Andrew Driver (right) scored the only goal of the Dynamo's win in the 56th minute on Sunday.
Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports
The script was flipped in the MLS Cup rematch to cap off an intriguing MLS Week 10:
1. Dynamo finally rule at Home Depot Center. First things first, let's get this out of the way: The only regular-season meeting between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo -- the two teams to represent the league at the MLS Cup the last two seasons -- should not be occurring at 11 p.m. Eastern on a Sunday. Ever. With MLS struggling for TV ratings as it is and this an opportunity to showcase two of the league's two powers, the Sunday-night-into-Monday-morning time slot is hardly a way of maximizing a captive audience along the lines of what the league is going to be doing with the LA-New York showdown on ESPN2 immediately following the conclusion of the Premier League season in a couple of weeks. Chalk it up as an opportunity lost to feature two deserving sides and league juggernauts in a prime-time slot.
For those who powered through to watch the anticipated showdown, in which the Dynamo flipped the MLS Cup script to secure a rare road win behind Andrew Driver's sublime strike, they saw plenty of change from the Dec. 1 meeting when LA captured its second straight title at Houston's expense. They saw Landon Donovan, whose penalty kick was the game-winning goal in the last title bout, perhaps relinquish PK duties after he dropped to 0-for-2 on the season with his atypically feeble effort from the spot. They saw the multi-faceted Dynamo overcome the absence of star winger Brad Davis to win away from BBVA Compass Stadium. They saw Giles Barnes and Driver continue to play the part of successful international signings on the heels of last season's acquisition of Oscar Boniek Garcia.
They saw the Galaxy continue to lean on rather green players. Bruce Arena turned to rookies Greg Cochrane and Charlie Rugg in big spots once again with Todd Dunivant and Robbie Keane remaining out through injury. Just like Arena did by relying on rookie center back Tommy Meyer last season, expect these early-season minutes to pay major dividends for the Galaxy's cavalcade of young players when they are called upon down the stretch. If that happens to mean another postseason encounter with the Dynamo, though, Sunday's result puts the teams on a more level psychological pegging after Houston did what it has failed to do so many times at the Home Depot Center: Win.
2. Kei Kamara returns. Sporting Kansas City surely did not look like it needed any attacking assistance Sunday after putting on a clinic against Chivas USA and its overmatched three-man back line, but reinforcements are on the way anyway.
Norwich City elected not to exercise its buy option on Kei Kamara, so the player who tallied 30 goals in the last three years for Sporting KC is on his way back to Sporting Park after all. The club had prepared for his permanent absence and has been meshing as a whole since his departure, but now that he is back in the fold, the situation has unfolded as a true win-win for the front office.
Kamara is fully fit after appearing 11 times for Norwich, including a final substitute appearance Saturday. He can slot in immediately as the schedule gets more congested with midweek games, U.S. Open Cup and eventually CONCACAF Champions League later this summer. The hard-working Kamara is a weapon any team in the league would love to have, and he happens to be returning to one with an embarrassment of attacking riches as it is. If Kamara winds up being sold when the European transfer window opens -- according to MLSSoccer.com the club has admitted to there being interested parties -- then Sporting KC ends up with a decent chunk of change along the lines of what it would have received had Norwich made Kamara's transfer permanent.
The least thrilled parties, from a personal standpoint anyway, must be C.J. Sapong and Soony Saad. The young strikers have yet another top-level player to contend with for playing time. Short of that, though, Kamara's return presents an enviable selection problem for Peter Vermes and a headache for Eastern Conference defenses who have seen one of the league's top units get even stronger overnight.
WAHL: Lampard to Galaxy not dead; more MLS news
3. Take a bow, Timbers. The Portland Timbers did not play over the weekend, but the club surely deserves yet another nod for its part in answering the bell for 8-year-old Atticus Lane-Dupre last week.
The Timbers rolled out the red carpet for Lane-Dupre and made his wish came true with a Make-A-Wish event for the ages. With more than 3,000 Timbers supporters cheering on a weekday morning, Lane-Dupre's Green Machine youth team topped the Timbers 10-9 in an exhibition that displayed the class and true colors of the organization from top to bottom.
It is not as if the Timbers did this on a bye week, either. In the midst of a lengthy unbeaten run (which is now at seven games) and coming off perhaps the best road win in club history, they had a game the following night against New England. Nobody would have begrudged the club for toning things down a bit or looking to schedule at a more advantageous time for Caleb Porter and his players.
