Shea's benching, D.C. United's horrid month, more MLS thoughts
Brek Shea was benched, but FC Dallas went on to pummel Portland by five goals
Connor Lade continued his brilliant stretch for the Red Bulls in their 2-0 win
In MLS, inconsistency in officiating still needs to be accounted each week
From Brek Shea's absence in Dallas to some desperate actions that failed for the flailing Timbers, here are five thoughts from Saturday's MLS Week 20 action ...
1. Brek Shea's post-tantrum absence lingers despite FCD blowout win -- The Shea situation in Dallas has gone from raising a few eyebrows to escalating to something more substantial in a matter of days.
Following Shea's midweek spat on the sideline with manager Schellas Hyndman after being substituted out of FCD's game against San Jose, he was left out of FCD's match day roster Saturday night against Portland, sparking speculation that there's more to this situation than meets the eye. Hyndman played things down a bit with comments made to the club's official website, saying that time and space is what Shea needed to get past what happened.
"I just think with the difficult road trip and the issues that recently occurred, this might be good down time for him without having to come in here and be a part of a pregame training," Hyndman told FCDallas.com about Shea's absence from Friday's training session. "I think enough was said at that time so what I wanted to do ... was give a little bit of time and space."
Whether Hyndman is just postulating or being truthfully forthcoming remains to be seen, but Shea's lost season is expanding to more than just his floundering stats and ineffective play. If all was really OK between both parties, then Shea issues an apology, both sides make up and move on and Shea does what he can to vindicate himself on the field. By leaving him out of Friday's training session and completely off the roster for the match, it's clear this is being viewed at as more than just a minor incident.
To FC Dallas' credit, the club put the incident in the rearview mirror and took care of business against Portland, coming out with its most complete performance in months in a 5-0 rout. If anything, it shows Shea -- who is still under contract with the club for three more seasons -- that not only is he not above the law in Dallas, but the club is fine moving forward without him on the field. Now it's on the 22-year-old rising star, whose transfer value has taken a massive hit this season, to respond in kind and build off the unfortunate incident instead of letting it define his season.
2. Lade continues to spark New York -- Thierry Henry recently dubbed rookie Connor Lade the New York Red Bulls' player of the season, and while there was an element of exaggeration and confidence-building to his comments, Henry was not exactly blowing smoke, either. Lade, a 22-year-old out of St. John's University, has been a surprise difference-maker for a team that has not had the greatest track record of or put a high priority on bringing along young American talent. He was at it off the bench in a midweek win over Chicago and again Saturday against the Philadelphia Union, turning in a man-of-the-match-worthy performance. His right-footed cross (he's a lefty, by the way) for Kenny Cooper to head home was just the icing on his performance cake, as his contributions were felt from start to finish. Lade popped up in the right place repeatedly to either come up with tackles, track down 50-50 balls or keep balls in the Union end of the field.
Since becoming part of Hans Backe's rotation six games into the season, Lade has been a revelation -- and at an off-budget minimum salary of $33,750, an inexpensive revelation at that. What he lacks in size (he is listed at a generous 5-foot-7), he makes up for with relentless energy and hustle that have made him a valuable asset no matter what position he plays. His will has proved to be infectious, and he has made the plethora of injuries the club has had to deal with more manageable. Henry is, by any measure, the club's top player, but what Lade has brought to the table in support of the team's bigger names has been integral in keeping the club afloat in the race for the top seed in the East.
3. D.C. United's July to forget -- Two games in the books. Two road losses. A July to forget for D.C. United.
In one of this season's many schedule oddities, D.C.'s two-game July that has bookend two-week breaks from league play before and after is over. Saturday's 1-0 loss at Columbus leaves the club with a lingering bad taste in its mouth in addition to some work to do to reclaim its former place atop the Eastern Conference standings, a place now held by rival New York. In fact, the loss, coupled with Houston's win over Montreal, puts D.C. all the way down in fourth place (with a game in hand), just two points clear of fifth-place Chicago. Quite the turn of events after the team seemingly found itself clicking all over the field for the past couple of months.
D.C. was a bit flat in its showing at Crew Stadium, and as a result, it missed an opportunity to make up ground on Sporting Kansas City, which was held to a 0-0 tie by New England, for second place. There's no need to panic for D.C., which plays four of its six August games at home and has control of its destiny with matches at Sporting Kansas City and against New York. Following last week's 4-0 embarrassment in Houston with a lackluster showing in Columbus -- along with some fresh injuries to Robbie Russell and Branko Boskovic -- gives the club a rude wake-up call and shows maintaining its hot form from the first half of the year will have to be something that is earned and not just granted.
4. Tough night for the ARs -- Assistant referees around the league will want to stay away from videotape from some of Saturday night's games.
Los Angeles' Robbie Keane, Houston's Andre Hainault, Philadelphia's Antoine Hoppenot, Columbus' Josh Williams and D.C.'s Dwayne De Rosario all had goals disallowed for offside calls that were close at best. Keane and Hoppenot both were clearly onside for their attempts, and there's no telling the impact each of those would-be goals could have had on their respective matches. Hoppenot's came with just moments remaining in Philadelphia's 2-0 loss to New York and would have given the Union a lifeline to steal a shock point at Red Bull Arena. Keane's could have put Chivas USA in a deep hole early, and instead the Goats battled to keep things close in the second SuperClasico matchup of the season.
The other calls were a bit more borderline and forgivable, but it just goes to show that in MLS, the inconsistency in officiating still needs to be accounted for by teams on a weekly basis.
5. Desperation sensed in Portland -- The league's most struggling team tried to change things up in drastic ways, but it did not see the result it was hoping for and seems destined for a place at the bottom of the table.
For the Portland Timbers, it's not possible for things to get any worse than they are right now. General manager and interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson tried to shake things up by keeping Designated Player striker Kris Boyd on the bench to start the club's match against FC Dallas, a decision that was as desperate as it proved to be senseless. Boyd entered in the 57th minute with his team already trailing by three goals, and if benching him was an attempt to send a message to him and the rest of the team that every player must work for his spot, it's not quite clear that any point was delivered.
For Portland to promptly give up five goals to a Dallas team that had not scored more than two in a game all season (including one to Scott Sealy, who had not scored in MLS since 2008) is inexcusable and shows signs of a team that has lost hope. Perhaps ushering John Spencer out of town was not the cure-all answer after all.