What's that you say? A power ranking? Oh yes, but not the type you might be used to. This being a blog devoted to a team yet to play an MLS game, running a standard power ranking, in which we rank all of the teams in MLS from best to worst, would most likely be a bit biased. This isn't an impartial news source. We like Atlanta.
This power ranking ranks the MLS news stories and narratives swirling around the internet instead: our interest in them, how entertaining they are, and how important they are to the MLS landscape (one being the hottest, sexiest, most newsworthy news in the news, and so on and so forth). Welcome to the utterly strange world that is soccer in America. We wouldn't have it any other way (that's a lie. We'd take a World Cup at this point).
1. Ashley Cole to LA Galaxy
This story is stupendous if only for the fact that LA Galaxy are almost definitely doing it and almost everyone with an opinion on the subject is definitely sure it's an awful idea. Ashley Cole, he of the awkward team picture, the cheating allegations, the glory as faded as an Old Navy t-shirt, seems for all the world on his way to Los Angeles to join up with the closest thing MLS has to a blue chip club. Ashley will get to join Stevie G, Robbie Keane, and the rest of extra-senior side in the Los Angeles heat. Absolutely no way this can go wrong for them.
2. Jesse Gonzalez Flip-Flops; Jurgen Klinsmann Blasts Backstreet Boys from the Rooftops
FC Dallas's budding star, born in North Carolina to Mexican parents and raised in Texas, was solidly for Mexico. He played for Mexican youth teams and was looking forward to a spot on Mexico's U-23 Olympic team. Quite suddenly, however, news broke of Gonzalez accepting a call-up to the USMNT's January camp, with a mixture of US Olympic hopefuls and senior team mainstays vying for Klinsmann's attention/affections. Klinsmann has used this tactic to lure dual nationals who may or may not be ready for the senior squad before in order to gain their allegiance, most notably with Julian Green and most recently with Matt Miazga. And just as quickly as Gonzalez was in, he was back out again, possibly close enough to the time in which he was supposed to report to camp that US Soccer had no idea he would not be attending camp until the news broke on Twitter. Ouch. Wonder if any of those training camp yoga sessions will have "Quit Playing Games with My Heart" thrown in the playlist.
3. LAFC Has a Crest (that may or may not have been lifted from other sources) and a Million Owners
New LA has a crest, merch, and more owners than actual fans. However, soon after unveiling the crest and colors, many Minnesota United fans noted the wing central to the new design looked suspiciously like the loon wing on their own crest, and our humble little blog pointed out that LAFC seemed to be planning on the same exact color scheme as Atlanta (albeit with gold as a primary color and red as an accent color, as opposed to the strong possibility that Atlanta uses red as a primary and gold as an accent). Even with possible crest and colors plagiarism at play, I fall in with the group of people who say the new LAFC crest is dope. The black and gold looks sharp, as does the art deco styling of the type and crest. LAFC also announced Will Ferrell as an owner of the club. LAFC's ownership group is essentially the Powerball.
4. Piotr Nowak Is a Jerk
This one has cooled off a bit over the last couple days, but Jonathan Tannenwald's Twitter feed was the spot for all things Philly soccer abuse last week. Piotr Nowak's lawsuit for wrongful termination against the Philadelphia Union has brought to light all of the circumstances and allegations which originally led to MLS pushing Nick Sakiewicz for Nowak's removal in 2012. Philadelphia's play that season was offensive enough, yes, but Nowak's lawsuit also brought concrete allegations of Nowak ignoring and ridiculing players who had concussions, denying players water during eighty-degree weather, and incidents in which Nowak spanked rookie players, with other allegations saying assistant coach and Nowak's eventual successor, John Hackworth, possibly videotaped some of the spanking incidents. This might seem easy to brush off, because 1. Not that many people are talking about it, and 2. These are professional, adult athletes who can "take their licks," but this is a big deal. Nowak's reign rendered players so frightened of repercussions that they required guarantees of anonymity to tell MLS what was happening to them. And Hackworth, Nowak's assistant coach who may or may not have been complicit in Nowak's hazing? He just became the head coach of the US U-17 team. A ruling on Nowak's case should be coming soon, so keep your eyes open on this one.
5. MLS Combine and Impending Draft
Not going to lie to you, this one feels a bit arbitrary, and it's snuck into the bottom of my list only because of how dull this portion of the offseason has become. Honestly, no other American sport inspires so little excitement over their draft. This might be because soccer players are expected to join the pro ranks before leaving college, and thus any true stars should not, in theory, be getting drafted, but rather be getting signed to Homegrown Player deals or snapped up by European teams. History has shown this to be untrue, of course. Brian McBride, Eddie Pope, Clint Mathis, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley were all drafted. But MLS's coverage of the Combine and the draft has proven to be so lackluster that I can't really muster up much excitement. I know about Josh Yaro, and how people debate what his best position really is, I know Brandon Vincent just got called into the National Team camp, but after that? I know snatches of names and positions, not really anything meaningful. Here's my point: one of the players drafted in this year's SuperDraft will most likely have an incredibly successful career, without prior fanfare, and many, many more will be very good MLS players. But for the life of me, I can't figure out why MLS doesn't try to do more to hype up this thing. Live commentary? Webstream? A slightly more in-depth and slightly less anemic look at potential draftees than their musical leanings or study habits? Matt Doyle can only be so many places at once, people. Let's step this thing up.