The 'flop' heard 'round the nation, a Union uprising, more MLS Snaps
Charlie Davies' late penalty-kick goal drew the ire of Galaxy principals
New York now has to wait six months to get a rematch with the Philly club
Real Salt Lake's versatile depth played a key role in its 2-0 win over the Revs
From Charlie Davies earning a late controversial penalty against Los Angeles to Philadelphia's victory over New York in a battle of Eastern Conference powers, here are five quick thoughts from Saturday's early MLS action:
1. Davies steals point for D.C. with controversial penalty. Major League Soccer refereeing is always under public scrutiny, and Abiodun Okulaja is the latest to insert himself in the spotlight, doing so to the delight of Davies and D.C. United -- and the dismay of Omar Gonzalez and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
As the moments wound down in what figured to be a 1-0 Galaxy victory, Davies found himself locked in a one-on-one battle with Gonzalez on the left, heading into the penalty area. Davies went right at the center back, and Gonzalez committed the cardinal sin of reaching out his arm, though it appeared that minimal contact was made. Davies fell flat to the ground, and Okulaja wasted no time in pointing to the spot.
Depending on perspective, Davies either flopped or was a hero in what seemed like a lost cause to a crowd of more than 26,000 at RFK Stadium.
"Every time I'm one-on-one, I'm going to go at you, so we were in the box, and I was able to take a good stepover and get by Omar," Davies said. "But he put his arm up into my chest and knocked me off balance. I mean, that's a penalty."
David Beckham didn't quite see it that way.
"Absolutely disgusting call," said Beckham, who had been subbed off a few minutes prior to the infraction. "Even my 6-year-old son would know not to call that a penalty. It's not a penalty. If anything it's a yellow card. I think any place, grassroots level, kids playing in the park. At any level, that is not a penalty, it's as simple as that."
Davies still had to convert the spot kick, which he did with class and confidence. He has now scored from the spot in each of his three appearances for D.C. and currently leads the league with four goals.
As for the league's officiating problem, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena has a pretty simple outlook.
"The officiating in this league is what it is," Arena said. "Unfortunately we're all conditioned to it now anyway, and we accept it. It is what it is."
2. There's a beast in the East, and it's not New York. The Philadelphia Union doesn't seem to care about all of the talk about the New York Red Bulls' vaunted attack and sound distribution from the back. It's looking down on its Eastern Conference rivals from atop the standings after a gritty win at an electric PPL Park.
The Red Bulls had their chances, with Juan Agudelo hitting the woodwork twice and countless other opportunities for the team to get on the board. The Red Bulls also had a sizable edge in possession. But a failure to convert chances is always the downfall of any team, and Tim Ream's horrid mistake from the back was all the Union needed to pad its lead atop the East.
Ream, lauded for his distribution -- and rightfully so -- in the United States' recent friendly with Paraguay, was hardly under pressure when he passed directly to Danny Mwanga and gave the Union a two-on-one breakaway in the attacking third. Mwanga slotted the ball to Roger Torres, who coolly beat Bouna Coundoul to set off a celebration along the banks of the Delaware River.
Over the course of the full 90 minutes, the Union may have been outplayed, but all that matters in the end is the scoreboard. And in more ways than one, that scoreboard reads Philadelphia 1, New York 0.
The rematch on Oct. 20, the last game of the regular season, should be riveting.
3. Real Salt Lake shows its depth. Coach Jason Kreis has bigger things on his agenda than a league match at New England early in the season. With a vital CONCACAF Champions League final around the corner and a gritty semifinal victory in the rear-view mirror, Kreis elected to start what was essentially a reserve team at New England on Saturday.
And the RSL reserves smoked the Revolution in all aspects of the game.
Chris Schuler scored his first career goal off a corner kick, and young striker Paulo Jr. continued to show that he's a viable option up top as RSL topped New England at Gillette Stadium by a 2-0 that hardly reflects how one-sided the match really was.
With the likes of Alvaro Saborio, Javier Morales, Fabian Espindola, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando absent from the starting XI, RSL had no problem stealing three road points. Beckerman entered as a sub and drew a red card on Sharlie Joseph after some jawing between the two led to Joseph poking him in the head, but it was the reserves that got the job done on a night when the Revolution was seemingly gifted an opportunity.
4. No Montero, no problem. In the three games that Seattle Designated Player Fredy Montero has played, the Sounders tallied a combined one goal and one point. In the two matches he's had to miss after having wrist surgery, the Sounders have amassed four goals and four points, with the latest effort being a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire Saturday afternoon.
While nobody is suggesting that the Sounders are better off without Montero in the long run, there's no question that the attacking trio of Steve Zakuani, O'Brian White and Mauro Rosales has been more productive while carrying the flow of the attack. Montero's knack for shooting from just about anywhere -- he entered the weekend leading the league in total shots -- has paid off for the better part of the last two seasons; however, if Seattle's attack is going to reach its potential, Montero is going to have to accept playing a role in the attack as opposed to trying to be the entire attack.
White, who scored in his second straight match, did a wonderful job of holding up the ball and creating openings for Zakuani, Rosales and Erik Friberg to exploit. If Montero can do the same when he returns, all will be well in the Emerald City.
5. Beckham flourishes as captain, in central midfield role. With Landon Donovan absent with what team officials described as a minor knock, Beckham once again wore the captain's armband for the Galaxy. He also played in central midfield and flourished as the focal point in the Galaxy's attack.
Booed constantly by a venomous United crowd, Beckham's passing was smooth and accurate. His service off set pieces was top-notch, and he placed a corner kick right on Mike Magee's head for the Galaxy's opening goal in the 12th minute.
"It's a position that I've played before, and I enjoyed it," Beckham said. "We kept the ball well and played great soccer at times and deserved the win."
Perhaps what stood out the most, though, was his commitment to defending.
Throughout the game, Beckham tracked back to help his defense, and it was fitting that his last contribution before coming off in the 80th minute was retrieving into his own penalty area to clear a ball off Chris Pontius' foot with D.C. seeking an equalizer.
"D.C. United had some possession, but for the most part they weren't dangerous, and I thought David and Juninho played well," said Arena, who hinted that Beckham playing central midfield is likely to become a regular occurrence.
While much has been questioned about Beckham's commitment to the Galaxy and MLS, his performance on Saturday night certainly did not lack heart.