U.S. World Cup success beneficial for MLS

Michael Bradley, left, in action for the U.S. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

Every Friday, Sportsnet.ca will chat with Sportsnet soccer commentator Paul Dolan—a former Canadian national team goalkeeper—about the big stories and issues in Major League Soccer.

Dominic Oduro scored his first goal for Toronto FC in the Reds’ 4-2 win over the Houston Dynamo last weekend. What have you made of Oduro since joining TFC? How well do you think he’s fit in?

I think Oduro has fit in very well and gives TFC a bigger threat on the counter-attack with his speed on the wing. Toronto’s second goal, which he ended up scoring, was the perfect example of the way TFC is looking to capitalize in transition, with the pace of Oduro and Defoe catching Houston out after the good outlet ball from Jonathan Osorio. Perhaps the most encouraging sign from him was his admitted disappointment in not playing as well as he thinks he can which means I think there is still some more upside to the trade that saw him come to Toronto from Columbus and looks great now, with Alvaro Rey having left the Crew and returned to Spain.

With the Whitecaps trailing Chivas USA 2-1 last week, Pedro Morales thought he had salvaged a point for Vancouver when he bundled the ball over the line. However, Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was adjudged to have had full control of the ball and a foul was awarded instead. Was it the right call?

Yes it was the right call, and I’m not just saying that with a former goalkeeper’s bias. The law clearly states any control with the hands or the ground means an opposing player cannot kick the ball out of the goalkeeper’s possession. It was a disappointing loss at home for Vancouver but all of a sudden Chivas is becoming a factor in the Western Conference, led by perhaps the most underrated player in the league in Erick Torres who scored the winning goal.

Saturday programming alert: Watch the Houston Dynamo vs. Toronto FC live on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet World on July 19. Coverage begins at 9:00 pm ET. You can also watch live on Sportsnet Now. | TV schedule

Montreal made two defensive mistakes to hand Sporting Kansas City a 2-1 victory at Saputo Stadium on the weekend. The winning goal came off a lack of communication between defender Heath Pearce and goalkeeper Troy Perkins. How damaging are these kinds of mental errors for team morale?

Both goals were glaring mistakes which is demoralizing for any team struggling to get results. On the first one Perkins needs to do better and get a fist to the ball before it’s headed in straight from a throw-in but the second and winning goal is down to Heath Pearce in my opinion. It was a softly played through ball that Pearce should have easily dealt with. Instead, he left it for Perkins to deal with which only complicated things and CJ Sapong made them pay the price by causing the turnover in front of an empty goal. It’s hard enough winning in MLS without gifting goals to the defending champions and that will definitely be a tough pill to swallow for Frank Klopas. It certainly hurts the Impact’s overall morale.

Should MLS take a complete break for the World Cup? It stops for the group stage but resumes at the start of the knockout round. But should the league take off the entire month?

I think an entire month off would be too much of a break and would lead to even more fixture congestion. I like how they handled the break this year with no games during the World Cup group stage when there were several games a day and all eyes were on the tournament and then filtered in a few MLS games in the evening as the World Cup went to the knockout stages with kickoff times earlier in the day. For those that love the game and like to follow their MLS teams I don’t think it was too much to have MLS back playing after the two weeks off when the World Cup was still in progress.

What did you think of the United States’ performance in Brazil? How much of their relative success was due to MLS? Could the strong TV ratings in the U.S. and the team doing fairly well at the World Cup have long-term benefits for MLS?

I think you’d have to give a passing grade to the performance of the U.S. team when many thought they wouldn’t get out of the group and I believe part of their success is down to the regular high-level competition many of their key players are getting in MLS. You have to think that the large number of North Americans watching the World Cup, who are looking to support soccer at the local level, would be interested in not only following their home team in MLS but supporting the players who have played at the World Cup with the knowledge that they belong there. In that respect I think there are benefits to MLS from good performances by not only the American players at the World Cup but by other players who stood out, such as Costa Rica’s Giancarlo Gonzalez for example, who plays at Columbus or Tim Cahill who scored one of the best goals of the tournament.

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