You know we've reached a more mature stage in the new MLS season when mid-week games appear on the calendar.
Most teams have now played eight or so games, nearly a quarter of their matches, and here's what's sticking out:
- Toronto FC and defending ... the two have seemed incompatible since the Reds made their MLS debut nearly a decade ago. But, with the arrival of Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour and Will Johnson, Toronto can hold on to leads and shut down opponents ...This, combined with the brilliant play of Sebastian Giovinco, makes them a potent force in the East. Impact fans can look to exciting and challenging matches against their Canadian rivals.
- The Colorado Rapids' flowing football ... well, not quite, but Colorado is the most improved team in the league so far. Key acquisitions, young players with more experience mean the MLS season could extend into the playoffs in the Rockies. A motivated Jermaine Jones is a power, especially when attack-minded players like Doyle, Gashi and Solignac are provided service up front. For the Impact, points against that team on the weekend will be harder to achieve then previously thought.
- Chris Wondolowski is at the heart of San Jose Earthquakes' success. The Earthquake striker is simply the best in the league in terms of sniffing out goal scoring opportunities. As he seems determined to have another productive season, Dom Kinnear's team's fate rides on his shoulders. The match between the Impact and the Earthquakes in late September might have crucial meaning in terms of playoff implications.
- Laurent Ciman remains the best defender in MLS. Whether paired with Victor Cabrera or Wandrille Lefèvre, his presence brings stability, poise and a structure that will be key to the Impact's success and potential foray deep into the playoffs.
- New York City FC: a team in need of an identity ... and a home! City's play in plagued by indecision in defense and an over reliance on the play of David Villa. But more importantly, the Man City wannabees are hamstrung by playing in probably the worst confines in MLS. The narrow dimensions of Yankee Stadium seem to also limit their tactical imagination despite the best efforts of Patrick Vieira. For the Impact, losing points against such a team is shameful!
- The starts are aligning in the Galaxy ... LA is now poised to surge up the standings in the Western conference. Despite the absence of Robbie Keane, they find ways to score ... thanks in part to the great work of Mike Magee up front. With Steven Gerrard and Giovanni Dos Santos in fine form, the LA Galaxy is the power that most fans predicted. For the Impact, travel to a different solar system might be wise!
- Vancouver's inconsistency remains ... well ... constant ... Talent forward, a solid centre back pairing and the best goalkeeper in MLS should mean top of the standing position for the Whitecaps. Yet, they remain in the middle of the pack. The experience of players like Christian Bolanos and Pedro Morales will see them make progress though. The young Vancouver wolves could create many problems in future games against the Impact.
- Orlando's fury ... the purple wave could be a flow of anger directed at MLS referees. Few teams have been victimized by the supposedly PRO referees than Kaka's team. It's a wonder Adrian Heath has not have a stroke yet. This means that Orlando City will be a hungry squad whenever they meet the Impact next.