Of Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (May 4, 2022) US Soccer Players – This May could just as easily be called Major League Soccer’s moving month. The league started in late February, meaning May will be the third full month of play for the 2022 season. Believe it or not, the schedule is almost a third complete. So the time to say “it’s still early” goes by quickly.
March and April brought us some surprises. While it logically makes sense that the clubs participating in the Concacaf Champions League could struggle on the home front, it still comes as a shock to see some of them so far down the table.
The Sounders reached the final of the Champions League and have a very good chance of bringing the continental championship to MLS for the first time in modern times. No fanbase in the league is more willing to give their club a pass for their place in the standings than Seattle fans. However, with the proviso that the focus will shift back to MLS after May 4th when expectations will rise accordingly.
It’s worth noting that Seattle’s place in the standings is being artificially depressed by the postponement of league games to make room for the club’s Champions League campaign. Although the Sounders’ results have not been particularly good, they have also played fewer games than anyone in the west.
So, is Seattle ready to climb the table in May? Postponing games during the Champions League run means the Sounders have faced a busy schedule on the other side of the CCL Final. Brian Schmetzer’s team will play five league games through June 1, with a US Open Cup game squeezed into the run in the second week of the month.
Schmetzer will need to be cautious to manage a potential Champions League hangover. Seattle meets FC Dallas on Saturday, three days after the CCL Finals. After the Open Cup game against San Jose on May 11, the Sounders will host Minnesota, travel to Houston, travel to Colorado and host Charlotte FC. The ascent will not be easy.
A move is already underway in the Eastern Conference, and that’s no joke about NYCFC’s trek around the New York area in search of home venues. The defending MLS Cup champions were eliminated by Seattle in the Champions League but benefited from a renewed focus on league play.
The vaunted NYCFC attack is back, and it could be better than ever. Ronny Deila’s side have scored 14 goals in their last three wins, just one goal shy of the league record for a three-game run. Reigning Golden Boot winner Taty Castellanos has scored five goals but the club receive goalscoring contributions from a variety of other players.
Some of the club’s young attacking signings are developing well, adding to the attacking threat for a side that were already among the best in the league in that area of the field. Thiago Andrade is just behind Castellanos to take the team’s lead by 4 points and Santi Rodriguez is following up his late-season breakthrough in 2021 with a strong start to 2022.
NYCFC’s three-game winning streak propelled the club to 5th place in the East. There’s no reason to believe the champions won’t be climbing higher in May. With a game fewer than three of the four teams ahead of him, NYCFC has a chance to reclaim its place in the conference elite in a short time.
Like Seattle, New York faces a similarly compressed schedule in May. NYCFC’s five league games include three home games (against Sporting Kansas City, Columbus and Chicago) and away games at DC United and Minnesota. NYCFC is excellent at home no matter where it plays. They will be the favorites away against last-placed DC.
NYCFC’s three home games are against clubs with a total of seven wins in 28 games. Of the three, only Columbus shows signs of life. The Crew fell victim to an unlucky DC United side on Saturday, putting the club “back in the running” as head coach Caleb Porter put it after the win.
The Crew is an interesting case for a May move. The club’s scoring chances weighed on him for the first two months of the season and increased the pressure on Porter. Columbus traded Gyasi Zardes to Colorado, marking the sudden end of his Ohio run for a player who led the Crew as top scorer every season between 2018 and 2020.
Unfortunately for Porter and Columbus, the May schedule isn’t kind. The crew meets a suddenly resurgent New England team primed to climb the league table, the aforementioned rampant NYCFC, the West’s top team LAFC, and Atlanta United.
Columbus is higher than New England in the standings, but making Porter’s team the favorite on the road is difficult. Even Atlanta, a troubled team, has home advantage at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. By the time the game kicks off, both teams could be desperate if neither club has used May to move up the table.
May is moving time. They’re in love with New England, Matt Turner is back in goal and the club’s offensive arms are making good progress. The Revs play Columbus and Philadelphia at home this month, interrupted by away games against Atlanta and FC Cincinnati.
There are several contenders in the West for a rise in the standings, including Nashville SC. The third-year side held their own for the first two months of the year despite opening the season with eight straight away games and will benefit from finally getting home games in May. Three of the club’s five remaining May games will be played at its new building.
So it’s too late to say it’s early, but there’s still plenty of time for clubs who don’t like where they are in the table. Putting together a big month and making a move in May means positioning yourself for the long slog of MLS summer.
Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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Photo by Nashville SC