New York Red Bulls Trample Struggling Timbers
If I was asked last week to choose a game to watch, it would have been the NYRB vs Portland game. Portland was coming off a loss to the LA Galaxy, which was surprising considering the Timbers’ previous season. Most wrote it off as a fluke, and were looking forward to Portland on the road to New York, where the Red Bulls were coming off of a three-day break after beating Club Tijuana in Tijuana in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final.
“It's amazing, just coming up through the academy is an incredible experience, with great coaches and great players. It’s the dream to play for the first team and that dream came true tonight.”
– Ben Mines speaking with Goal.com about Saturday's performance
The Red Bulls charged into the lead as New York’s seventeen-year-old homegrown player, Ben Mines, finished off a neatly worked team goal in the eighteenth minute. New York would put up 3 more goals in the final 23 minutes of the game to shut Portland out and drop the Timbers to a dismal 0-2-0 start to the season. This could be a telling first two games for Portland, and they will have plenty of questions to answer in the coming weeks. No matter what, this was a statement first match and win for NYRB and going forward they will be a team to watch out for.
LAFC; Expansion on the Rise
Expansion teams are fickle to predict, because MLS is an unforgiving league, and it is never clear what teams will do when they face competition, no matter how good they look on paper. Last season, Atlanta looked good on paper, and were one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, while Minnesota, who to be fair did not look as good on paper, had a pretty rough first season in the league.
LAFC on paper looks to be a good team, and 2 games into the season, they appear to be the real deal. Winning 1-0 over Seattle is a big deal, but it was not clear what the matchup against RSL in Rio Tinto would bring. RSL scored first, but that was pretty much the best they had on the day, as LAFC would go on to score 5 straight. The play of the attacking front 4 for LA – Marco Urena, Carlso Vela, Latif Blessing, and Diego Rossi – is relentless. De Rossi bagged a brace on the day, while Vela and Blessing each scored a goal of their own. It is still a long season, but for right now LAFC are looking very good.
NYCFC; A Small Field in the Big Apple
If you have never seen NYCFC play a home game on TV this might seem like a weird talking point, however once you see the field for yourself, it changes your mindset completely. MLS has league standards for field size, which are stated as 110 yards long and 70 yards wide at a minimum. NYCFC swears that their field meets minimum league standards, but most disagree with that. Head coach of Sporting KC Peter Vermes has been quoted saying that he believes it is “68 by 106,” which is significantly smaller than the minimum standards.
Many coaches have questioned the assurances of NYCFC that the field meets minimum requirements, but not much can be done about it. Teams cannot properly line their practice pitches because when they line them to the minimum standards, they are still too big, according to coaches like Columbus Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter. It is understandable that the field will be small when it is located in a baseball outfield, but not meeting standards is a problem.
Attendance Numbers be Damned! Atlanta Sets Record
Last week I wrote about how MLS-announced attendance numbers are highly questionable and could in fact be fixed by the league based on where it wants success to be seen. Atlanta United last season set the record for attendance at a single game with 71,874 against Toronto. On Sunday they broke that record, with an attendance of 72,035! Atlanta is such an exciting team to watch in MLS that it makes a lot of sense that they should have great support. Some were unsure, including myself, what kind of support MLS would have in Atlanta, but there is no doubt they are one of the most supported teams in the league, and one that everyone loves to watch each week.
Homegrown Player of the Week: Ben Mines
You may not have heard of Ben Mines prior to this weekend, unless you are a Red Bulls fan. That being said, everyone should know who this kid is now. At 17 years of age, Ben Mines played the full 90 minutes in the Red Bulls victory over Portland. Mines scored not just his first ever MLS goal, but the first goal for New York this season, within the first 20 minutes of action. Ben Mines has speed on his side and is a player to watch this season moving forward.
Through 2 weeks in the season, there have only been 48 appearances for homegrown players, with a total of 2945 minutes. Homegrown players have been involved in 12 goals so far this season, through 7 goals and 5 assists, and average 61 minutes per appearance so far this season.
Author: Sam Nelson