Saturday, August 18, 2018

Novakovich opens Fortuna account

Fortuna Sittard loan striker Andrija Novakovich bagged his first Eredivisie goal in Saturday night's 2-1 loss to defending champs PSV Eindhoven. The second half tally temporarily leveled the contest (the visiting Farmers won it in stoppage time).

- Greg Seltzer

Monday, August 13, 2018

Who's lookin' up?

And so we arrive at my belated final chapter of my look back at preseason predictions and view ahead to the back stretch. It's the bottom six of the West, which should prove a major fracas the rest of the way.

Seattle (23, 1.39)

You may feel like you've seen this movie before: (deep trailer voice) In a world where the Sounders always start the season in shambles before magically restoring their title-contending mojo in the heat of summer... you know the drill.

Outlook: Back in the playoffs? Yup, because the defense can still steal points. Running toward another MLS Cup appearance? Probably not, because the aging and hobbled attack remains thin enough - but who would definitively count them out in the wild West? Not I.

Vancouver (24, 1.39)

It's been a roller coaster season for a team I picked to finsih second in the West. That ain't gonna happen, largely because they neglected to find a replacement for Tim Parker. It also doesn't help that, after some early success with it, the Caps have abandoned all pretense of wanting the ball. Even with their crazy counter and set piece danger, one has to, ya know, manage games from time to time.

Outlook: It's a pity they won't shine brighter in the Davies swansong season. They really could have been special with one or two back line additions and some kind of midfield set-up consistency. As is, I think they'll need to out-do Seattle down the stretch to gain the last playoff berth. And, folks, that is not a job anyone chooses.

Minnesota (24, 1.21)

Boy, that attack has become hella-fun, like a something-from-nothing machine. Unfortunately, the defense remains an welcoming port unguarded by a stern gate-keeper.

Outlook: And because of that, the Loons won't sniff the postseason this year. They will go out fighting knowing exactly what they need to make a big step up next season, though.

Houston (23, 1.17)

A lot of people were high on the Dynamo early in the year and stayed in their corner even while they scuffled into summer. The reality is their game doesn't work when midfield muscle Cabezas is sitting on 36 total minutes played in mid-August and the #10 spot lacks a real difference maker. They amount to side requiring  a delicate balanced, and they just don't have it this year.

Outlook: I would be tempted to call them in the top six if they had even one of those key midfield areas was poppin'. This year should end with a near miss.

Colorado (23, 1)

Outlook: Hey, the Rapids have shown real signs of life since Kellyn Acosta arrived and the team moved to a 4-4-2 diamond. Enough life to race back into playoff contention? Nah. But they're finding something to build on for next year.

San Jose (23, 0.70)

I predicted the Quakes would again take the final playoff pass in the West. And then the season started, and all I can ask since then is "What is the plan here?"

Outlook: Unless they can suddenly rack up six or seven straight wins, the remainder of this season will be for figuring out who they want back next season (management included). So yeah, probably the last thing.

- Greg Seltzer

One Weah Street

I'll be back later today to cap the review/outlook rundown with the West playoff chasers - sorry about that lag, but it got busy around here for a few days. Anyhoooo... Timothy Weah bagged his first Ligue 1 goal to cap Paris Saint-Germain's 3-0 season-opening home win over Caen. The young US attacker used his high pressure wheels to run down a procrastinating keeper and block his exit. 

- Greg Seltzer

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Sabbi on the double

Hobro forward Emmanuel Sabbi was at it again on Saturday, striking twice to lead the hosts to a 3-2 Superliga victory over Odense BK. He has four goals in the first five league games of the season, putting him in a three-way tie at the top of the scoring chart.

- Greg Seltzer

Monday, August 6, 2018

Best of the West

The Western Conference has been intriguing thus far, and should provide drama up to the end. Second place and 10th place are separated by just 10 points. That may sound like a lot, but with some teams growing into the season and some seemingly losing their way. It really isn't.

As with the East: Club names followed by games played and points-per-game average, which is how they're ranked.

