That’s a wrap, another MLS season in the books. Arguable the best one yet. The MLS has come a long way since the ten team league of 1993. This year did not disappoint with excitement, heart breaking upsets, epic comebacks, stunning new talent, and heated competition. Here are our favorite bits a pieces from the MLS 2015.
Most Stressful Match of the Year:
This one is a no brainer. Without a doubt the most stressful finish to any match this season was Portland Timbers vs Sporting Kansas City’s epic Playoff knockout round shootout. After the full 90 minutes and additional 15 minute halves, the teams found themselves at a 2-2 draw, resulting in a nail biting shootout that would go through both teams entire roster. Sporting KC had the upper hand on numerous occasions but were unable to finish when it mattered most. Portland advanced and would go on to win the whole thing just a couple weeks later.
Watch it all go down:
M.V.D.P. (Most Valuable Designated Player)
This year enticed a wide range of designated players to the league. No doubt additions of football legends like Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo were exciting. After all, it is not often in the US that you get a chance to see a world class great, let alone on your team. But the majority of designated players added to the MLS roster continued to uphold the leagues reputation of being “where legends go to die.” Then there’s Giovinco…
Toronto FC literally owes their season to the Italian stud, Sebastian Giovinco, who joined the team at the peak of his career. Giovinco was wildly successful in Seria A winning two titles with Juventus, as well as being a vital member of the Italian National Team. His choice to move to the MLS isn’t just exciting for Toronto, but exciting for the entire league. Players like Giovinco are what will elevate the MLS to ultimately becoming competitive on a world stage, and I’m sure Toronto isn’t sad about the 38 goals/assists that paved their way to a first ever playoff appearance.
If you saw the tifos from MLS opening weekend then you already knew there was going to be some extraordinary supporter displays this season. There were so many good ones we couldn’t pick just one.
“Indiana” Jermaine Jones: Nice work New England. You can almost hear that theme music (which of course was blaring over the stadium speakers as it was unveiled) just looking at the photo. The quest for the MLS Cup really is the search for the Holy Grail. There is so much awesomeness in this one, but the best part is that this tifo was created in partnership with the Boston Children’s Hospital with the aid of some incredibly talented young artists. Now that is cool.
Timbers Ride the Bull: The Timbers Army is known throughout the league for orchestrating off some of the most extravagant tifos in the league. So naturally in Western Conference Finals against FC Dallas, Portland pulled out all the stops. Let’s face it, just the size of the display alone is pretty damn impressive. There’s banners, a clever play on words, a great deal of coordination with individuals, and obviously a whole lot of time and planning. This is commitment to your club, Bravo.
I mean I suppose eventually they were going to have to give Best Goal of the Year to someone else, but Obafemi Martin’s goal against the Colorado Rapids was nothing short of remarkable. A perfectly timed dance, spinning between defenders while maintaining flawless control of the ball before ripping it into the back of the net. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
It just needs to be said...WE LOVE THE NEWBIES!
Being the new kid in town is tough. It’s almost expected that you will fall flat on your face. This year debuted two new expansions to the league, and they rose above expectations. New York City FC and Orlando City SC both made a hard run in their first season, Orlando City nearly slipping into post season. And perhaps most importantly their supporters let themselves be seen and heard. Both expansions found themselves at the top of the league for attendance, short of Seattle. Orlando at #2 with an average of 32,847 and NYCFC at #3 with 29,016. We are looking forward to watching these clubs flourish.
Honestly we were shocked that this was not voted to MLS’s Save of the Year. This is goaltending at its finest. Not just one, but two incredible saves made by Luis Robles robbed the Timbers of a victory and gave the New York Red Bulls another clean sheet. Simply stunning.
This crown goes to Sporting KC in their April matchup against Philadelphia Union. Going into stoppage time Philadelphia held the lead 2-1 over Kansas, but the match isn’t over till the final whistle. Sporting KC made those extra minutes count scoring the equalizer less than a minute into stoppage time, and following it up with the game winner. FT: SKC 3-2
Do you have a favorite memory from this season? Share it below in the comments
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Results of last week’s MLS match-ups certainly stirred up the standings in the Western Conference. In the shuffle LA Galaxy found its way on top of the west, and a Whitecaps defeat, that would have put Vancouver at the head of the race for the Supporters Shield, saw them pass their crown and step down from the number one seat. One thing that has remained constant however is the undeniable dominance of D.C. United over the Eastern conference.
Currently in the lead for the Supporters Shield (by 1 pt. over L.A.), D.C. has enjoyed a comfortable and virtually uncontested reign over the Eastern MLS Conference. In recent weeks the NY Red Bulls have begun to make a steady climb, but they still have a ways to go as they remain 5 points (or at least 2 winning matches) short of catching up to the long standing leader. In fact the five point gap is nothing compared to earlier disparities, at one point D.C. United sat cushioned with 10 pts between itself and the next closest contender in the Eastern Conference and I'd doubt they intend to give up their seat anytime soon.
The battle in the west has been a completely different story. The largest point differential in the top 5 Western Conference clubs is 2 pts, and the others sit with but one mere point between them and the next closest club making every match all the more crucial. Without question the competition is much more heated in the west. Though D.C. currently sits at the top of the overall MLS standings, it does raise the question of whether their command is because they truly are the best team in the MLS at this time, or is there an imbalance of talented clubs depending on the Conference you compete in? Essentially is competing with clubs in the west more difficult that, competition in the east?
Taking a look into the overall standings might give us a better look into things, the top 10 clubs in the MLS in order are as follows:
Things to note:
In past seasons the Western Conference has without a doubt been more successful. It is also worth mentioning that the east is the home of two brand new 2015 expansion clubs that have not had the opportunity to fully get on their feet in the league. Whether there actually are currently advantages to playing in the East over the West remains to be seen, and over time as will all sporting world talent will shift and move tipping the scales for some time in one area before moving to the next, but it is interesting to consider.
There’s no doubt about it, the MLS is growing in popularity, talent, and excitement. What’s behind this surging movement? Star power. Ever since David Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy back in 2007, the MLS has become a destination for superstars seeking a new challenge and American internationals seeking a quality home within their nation. At this point, the sheer number of great soccer players has raised the MLS bar to new heights, and has provided a growing number of fans with more excitement from the talent on the pitch. Looking ahead, the new arrivals look set to merely add to this wonderful aura about the league.
Guys like Robbie Keane and Obafemi Martins have brought sheer talent to the MLS, scoring goals galore and making a strong impact to their respective clubs. But last year, the move by several key members of the USA Men’s National Team to MLS clubs brought prestige and awareness to a league that has so often struggled for legitimate recognition.
American soccer fans have grown used to the likes of Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Jermaine Jones, and Michael Bradley wearing their national jerseys, playing at World Cups, and succeeding for their country. But each fall they’d return to Europe and largely disappear. They’d play at a club that was rarely televised, or they’d spend months on the bench. Dempsey was the most successful at Fulham for 5 glorious seasons, but even his status faded after an ill-advised move to Tottenham.
Back in the MLS, these players have found new life. They have become key components to their respective clubs and have made an impact. These players delight the fans, giving them recognizable names to cheer, and providing a far better show on the pitch.
Internationally, the caliber of foreign star players moving to the MLS has increased too. Kaka has already shown his class with debutant club Orlando City SC, while Sebastian Giovinco has brought Italian flair and tantalizing speed to Toronto FC. Another famed name to arrive is David Villa, though he certainly has yet to make his mark, having been injured recently.
But two fabled names on the cusp of joining MLS may push the league over the top. Liverpool and Chelsea legends Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will be welcomed with open arms, and will certainly be destined for success. Two players whose games are based around hard work and stunning strikes will be certain to light up the MLS. Their arrival in July is heavily anticipated.
Meanwhile, household stars that have made careers in the MLS like Kyle Beckerman Omar Gonzalez speak to how far the league has come, and what a special home it can be for great players.
Perhaps one of the league’s main attributes is the fact that these stars are spread out through the entire MLS and not just reserved for one or two super clubs. This means that there is a true competition afoot, where perhaps a dozen clubs have a very real shot at winning the MLS Cup. With great players involved in nearly every MLS game, the excitement levels are rising, making American soccer a place where soccer’s stars are finding a perfect home.
The MLS has been a constantly morphing league since its early days over a full decade ago, and 2015 is no different. Along with 2 new teams, and 1 disbanded (so long, Chivas USA), Major League Soccer is bringing over several superstar names, as well as a few familiar faces in American soccer. These newcomers will be hungry to re-awaken their careers and cement their names in soccer lore. However, as past players have found coming to America, the play is not as easy as it looks, and the hot summer conditions makes competing physically a tough task. Here is how I expect this season’s MLS arrivals to fare:
And so in conclusion, I anticipate more success for the Americans headed to the MLS than for any of the foreigners. Still young and hungry for success (and humbled by the EPL), both Brek Shea and Jozy Altidore need to get their careers back on track. With definite talent, I expect both players to succeed admirably, especially Altidore. I think that Steven Gerrard will certainly be a hit with LA and the strong supporting cast there, but I do predict struggles for Kaka, David Villa, and Frank Lampard. They are headed to fledgling clubs with high hopes as international superstars, but their teams collectively are makeshift projects that have yet to play with one another. Growing pains will be apparent, and the high expectations of their big names will be put to the test straight away in the MLS. It might get rough in New York… But however the season pans out for all these newcomers, it will surely be a joy to behold! The MLS season gets underway soon