MLS: Sporting Kansas City remain unbeaten, Colorado struggle and David Villa scores outrageous goal for NYCFC.

With six matches now played, this season’s contenders are starting to emerge. 

When you reach six matches into the season, you can begin to make an indications on who will achieve what come the end of the campaign.

However this year’s MLS is proving to be the closest one yet, and a good run will see one team climb up either table frantically.

One team which has done just that is Sporting Kansas City, who rose to second in the Western Conference after beating Portland Timbers 1-0 at Providence Park.

Dom Dwyer headed in his second goal of the campaign as the away side remained unbeaten this season with three wins and three draws.

Tim Melia made some crucial saves to deny Portland. His best was stopping Nagbe’s 25-year goal bound effort by touching it onto the crossbar.

“We are playing well,” said Dwyer after the game.

“We are passing the ball around nicely and controlling games which is very positive. We remain undefeated and today was a real solid team performance from front to back.”

Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes, who was taking charge of his 300th game, was also very happy with how his team played at a very difficult Portland side.

“We came to play and weren’t nervous. We didn’t let the emotion of the game rattle us,” he said.

At the other end of the spectrum, Colorado Rapids fell to the bottom of the Western Conference after a 2-1 home loss to a resurgent Real Salt Lake.

Defeat marked the end of Colorado’s two-year unbeaten home record in MLS, whilst RSL made it two wins out of two under Mike Petke.

Kevin Doyle headed the home side in front with a powerful header that Nick Rimando failed to keep out.

Yuri Movsisyan equalised from the penalty spot with seven minutes to go, before Brooks Lennon scored a winner for the visitors with a low strike from 18-yards.

“They sat back and we struggled to play our style,” Lennon said after the game.

“On and off the pitch, we have come together and are now benefiting from it. We are on a good run and hope to continue it.”

Another team struggling are Philadelphia Union, who lost to New York City 2-0 at Talen Energy Stadium.

Jack Harrison scored the first for the visitors with a first time left-footed strike, before veteran striker David Villa produced a moment of magic to seal the points.

The former World Cup winner and NYCFC captain lobbed Andre Blake from over 50 yards in stoppage time.

“I saw the keeper was off his line and thought to just try it,” Villa said after the game.

“I don’t know if I will score from that distance again, I tried it against Philadelphia last year and hit the crossbar so this one went better.”

Boos rung out for the home side at full-time, with Philadelphia bottom of the Eastern Conference and winless so far, adding pressure on manager Jim Curtin.

Elsewhere, Vancouver Whitecaps made it back-to back wins at home after defeating Seattle Sounders 2-1, Montreal Impact recorded their first win of the year against Atlanta United by the same scoreline, and Chicago Fire comfortably beat New England Revolution 3-0.

Also, New York Red Bulls beat DC United 2-0 at Red Bull Arena, and Columbus Crew returned to the top of the Eastern Conference thanks to a 2-1 win over Toronto FC.

Finally, Dallas and San Jose Earthquakes could only draw 1-1, and Minnesota United fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Arena.

MLS Daily: Getting rid of financial regulations wouldn’t necessarily make the MLS more competitive.

New York City FC midfielder Andrea Pirlo has called for the MLS salary cap to be scrapped in order for the league to compete with China’s top division. 

After the financial collapse of the North American Soccer League (NASL) in the 1980s, the MLS developed a system so that the same fate couldn’t be repeated- but it could cost them the ability to attract the world’s best players.

The rise of the Chinese Super League has escalated over the last couple of years- with teams spending enormous amounts of money to buy some of the highest quality footballers on the planet. Hulk, Oscar, Axel Witsel and Carlos Tevez are just a few of the players currently plying their trade in Asia on mega-buck contracts.

In comparison, the MLS have integrated a system in which clubs can only sign a maximum of three designated players, who can earn above the salary cap thats set across the league.

37-year old Pirlo told Gazzetta dello Sport: “The league needs to get rid of any restrictions on transfers and end the rule which allows only three so-called designated players to earn big money beyond each team’s set budget if it wants to compete.

“I’ve seen improvements and from what I have seen in friendly games and the first two rounds of the regular season. The quality has risen a lot.

“But certainly I would get rid of the restrictions on the transfer market. Enough with the three exceptions to the salary cap, which is too little to convince other stars to come here. They need to develop a liberal system where you can buy and sell players without restrictions.

“Now there is even the competition from China. If you want to compete with other leagues, at home and abroad, you have got to get rid of any restrictions.”

Pirlo, along with David Villa, are two of the three designated players currently on the books at Yankee Stadium.

Other notable names on designated contracts include Orlando city captain Kaka, Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco, as well as LA Galaxy trio Jelle Van Damme, Giovani Dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini.

David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Thierry Henry and Didier Drogba have all been previously on designated player contracts.

The major problem for the MLS is that players have only considered moving to the states as a last big payday. Most players listed above joined their retrospective clubs when they were in their 30s.

The restrictions on contracts and transfer sums means that players aren’t ready to join a league that isn’t as competitive as the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga when they are at their peak.

A shift in the rulebook could help the teams compete with the Chinese Super League, but it would definitely hamper certain clubs chances of success.

Even if the restrictions were lifted, not all MLS clubs have mega budgets they could use to sign quality players. Like some leagues in Europe, we would probably see three or four clubs competing for the MLS Cup every year, which could drive away certain fans.

At the same time, fans do want to see the world’s best players. Rumours are going round suggesting that LA Galaxy are preparing to offer Zlatan Ibrahimovic a deal to come over to the MLS- a deal which would excite the country let alone LA.

But you couldn’t imagine other clubs, say the San Jose Earthquakes or Sporting KC offering the same deal to the 35-year old Swedish captain. Only a handful of teams could, and that is why the salary cap is worthy of being in place. It makes the league fairer for the smaller budgeted sides.

The quality of the American top flight is forever growing stronger, and when it is at a standard where most if not all players would be worthy of designated player contracts, then we could see a change in the rules.

China may have the money, but it will take time to integrate better footballing standards in the country. Look at the English clubs spending big, like Manchester United. They are still nowhere near winning the Premier League title. Liverpool also have spent a heap of cash and look like possibly missing out on Champions League football.

Leicester City won the Premier League last year, and had one of the smallest budgets in the division.

Money isn’t everything. It may bring the stars, but it doesn’t necessarily bring better standards and excitement. The MLS this year is as competitive as ever, and it’s only going to get better.







MLS Daily: Big wins for New York City FC and Atlanta United.

The two sides scored a whopping ten goals between them!

It was goals, goals, goals on Sunday in the MLS, with both New York City FC and Atlanta United recording huge wins after their opening round defeats.

NYCFC, who were beaten 1-0 in Orlando last week, thumped DC United 4-0 at Yankee Stadium.

Captain David Villa netted a brace, with Rodney Wallace and Maxi Moralez both scoring their first goals for New York respectively.

It was a commanding performance from Patrick Vieira’s men, who are looking to once again challenge in the end of season Play-Offs.

The former-Arsenal skipper has been in the New York job for just over a year, and the Frenchman insists his team will only get better.

“It was a great team performance,” he told the press after the match.

“It was important to win our first home match and we did that really well.

“After the Orlando game, I told the players to play the same way because we did create chances but didn’t take them. Today we did take our changes, and we will go and celebrate what was a very good win.”

Moralez, who also got two assists as well as the goal, echoed his manager’s thoughts. He told @NYCFC after the game: “We must carry on playing like this throughout the season.

“I am very happy to have scored the goal but also to have played my debut in front of the supporters and get the win.”

It was also a day to remember for Atlanta, who recorded their first ever MLS win with a 6-1 demolition of fellow new boys Minnesota United.

Despite the freezing cold weather, Atlanta were in red hot form. Josef Martinez racked up the first MLS hat-trick of the season, with Miguel Almiron scoring twice and Jacob Peterson also finding the net for Tito Martino’s team.

After their heartbreaking 2-1 home defeat to New York Red Bulls last week, Atlanta showed the world their true potential as they aim to claim a stake for one of the Eastern Conference’s play-off spots.

Martinez told the Atlanta Journal Constitution after the game: “It’s always nice to score, even more so when it’s three, but the most important thing is that the team got the win tonight and it feels really good to get the first in in team history.”

Head coach Martino admitted he had never managed a game in the snow before, and said after the match:  “Above all, we played a simple game and avoided problems overall.

“I think if it wasn’t so snowy, we would’ve been able to play more like we did in the first 15 minutes.

“We would’ve liked to have had our first win in the first game, but we’re happy with the first win as a team.”

Elsewhere, Portland kept up their 100% start to the new season with a 1-0 win at LA Galaxy, who themselves are yet to register a single point this campaign.

MLS Daily: Late heartbreak for Atlanta.

It was almost a winning start in MLS for Gerardo Martino’s men. 

It was a famous night in the state of Georgia which nearly ended in ecstasy for the home fans.

Argetine midfielder Yamil Asad scored Atlanta’s first ever goal in MLS after 25 minutes with a first time finish at the back post from Tyrone Mears’ cross.

For a majority of the match, the home side seemed comfortably against a well-organised New York Red Bulls team.

Atlanta, who are coached by former Barcelona and Argentina boss Martino, were just 18 minutes away from victory before the visitors equalised through Daniel Royer.

The home team would have probably taken a point at the start of the evening, but even that was cruelly taken away from them when the unfortunate Anton Walkes put the ball into his own net.

With Atalanta pushing for a late equaliser, Carlos Carmona lost his cool and the Spaniard was sent off for violent conduct to end any chance of a comeback for the home team.

Martino however was pleased with his team’s performance and told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution afterwards: “We were much closer to converting a second goal then they were to equalise.

“They managed to turn the score around but I think we had started to control the game again up until they scored that leveller.”

“We want to be a team that is very aggressive and quickly win the ball back when we lose it. The message we want to put out there is that we are a team that is very comfortable in this league and is excited to represent the city.”

Goalscorer Asad added: “It was a joy to score (Atlanta’s first ever MLS goal). I’m very excited to be a part of the club’s history, but I’m unhappy that we lost. We still have a lot of things to work on.”

Red Bulls’ playmaker Sacha Kljestan, who was made club captain during the off-season, said: “Atlanta seem to be doing a lot of things right.

“Their training facility is top-notch and the atmosphere of the stadium with the fans was amazing. Atlanta as a team are very good- I think they will do pretty well this season.”

Jesse Marsch, Head Coach of the New York Red Bulls, praised the mentality of his team but was also full of praise for the opposition.

“Atlanta tested us in big way in the first half  but we hung in there,” he said.

“At half-time, we asked the players to put a little bit more effort in and be a little bit clearer tactically. I thought for the most part we did that.

The effort in the second half  was really good, and it was a great comeback. There is a lot of spirit within this team.”

Elsewhere last night, Orlando kicked off their new season with a 1-0 win over New York City FC.

Cyle Larin scored the only goal of the game, as Orlando opened their new stadium with victory.

Vancouver Whitecaps could only draw 0-0 at home to Philadelphia Union.