Instead, the organization went all out, showed a selfless, genuine connection and admiration for Lane-Dupre and set a superb example for how sports can be a vehicle for good. On and off the field, the Timbers have become one of the stories of the young season, and they made Lane-Dupre, who was honored on the capo stand at Jeld-Wen Field the night after his four-goal showing as the club played the Revolution to a 0-0 draw, a true star. Between Soccer Night in Newtown (which is having a second go around in a couple of weeks) and now what the Timbers have done for Lane-Dupre, MLS can hold its head high when it comes to connecting with the community.
4. Philadelphia's defensive conundrum. The Philadelphia Union-Seattle Sounders clash featured more fireworks than Floyd Mayweather's romp over Robert Guerrero, but that's not a positive from an MLS standpoint. When referee Jorge Gonzalez failed to exert any control over the rather testy match early on, it was no surprise to see emotions boil over into physical confrontation.
That said, Philadelphia is way worse for the wear after the 2-2 draw, and that is before the MLS Disciplinary Committee takes a look makes its inevitable rulings later this week. With center back Jeff Parke going down with a hamstring injury earlier in the match and the club already short-handed at center back, Sheanon Williams' inability to control his emotions in an altercation with Seattle's Lamar Neagle cost him and his club dearly.
Both players were sent off, leaving manager John Hackworth with a barren cupboard of center backs behind Amobi Okugo. Bakary Soumare would be a natural replacement, but he has not played a minute this season, and the club has reportedly been exploring options to appease his wishes and deal him away. Williams had slotted over to center back after Parke's injury, but now both will be missing for Saturday's match with the Chicago Fire and potentially again for next Wednesday's crunch clash against the LA Galaxy. It will be an all-hands-on-deck defensive approach for the Union, who have just one win in their last six games.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Bobby Shuttleworth (New England Revolution)
Defenders: Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake), Jermaine Taylor (Houston Dynamo)
Midfielders: Danny Cruz (Philadelphia Union), Justin Mapp (Montreal Impact), Sam Cronin (San Jose Earthquakes), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Joao Plata (Real Salt Lake), Claudio Bieler (Sporting Kansas City), Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo)
DART: Red Bulls' resurgence, more San Jose drama; MLS analysis
|Week 10 MLS Power Rankings|
||FC Dallas (6-1-2)
FC Dallas' bye week went about as well as it could have from a standings standpoint. Only two of the other eight teams in the Western Conference won, so Dallas maintains a six-point edge over L.A. and Real Salt Lake heading into a two-game week -- home tilts against Portland and D.C.
||Sporting Kansas City (5-3-2)
KC's 4-0 win over Chivas was one of the most one-sided affairs this season/ Lost in the offensive onslaught was that Jimmy Nielsen set a club record with his 38th career clean sheet, surpassing the great Tony Meola.
||Houston Dynamo (5-2-2)
Playing without Brad Davis, the Dynamo still managed to secure a rare road win. Davis' replacement, Andrew Driver, played the part masterfully with his game-winning goal. It's of little consolation now considering the Dynamo had lost the last two times at the Home Depot Center in the MLS Cup final, but perhaps the win provides a psychological boost should the club be in the same position this December.
||Los Angeles Galaxy (4-2-2)
Landon Donovan's return has provided a boost for the Galaxy, and he has at times looked like the Donovan of old, but his failure to convert from the penalty spot for the second time in as many tries cost the club points yet again. It was enough to make Bruce Arena say he would consider a change the next time L.A. draws a PK. On the flip side, the club maintains the best defensive record in the league, conceding just five times in eight games.
||Montreal Impact (5-1-2)
The Impact looked destined for three more points before succumbing to Goonie Time and allowing the San Jose Earthquakes to battle back from two goals down to force a draw. Justin Mapp is in one heck of a run of form between his showing in the mid-week Canadian championship shellacking of Toronto FC and Saturday's draw.
||Real Salt Lake (4-4-2)
RSL had been struggling to find the back of the net without Alvaro Saborio, but with the Costa Rican forward on the shelf, his teammates began to pick up the slack against Vancouver. Joao Plata's service carried the club to a 2-0 win over the Whitecaps, but how about the distribution of goalkeeper Nick Rimando? His length-of-the-field, pinpoint pass to Plata created the opening goal and set the stage for the three-point haul.
||Portland Timbers (3-1-5)
Make it seven straight unbeaten games for the Timbers following Wednesday's 0-0 draw with the New England Revolution. The draw came with a cost. Mikael Silvestre's torn ACL left Caleb Porter with a gaping hole across his back line. The hope is that new signing Pah Modou Kah can take over the role.
