The 19th season of the Major League Soccer (MLS) is getting close to its final stages with increasing tension and a German-born top star. Jermaine Jones, born in Frankfurt and who played seven years with Schalke 04, is the man of the moment in this North American Professional Soccer League. The 33-year-old, who previously played with the German national team before switching to the US team, has led the New England Revolution to new heights. After three years, during which they failed to reach the play-off matches between the best ten teams, the “Revs” are nearing the final.
New England won the first leg of the Eastern Conference final 2-1 over their New York Red Bull rivals on the third weekend in November. Jones, who had joined the MLS team from Besiktas Istanbul after the World Cup finals in Brazil, scored the winning goal in the 85th minute against the Red Bulls led by Frenchman Thierry Henry. He also assisted Teal Bundury in scoring to take the lead in the 17th minute.
New England could reach their fifth championship final with success in the second leg at home in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on November 29. Their opponents in the final on December 7 would be either Los Angeles Galaxy or the Seattle Sounders.
Los Angeles won the first final of the Western Conference, the semi-final for the overall MLS title, 1-0. It was one of the last matches for US super star Landon Donovan. The second leg will take place in Seattle on November 30. The Seattle Sounders team, built around former Premier League professional Clint Dempsey, had won the Supporter’s Shield, the award for the best team in the 34 games of the regular season, after which the ten best play-off places are allocated.
Los Angeles finished second in the overall classification from Eastern and Western Conferences; DC United from Washington were third, Real Salt Lake fourth, New England came fifth, New York just eighth. It has now been ascertained that the final will take place either in Los Angeles or in Seattle on December 7.The rules read: The MLS Cup final will be one match between the two winners of the Conference finals, in the stadium of the higher-placed team in the overall classification.
New England Revolution, domiciled about 35 kilometres from Boston, finished second in the Eastern Conference and defeated the Columbus Crew 4-2 and 3-1 in the quarter-finals for the MLS Cup (the trophy for the champions). DC United, the team from the US capital, enjoyed their best season for a long time but lost their quarter-final 3-2 on aggregate (0-2, 2-1) to New York. The Red Bulls had previously eliminated last year’s champions Sporting Kansas City.
The outstanding player with the Red Bulls is English striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who scored 27 goals in 34 matches and was awarded the Golden Boot ahead of Dom Dwyer (Kansas/22) and Irish international Robbie Keane (Los Angeles/19). Wright-Phillips is suspended, after two yellow cards, for the second semi-final leg at New England.
Prior to the first part of the Conference finals the football fans in the USA had to get to terms with two disappointing results. The national team lost their friendlies, 2-1 against Colombia in London and 4-1 to Ireland in Dublin. National coach Juergen Klinsmann has been quarrelling with MLS officials for some time because he demands a better coordination between the interests of the national team and those of the MLS clubs.
Some changes have been established for the 2015 MLS season. This year 19 teams competed in the championship, next year there will be 20. Orlando City SC (Florida) and New York City FC, a partner club of English champions Manchester City, will join. After ten years, Chivas USA will give up playing competitively. The club, originally a subsidiary of the Mexican club Deportivo Guadalajara, played at the same stadium in Carson, California, as Los Angeles Galaxy but for some time had the worst attendance numbers in the MLS (below 10,000 on average). The MLS, who had taken over the club from Mexican Jorge Vergara last February, decided to close down Chivas USA in October. But there should be a new club from Los Angeles installed in California in 2017 – in addition to four-time champions Galaxy. With the increase to 20 teams in 2015 a new Conference composition will be introduced. The acceptance of a team from Atlanta is being planned for 2017. It is yet uncertain when David Beckham will be able to compete with a team from Miami.