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MLS Musings: August 2015 – Big name arrivals and is the MVP race over?

By Drew Farmer – Twitter: @CalcioFarmer

Major League Soccer MVP race over already?

Sebastian Giovinco, Benny Feilhaber and Kei Kamara are currently the numbers one through three in the MLS MVP race. Right now, Giovinco is hands down the player most valuable to his team. 16 goals and nine assists in 21 games shows that signing the attacking Italian was a brilliant investment for the club. Giovinco has scored 44% of Toronto FC’s goals in 2015.

Though Feilhaber and Kamara are also having career seasons, Toronto have never qualified for the MLS playoffs. If Giovinco can drag them over the line, currently third in the Eastern Conference, he is most deserving of the MVP trophy.

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Seattle shouldn’t be this bad

Seattle Sounders are currently the worst team, in terms of form, in MLS. The Sounders have lost seven of their last eight matches and were destroyed by Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 last weekend at home. A lot of their problems have coincided with Obafemi Martins’ injury and Clint Dempsey being away on international duty. However, Dempsey’s return didn’t help in that loss to the Whitecaps on Saturday.

Seattle always seems to have potential, but whether it’s needing another midfielder or defender, the side never looks complete. This week, the Sounders announced the signing of 31-year-old Andreas Ivanschitz on a free transfer. Ivanschitz last played for Spanish side Levante, scoring four times in 49 matches and will look to improve the Sounders’ fortunes.

Trades and Transfers 

Speaking at the MLS All-Star Game, commissioner Don Garber stated that the league is losing money. Of course, there have been big names joining MLS this year. This summer alone, Didier Drogba, Giovani Dos Santos and Gonzalo Veron were added to the league on DP deals. In the case of Dos Santos and Veron, transfer fees were also paid.

With the transfer window about to end (August 6th), depending on when you’re reading this, several teams have made one or two signings to improve and others have stood still. Looking at the moves made already, New York Red Bulls may have done the best business. The MLS’s most in-form team added to the great chemistry already at coach Jesse Marsch’s disposal. Shaun Wright-Phillips joined his brother, Bradley at Red Bull Arena and days later the club unveiled Gonzalo Veron as their newest DP.

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DC United holding on to squad for stretch run

While their I-95 rivals, the Red Bulls, added two attacking players, DC United have kept their roster mostly unchanged. The Black and Red did trade for Alvaro Saborio in the middle of July, however.

DC are currently relying on 32-year-old Chris Rolfe and 31-year-old Jairo Arrieta to lead the way in scoring, with Fabian Espindola battling ongoing injuries. So far it is a recipe that has worked at RFK Stadium. However, away from the nation’s capital, DC have suffered four of their five losses. DC goes to Red Bull Arena at the end of August so be ready for a close run-in at the end of the season in the East.

Expansion, Expansion, Expansion!!!

During the All-Star Game festivities, Garber spoke about the expansion plans for MLS in the coming years. Atlanta and Minnesota have already received expansion teams and the league is adamant a new, second Los Angeles team would be unveiled. Garber also stressed that Miami is still an option and a city the league wants to play in.

MLS is already at its strongest with 20 teams and has fans that are hungry to see North American soccer on a regular basis. But does MLS need 24 teams, or any more than that?

Some have speculated that MLS could have 28 to 30 clubs in another 10 to 15 years, more similar to other American sports leagues. The North American Soccer League died due to over expansion and found the appeal of soccer wore off after a hot start. Although MLS has been building for 20 seasons now and soccer is very strong in the US, it’s still no more than the fourth most popular sport in the country.

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Rather than see more expansion after Minnesota and Atlanta – does LA need another try at a second team and does Miami really need to be in MLS? – the league should improve the product even more. Increasing the salary cap, to say $10 million and eliminate most of the financial mechanisms that allow teams to gain more salary space would be massively beneficial. Basically be more European. If MLS wants to grow outside of North America, being more European would help. From my experience, MLS turns off too many fans with its various financial methods and spending.

Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @Calciofarmer. Drew Farmer is a Manchester, England-based journalist/blogger that writes for World Soccer Talk. Drew has contributed to Radio Yorkshire MLS Monday, Forza Italian Football, Bleacher Report, MLSGB and Soccerly. Originally from southwest Missouri, Drew covers Italy’s Serie A, British football and the USA’s Major League Soccer.

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