs Portland Timbers match.
When on a football date, it is important to watch a match where both a person who is new to football can enjoy and is also interesting. Everyone has heard of NYCFC’s David Villa and Frank Lampard (not playing yet, but still coming) and thus there will be a connection to build off of.
Plus both NYCFC and the Timbers play a fast, entertaining brand of football.
Be sure to mention that the Timbers have a mascot named Timber Joey who cuts a piece of a tree off for every goal. It will certainly impress your date.
Beer of the Week (see, I told you!) – Unibroue La Fin Du Monde
This week’s Beer of the Week is in honor of the Montreal Impact, who became just the second MLS team ever to make it to the CONCACAF Champions League Final. The Impact survived a trip to Alajuela, Costa Rica and Alajuelense 4-4 off of road goals.
La Fin Du Monde is a Belgian Golden Ale with a bit of a fruity flavor to it. It does not have a very high alcohol percentage (5.5% Alcohol By Volume) which means that you can drink more than one during a ninety minute match.
So enjoy La Fin Du Monde and enjoy this week’s matches!