The best (and worst) from Week 1 in MLS
Worst news for a club
For all that was beautiful about that dreamy scene at Orlando, Kaka’s injury was a bit of a concerning zit. What the Brazilian talisman’s absence meant for the night was well chronicled here. But there’s a bigger concern.
Kaka arrived into Orlando City with some history of injury; two long absences at Real Madrid and another in his second run at AC Milan prevented Kaka from being all he could be on those famed stages. Nicked here and there in Orlando City’s first season, Kaka still managed to start a respectable 28 matches. But last year, that number dropped to 23 – meaning he missed about a third of the season’s league starts.
Kaka, who turns 35 in April, seems unlikely to suddenly improve. His impending six-week absence is awful news for Kreis & Co., considering how Kaka is the indispensable link in the Lions’ attacking chain.
If you mention Giles Barnes as a replacement part of any significant measure, please see me after class.
Worst moment in an otherwise swell night in Georgia
Like Minnesota, congrats go to Atlanta United for getting over the first-match hump, merging into competitive MLS play. Minnesota opened on the road (yuck … let’s just move on) while Tata Martino’s team had the pleasure of opening at home. And it was such a swell lid-lifter inside that packed, place-holder stadium. Even if the result left some frowns, the historical significance cannot be overstated.
The confounded “p**o” chant dimmed the light of the night just a little.
This isn’t to pick on Atlanta or fall lazily back on stereotypes of the American south; this still happens in too many American soccer ports. In fact, the Atlanta club’s supporters group Terminus Legion made commendable pre-emptive strikes against that particular stink bomb of childish nonsense, and the club was quick to condemn the homophobic slur afterward.
It’s just that Atlanta United was starting from scratch, with literally zero history. As such, the chance to set an immediate standard was right there. Alas, the power of some nitwits is strong, it seems.
It’s hard to chase a legend, as we all know. So in his position has LA Galaxy manager, Curt Onalfo is starting from a deficit in replacing Bruce Arena. The other potential career contamination here: This is Onalfo’s third MLS coaching appointment, and neither of his previous stops, D.C. United and Kansas City, were much to shout about.
Losing to FC Dallas, the Supporters' Shield holders and only team in MLS history with back-to-back 60-point seasons, is no shame. But losing to FCD at home, on opening night, when the visitors used eight of the same starters from a long trip to Panama just three nights before? Yeah, that one stings. A draw would have been nice, at least.
Onalfo’s previous failure will likely reduce his margin for error around the StubHub Center, where expectations will continue to ride high, even when the team has clearly reduced spending.
Worst narrative before the fact
Can we stop talking about markets as “good soccer markets” or “bad soccer markets” now? For that matter, maybe even drop “good” or “bad sports towns” from the vernacular. Thank you, Atlanta, for that.
Here’s the deal: How well a team draws at the gate and, at the bigger level, how well it is received in a city, is a product of many interconnected, often overlapping elements.
We heard all the concerns about Atlanta as a sports town, and Atlanta as a soccer market. But “soccer market” concerns were based on what? That the Atlanta Chiefs of the old NASL folded back in 1981?
The city is ready for professional soccer, clearly. So if you were worried about Atlanta United because of the city’s former sports notoriety, never mind those 30,000 season tickets sold, go have yourself a New Coke and pop in an old Friends DVD, or something, because you’re living in the past.
Steve Davis’ column, America’s Game, appears weekly on FourFourTwo USA. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveDavis90.