5 Observations from the First Half of the MLS Season

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - APRIL 1: Bastian Schweinsteiger
BRIDGEVIEW, IL - APRIL 1: Bastian Schweinsteiger /

Looking back at the first half of the MLS Season

It’s hard to believe we’re already past the halfway mark of the 2017 season. With the Gold Cup break upon us, let’s take a look back at some of the most noteworthy storylines in MLS.

1. This is the Best Chicago Fire team since…ever?

Yes, the Fire won MLS Cup in their inaugural season, and got the supporters shield in 2003. This could be the strongest team the Fire have had. Chicago hasn’t made the playoffs since 2012, but are already at 11 wins and 38 points and we’re just starting July. In four of the past seven years they didn’t hit either of those totals for the entire season.

The overall quality of this team is why this Fire team has the claim of being the best. Smart additions like Juninho, Dax McCarty, and Brandon Vincent have added to the incredible production of their designated players (more on that soon). The talent level is there, right now they’re at the top of the supporters shield race, but none of that will matter if they don’t claim any hardware in 2017.

2. The Rookie Race is Sneaky Good

Lots of rookies have had quiet, but solid rookie seasons. Nick Lima has been a starter at fullback for San Jose all year. Julian Gressel has held his own with Atlanta’s trio of stars. Even top pick Abu Danladi has carved out a nice role for Minnesota.

Several others have made plenty of appearances for their respective teams. Without a clear cut favorite, keeping an eye out for the top rookie will be a fun sub plot in the second half of the year.

3. Some Designated Players are really working well…

Atlanta’s trio of Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez, and Hector Villalba have already combined for 25 goals and 12 assists. Chicago’s group has combined for 28 goals and 15 assists. David Villa is playing outstanding for NYCFC and the list goes on.

There are several teams making smarter DP deals and are signing different players while doing so. This is great because it means there isn’t one mold of DP that works in MLS, allowing teams to get creative and find the best fits.

4. …But not all of them are

Colorado’s options are not performing at the level they did last season. New England and Real Salt Lake are just getting nowhere near what they’re paying for. If you look at the bottom of the table the common theme is designated player deals not working out.

5. The Eastern Conference has passed the West

It’s deeper, it has better talent, and they’re winning more games. It feels like its been forever but the east has finally surpassed the west. First take the top-4 for the east in Chicago, Toronto, NYCFC, and Atlanta. The star power and overall quality is better than the west’s counterparts FC Dallas, Sporting KC, Houston, and Portland.

Even the bottom of the west is struggling more. Minnesota United and Real Salt Lake are having very poor years. Even the LA Galaxy are on the outside looking in at the playoffs. No matter which way you slice it, the east is just better.