The MLS season is taking shape. Trends are emerging and the quality of play is slowly improving after a very poor start skill-wise across the league.
Let’s look at six things to note following Week 6:
That De Jong tackle: nasty, brutal … but not unheard of … either from the the Dutch international or in MLS itself ...Hopefully Darlington Nagbe’s injury is not too serious. The key point here is that in a league with a high level of athleticism such as the MLS (not to be confused with skills and tactical awareness).
There’s a greater risk for European players who like to go to ground and who come over at a certain age and perhaps who can’t keep up with the pace/bursts of speed, of ending up committing this kind of foul. Players of the same type but who have been in the league longer (Diego Chara, Oswaldo Alonso) usually do better.
The Impact on top in the East. And deservedly so. A pretty good start for the Impact. Despite the absence of key players (Drogba, Donadel, Bernier), Montreal has shown very good potential on the attack.
Lucas Ontivero is improving, Ignacio Piatti is one of the top players in the league thus far and Laurent Ciman remains the best defender in MLS. They’ll remain among the Eastern season throughout the season.
Philadelphia is up … the most improved team this season so far. That Tranquillo Barnetta free kick was a masterpiece. They look solid on both sides of the ball and are doing it without Maurice Edu. André Blake has all the tools to be the league’s best and to eventually make the move to Europe.
Traditional powers and teams that were facing big expectations prior to the season are having some difficulty. Seattle is a pale comparison to its former self. The Sounders look disorganized offensively. Portland is also going through its usual early season sloppiness.
D.C. United, RBNY, the Crew and even TFC are all underperforming. On the other hand, SKC, Orlando and RSL are in good form.
My top players so far: Laurent Ciman and Ignacio Piatti for the Impact, Joao Plata at RSL, Dom Dwyer and Nuno Cuelho at SKC, Chris Wondolowski in San Jose, Blake in Philadelphia and Will Bruin in Houston.
On the other side, some players are not living up to their reputation or expectations: Bradley Wright-Phillips in New York and Kei Kamara in Columbus are the two biggest names in that category. A worrying fact for teams that want to repeat last year’s success.
The picture will become clearer in a few more games and then, this summer, with many key players leaving for international duty, everything will be up in the air again … That’s why MLS is such a fascinating and compelling league to follow.