FC Dallas (22, 1.91)

Just when the Toros looked like they could run away with the West, their two most recognizable midfield faces are out the door. They lead the West for now, but concerns are piling up. The strike picture is unclear, the departure of Diaz brings back questions about how they'll carve chances from possession and Gonzalez has been inconsistent in goal. My preseason prediction that they'd miss the postseason isn't going to happen, but would anyone really be surprised if they ended up slipping down to, say, fourth?

Outlook: Unless they somehow construct a reliable new attack look within two months, I just can't see them winning the conference or getting too far in the playoffs.

Portland (20, 1.85)

Boy, was I right about the Timbers faring well this season and twice as wrong about how they'd do it. New boss Gio Savarese has altered the team's DNA while liquefying their shape, and most of the changes have worked since they got home from a rough season-opening road trip. Kudos for that. But after shipping Adi out, they could prove thin up front. 

Outlook: I originally tabbed Portland to reach MLS Cup. And while I'm not sure at this time that they'll make it to the title game, it's a fair bet they at least come close because this team rolls with the punches (injuries, formation switches, etc.) as good as anyone.

Sporting KC (22, 1.64)

This edition of KC's sunshine band is harder to figure than ones from seasons past. The defense has been hot and cold, the offense has bailed them out several times and they swooned much earlier than usual. Does that mean they got it out of the way before crunch time? Either way, they're actually slightly above where I picked them with a third of the season remaining.

Outlook: Given all the effort put into their strike chase, Nemeth's return comes off as anti-climactic. They still stand a decent chance to make the conference final, but the locals were hoping for a bigger pull.

LAFC (22, 1.64)

Other than the back half of their derbies, the new kids have generally played solid, attractive soccer. They've slipped a bit in recent weeks, but still have the best offense in the West and are to the US Open Cup final four. I foolishly had them picked to end up 10th, but that was prior to a few big pick-ups. 

Outlook: When making notes for this series, I had Bob Bradley and the boys on par with Portland and Sporting KC as current conference favorites. And then, they lost Kaye for the season. Barring a quick and quality defensive midfield catch, they will need Atuesta to step it up big time. As shrewd as their coach is, LAFC could easily tumble into a scrape for the last couple playoff slots because one absolutely can't allow space behind the strike line in MLS.

LA Galaxy (23, 1.52)

It's been a real roller coaster ride so far, but they actually stand right where I tipped them to finish. After a bleeech start to the season, they're now winning and sometimes even look good doing it. The problem is, the back five field players and the netminder are unpredictable - which is a nice way of saying mistake-prone.

Outlook: With Zlatan surrounded by a cultured attack cast, there will be goals. Oh, will there be goals. There will probably be enough goals to get them into the conference semis. From there, it's up to foes to stop enough of that scoring to get by a dark horse side nobody wants to face.

Real Salt Lake (23, 1.48)

The Royals have been up and down all season, and they're bad on the road. The midfield doesn't quite fit right for anybody involved and a couple of back line positions need settling. And none of those are their biggest issue. Still, RSL holds serve at home enough to tease at what's sure to be a brighter future.

Outlook: This club needs an impact striker far more than Sporting KC did (does?). Even if they get one, there are those other problem areas. They finished seventh last season, I picked them seventh this preseason and, well, that's where they look headed again.


I have a busy couple days ahead, so we'll probably bump the bottom half of the West PPG standings until Wednesday.

- Greg Seltzer

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Manu y Manu

A lot of folks are banking on Jonathan Amon breaking out over at FC Nordsjælland, but they may want to shift some of that Superliga attention over to Emmanuel Sabbi. The US youth international is quickly becoming a key man at Hobro, and he almost single-handedly earned them a share at AC Horsens on Sunday.

The 20-year-old (who Las Palmas may regret letting go) won the spot kick for their first equalizer (play starts at 1:15) by getting behind the defense and then acted as late runner to give them a lead (play starts at 2:34) that would be squandered in the waning moments.

- Greg Seltzer