MLS Mid-Season Report 2017
The MLS 2017 season is on break and since most teams have played 17 to 20 games out of 34, it’s a perfect opportunity to establish an assessment of the first half of the 2017 campaign in the Garber circuit. FanPicks is offering daily fantasy soccer, get started now!
The resurgence of the East
For the first time in several years, it seems that the Eastern Association is stronger than its Western counterpart.
The three best MLS teams from all over the country come from the East: the astonishing Chicago Fire and Toronto FC share first place with a 38-point crop, while New York City FC follows up on its last season push by gathering a total 33-point in 2017.
The FC Dallas and the Kansas City Sporting, two clubs in the West, close out the top five with 31-point each.
The Fire, who has scoured the bottom of the standings over the last three seasons, is certainly the best story of the season so far. The arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger, winner of the last FIFA World Cup, garnered immediate result for the team. But that would underestimate the contribution of middle Dax McCarty and especially striker Nemanja Nikolic, the two other newcomers.
Nikolic is currently the top scorer of the MLS with 17 goals in only 19 games. He could very well beat the record of goals in a season in MLS, which is 27.
The other surprise is Houston’s Dynamo, with a collection of 28 point (third in the West). They seem to be on their way to the MLS playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Dynamo went on to hunt two Honduran internationals, Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto, who added a lot of heat to an attack also revitalized by the revival of the Mexican striker Erick Torres, author of 12 nets since beginning of the season.
High expectations, disappointing results
Meanwhile, those who were expected to be at the top are failing. It’s the case of the Los Angeles Galaxy, five time MLS Cup winners. David Beckham’s former club, whose iconic coach, Bruce Arena, has left his side to take over the reins of the US national team.
Now headed by Curt Onalfo, the California team still lacks the confidence that has characterized them in recent years. Despite an interesting number of players, the club is capable of the best and the worst, especially at home: the Galaxy loses matches at the StubHub Center more than ever, a trend that reached a climax last Tuesday when Real Salt Lake, one of the worst clubs of the MLS this season, won 6-2.
The Galaxy are ranked eighth in the West, but with only two points behind the sixth and last place giving access to the playoffs, it is not yet time to throw the season away. Especially with a quality core that contains Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini and Jelle Van Damme, they are able to achieve the best “comeback” of the second half of the season.
The other big market team in trouble this season are the New York Red Bulls. They are unrecognizable this season. With 20 assists last year, midfielder Sacha Kljestan has collected only six to date. As the year progresses, the loss of Dax McCarty to the Fire is felt, but a good summer transfer could help. Like the Galaxy, the Red Bulls are not completely out of it and can still aim for the playoffs spot. But to finish at the top of the MLS ranking as was the case in 2015 and 2013, well they can forget about that.
There is also no choice to mention the Montreal Impact as a complete disappointment this year. They do not perform to the quality of its strength. A lack of off season recruitment did not help either. Injuries to Nacho Piatti, Ballou Tabla and Matteo Mancosu detracted from the pace of a team that also has an unfortunate and recurring propensity to be a victim of defensive brain cramps. Fortunately, the addition of Blerim Dzemaili to the squad in May has given them a slight boost. Nevertheless, the rotten season smells are getting stronger around the Impact.
The winners of the last MLS Cup, the Seattle Sounders, sleep peacefully in the soft belly of the standings. Their journey is neither bad nor impressive, but they too are candidates for an awakening in the coming months… a bit like they did last season. Still, the return to play of their leader Clint Dempsey, who suffered heart problems last year, remains a beautiful story. Despite that, Sounders fan are still expecting more from designated player Nicolas Lodeiro.
Atlanta, the expansion team that is making some noise
It should not be forgotten that the 2017 season saw the introduction of two new teams: Atlanta United and Minnesota United. At mid-season, the results are the same as in March. Atlanta has put in the money and it shows, while Minnesota has chosen humility … and it shows.
The club from Georgia, propelled (literally) by the rocket Miguel Almiron in midfield, currently stands in fourth place in the East. Led by former Barcelona coach “Tata” Martino, the club currently counts on the return of striker Josef Martinez. The Venezuelan had shown very good things in March before suffering an injury that made him miss several matches. With the return of Martinez, who has nine goals in nine games, it would be surprising to see Atlanta go down in the standings.
After a disastrous start to the season, Minnesota took a certain time to get going. In mid-season, the “Loons” stand at the bottom of the standings with 18 points, and it should not change too much by the end of the year.