MLS: Eastern Conference Round Up
This week’s news that famed Italian Alessandro Nesta was close to joining the Italian-influx at Montreal Impact may have been the boost the MLS needs to be taken seriously by the rest of the footballing world. Nesta is said to have declined an extended contract offer from his current club AC Milan, as well as rejecting overtures from his first club Lazio, stating “I never got the chance to play in the MLS.”
The fact that Nesta said this, as well as stating that if he didn’t receive an offer he would much rather retire than continue playing in Italy, is a sign that the league is able to boast the biggest names in football and generate a greater merchandise revenue with thousands of excited [Montreal] Canadians expected to sport an Impact jersey with Nesta’s name on the back of it.
They will also be hoping that Nesta can bring some much needed stability to a team that has only won five games this season, conceding the most goals in the Eastern Conference with 35. The World Cup winner however should have no problem adapting to the high intensity of the MLS, something that another Italian newcomer, Marco DiVaio, has struggled with since his arrival earlier this month. The former Juventus, Monaco and Valencia striker was subbed at half-time in the surprise 3-0 loss against fellow rock-bottom Toronto FC in his debut game and has yet to show the firepower that saw him amass 195 club goals in a career spanning almost two decades.
Despite sitting four points adrift at the bottom of the standings, Toronto FC have started to show the promise that was expected of them at the beginning of this campaign; Dutch legend Aron Winter was fired in May, just as his team had picked up their first win of the season, having lost the previous 10! In his place is the man Winter brought in as Director of Football, Paul Mariner. The no-nonsense Englishman followed up the thrashing of Montreal with consecutive 1-1 draws against New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas and such is his need for perfection he was seen bombing up and down the touchline demanding more goals to ensure they wouldn’t blow a seemingly unassailable lead per their previous two matches against Houston and New England.
Mariner seems to have got the best out of forward Danny Koevermans, with the Dutchman scoring in each of the five games Mariner has overseen, a far cry from his earlier form when he went six games without scoring. Another plus point is the return from injury of designated libero Torsten Frings; the two-time German World Cup runner-up, with the explosive left peg every bit of good as his right, scored his first goal for the club with a breathtaking free-kick and overall was outstanding in the 3-0 win over Montreal.
Mariner will look to continue the good form and increase the pressure on second-bottom Philadelphia Union, surprise strugglers considering their mouthwatering frontline of much-hyped Freddy Adu and Lionard Pajoy, were finally starting to click. A team that boasts former US internationals Chris Albright and Brian Carroll has largely been inconsistent, struggling to string more than two consecutive wins together but were unfortunate to have Adu controversially dismissed in the 3-2 loss against the Red Bulls, Pajoy scoring a brace to twice give the Union the lead before Adu’s red card.
DC United sit atop the Eastern Conference with 10 wins and three draws in 18 games and will look to the red-hot Chris Pontius to maintain their impressive position.
Article by Sarshar Hosseinnia