By Senji Torrey
Public Relations Manager
February is the month of love, Black History, and cancer prevention. However, nestled between all of these more well-known events comes an American sports event that brings out the apathy of a nation: the start of the Major League Soccer (MLS) season.
Among the less popular sports leagues in America, the MLS has struggled with attendance and viewership for years. Ever since the retirement of American heroes like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, the league — largely fueled by American patriotism — has fizzled as younger foreign players continue to take center stage.
Take, for example, the local San Jose Earthquakes. Even with countless U.S. national team members on the squad, the focus has been on players from outside of the states. Mexican-born Javier “Chofis” López has been the star of the show in place of California’s own Chris Wondolowski. Even homegrown players — individuals who have worked up the MLS youth program ladder — like Cade Cowell have been overshadowed by new signings like Jamiro Monteiro and Jeremy Ebobisse from the Netherlands and France, respectively.
These new additions for San Jose have paid off extremely quickly. In his first season with the Quakes, Chofis led the team with 12 goals, while also contributing 4 assists. In addition, the Dutch Monteiro helped the Philadelphia Union to their playoff run last season with 6 assists of his own and 2 goals. Simply put, with the flood of foreign talent coming into the league, the MLS is beginning to trade in nationalistic brouhaha for higher quality soccer.
Unfortunately for San Jose, this surge in quality has yet to yield results thus far this season. In their home opener, the New York Red Bulls rocked San Jose 3-1. Throughout the first half, goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski was forced to make countless saves to keep a sleepy SJ in the game. In spite of this heroic effort, SJ ultimately conceded their first goal at the end of the first half to a wide open Patryk Klimala, a Polish import.
Chofis gave the home crowd a glimpse of hope with a flicked-on header to tie the game, but it was not enough to rally the rest of his team who let NY through just three minutes later to make it 1-2. A final 91st-minute tap-in for New York put the game to bed.
After the game, manager Matias Almeyda remained optimistic, explaining that “We had good moments in the match with good football, but whenever you begin to utilize a new system, it takes some time.” He did admit, however, that “the result wasn’t the one we were hoping for, but we did see some interesting things during the match.” Almeyda finished off the presser with a message for the future, saying that “we’re all here to work to present this team in a different way now, and to improve as well.”
This season’s MLS picture after the first weeks of competition is looking fairly balanced from West to East. Among the top contenders for this year’s title are Los Angeles Football Club, the New England Revolution, and the Seattle Sounders. In addition, despite losing their opening match to the Los Angeles Galaxy, reigning champions New York City Football Club have claimed a top spot as well.
Though it is way too early to predict the future of the San Jose Earthquakes, let alone the entire league, there is no question that this year’s MLS season is the best there’s been in quite a while. So, hey, if there’s nothing else on TV — and I mean nothing at all — why not give MLS a go?
(Sources: MLS.com, sjearthquakes.com, ESPN, Transfermarkt)