TUCSON, Ariz. – Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans scored in their first preseason appearances with Seattle as the Sounders ran the show against New England in the desert.
Both teams field something that looked like their first-choice lineups in the opener of the Desert Diamond Cup.
Here is some of what we learned:
Johnson scored a peach of a goal, working his way free on the left side, cruising into the penalty area and curling a ball into the upper corner. In all honesty, the collecting defending wasn’t very sharp, and an MLS starting forward – not to mention a U.S. international – needs to hit that shot when provided so much room. Still, it was pretty.
New England midfielder Juan Toja was on the field for about 20 minutes, his first appearance on the preseason, having been slowed by injury. That’s the thing with Toja: it’s not a matter of talent, it’s a matter of keeping healthy enough to bit familiarity and fitness. Plus the issue of keeping a high salary when the New England midfield is fairly well stocked. So, we’ll see.
These preseason games get overly combative more often than you would think. It is, after all, only preseason. Osvaldo Alonso’s bad tackle on New England left back Chris Tierney summoned up the first little push-and-shove fest. Later, Sainey Nyassi slid dangerously into March Burch, eliciting a little retaliatory slap from the Sounders defender. Both players were ejected.
Hopefully the ankle injury to Tierney isn’t significant. He was playing quite well, making Mauro Rosales really work and providing a good push from his left back spot. New England officials say Tierney has had an excellent preseason so far.
Best player in Revolution camp? Scott Caldwell is making a heck of a case. The 21-year-old Revolution academy product was slightly more defensive in the midfield set-up Wednesday, but is naturally a two-way central midfielder.
Unlike Evans and Johnson, who came back sharp from their periods of international training and matches, Jerry Bengtson wasn’t much of a factor. The Revs striker (and Honduran international) needs to score for Jay Heaps’ team to make progress this year.
The XI is set in a 3-4-3, with the New York Red Bulls, DC United, and Atlanta United leading the way with a pair of players each.
My predictions? Well, I only got six correct. Whoops. The only absence that really surprises me is Graham Zusi, and Sporting KC not having representation at all. I guess that explains why SKC manager Peter Vermes is going to be announced as the next USMNT– Wait, what’s that? Oh. I’ll stop talking.
2018 MLS Best XI
Goalkeeper: Zack Steffen (Columbus)
Defenders: Kemar Lawrence (RBNY), Aaron Long (RBNY), Chad Marshall (Seattle)
Midfielders: Miguel Almiron (Atlanta), Luciano Acosta (DC), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal), Carlos Vela (LAFC)
Serie A lags behind other top European league in TV money, which has hindered its ability to recruit top end talent relative to its competitors.
Ricci says if American sports see value in bringing their top leagues to Europe, it holds that the reverse would be true. From the BBC:
“If we look at some other more developed leagues in terms of commercial strategy; the NBA and NFL, they are exporting one or two of their matches abroad, to the UK or elsewhere in Europe. I think it is a good strategy. It is a way to export something that is not an exhibition.”
Would a regular season match bring any more eyes or attention than the International Champions Cup, at least enough to offset the sacrifice of atmosphere? It seems doubtful, but the money is the key here. Italy wants to catch up with Spain, Germany, and England.
Sticking with the orange and blue color combination which has served them since inception, the shield has FC in the top left corner, Cincinnati running diagonally left-to-right in blue script on white, and a winged lion holding a sword as the primary icon.