Fire Merritt Paulson
Just a quick heads-up here, while I won't be going into details of the allegations, this post will be discussing drug use, domestic violence and drunk driving. So if that makes you uncomfortable, feel free to just scroll down to the Doom Seat and Doom Rankings.
Before someone goes "Well actually..." when I say fire Merritt Paulson, I mean out of a cannon, into the sun. Or you know, maybe just kick him out of your little billionaires club. In case you are unfamiliar, the Portland Thorns and Portland Timbers have been in the news for all the wrong reasons and both teams are owned by Merritt Paulson and run by Gavin Wilkinson who is the president of soccer. The initial revelations came from the Thorns side of the equation, as we found out that former Thorns coach Paul Riley was credibly accused of sexual harassment by form Thorns players and the club covered it up, not revealing any of the results to the next teams who hired Riley who allegedly then continued to sexually abuse other players. On the Timbers side of the equation, Andy Polo is credibly accused of domestic abuse, including in one incident in Oregon where the Portland Timbers chief of security showed up and spoke to the police. If you want to get a pretty good picture of the timeline of allegations and what was or wasn't done, Leftist Cassandra has a pretty good Twitter thread with sources. Even if you have a pretty good picture of what happened, the thread is well worth a read.
Now, if this was the first sign of trouble I would say Paulson should just fire Wilkinson and we can all move on, but it's not. Now, I'm a Sounders fan so it is easy to accuse me of bias int his, but this is far bigger than just some regional rivalry over who can kick the ball better. The Timbers in the MLS era have a history of letting players and staff get away with bad behavior if Wilkinson or Paulson think it will bring them success. Cast your mind back to the far off time of October 2016, the Timbers missed the playoffs and Liam Ridgewell and Jake Gleeson decided to drink away their troubles...then drive. Ridgewell's charges were eventually dropped, but you can see him fail his field sobriety test in dashcam video obtained by the Oregonian. Gleeson entered the substance abuse program for MLS, Ridgewell's charges were dropped and neither of the players suffered any consequences from the Timbers management. No suspensions, no fines, they played in the season opener the following season. Then there's the curious case of Brian Fernandez, who the Timbers seemed to know had a cocaine problem since they had baked in terms to the transfer agreement with Nexaca according to Paul Tenorio. But Fernandez was a good striker, in his time in Portland he made the Timbers a better offensive team, but he really loved cocaine and it was only when the problem became too obvious that MLS tried to force him into the substance abuse program that MLS, not the TImbers, but MLS itself terminated Fernandez's contract and launched a lawsuit against Nexaca. The pattern is clear, Wilkinson and Paulson only care about two things: success on the field and money in their pockets. If Paulson is unwilling to terminate his buddy, then MLS needs to send Paulson packing because this is only going to keep happening.
Look, there are a lot of pieces of s*** in the small club that is MLS ownership and in general billionaires tend to be terrible people, but there's a difference between having unethical business practices outside of soccer and literally helping an alleged rapist to continue his horrific behavior. Winning and success are important in soccer, but they shouldn't be more important than the safety of the players, their families or the community. For Paulson and Wilkinson, success is all they care about and if they can cover up or silence the voices that seek to hold them accountable, all the better. It's not like there isn't precedent for kicking out troublesome owners, Chivas USA was completely shuttered after allegations of racial discrimination in hiring practices. Dell Loy Hansen was accused of racism against latino players on his team and forced to sell the team. The fact that the Timbers did not inform MLS of the allegations against Andy Polo should be more than enough for MLS to justify forcing an ownership change in Portland. The allegations of a cover-up of Paul Riley's actions should be more than enough for NWSL to justify a similar move. I'd love to think that MLS and NWSL will, in fact, do the right thing here, but I suspect they won't because the world is not just and money making organizations like NWSL and MLS are definitely not concerned with being morally in the right. Portland is one of the biggest success stories for both leagues; both the Timbers and Thorns consistently fill the stadium, they're probably one of the few teams in either league actually making a profit, Portland is what a lot of teams in MLS and NWSL wish they could be, they're downright aspirational. All of the monetary success that comes from Portland's success as a soccer market flows back to the central organization and puts dollars in the pockets of the billionaires that run NWSL and MLS. If you have learned anything from the past two years of COVID pandemic, it should be this: people will ignore a lot of horrible things if it makes them money.
The Doom Seat
New season, new reasons to fire coaches. The carousel begins to spin again, let's go.
- Matias Almeyda: Almeyda has checked out and he's clearly not happy in San Jose. Almeyda is basically daring San Jose to fire him by complaining about roster spending and adding little passive aggressive barbs. The only question this season is when Almeyda is done, not if.
- Gerhard Struber: There were rumblings that Struber was going to get fired last year, he managed to survive last season but I'm not sure he can survive another season.
