Hard to believe, but MLS Opening Weekend is just two Fridays away! As the preseason momentum begins to roll into the regular season, here's a look at what you might have missed this weekend:
Villa's VAR send-off
New York City FC is out in Tuscon, Arizona for the 2017 Desert Diamond Cup, one of the places MLS is testing out video assistant referees (VAR) in-game during the preseason, and reigning MLS MVP David Villa ended up on the receiving end of one of the first ejections issued by formal review.
After scoring a goal earlier in the match, Villa was battling with Houston Dynamo center back A.J. DeLaGarza when he struck the defender in the face. The act initially earned a yellow card before the formal review led to a red card for violent conduct against an opponent. Villa will serve a one-game suspension in NYCFC’s next match, against the Colorado Rapids on February 22, and be available for the match on February 25.
If all goes as it should, the VAR test this preseason is set to extend, with live, in-game implementation during the second half of the 2017 regular-season slate. When even the reigning MVP isn't spared during a preseason game, it's safe to say that technology plays no favorites.
Chicago (on) Fire
The Chicago Fire, fresh off a back-to-back basement banishment at the bottom of the standings, have won their last two friendlies by a combined score of 9-3. Though the degree of difficulty will go up once we're in the regular season, it's encouraging for an outfit that mustered only 42 goals in 2016 – last in the Eastern Conference and tied for 17th overall.
So is buildup like this:
We'll see what carries over into the season, but adding pieces like Nemanja Nikolic alongside David Accam up front, and sharp-passing distributors out of the back (SEE: McCarty, Dax; SEE ALSO: Juninho) could both improve possession and finishing, which should give the developing backline time to breathe.
Tommy Thompson: All (Home)grown up
Entering his fourth MLS season, the Homegrown Player has yet to crack 1,000 MLS minutes or put a goal or assist on the board. But he posted three of each in 11 appearances on loan with the Sacramento Republic last season, and upon re-signing Thompson, 'Quakes technical director Chris Leitch said the 21-year-old is "a big part of the young core group of players we want to build around." They don't want to be "boring," and Thompson should have a chance to help course correct there.
SKC builds from the back
While we've got you thinking goals, here's a nod to Cameron Porter, who snuck this one past the short-angle censors. Though it came against RBNY II, the buildup was a true team effort by Sporting Kansas City:
One-time CONCACAF Champions League hero Porter appeared in a pair of 2016 games for SKC following a mid-season trade; a serious knee injury cost him most of the previous year. A return to health, and the Princeton product could surprise Sporting fans, whose squad finished bottom-five in goals scored last season.
Just for fun, remember you can always count on Jack Harrison to keep things lively: