MLS Weekend Review
Mike Grella Scores Two; Colorado Wins Again; Refs
June 20, 2016
POOR OFFICIATING and the absence of many top players dominated this weekend in MLS. It wasn’t a great showcase for the league but it wasn’t all bad either. At this point, Colorado deserves a round of applause for how it finds ways to win, while it looks like it is only a matter of time before the New York Red Bulls take control of the Eastern Conference.
Here are five key takeaways from the weekend that was in MLS.
Grella—league's most underrated player?
On Sunday night the Red Bulls convincingly knocked off a reeling Seattle Sounders team, 2-0, to move within one point of the Philadelphia Union in the top spot in the Eastern Conference. After the New Jersey-based club's horrendous start to the season, that is no small feat.
In the win, Red Bulls winger Mike Grella scored two goals, bringing his season total to six. Since joining New York last season, he has 15 goals and 10 assists in 48 games.
“I don't want to take credit for Mike, because I think Mike's just gotten himself going as the season's gone on and he's gotten sharper and sharper and more confident,” said Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch. “The thing with Mike is always getting the balance right of when to play simple and when to do special things, and clearly, when he gets that balance right, he's very difficult to deal with.”
What doesn’t show up on the stats sheet is that he scores important goals; he has lots of skill; he works extremely hard; and he’s fun to watch. It's hard to imagine that this guy was contemplating retirement less than two years ago. He should absolutely be an all-star this year.
Referees botch another one
I feel like a broken record criticizing MLS officiating every week, but Sunday’s game between Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas was a low point. In the 15th minute, Dallas should have been awarded a goal when Sporting KC defender Lawrence Olum hit an errant backpass to goalkeeper Tim Melia. It rolled pass Melia and into the goal but Melia hit it out when it was nearly a yard across the goal line.
Inexplicably, the referees did not award the goal. It was yet another embarrassing moment for MLS officiating because it directly affected the game. Yes, the assistant referee was not in the best place to see it as Melia blocked his line of sight but more than one person should have been in position to see a ball cross the line by that much.
Sadly, it did not get any better. Officiating throughout the game was poor. In the end, Sporting won 2-0 despite FC Dallas controlling the play. If the opening goal was awarded to Dallas, would the result have been different? Probably, although we can never know for sure.
“It impacted the game for sure,” Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja said. “Today more than ever we want to step away from that. It is frustrating. Everyone saw it and I don't want to talk about it. But to take away from things that we actually could control, we did have a few options to score. We had the goal in front of us and created the best chances in the first half. I thought we dominated the game, but it wasn't enough.”
Pablo Mastroeni: “Winning is a skill”
Even without Jermaine Jones, Colorado is an interesting team to watch. On paper, it does not appear to be a powerhouse in MLS. At 31 points through 15 games, however, the club is putting some distance between itself and all other teams (second place Dallas has three fewer points but has played two more games).
Saturday’s 2-1 win over Chicago was a typical win for Colorado. It was hard fought but late in the game, Marco Pappa found the winner for a valuable three points.
“Winning is a skill,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “You have to learn how to do it. It doesn’t come easy. We gave up a late goal against Philadelphia and we reflected upon that. Today, giving up that late goal, there was that belief that, ‘We’ve been here before, we’ve talked about it, and this is how we’re going to achieve it.’”
Nogueira’s absence will hurt Union
The Philadelphia Union might be in first place but the loss of Vincent Nogueira last week is going to be extremely costly. The Union announced last week that Nogueira had his contract terminated by mutual consent due to health issues.
Nogueira was among the better box-to-box midfielders in the league and was a big reason why the Union was in first place. On Saturday, New York City FC defeated Philadelphia 3-2 (a score made flattering to Philadelphia only due to a comical own goal from NYCFC’s Frederic Brillant) and it was hardly surprising that Philadelphia’s midfield looked completely toothless.
Unless Philadelphia makes a trade or someone else unexpectedly steps up, the team could be in real trouble. Maurice Edu is still out with a stress fracture and now Nogueira’s departure is probably too significant of a hit on its depth chart.
Sporting Director Earnie Stewart is in this for the long haul to build a sustainable top-tier MLS organization but this will be an important short-term test.
Class tribute from Orlando City
It was a tough situation for Orlando City SC to host a soccer game on the heels of the awful massacre that shook the city—and indeed, the world. But the club did a very nice job entering into the stadium to “All You Need is Love” and then organizing a touching moment of silence in the 49th minute for the 49 victims who lost their lives in the terrorist attack.
It was well done and a hat-tip goes out to those at Orlando City for handing the situation in a tasteful manner.