Who’s left? With Miami confirmed, MLS down to two expansion slots


New York FC and Orlando City will start play in 2015. Miami? Who knows, but at least they’ve got a ticket, and with Major League Soccer approaching that magic 24 number, there aren’t that many left. If the league sticks to its plan to find its 23rd and 24th members by 2015, there’s only room for two more kids at this prom.

So who does that leave? Atlanta seems to be the favorite for No. 23, but it’s hard to tell. With Orlando’s entry (team in place, stadium coming), it was easy to read the tea leaves. Likewise with David Beckham. He had his option, and we knew he was angling for Miami. Teams 21 and 22 were predictable.

Atlanta doesn’t have Beckham’s promises or the Orlando City SC blueprint, but they have been part of what seems like a continuous connection between Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank (pictured) and Major League Soccer. With MLS committed to setting up camp again in the southeast, Atlanta could be a significant cog – one that complements the new Florida franchises. What Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver are to one corner of the map, Atlanta, Miami and Orlando could try be to the other.

The other expansion candidates aren’t such easy fits. Minneapolis represents another potential partnership with an NFL owner and venue, but the geographic urgency isn’t as pressing. St. Louis is always mentioned as a possible destination, but that’s more a nod to the city’s soccer history than any viable plan to play in the market. San Antonio is the type of market where MLS has found recent success, but attendance for the second year of the NASL franchise dropped slightly.

Then there are the fringe candidates. Charlotte’s USL PRO ownership has whispered about wanting to follow Orlando’s example. Likewise, the Sacramento Republic may be a third-to-first tier candidate (just don’t forget about those average temperatures of 92-93 degrees in July and August; highs eclipse 110).

This is where the decisions get hard, which is why we might not get the relatively quick decisions we saw with Orlando and Miami. And with MLS down to two slots, it might be worth it  to let this process play out, see which ownership groups strengthen, and let the competition identify which options are the strongest.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

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Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)