As we scan the MLS landscape for interesting stories early in the season, Colorado sticks out … and for all the wrong reasons. Long story short, the Rapids look like a bit of a mess right now.
As workouts begin, Pablo Mastroeni (pictured) is more or less in charge of the team. Mastroeni is a guy I respect a lot – so do a lot of people. So this is no indictment of the longtime U.S. and MLS figure who just retired as a player.
But he has no professional coaching experience. He’s in charge because the team has yet to replace Oscar Pareja. And that’s the front office’s fault for having made such a mess in handling their head coaching position, refusing to grant permission initially for Dallas to interview Pareja (never a good idea) and then appearing to handle negotiations with FCD in a fairly clumsy way.
Something else is going on that isn’t completely the Rapids fault.
Hendry Thomas remains dug into a contract standoff, apparently seeking a big pay raise. The skillful Honduran’s emergence as tough, dependable holding midfielder helped get Colorado into last year’s playoffs.
This could be routine stuff; contact impasses and salary disputes are as much a part of the sports landscape as athletic tape or water bottles. But it’s also fair to wonder if big contracts just handed to a pair of newly minted, high profile MLS midfielders, Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu, are complicating these negotiations. (They play roughly the same position, although Bradley is more of a two-way man.)
Further, it’s fair to wonder if this is just the beachhead in negotiations complicated by the pair’s big salaries? Either way, Colorado is in a fix for the time being, although there is just a bit of time to put things right before the season opens in March.
Here’s what we learned from a fun win over the Reggae Boyz.
A moment for U.S. Soccer history
It doesn’t matter whether the Americans were heavy favorites or underdogs (they were heavy favorites), a title-winning match is going to make memories for an entire program.
That it was Stanford product Jordan Morris who scored the match winner in the 90th minute only makes it better.
Morris is a symbol of the many paths Americans can take to the national team, and his industrious efforts and “100 mph at all-times” motor received a deserved exclamation point.
“It’s unbelievable. Every time I step on this field it’s an honor to represent this country. This game was amazing. Jamaica made it really tough and I was nervous cause it was my guy who scored on the goal so I was trying to make up for it any way I could.”
It wasn’t Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, or Jozy Altidore who etched their names in U.S. Soccer history, and that’s a good note for this side as it builds toward, hopefully, the 2018 World Cup in Russia. That picture above says a lot.
Bruce gets it right (mostly)
While being careful not to give the legendary U.S. boss too much credit for choosing 10 of his best 11 and trotting out the same lineup from a solid win over Costa Rica, Arena had five games to find a team that would win a final on home soil and he successfully pulled that off.
He was right to know he could navigate the group stage with an experimental bunch, even if those games showed that the American depth isn’t near what many of us hoped it might be at this point in the program’s development.
What it means for a World Cup or even the rest of CONCACAF qualifying is another thing, but the quality of Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Tim Howard is too much for all of CONCACAF but Mexico (and Costa Rica on its best day).
Lauding Arena for plugging Dempsey into the match as his first sub is like lauding a pizzeria owner for ordering mozzarella for his pies, so let’s move to sub No. 2. It was a risk to plug ice-cold Gyasi Zardes into the match, and the LA Galaxy man did not look good for most of the match. But his cross on the winner got the job done, and you can’t take that away from the team.
The future feels bright
Michael Bradley was given the Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament, and the fact that the Yanks clearly arrived in the tournament with their captain’s return to the fold following the group stage is no coincidence.
Yet it is a pleasant and mild surprise. Bradley had not starred for the U.S. for some time, though he is clearly their best option in the middle of the park. For him to arrive and put in a calm, collected, and dominant batch of shifts is a good sign heading into some tough World Cup qualifiers.
Tim Howard proved again that there was never any need to consider anyone else as a No. 1 — even though Brad Guzan had some great moments in the group stage — while Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey both shined in spots.
Considering that Christian Pulisic, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson, and Bobby Wood were (probably) just hanging out in Europe during the tournament shows that the Americans can feel good about life. That’s a marked change from life under Jurgen Klinsmann, and U.S. Soccer has been proven right time and again by that move. The jury’s still out on Arena, but that same jury has good vibes right now.
Jordan Morris missed a chance to put the U.S. ahead with three minutes to play, then belted the Americans to a title with moments to spare in regulation, giving the USMNT its sixth Gold Cup title with a 2-1 win over Jamaica at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Wednesday.
Altidore also scored his 39th career goal and is now 16 goals behind joint-USMNT all-time leaders Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.
Je-Vaughn Watson equalized for Jamaica within five second half minutes.
The early stages were more about fouls than chances, as Jamaica took several chances to plow into the favored U.S.
Je-Vaughn Watson could’ve seen red for a cleating of Jordan Morris, and Jorge Villafana was felled by a vicious bit of work from Romario Williams.
The first threat on goal came from Jozy Altidore and friends, as the Toronto FC man tore into a 25-yard shot that Andre Blake saved before being injured denying Kellyn Acosta’s rebound chance.
Blake was taken from the game with an ugly-looking hand injury, and Dwayne Miller took his place between the sticks.
Though the U.S. controlled the game, there were dicey moments, to be sure, as Graham Zusi was cooked by Darren Mattocks and the U.S. conceded a corner kick it was able to send clear of danger.
Continued U.S. pressure led to a dangerous free kick, dead center, 30 yards from goal. Enter Altidore.
The lead didn’t last long, as Watson cooked Jordan Morris at the back post to lash a free kick past Tim Howard. It was poor marking from the youngster, and the final was tied at 1.
Miller made a stop on an Arriola in the 63rd minute, as the U.S. looked to rally after inserting Clint Dempsey for Kellyn Acosta.
Omar Gonzalez headed a Michael Bradley corner off the netting outside of the near post in the 71st minute, as the Yanks and Reggae Boyz edged toward extra time.
Miller then flipped a Morris rip over the bar for a U.S. corner that turned into a Jamaican counter when Gonzalez was sucked into the Reggae Boyz’ 18.
Dempsey then headed a cross that Miller pushed off the post in the 75th minute in a moment that would’ve been doubly historic.
The Seattle man then mishit a free kick that nearly gave Jordan Morris the match-winner, but the fellow Sounders attacker somehow opted against passing it on goal with his left-foot and flubbed the chance.
Given a chance with his right foot, though, it was all good. A Zardes cross was partially cleared to the penalty spot, and Morris made no doubt with a blast past Miller. 2-1, 90.
The game in 100 words (or less): Goals from Ilsinho, CJ Sapong, and Marcus Epps led the Philadelphia Union to a 3-0 win over the Crew, who had not one but two players sent off in the loss. Jonathan Mensah saw red in the 35th minute for denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity, and Lalas Abubakar was sent off for violent conduct with about a quarter hour to play. Sapong had two assists and Ilsinho added a helper too. Philly pulls to within five points of sixth-place Columbus, and have played one less game.
Three moments that mattered
20′ — Overhead pass gets deserved finish — Ilsinho made Zack Steffen’s diving attempt look feeble with a blast after Sapong’s bike-like ball across the box.