RSL makes a huge statement; rough week for DPs in Week 2
RSL showed its the best team in MLS by dismantling the L.A. Galaxy
It was a rough weekend for DPs with both Omar Bravo and Eric Hassli sent off
Red Bulls' depth was evident against the Crew despite missing five internationals
Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things you should know about Week 2:
1. The weekend's big statement: Let's forget for a minute that Saturday was amateur night on defense for Los Angeles against Real Salt Lake. (First choice center backs Omar Gonzalez and Gregg Berhalter cannot get back quickly enough for the Galaxy.)
And let's forget for now that Galaxy star Landon Donovan was pulling international duty -- especially since RSL had two starters out for the same reason. Set all that aside for now and concentrate on this:
Real Salt Lake looked unstoppable at Rio Tinto, where Bruce Arena's Galaxy was clobbered by a motivated side, one looking to establish early dominance in a well-fortified Western Conference. Real Salt Lake's 4-1 win was every bit as lopsided as it sounds. RSL, stylish, nimble and confident, made the Galaxy look especially poor in the first half, gaining a 3-0 lead at the break before easing off the gas pedal a bit.
"For 45 minutes it was probably the best soccer I've seen in this stadium from this team," RSL coach Jason Kreis, who was just handed a two-year contract extension. "It was a sheer delight to watch that."
2. Flailing DPs: What sometimes separates a designated player (DP) and someone who is merely a well-paid MLS man might be just $50,000 in annual salary. Still, we have this DP demarcation, so it puts a finer point on the DP calculus and ups the ante when we debate these high-priced luxuries.
So we may as well get started on rendering judgment (early judgment, at least) on which way some of the current bell cows are leaning, toward boom or bust.
Alvaro Fernandez never left the bench in Seattle in a 1-1 tie, so there's another black mark on his downcast DP résumé at Qwest Field.
About Columbus striker Andres Mendoza: who made him a DP for heaven's sakes? It's early, but that choice does not look like a good one around Crew Stadium.
Few would doubt Thierry Henry's quality at New York. But his ability to remain on the field is an increasing issue; after missing critical matches last year due to injury, Henry has already sat for a match this year, too gimpy for Saturday's scoreless draw with Columbus.
Kansas City's Omar Bravo and Vancouver's Eric Hassli appear to have plenty to offer, but they both had bad moments Saturday. Jasen Anno's decision to eject Bravo in the first half against Chicago seemed needless, although he was correct to award the penalty kick. Bottom line, Bravo should have known there was red card danger when he reached out to shove Chicago attacker Gastón Puerari from behind on a breakaway.
Hassli just needs to mind his manners. His early yellow was ridiculously unnecessary. His second caution wasn't as silly, but he certainly should reconsider whether a tough challenge was needed at that point.
And then we get to David Beckham, the man for whom the DP rule was essentially created. Simply put, he needs to do more. Saturday in a challenging environment, on a night when the Galaxy's best player (Donovan) was away, they simply needed more from their $6.5 million man. More leadership. More presence. More passing. Just more in general.
3. Dealing with absences: MLS' choice to play through international dates is always a sore tooth. Compelling arguments can be made that it's a necessary evil, but it never quite feels right.
Still, making lemonade from lemons here, last weekend's matches does tell us something about certain teams, about how they respond and adjust without some of their top guide dogs.
It's hard not to be a little impressed by New York's patchwork assembly. Credit the management at Red Bull Arena for building depth behind that DP arsenal. The Red Bulls negotiated the trip into Ohio without five internationals (in addition to missing Henry). To scratch out a scoreless draw at Columbus says a lot. When perusing the Red Bulls' well-heeled roster, who would have thought longtime MLS reserve Stephen Keel would get much time? And yet, he didn't look too bad as Carlos Mendes' central partner.
Neither did Luke Rodgers look out of place in his first MLS minutes, gamely pushing himself well past what coaches expected of a man just back from injury.
RSL's dominant victory came without two important missing pieces: target man Alvaro Saborio and midfield workhorse Will Johnson.
At the other end of the equation, Vancouver's roster always looked suspiciously thin. Sure enough, backup defenders got stretched at the telling moment against Philadelphia; starting center backs Jay DeMerit (United States) and Michael Boxall (New Zealand) were both away.
4. Matches of poor quality: Injuries, underperforming DPs and international absences all contributed to something else in Week 2: a bunch of stinky matches.
The list of contests that fell somewhere between scrappy and boring was substantial. Start with Toronto's win over Portland. TFC coach Aron Winter may yet bring some stylish Dutch soccer to BMO Field -- but it's a long, long way off if Saturday's quality was any indication. The Columbus-New York match was predictably hard on the eyes, given the Red Bulls' absences and the Crew's tortured state.
Vancouver, limited in offensive resources, desperately missed Davide Chiumiento's playmaking against Philadelphia at PPL Park, where creativity and snazzy connections were absent on both sides.
The Rapids did enough to manufacture a 1-0 result at Chivas USA, but it wasn't much to look at aesthetically. The Rapids certainly missed Conor Casey (limited by injury to the final 21) and Omar Cummings (away for Jamaica). Although Quincy Amarikwa carried his weight as a Rapids replacement striker, Colorado midfielders clearly missed their preferred outlets, and the team's passing suffered for it.
5. Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Tally Hall (Houston)
Defenders: A.J. Soares (New England), Carlos Mendes (New York), Drew Moor (Colorado).
Midfielders: Marco Pappa (Chicago), Joel Lindpere (New York), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Jamie Smith (Colorado).
Forwards: Javier Martina (Toronto), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose).
|Week 2 MLS Power Rankings|