MLS Week 4 – Questions, Answers and More Questions
The first question that went through my mind during the opening shots of Bee-Mo field was, “Are they just giving away scarves there?” While the answer to that was “Yes” for season ticket holders, the Toronto FC fans immediately cemented their position amongst the best in the league and their organized fan clubs are right near the top too. There was a great difference between the first franchise game for a Houston or RSL and then the first game we witnessed on Saturday. This crowd was not out for curiosity’s sake! Nay! They were out for the blood that their team has yet to draw. While TFC couldn’t reward their fans with any points, they did have their top performance of the year! Danny Diccio showed why Connor Casey got to go home to Denver as his physical presence asked questions of KC all game. That is a tremendous statement given that Jimmy Conrad and Nick Garcia are amongst the roughest defenders in the league! Perhaps following the advice in my TFC related entry, Mo replaced Marco Reda in the starting eleven in favor of Andrew Boyens and the result was a far more competent defense. Jim Brennan also elevated his game from previous outings. Despite having most of the run of play, TFC conceded a late near post Eddie Johnson tally. EJ was rewarded for his score by the Canuck fans with a dousing of Molsen. KC did well considering the early loss of superstar in the making, Argentine, Carlos Marinelli to a hamstring injury.
The Crew entertained DC United and continued the visitors woes by shutting out the side that most predicted to dominate the league this year. Columbus will become far more dangerous in the attacking end when Guillermo Barros Schelotto arrives, however an overall solid performance from the Crew helped them retain their unbeaten status. A real stand out this season has been the play of Joseph Ngwenya who caused DC headaches and probably bruises all night.
Saturday wrapped up with a Superclassico in the sold out Home Depot Center, where the Gals put two early goals on the other home team. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the rest of the match due to technical difficulties, but it was nice to see Cobi hit the scoresheet.
Sunday was Texas Football matches which were amongst the most spiritless of the entire season. First the Revs topped an out of gas FC Dallas 1-0 under the midday sun at PHP. The Rev’s got their goal off the hands down goal of the week winning strike by Taylor Twellman. Twellman’s volley into the far side netting cam off a great pass from Steve Ralston, who is likely to top Carlos Valderrama’s all time MLS assist record this season. He is unlikely to adopt El Pibe’s hairstyle, although I think everybody would love to see that!
The Fire got the better of Houston at Robertson stadium for the second consecutive year as Chris Rolfe and company put together another solid, but unspectacular win. The lone goal in the match started with a long ball from Gonzalo Segares into the right hand corner that Rolfe tracked down. Rolfe then streaked to the corner of the box before faking a shot, then cooly taking it after the fake to beat Pat Onstad to the near post. The Fire immediately went into an even greater defensive shell and managed to hold on to the lead. While the 3-5-2 formation will not show it, the Fire have actually been starting five defenders, two defensive midfielders, two attacking mids and a lone forward. The absence of Justin Mapp was felt as his replacement Thiago again failed to show any of the spark that has been missing for well over a year. The stadium fell very quiet in the second half as the Dynamo supporters groups El Batillion and The Texian Army walked out of the stadium after a dispute with security. When will MLS front offices educate their security about soccer fans? This has happened in just about every city in the league with any sort of sizable support group. These groups are part of the attraction for (North) American fans now. Support the supporters and give them a long leash!
RSL unnecessarily dropped three points on its home pitch to rivals Colorado Rapids on Monday despite dominating possession and clearly having the better of the play all evening. A couple of mental breakdowns in the span of four minutes doomed the home team. The first goal came as RSL defender Daniel Torres tracked down a long lofted ball to the edge of his own box. Deciding to play the ball back to the keeper Torres turned to the left and was absolutely shocked to see the Rapid’s Roberto Brown in his face. Brown took the ball into the box and put a move on Torres that sent the RSL defender sliding to the ground. Brown easily converted past a deserted Chris Seitz to mark the occasion of Seitz’ first MLS start. Seitz added to his woes minutes later as he handled a ball that may or may not have been a pass back. I guess he never heard the “when in doubt” addage. This wrinkle was unfortunate for Seitz because he had played a great match up until that point. Overall, this match was a great viewing experience, because despite these lapses, high quality football was on display at Rice-Eccles and the crowd let it be know that there was no love for the visitors.
Let’s face it Coach John Ellinger is on borrowed time in Salt Lake. We know owner Dave Checketts recognizes that RSL is in the spotlight out there. He recognizes the need to show the fans that they are trying to improve. Freddy’s signing was a first step, now Ellinger needs to go. The Coach has gotten everything he’s asked for and has just been unable to make this talent line-up click, he couldn’t get anything out of Mathis, now he gets Freddy and despite all the trumpeting about Adu returning to his natural position, where do we find him? On the wing playing second creative fiddle to Mehdi Ballouchy! They flipped sides at the half, but Ballouchy was responsible for most of the attacking midfield responsibilities. To make matters worse, most of Ballouchy’s first touches were criminally bad, showing all the ball had to offer to the defense again and again. RSL needs to relegate Ellinger to the Rongren Pile and hire a proven winner.
MLS Prediction Central:
Season Record (5-9)
Last Week (3-5)
DC – Revs – The hot Revs keep DCU scratching their head and head out of RFK with another win.
KC – Crew – The Crew remain undefeated with a draw at Arrowhead.
RSL – NYRB – With Torres on the bench, RSL draws at home versus the Flagship.
Colorado – Houston – The Rapids got it going on and put on a showcase for their fans.
DC – Chivas – Finally DC’s breakout performance and a big W for the preseason darlings. In doing so, DC bucks the trend of Thursday Night teams underperforming.
Revs – FIRE – The Fire cool the exhausted revs and leap to the top of the table.
The Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis