From NYCFC’s title-winning heights to Matuidi-gate’s lows in Miami

Year 2021 MLS season is now in the books. The good news is, that’s on the books, which is by no means certain when the campaign begins to be delayed in mid-April.

Now that it’s all over, ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle looks back on the 26th season in league history.

High level

NYCFC runs to (and celebrates) the MLS Cup

New York City FC not anywhere near the top of the season favorites. A playoff team? Sure, but the Blues seem to be behind a lot of names like New England, Philadelphia and the champions Columbus Crew.

The Cityzens aren’t all that stellar in the regular season, and at one point it looked like they might not make it to the post-season, but NYCFC pulled off a five-game unbeaten streak to end the season. regular league and then pass the Eastern Conference best match to meet Portland Wood in the MLS Cup. Despite a gut punch when conceding an equalizer in the last minute of injury time, NYCFC was able to pull through and take the upper hand on penalties, prompting coach Ronny Deila to keep his promise from two years ago and strip celebratory food.

blankThe rotation set a record

In fact New England Revolution Losing to New York City in the post-season after setting a record for most points in the regular season would be painful, but the Supporter’s Shield Victory Wheel is still impressive , especially with the attack ability shown through Tajon Buchanan, Adam Buksa, Gustavo Bou and MVP Carles Gil. Even if Buchanan heads towards Belgium Club Brugge, it is expected that Bruce Arena’s team will return to the campaign next year.

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blankWondo offers style

San Jose earthquake fans knew this day would come, but it still brought tears to their eyes when Chris Wondolowski hang up his boots for good at the end of the season. In his last MLS game against FC Dallas, he ended his career with a typical Wondo goal: all smart movements and a competent, one-touch finish. He ended his game days with an MLS all-time record of 171 regular-season goals, along with 42 assists.

Conundrums about COVID-19

Given the state of the pandemic, COVID-19 deserves its own category, and it is a decidedly mixed bag.

Not a single match – playoffs or otherwise – has been postponed or canceled due to coronavirus cases. That’s credit to the league’s effort to get players vaccinated (97% of players vaccinated) as well as continuation protocols. The fact that the MLS Cup was held in front of an accommodating crowd at Portland’s Providence Park is a sign that MLS has weathered the pandemic pretty well.

But it could be argued that the league benefits from picking the right timing. As of this writing, cases and postponements are occurring in other North American sports as well as football leagues abroad. And in the end, MLS got a little, because Philadelphia Union must play the Eastern Conference finals against NYCFC with 11 players sitting out due to the dreaded “health and safety” protocols. It certainly causes a sadness in the post-season.

One can only hope that the pandemic has subsided significantly before the 2022 season opens on February 26.


blankLabor conflict

Well, in the end, a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was agreed and – most importantly – ratified, but getting there takes some work. The CBA has been renegotiated three times in less than a year. The players spent an estimated $200 million to $260 million to increase wages and benefits. Among the benefits to the owners is the extension of the contract until the end of the 2027 season.

It looks like there will be a labor peace until then, but a little-known milestone was passed on December 1st: The Force Majeure Clause, which was used to bring the MLSPA back to the bargaining table on earlier this year and was postponed because of the deadline for the 2021 season, which could be called back if complications from COVID-19 become more frequent.


Rumors of how MLS teams were playing fast and loose with salary budgeting rules had been circulating in the 26 years of the league’s existence, and one team was eventually caught. Inter Miami to be went bankrupt because there were basically five Designated Players on its roster, two more than the league rules allow, with midfielders Blaise Matuidi and former defender Andres Reyes wrong classification. Miami was also found to have under-reported the salaries of three players.

The penalties are severe, with a $2.271 million reduction in the wage budget space imposed over two years, or about 11.9% of the team’s existing salary budget. It could be a tough two years for the Herons as sporting director Chris Henderson – the heir to the mess – tries to maneuver penalties.

blankPlayers bet on MLS games

Sports betting is becoming more popular in the North American sports scene and has been legalized in 31 states. But one of the downsides of sports betting was revealed in October when it was announced that Kansas Sports City midfielder Felipe Hernandez to be found to have bet on MLS games, although no team included his team.

The federation is strengthening its presence in the sports betting sector and has a partnership with MGM Resorts. An independent investigation found no evidence that Hernandez had “confidential or non-public information regarding those two MLS games,” but it still leaves the federation challenged about joining the scene. sports betting scene and maintain the integrity of its game.



The Colorado Rapids was one of the better stories of the season, as Robin Fraser’s unannounced team claimed the top spot at the Western Conference. The honor is also due to GM Padraig Smith having put out a long list with domestic players.

NYCFC’s Valentin Castellenos not a Golden Shoe winner. Earlier in the year, he seemed adept at squandering opportunities rather than converting them, but he’s turned hotter, scoring 19 goals in the regular season (much like DC United’s). Ola Kamara but has added three assists) and made his mark in each of his three playoffs.

Bad people

LAFC, Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew are both expected to challenge the MLS Cup. Turns out, none of them even made it to post-season.

LAFC was plagued by inconsistencies and allowed coach Bob Bradley to leave at the end of the season. Toronto never got under new coach Chris Armas, who was fired midway through the campaign, and Bradley would take his place at the end of the season. Injuries have hampered Crew’s title defense, although his failure to reach the knockout stages has highlighted an oddity in coach Caleb Porter’s career: the two-time MLS Cup champion never made it to the knockout stages in consecutive seasons. From NYCFC’s title-winning heights to Matuidi-gate’s lows in Miami

John Verrall

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