With the MLS season right around the corner, here are five observations from the MLS preseason.
1) Revs Kelyn Rowe
- The New England Revolution were widely expected to be one of, if not the worst, teams in the league. While the organization still has problems, the onfield product does not. New England is 6-0 in the preseason, thanks in no small part to the play of the third pick in the 2012 Superdraft, Kelyn Rowe. Rowe has four goals and four assists in the preseason, and has recorded a goal or an assist in every game. Pushed out to the wing instead of his natural #10 position because of the presence of Benny Feilhaber, Rowe has adapted well. His speed and accurate crosses make him a deadly winger while the freedom to cut inside makes him a scoring threat as well. Granted it’s only the preseason, but the Revs look strong and should be more competitive than anyone predicted.
2) Red Bulls Ryan Meara
- Goalkeeping was one of New York’s biggest problems in 2011, as the lack of a consistent shot-stopper resulted in an MLS record 16 draws, despite a potent offense that scored 50 goals tied for second best in the league. Despite the organization’s perceived lack of interest with the MLS Superdraft, they may have found their new ‘keeper in second round pick, Ryan Meara. According to MLSsoccer.com in this article, Meara’s preseason performances have him on the fast track to the starting lineup, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Meara was by far the most impressive goalie at the MLS combine and was regarded as the top college goalkeeper despite playing at little-known Fordham. With New York’s attempt to sign Luis Robles falling through, the 21-year-old Meara and 24-year-old Jeremy Vuolo are the only two goalkeepers currently on the Red Bull roster. It’s Meara’s job to lose.
3) Freddy Montero
- The Seattle Sounders have long been the “other team” in the Western Conference living in the shadow of the LA Galaxy. In an effort to match LA in the arms race, Seattle traded Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle, two promising young prospects, for former US international Eddie Johnson. But the difference between an MLS Cup and a fourth consecutive early playoff exit is a player who has been on the roster since the club’s inception in 2009. Freddy Montero has shown flashes of brilliance over his three year MLS career, but he’s never shown the consistency needed to take the Sounders to the next level. This year Montero showed up to camp ready to take on a leadership role and has, by all accounts, made good on that promise. Even more impressive has been his play on the pitch where he’s netted 5 goals in 5 preseason games, including a stunning chip against Jaguares in Seattle’s final preseason tune-up. Montero looks focused and determined, a combination that could prove trouble for the rest of the league.
4) Will the unbalanced schedule allow an Eastern Conference team to win the Supporters Shield?
- Last season the Western Conference had the top four records in the league: LA (67 points), Seattle (63 points), Real Salt Lake (53 points) and FC Dallas (52 points). That kind of dominance probably won’t happen in 2012 as the MLS shifts to an unbalanced schedule that sees more in-conference games. With the West teams beating up on each other it’s easy to imagine an Eastern Conference team (most likely Sporting KC) running away with the Supporters Shield race while feasting on the Eastern cellar-dwellers.
5) Andrew Wenger as a forward
- There’s no doubt that Andrew Wenger is one of the most talented players to come out of college in a long time, but where he fits as a pro has been the subject of much debate. Wenger was the NCAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, before switching to forward in his final season and winning NCAA Offensive POY honors. Analysts have projected Wenger as a center back while Wenger himself has declared he wants to play in the midfield. But with the trade of Brian Ching back to Houston, first year coach Jesse Marsch started his first round draft pick at forward. Wenger probably still projects best a defensive midfielder, but Montreal needs help up top and if he keeps making plays like this assist to Mike Fucito (at :32 in the video), the Impact are in good shape offensively.