- Wilfried Nancy: If Montreal miss the playoffs again this year, I'm fairly confident Nancy will see the door.
- Phil Neville: An argument could be made that Neville has a gutted team that lacks a lot of the talent it had last year. of course, I'd point out they still (on paper) have more talent than a lot of other MLS teams. Neville needs to get results this year and a 5-1 loss to Austin and a scoreless draw will not help.
- Oscar Pareja: He's brought OCSC more success than they've had previously, but is this ownership group happy with just being okay? I'm not so sure they are and this may be the year Pareja really needs to do well.
The Doom Rankings
New season, new doom!
The Doom Rankings are a sort of reverse power rankings, here #1 in the list is the most likely to miss the playoffs. When a team fails to qualify for the post season or is confirmed to be qualified for the post season, they come off of the list. In the Doom Rankings, being highly ranked is a bad thing
FC Cincinatti Cinci has "won" the wooden spoon for the last two years and results so far do not indicate they will fail to capture a third.
- San Jose A coach who clearly wants out, a team with basically no talent to speak of and an ownership group looking to do this on the cheap, what could go wrong? Everything.
- Charlotte FC When your coach says "right now we are screwed" believe him.
- Vancouver Whitecaps The 'Caps vastly outperformed their talent last season, I don't think they will this season.
- Houston Dynamo The Dynamo may be bringing in a major reinforcement in the form of Hector Herrera, but he's not there yet.
- Montreal CF The talent simply isn't good enough for Montreal to make the playoffs this season, I think.
- Inter Miami Despite all the hype about it being a new season and this finally being Neville's team, this is a team that offloaded a lot of talent and is hoping that a mostly unmotived Gonzalo Higuain will be able to carry them to the playoffs. Not happening.
- Minnesota United United key midfielders in Ethan Finlay, Jan Gregus and Osvaldo Alonso and they haven't really replaced them. Shiny new mid-tier forward talents aren't much use if they don't get the ball.
- Chicago Fire Ezra Hendrickson and Xherdan Shaqiri may be steps in the right direction, but I'm not convinced it's enough to undo years of organizational decay.
- DC United Paul Arriola and Kevin Paredes have left a DC United that missed the playoffs last year, does anyone really think the talent they've brought in is enough to elevate them higher?
- Colorado Rapids The Rapids sent the engine of the team, Kellyn Accosta, packing and haven't really replaced him with an equivalent talent. I think the Rapids just barely miss the playoffs this year.
- Portland Timbers Plagued by issues off the field, on the field the question is whether this team can function at the same high level without their best all-time (in the MLS era) player, Diego Valeri. Diego Chara and Sebastian Blanco aren't spring chickens either and age is going to be looming large for this team.
- Toronto FC Bob Bradley is a much better coach, but this team just shipped off a lot of talent. They're going to need mid season reinforcements if they want to make the playoffs.
- FC Dallas Do I think this team has enough talent to make the playoffs? No, but then again they could very well have some young kid about to have a breakout year too. Can't entirely count them out, but I think they miss the playoffs.
- Columbus Crew This is how things go with Caleb Porter in charge, one bad season, one good season. Expect the Crew to make the playoffs.
- Real Salt Lake Will this team be great? Probably not. But they should be good enough.
- Nashville SC You know they're going to be defensively good, and that should be enough to make the playoffs.
Orlando City SC Nani was a key player for OCSC and Daryl Dike was the best striker they've had in a while, this team shouldn't miss the playoffs but it will be closer than I think fans would like.
- New York Red Bulls Caden Clark is back and once again there's a lot of young talent on this team that should just be good enough to get the energy drinks back to the playoffs.
- Sporting KC Missing Alan Pulido is a major problem, but the trademark "style" of KC should see them comfortably make the playoffs and then collapse from exhaustion once they get there.
- Philadelphia Union This team is largely unchanged from last season, so I expect them to do well again, especially with more of the young kids having gained in experience.
- LA Galaxy Greg Vanney has dropped a lot of expensive dead weight from this roster and added some talent on a budget, but this team is still really reliant on Chicharito for success.
- Austin FC This team started to put things together last season and they've started the season on fire. Anything less than the playoffs will be a disappointment for the verde salsas.
- Atlanta United Gonzalo Pineda has had a full offseason to put his ideas into action and I suspect this Atlanta team will make the playoffs pretty comfortably.
- New York City FC The MLS Cup winners did lose key midfielder Jesus Medina to the offseason but I think they have enough talent to make the playoffs again.
- LAFC Carlos Vela is healthy and LAFC have added some really key talent pieces in the form of Kellyn Acosta and Ryan Hollingshead, helping their new coach get a roster talented enough to easily make the playoffs.
- New England Revolution Death, taxes and Bruce Arena in the MLS playoffs.
Seattle Sounders FC Death, taxes and the Sounders in MLS playoffs.