Here are five questions (and a call to action) to get you through the weekend. Be safe everyone.
Who else deserves a statue outside an MLS stadium?
Michael Jordan. Hank Aaron. Eusebio. Vince Lombardi. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. Bobby Moore. Thierry Henry.
Statues outside of sports stadiums are nothing new, but it takes more than just spectacular career to become immortalized in bronze. You’ve got to mean something more to the people who walk through the doors. It’s about what you represent. You’ve got to be an icon.
David Beckham checks all those boxes, and some.
According to a report from ESPN, the LA Galaxy plan to unveil a bust of Beckham outside Dignity Health Sports Park on March 2. I assume Beckham had veto power on a statue of his own likeness. No Cristiano Ronaldo repeats here. Maybe I’m being hopeful, but it’d be nice if there was some open real estate for Cobi Jones and Landon Donovan to be honored down the line, too.
For no other reason than to fill column inches and spark debate, I put together a list of which club legends I’d commission a statue for outside all 23 remaining stadiums, with priority given to the MLS era. Some of these may actually be cast someday. Others … not so much. For recent expansion teams, these picks are predictive (aka wild guesses).
Send me your statue suggestions on Twitter or just leave them in the comments. Here we go, in alphabetical order.
Atlanta United – Miguel Almiron
Chicago Fire – Peter Nowak
FC Cincinnati – Nick Hagglund (just kidding, leave it blank for now)
Colorado Rapids – Pablo Mastroeni (Big Marcelo Balboa guy, but MLS Cup)
Columbus Crew – Brian McBride
FC Dallas – Bobby Rhine
D.C. United – Jaime Moreno
Houston Dynamo – Brian Ching
LAFC – Bob Bradley
Minnesota United – Buzz Lagos (broke my MLS-era rule, but lifetime achievement no-brainer)
Montreal Impact – Patrice Bernier (Mauro Biello, if we’re counting lower divisions)
New England Revolution – Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston, Shalrie Joseph group statue (you can’t make me choose just one)
New York City FC – David Villa
New York Red Bulls – Bradley Wright-Phillips (Mike Petke for the speech)
Orlando City – Kaká (Hey, at least the statue would be smiling)
Philadelphia Union – Sebastien Le Toux
Portland Timbers – Diego Valeri
Real Salt Lake – Kyle Beckerman
San Jose Earthquakes – Chris Wondolowski
Seattle Sounders – Sigi Schmid
Sporting Kansas City – Peter Vermes
Toronto FC – Dwayne De Rosario (to honor Canada and Ontario’s own) and maybe Sebastian Giovinco (once things cool down a bit)
Vancouver Whitecaps – Alphonso Davies
Which of MLS’s Concacaf Champions League qualifiers are best equipped to make a run?
Give this ExtraTime Radio interview with Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney a listen. He explains, as best he can, what Concacaf Champions League is like for MLS clubs.
We all know some clubs are more capable than others of making noise in the competition. More capable of transitioning from preseason to full speed. More capable of adapting to the travel and environments in Mexico and Central America. More depth. More quality. More experience. More luck when it comes to the draw.
I’ve been thinking about this since last October, and now we’re just 11 days away from the first Round of 16 games. Below is who I think will make the deepest run in the competition. With Monterrey and Tigres on opposite sides of the bracket, I’m not getting my hopes up and exposing myself to the free space (hint: it’s crushing disappointment) just yet.
1. Atlanta United
Liga MX-leading Monterrey loom in the quarterfinals, which would be hairy, and Herediano to start is no joke, either. They’ve got the confidence, depth and quality to do what Toronto FC did a year ago, only finish the job. I’ll take the champions.
2. New York Red Bulls
Take away Tyler Adams and it’s the same team that was a break or two from an all-MLS final. Only now Kaku’s had a year to acclimate to his teammates and the style of play and central defense is rock solid. Santos Laguna has a history of beating up on MLS in CCL, but the Red Bulls could knock them off. Maybe Tigres, too.
3. Toronto FC
Toronto find themselves above Sporting only because their Round of 16 matchup is easier. No Giovinco. No Victor Vazquez. No big-name reinforcements (yet). Jozy Altidore on the mend. Hard to believe history will repeat itself, but you never know.
4. Sporting KC
This is all about the draw. Toluca off the bat? Second leg in Mexico? That’s rough. Doable, but rough. If they can get through though…
5. Houston Dynamo
I want to believe, but Tigres are liable to chew up every single team in the competition and spit them out. I’ll take Andre Pierre-Gignac and Eduardo Vargas against most all comers.
What MLS news made me groan and pound my desk?
We still don’t have confirmation from the Crew, but all signs point to left back Milton Valenzuela missing the season with a knee injury. This coming just a couple months after Columbus made the 20-year-old’s transfer from Newell’s Old Boys permanent.
Does Milton Valenzuela bring me joy? Yes, he does, and Marie Kondo says we should be able to keep him. I am beyond disappointed that one of the league’s most talented and exciting outside backs won’t be able to put his stamp on year one of the Caleb Porter era. This game can be cruel.
Who is my new favorite player in MLS?
I’ve got favorites. Favorites to watch play the game. Favorites in front of a microphone. Favorites on social media. Favorite people, plain and simple.
“Off the field, I’m kind of like a clown; I don’t take life that seriously. But on the pitch, I think of myself as a monster. I’m one of those guys who presses the defenders to try to force them to make mistakes, and just puts my body into everything. I just go out and kill people in the name of the team. You will see.”
That might be a bit much, but you’ve got to admit Boyd knows how to turn a phrase. He can definitely be a clown, too.
Back in 2013, when Boyd was emerging with the US men's national team, this very website wrote multiple posts (with updates) about the young forward’s quirky/hilarious Instagram page and his pet turtle Frankie (then re-named Stevie Wonder). I sat down with him in Panama City for an ExtraTime Radio interview (RIP show archives) that made me belly laugh multiple times.
Point is, he’s got personality, and this league can never get enough of that.
Six years later, after a torn ACL threw him off track the national team looks dried up, we get to watch Boyd do his thing (on the field and off) in MLS. If his performances are anything like that quote, then that ought to be a real joy. Beware the Cyclops!
What’s at stake for MLS at the CONMEBOL U-20 Championships?
An untimely knee injury kept Barco out of the Argentina squad for the tournament, and he must have had some restless nights during the group stage because it looked like the Albiceleste might not even make the final stage and thereby miss this summer’s World Cup in Poland. Given the model – see Miguel Almiron – that would have been bad news for both Barco and Atlanta United.
Would have been!
Fortunately for Argentina, the final stage was not the group stage and they snagged the first of four CONMEBOL berths in the tournament with one game remaining. Guess who will probably be heading to the World Cup? Barco, whose knee is all better, as you can see by the fact he’s already shredding poor souls this preseason.
Keep a close eye on Sunday’s tournament finales: Venezuela vs. Ecuador and Colombia vs. Uruguay. Red Bulls midfielder Cristian Casseres, Jr. has started every match for El Vinotinto. They could have qualified early as well, but a 2-0 loss to Colombia on Thursday means it will come down to the wire.
Colombia and Venezuela are tied on points. Venezuela need points, and they need some help. It’d be nice to add another MLSer to the tournament. It sure worked out well for Yangel Herrera two years ago.
What’s more important than supporting each other?
Nothing, which is why I’m ending this week’s column with a call to action.
Daryl Grove of the Total Soccer Show needs our help after a shocking diagnosis: Stage IV colon and liver cancer. Get the full story here at the GoFundMe page set up in his honor. Donate what you can. If you can’t donate, spread the word. We all get by with a little help from our (soccer) friends.