MLS Weekend Review
Altidore and Bedoya Feud, Minnesota Thumped Again
March 14, 2017
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER'S second weekend was slightly better than the first. Attacks began to click and U.S. national team players performed well on the field—although there was a headache of an incident off the field. Here are my thoughts on the weekend.
Bedoya and Altidore get into spat
The United States national team is not in good shape right now—and a loss against Honduras on March 24 might just prevent the U.S. from the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Next Friday's game is one of the most important qualifiers in decades....and on Saturday starting striker Jozy Altidore unleashed this tweet at Alejandro Bedoya.
What was the cause of Altidore’s frustration? In Saturday’s game between Philadelphia and Toronto, Altidore scored on a penalty kick he drew while Bedoya had an opportunity from the spot that hit the crossbar. In the end, Toronto won 2-1.
Afterward, Bedoya suggested that Altidore goes down easy in the box.
Bedoya on the foul leading to Toronto's penalty: "Knowing Jozy, he tends to go down easy in the box, so let's just leave it at that."— John Rossi (@RohnJossi) March 12, 2017
The match highlights are below—watch Altidore go down at the 2:09 mark and judge for yourself if Bedoya was right.
Altidore deleted his tweet and Bedoya insisted it was the media's fault.
It's a shame quotes get taken out of context. All love man. Congrats on your goal and see you soon bro. https://t.co/jPMM5V0z9M— Alejandro Bedoya (@AleBedoya17) March 12, 2017
And to be fair, there appears to be a pretty good case that Bedoya did not mean anything bad by his comments and was smiling when he said it.
In regards to Bedoya's answer tonight he's laughing/grinning in his response. Absolutely ZERO animosity towards Altidore. Ale is a good dude https://t.co/3NLpb9mNqx— Matt Bodiford (@TheBodi_) March 12, 2017
Still, it was an uneasy moment and you can't help but wonder how Bruce Arena and others at U.S. Soccer reacted when they saw it unfold. Are Altidore and Bedoya still cool? U.S. fans can only hope so. Any kind of strife, especially among likely starters, is the last thing needed at this time.
Altidore has known Bedoya for years. Both are born in New Jersey and raised in Florida and both have been part of the national team for most of the past decade. Why didn’t Altidore just take out his phone and call Bedoya to ask him what’s the problem? Why did he feel the need to make it public?
Social media is fun but it can be a dangerous platform in situations that call for patience and maturity.
Tim Howard plays well in loss
Tim Howard made his return to the field on Saturday for the Colorado Rapids. It was his first game since suffering a knee injury against Mexico in November. Adding to the intrigue, Howard made his return in his home state playing against his first-ever professional club, the New York Red Bulls.
For Howard, it was bittersweet. He played very well and made many key saves but the Red Bulls prevailed 1-0 on an own goal.
For the Rapids, Howard’s return will be a huge boost. He will save shots that others in the league won’t save and that could be the difference as Colorado attempts to return to the MLS playoffs.
For Arena, it's all good news. Once he watches the tape he will see that his No. 1 keeper is ready. Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, Luis Robles, Bill Hamid, and David Bingham are good options but Howard is the person you want defending the goal with everything on the line. On Saturday he proved he’s in good shape.
Are there enough Americans in MLS?
ESPN posted an interesting MLS graphic Sunday showing the percentages of opening weekend starters in MLS who were born in the United States. In 2014 it was 51%, then it fell to 47% in 2015, and 46% in 2016. But the low point came last week in the 2017 season opener with just 42% of MLS starters born in the United States.
Neither of the two new expansion teams is from Canada, so that's not the cause of the new low-water mark.
The use of Targeted Allocation Money has brought mostly foreigners to take starting jobs away from Yanks.
Arguably best MLS team in Weeks 1-2 is @TimbersFC. They have only 5 USMNT-eligible players on sr. roster. Of other 14, only 5 are Int'ls. 1/— Paul Kennedy (@pkedit) March 13, 2017
Foreign talent is clearly crucial to the quality level of MLS, embodied by young international-caliber players like Carlos Gruezo or even top-notch players like Nicolas Lodeiro.
But when MLS began in 1996 the guiding principle was that it would provide a home for American players. The now-defunct NASL didn't do that, and given the trend it’s worth asking if MLS is losing its way.
MLS teams are spending more and more on their academies but if these young players don't work their way into the starting lineups of their MLS teams, what's the point?
Team of the Week: Houston
Last year Colorado was picked by many to finish in last place in the Western Conference (myself included) but was the surprise of the league, reaching second in the Western Conference.
This year the unheralded Houston Dynamo have come out of the gate with two straight wins at home—against reigning champions Seattle and then on Saturday it demolished Columbus 3-1. And it's not all Cubo Torres' doing as midfielder Alex has assisted on three of the team’s first five goals this season.
Head coach Wilmer Cabrera deserves a lot of credit. This has been the best Houston has looked in a while.
“Well, of course (I’m) happy with the performance,” Cabrera said. “The guys did a good job and we improved from the past game at home. We improved tactically. We improved our movements. We improved in spacing and trying to keep too many options. But, we faced a very talented team, a very good team, moving and passing the ball. But we continued doing our job. We continued expressing the way the Houston Dynamo express and we had the opportunity today to get three points, an important three points, at home. So, we continue moving forward.”
Major League Soccer's two expansion teams clashed over the weekend and visiting Atlanta United demolished Minnesota United 6-1.
The quality disparity was apparent. Atlanta United came into the league swinging, signing the most high-profile coach the league has ever seen. The club also signed young and exciting foreigners as well as American players. Some of the top American prospects are also in its program.
Minnesota pretty much continued forward with the core that finished in eighth place in the North American Soccer League last season, and hired a coach Orlando fired last year. It doesn’t really have anyone that exciting on the team and there is significant lack of MLS experience on the roster.
The lopsided score was not surprising but it makes you wonder how Minnesota is going to manage to win anything this season. Expansion teams should struggle but Minnesota’s start is concerning. It does not look like Minnesota is ready for prime time.
But kudos the fans who showed up. Great atmosphere in the snow.
Player of the week: Josef Martinez
Venezuelan Josef Martinez scored a hat trick for Atlanta in the 6-1 rout. True, Minnesota's defense was terrible, but credit Martinez for taking his chances.
Atlanta has numerous scoring threats who are fun to watch. Martinez is just one.
Goal of the week
After a delightful chip for a goal last weekend, Anibal Godoy followed it up this weekend with a stunning rocket for a game winner against Vancouver.
First, let’s look at last week
And here is his goal from Saturday.
The U.S. national team should take note ahead of the March 28 World Cup qualifier against Panama. Godoy is in form.