Pre-season Preparation in MLS: Who's Shining and Who's Concerning?

Pre-season friendlies in Major League Soccer (MLS) reveal varied performances and raise questions about favored teams
Vancouver Whitecaps FC v Tigres UANL: 2024 Concacaf Champions League - Leg One
Vancouver Whitecaps FC v Tigres UANL: 2024 Concacaf Champions League - Leg One / Kevin Light/GettyImages

Teams are immersed in a crucial phase of preparation, where each friendly has the potential to unveil fundamental aspects about the teams' fitness. In this context, the results of the recent pre-season games have sparked debates and reflections on who's shining and who's concerning in the MLS.

One standout point is the performance of Inter Miami, which, despite boasting big names like Messi and Suárez, has been experiencing inconsistent results in pre-season friendlies. With only one win in six games, Inter Miami has left their fans apprehensive, especially after a controversial match against a combined team from the Hong Kong Premier League, where Messi's absence stirred controversies. These results raise questions about the team's ability to capitalize on their strong lineup of stars and lift trophies in the upcoming season.

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Another team that has been a cause for concern is the Los Angeles FC, last season's runner-up. With losses to teams like St. Louis City and Nordsjaelland in pre-season friendlies, LAFC is far from demonstrating the dominant form that led them to the final in the previous season. The pressure is on the team to reverse this negative trend before the official start of the season, especially considering the expectations of their fans after the solid campaign of the previous year.

Meanwhile, the Columbus Crew, the current MLS champion, has opted for a more discreet approach to their preparation, not playing any friendlies so far. Although this strategy may create uncertainty about the team's current state, the Crew's history suggests that they may be confident in their ability to compete at a high level even without the exposure of pre-season friendlies. It remains to be seen whether this more reserved approach will bear fruit when the ball kicks off for real.

On the other hand, some teams have shown promising signs during their pre-season friendlies. Sporting Kansas City, for example, impressed with a 5-0 victory over Miami FC, signaling physical and technical form that could be an advantage at the start of the season. Similarly, the Colorado Rapids secured a convincing 6-2 win over Montreal FC, demonstrating potential for solid performances in the upcoming season.

It's important to remember that pre-season friendly results don't always reflect a team's actual performance during the regular season. Many teams are experimenting with tactics, testing formations, and giving opportunities to less experienced players, which can skew the analysis of results. Therefore, it's essential to maintain a balanced perspective when evaluating teams' performances in this early stage of preparation.

MLS teams have a final window to fine-tune their tactical schemes, strengthen team cohesion, and address any fitness or technical issues that may arise in pre-season friendlies. The competition promises to be fierce, with several teams showing potential to challenge for the title.