MLS Hard Knocks Series? Here are Six Candidates

MLS Hard Knocks
Photo Credit: John A. Babiak @Photog_JohnB

(Editorial)-With the conversations surrounding NFL’s Hard Knocks “subjects” for 2019, we thought it would be fun to see who the best candidate for an MLS edition of Hard Knocks.

Six Candidates for an MLS Hard Knocks Series

The media machine that is the NFL has many wonderful ways of getting its followers, both fringe and faithful, to gorge themselves on any and all content, even its most meaningless. With so many devoted fans in the MLS realm, and the media’s continual coverage of even the most mundane of events (*cough cough* COMBINE *cough cough*). It would be the most MLS of MLS things to create a “Hard Knocks” series, and then have a roundtable of Susannah Collins, Andrew Weibe and Bobby Warshaw hash it out for a 30 minute studio show.

But outside of the media personalities, the most important thing in the MLS Hard Knocks recipe is the team that will be subject to the in depth media coverage and exposure. We decided to take a look at which MLS Squads would be eligible first, and then second be the most entertaining.

We felt like it was worth it to use the NFL’s selection rules for accuracy purposes. Those rules are:

  1. The team has not been in the playoffs within the last two seasons
  2. The team has a first year head coach (in charge of the team, not ‘ever’)

There is a rule against being on the show if you’ve been on it within the last ten editions, but since there are ZERO editions of the show, we’ve obviously decided to waive that requirement.

So what teams would this eliminate? Well sadly, it eliminates any of the playoff squads from the last two years, and anybody who just got a brand new head coach. That means no ‘Quakes and Whitecaps, two teams who had massive locker room issues in 2018, and the biggest disappointment of all, no Galaxy! Although, I’m certain the league would bend the rules for them once more. But in the interest of following the rules, they’re out.

So, who does that leave us with?

Colorado Rapids

Pros: The Rapids just added one of the most entertaining personalities in the league this offseason. Kei Kamara is fun. The Rapids might actually be fun next year as well. Keegan Rosenberry joined up to reclaim himself, and with the addition of Diego Rubio along with Kamara, the Rapids could actually be pretty dangerous in the attack. Shkelzen Gashi coming back to actually live up to the hype around him would be a lot of fun as well. All of this, along with some budding young studs in Niki Jackson and Kortne Ford, the Rapids have a lot of positive things which have already made them my MLS Live cult pick of the 2019 season.

Cons: Anthony Hudson isn’t the most fiery person in the world, so the coaches aspect in all of this may not be that entertaining. But I really can’t find another bad reason for these guys to be excluded from an MLS Hard Knocks.

FC Cincinnati

Pros: FC Cincinnati would be an absolute blast. Alan Koch is technically not a first year head coach of the team, and FC Cincinnati technically haven’t made the MLS Playoffs in the last two years. There is no rule as to whether or not the team was eligible to even make those playoffs.

Walking alongside FC Cincinnati with cameras would give us great access to in training battles between Fanendo Adi and Kendall Waston. It would also be an up close look at how expansion teams come together in training and in preparation for their first competitive seasons ever.

Cons: FC Cincinnati seem to be an organization that has a good head on their shoulders. There wouldn’t be a whole lot of drama and a lot of these guys either know each other or have played together in some capacity. Plus, Alan Koch is a rather unknown as a head coach and there are certainly more polarizing figures available for this.

Minnesota United FC

Pros: They’ve just been god-awful defensively and have added a couple of bang up defensive midfielders in Jan Gregus and Oswaldo Alonso. It would be fun to see what they’re trying to do with the backline and goalkeeping since they didn’t change anything personnel wise there. There is also a ton of drama surrounding their prospective goalkeeper signing, Augustin Rossi, and Domestic Violence charges in Argentina. That alone makes them a lot of fun to keep an eye on.

Throw in the fact that they have their first five games on the road before opening their brand new stadium, Minnesota United would be fun to follow. That new stadium alone is worthy of following just to see how they prep, and what it’s like when they get in. Maybe even extend the documentary into the season just so you can get that? Sounds like a plan.

Cons: There seems to be not a whole lot of player drama, and none of their players are super marketable personalities. Outside of the random Adrian Heath outbursts, it’s really a whole lot of boring. When it comes to the actual club. Their fans provide more than anything the entertainment outside of the opponents gashing their backline. And sadly, this isn’t a documentary series about the fanbases. But outside of that Minnesota might be one of the best candidates for it.

Montreal Impact

Pros: Montreal have a relatively big name head coach in Remi Garde. They also have a decent youth program that’s bringing players into the fold here and there. But, they haven’t made the playoffs in the last two years, despite their late charge last season. The addition of Maxi Urruti to an already intriguing attack with Ignacio Piatti and Jeisson Vargas, the Impact would be fun for all the right reasons. The organization has 100% embraced the French inspiration behind Quebec and Montreal, and has created a unique atmosphere within the club and fanbase. For that alone, they’d be a fun team to profile in a series like this.

Cons: Nobody outside of Montreal really cares about the Impact. Their brand isn’t recognizable league wide, and their lack of “original” status kind of kills any interest in what they’d have to offer, especially if you’re trying to attract all audiences. Montreal, for that reason is out, IMO.

Orlando City SC

Pros: Orlando City is a mess, has been a mess, and will likely continue to be a mess. If you hadn’t heard, Dom Dwyer completely ignored questions from his own local beat reporter at MLS’ own Media Day this weekend. Throw in the incident at Disney World two years ago, and the presence of Will Johnson, this is the “crap’s going to hit the fan” subject of an MLS Hard Knocks. You have Santiago Patiño playing the role of the bright eye’d and bushy tailed rookie. On top of that, Head Coach James O’ Conner is not a rookie and has been with this team since midseason, making them “eligible.” Orlando City is the best choice for all the wrong reasons.

Cons: Orlando would be such a big mess drama wise, that there is likely a good chance it would be severely bad optics for MLS, thus they wouldn’t chose them. For all the wrong drama, and non-soccer reasons though, Orlando is a wonderful choice for this.

New England Revolution

Pros: Brad Friedel has been extremely open about how much competition and aggression he wants between players in the squad. That alone will make for some good TV. Juan Agudelo is a great personality, and so are some of the others on that squad. Additions to the squad that are supposedly coming some point soon, would also make this interesting.

Cons: The Revs haven’t been at the forefront of conversation within MLS for a while now, at least a positive one. People tend to talk about the “losers” in the league either for ridiculous drama reasons, or for potential hope for the future reasons. The Revs are one of those teams that doesn’t make the mark on either of those scales and are just overall, forgettable. The inclusion of the Revs would very likely not do great numbers. Thank u, next.

So who is the best option for an MLS Hard Knocks? I’d make my pick the Colorado Rapids. Kei Kamara and the redemption team that actually looks like it could work, have a good portion of the MLS followers cult intrigued by what they are going to do in 2019. They’re intriguing, and this is the first time I’ve been able to say that about the Colorado Rapids since Oscar Pareja was their head coach.

FC Cincinnati was a close second just because of how cool it would be to see an expansion team build up to their first ever match. But the Rapids will captivate a lot of the fringe soccer community in America as well and for that, and the sheer entertainment of Kei Kamara, the ‘Pids might actually be fun.

So who is your choice? Let us know in the comments below!

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