It's going to be hard to write much about MLS excitement this past week with the EPL season finale being so incredible yesterday, but here it goes all the same!
New York won a midweek match against the Houston Dynamo, and there isn't much to say about this one except that a) Houston lost, which is always a bonus, and b) Ryan Meara is tops in rookie of the year voting so far. It is worthwhile to note that Rafael Marquez did not get a start for the Red Bulls despite having returned from suspension. Perhaps New York wanted to give him some extra rest with the match against Philadelphia coming so soon, or maybe it was a message to him.
Geoff Cameron embarrassed himself by attempting an absolutely awful backpass to Tally Hall. The pass was an awkward and slow one, so Kenny Cooper pounced on it and scored the only goal New York would need. The rest of the match was a bunker-fest from which New York did not emerge from until the end.
The weekend started with the Houston Dynamo opening their new BBVA Compass Stadium against D.C. United, and as much as I hate Houston, it was nice to see new stadium for MLS. The TV buildup for it was extensive, the atmosphere was loud and exciting, and except for a little issue unfurling their championship banner the whole thing went off without a hitch.
Houston certainly didn't start the game as though that interested. Through the first 25 minutes, Houston played thoroughly uninspiring soccer; they were slow, plodding and made very poor passes. However around the halfpoint mark the Dynamo seemed to realize that the fans there had come to see them, you know, win, and went about throwing attackers at DC.
The second half held far better soccer for Houston and it resulted in their lone goal of the match, with Brad Davis turning in a sure Goal of the Week against Bill Hamid. I'd describe it for you, but it's probably better to let the actual goal do the talking.
The loss isn't the worst part for United, as they have lost Perry Kitchen and Chris Pontius to injury, two important contributors to their team. The severity of the injuries has yet to be determined as MRI results will not be available until Tuesday.
The Vancouver Whitecaps' defense continued its Jekyll and Hyde performance, with Mr. Hyde showing his ugly mug this weekend for all Vancouver supporters to see. The biggest story of this this game was Lee Nguyen facing his former club and showing them up in a two-goal performance that will certainly lift his spirits a bit. It is games like these that make the New England Revolution easy to like.
The Whitecaps had the media on their side, with only one of MLS' staff writers giving them a chance at winning this game and I admit that I didn't really expect a positive result for the Revs either. Within five minutes Eric Hassli opened the scoring I thought "Well here it comes!".
That thought didn't last long as Lee Nguyen scored a pretty weird goal that pinballed off a few Vancouver defenders before falling right as his feet, and he didn't hesitate to pull the trigger to send home a goal that Joe Canon really had no chance of stopping. Later, Saer Sene cut through the Whitecaps' defense like butter after receiving a great pass from Nguyen and nailed another Revs goal. Not five minutes after that, another defensive gaffe by the Caps saw a failed clearance in their own box and this time Shalrie Joseph was there to pound it home, 3-1 Revs.
The real gem in all this is the final goal Nguyen scored, a beautiful curling strike from well outside the 18-yard mark that found the far post. There was nothing to this goal but pure skill, and it started off with an innocuous little throw in. Thank you many times over to New England for taking points from any team in the Western Conference!
The big matchup of the week was Real Salt Lake vs the Seattle Sounders, and this one again produced a few surprises. RSL played some of their best soccer all year, reverting to the strong, powerhouse defensive performances we're used to seeing out of them, while Seattle struggled to get any kind of finishing against Salt Lake.
The only goal in the match came with Fabian Espindola receiving a lovely chipped through ball by Luis Gil, and Espindola sliced through Adam Johansson and Jeff Parke and put a wonderful finish on the strike, low and hard to the right, for a goal. Really Johansson made a mess of things as he got in front of the ball and didn't post up to either draw a foul or clear the ball. If not for his error Salt Lake might not have scored at all.
Seattle really has had issues this season turning their crosses and chances into goals and it really showed in this game. Seattle absolutely dominated for long stretches of the game, with RSL content to attack on the break and laying back. Despite playing a defensive gameplan and allowing the Sounders space, Seattle managed a whopping ZERO shots on target. Six corner kicks, thirty crosses, more possession and zero shots on target. If anything holds Seattle back this season, their finishing will be what does them in.
Full credit goes to Real Salt Lake for winning and padding their lead atop the western standings, though we must bear in mind they also have three more games played than anyone else. The few times Real Salt Lake DID attack, they were very deadly.
The last match worth noting this weekend was a matchup of the Philadelphia Union and the New York Red Bulls, and the most talked about issue was Freddy Adu. Adu earned himself an early yellow card on a terrible tackle from behind and then quickly got himself ejected for diving in the penalty area.
Upon watching the replay it is very clear that contact was minimal, if there was any contact at all. His explanation was that he was bracing for contact and because no contact came, he fell.
What a load of malarkey.
If MLS is serious about removing diving from the game as much as possible, this was absolutely the right call and there should be no doubt about it. Adu attempted to influence the game and draw a penalty kick, which is a darn shame because up to that point he had been incredible and was easily the best Union player on the pitch. At least Union fans can take solace in Adu's stellar form through the first half, because at this point the lowly Union have had an awful season.
There were other things to note in the game of course. The Union players left on the field fought tooth and nail and actually took the lead just a few seconds into the second half. The Union really fought hard until the end, almost equalizing if not for keeper Ryan Meara. Joel Lindpere scored a pretty great goal to start the game, and Lionard Pajor finally looked like the player the Union hoped they had bought. Sadly I imagine most of the media will be talking about the red card and the dive that brought it about, rather than what New York is doing without Henry.
Sporting Kansas City lost their third match in a row, this time to the Chicago Fire. This game did a good job of highlighting exactly what Aurelien Colin's big issue is: As good as he is at defending, he is equally brash and reckless. His careless two-footed tackle against Dominic Oduro inside the KC penalty area cost his team a penalty kick that was quickly put away Sebastian Grazzini.
Then Roger Espinoza decided to take out Grazzini with a flying elbow right to the face, which resulted in a straight red card. The referee looked uninterested in any appeals and sent Espinoza off with a little venom of his own, while Peter Vermes was left blaming the referees for the loss, saying that the game "is not all about him (the referee)", though looking at the calls I cannot understand what Vermes sees as unjustified.
Then, in the 81st minute, Kei Kamara fumbled a clearance inside the six-yard box and Patrick Nyarko stole the ball and sent it across to Oduro, who promptly buried it to give the Fire the lead they had been hunting for all game long.
Thought About Week 10
- LA officially sucks. I'm sorry LA, I know Montreal has been a decent expansion side, but REALLY your Championship team should beat them. No excuse. If not for Beckham's magic they could very well have lost.
- Sporting have dropped like flies, looking unimpressive in all of their three losses. Thoughts? Perhaps other teams are adjusting their gameplans accordingly and Sporting are beginning to get figured out? Peter Vermes hasn't done much if anything to change his side's approach since the losing streak started.
- Seattle lost, but really it's nothing for them to fret about. RSL are a great team and outplayed them one game. I can't decide at the moment who the best team is, especially considering San Jose was almost upended by Chivas.
- New York have really impressed, even if they have been playing teams in the east. They don't look dominant by any stretch, but they are getting badly needed results against weaker sides and all this without Henry. Last year, without Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls wouldn't have made the playoffs.
- Dallas makes me sad.