||New York Red Bulls (5-4-2)br>
The Red Bulls are starting to figure things out. It is no coincidence that their resurgent run away from home has occurred while Tim Cahill has enjoyed his most prolific stretch since joining MLS. The Australian veteran's third goal in two games lifted the Red Bulls to a valuable 1-0 win in Columbus, one that vaulted the club to the top of the Eastern Conference's crowded upper echelon.
||Columbus Crew (3-3-3)
Federico Higuain's inability to convert from the penalty spot cost the Crew dearly as the club had its share of chances to take the initiative and build a lead against the Red Bulls. With the loss, its home unbeaten streak came to a screeching halt at 12 games. Columbus will look to begin a new streak when welcoming Colorado to Crew Stadium this weekend.
||Philadelphia Union (3-3-3)
Danny Cruz scored as many goals in a minute as he had in each of the previous three seasons. The Union needed both of them after shipping away a late lead and settling for a home point against the Sounders. The attack will have to kick it into high gear with the defense certain to be short-handed after Jeff Parke's hamstring injury and Sheanon Williams' red card.
||San Jose Earthquakes (2-5-3)
The Earthquakes are quite the conundrum: They have not won in their last six matches, but they also have not lost in their last three. They can't keep their main core of attacking players on the field for consecutive games, yet they have unheralded players continuously step up in late situations to bail the team out. It's hardly a sustainable way to go about business, but it's keeping the club afloat.
||Colorado Rapids (3-4-3)
Oscar Pareja is going to merit Manager of the Year recognition if he can keep the Rapids in the playoff hunt while overcoming a litany of injuries and absences. Now fifth in the West, the Rapids hold their heads high after Edson Buddle's opportunistic late strike delivered a 1-0 win over Toronto FC.
||Chivas USA (3-4-2)
One team played soccer at Sporting Park Sunday, and it certainly was not the Goats. Chivas had no answers for Sporting KC's aside from rash challenges from behind, and its attack never really threatened a back line that missing Matt Besler and Chance Myers. Juan Agudelo's return from a hamstring injury can't come soon enough.
||Vancouver Whitecaps (2-4-3)
The Whitecaps' winless streak is up to seven games after its latest setback, a 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake that caused Nigel Reo-Coker to blast his own team as "soft." With all of the dynamic attacking pieces at Martin Rennie's disposal, it remains a mystery why players like Darren Mattocks and rookie Kekuta Manneh have been relegated to bench duty during this anemic period.
||New England Revolution (2-3-3)
The Revs can thank Bobby Shuttleworth and the resolute defense in front of him for delivering yet another point in a game in which the club did not score. New England has been shut out a staggering six times in eight games, but it is still clawing its way to points by absorbing a ton of opposing position and limiting the damage. How long can the Revs stay afloat with no production from the front line?
||Seattle Sounders (1-3-3)
Seattle's lead against the Union was a misleading one, and the club did well to claw back to earn a road point with Mauro Rosales playing the role of hero. The Sounders haven't hit their stride after appearing to break through a few weeks ago. They remain rooted to the bottom of the Western Conference. Returning to Kansas City, the scene of their U.S. Open Cup loss, on Wednesday is sure to stir up some strong emotions from a side in need of inspiration.
||Chicago Fire (2-5-1)
The Fire were out of the spotlight on the field during their bye week but popped up in headlines off the field when Robbie Rogers essentially told ESPN Radio he would not play for the club if he elects to reverse course on his retirement. With other teams reportedly interested in Rogers' services, Chicago is in an awkward position with Rogers' rights, but it can at least take a look at the trade market and acquire necessary assets.
||Toronto FC (1-4-4)
The Reds have had some serious regression in recent matches with late-game collapses remaining a persistent theme and the attacking duo of Robert Earnshaw and John Bostock falling out of form. Young DP Matias Laba's debut provides a building block for Ryan Nelsen, whose club was coming off a stunning elimination in the Canadian championship.
||D.C. United (1-6-1)
D.C. had some extra time off to hit reset on what has been an absolutely horrendous start while preparing for this week's quick-hitting double against Texas powers Houston and FC Dallas. If second-year winger Nick DeLeon could return in time for Wednesday's home match with the Dynamo, it would provide a necessary jolt to the attack, but it appears as if the maligned defense will have to do the heavy lifting to ensure at least a point is secured for the first time since March 16.