The 2016 MLS season began with promise for so many teams, yet with every team now having played over 2/3 of their games, that promise has vanished for some, and
In the Western conference, FC Dallas, and last year’s worst team in the West, Colorado Rapids, have broken away from the pack, looking to have a lock on the top two places. While only the Houston Dynamo, who parted ways with their Scottish head coach, Owen Coyle, in May, and the Seattle Sounders, who fired longtime coach Sigi Schmid, look to be out of the playoff hunt.
In the East, the top 5 of New York City FC, Toronto FC, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, and the Montreal Impact have created a gap between them and 6th place, a position that DC United, Orlando FC (the other MLS team to remove their coach, Adrian Heath, this season), and the New England Revolution are scrapping for.
Over the course of this season we’ve seen fantastic goals, spectacular saves, crunching tackles, magnificent moves, player and coaching suspensions, and season ending injuries. There was even a sighting of Superman at an NYC FC v New York Red Bulls game (obviously the Red Bulls were carrying kryptonite, as they defeated NYCFC 4-1 that day)
…and a brief reenactment of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at a DC United v Portland Timbers game.
The most curious suspension this season, was that of D.C. United’s Head Coach, Ben Olsen, who was suspended for one game after entering the field of play during a loss to Toronto. He didn’t enter the field of play in a pique of rage, or to do anything nefarious. He saw that a second ball was on the pitch, right by his technical area, so he stepped on to get it away from play. Technically, according to the letter of the law, that was an invalid action, so the league both suspended and fined him for doing so (his later suspension after he was thrown out of the game against the Philadelphia Union, for abusive language towards the referee, was to be expected).
Of course, the primary goal for a team is to score…well… goals, and we’ve seen plenty of them so far this season. Some where the forwards tapped the ball past the goalkeeper from close range, such as these goals from the New York Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips, and from D.C. United‘s Álvaro Saborío.
…as well as some long distance shots that produced spectacular, but ultimately futile, dives from the goalkeepers
When the goals are scored, the teams naturally celebrate. Some, such as D.C. United’s Marcelo raise their head and hands to the heavens.
Others, such as the New York Red Bulls’ Ronald Zubar, leap and yell with delight.
While F.C. Dallas‘ Maximilliano Urruti’s celebration appeared to indicate that out of all of the superhero shows on TV at the moment, he prefers “The Arrow”.
Of course, not all attacks resulted in a goal, sometimes the keepers threw themselves at the feet of the attackers to prevent them from scoring, as demonstrated by Portland’s Jake Gleeson, diving to deny D.C. United’s Patrick Mullins.
…and sometimes the keepers had to activate their slinky like spines to leap majestically into the air and keep the ball out of the net.
There have been breakaways…
Lunges for the ball…
…aerial karate kicks
…tugs and pulls
…fancy feet, jinxing their way past defenders
…and players using their strength to push their way through the opposition’s defenders.
As to how the season will end… there’ll undoubtedly be more twists and turns, more spectacular plays, nail-biting finishes, along with joy and despair for supporters and players alike. With the transfer window closed, all of the teams have to make do with the players they have, for better or for worse. Only when October 23rd rolls around, and the last ball is kicked, will we absolutely know the 12 teams that have made the playoffs, then the post-season can begin.