[MLS] Thursday night's Western Conference doubleheader on ESPN2 Thursday night gave us a chance to see how Los Angeles, Chivas USA, Houston and Real Salt Lake -- all of which believe they are serious challengers for the league title -- stack up in the early going. Three teams have a lot to feel good about. As for the fourth ...
Buddle wins SuperClasico battle.
Though he did squander that one ball played over the back line, Edson Buddle notched both Galaxy goals in its 2-0 win over Chivas USA with a glancing, near-post header of a Sean Franklin cross and a clean, crisp finish of a feed from Landon Donovan in the final minutes.
Maicon Santos, brought on as a sub in the second half with Chivas USA down 1-0, somehow twice missed the frame from inside the goal area.
Chivas USA was the lowest-scoring Western Conference team last year with just 35 goals; in two games this season against conference opposition, it has yet to score.
Forwards to blame for poor final touch.
Both Chivas USA and the Galaxy blew scoring chances when attackers racing into dangerous positions flubbed a critical touch.
In the first half, Galindo got in behind the Galaxy back line but his two touches took him so wide all he could do was shoot weakly into the side netting. Buddle so badly botched an attempted trap of an excellent ball floated over the middle that it ran right to goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
Another great serve over the back line by Kljestan fell perfectly for Jesus Padilla, who while fending off a tackle let the ball bounce several times without gaining control before shooting into Donovan Ricketts.
The final pass, the serving ball, is often of mediocre quality in MLS, but on these occasions, forwards were to blame for good chances that went sour.
Chivas USA imports are struggling.
Chivas USA defender Michael Umana (Costa Rica) and attacker Osael Romero (El Salvador) are still finding their feet in MLS.
Buddle jostled Umana out of the way to head home Franklin’s cross to net the Galaxy’s goal in the seventh minute, and a few minutes later Umana got caught on the wrong side of Buddle as he drove toward goal on the left flank and fouled the Galaxy forward just outside the penalty area.
Romero, trying to connect passes with Maykel Galindo, Sacha Kljestan and Justin Braun, mis-timed his passes and at times seemed mystified at the movement up front as Braun struggled for the second straight game. Both are skilled players not yet in sync with the style of MLS play and their teammates.
Don’t blame Kljestan.
He might have been rather anonymous while Chivas USA lost its opener to Colorado, 1-0, last weekend, but Kljestan in this match hit several excellent balls and missed on a few one-twos only because of timing.
Midfield mainstays Jesse Marsch and Paulo Nagamura are no longer around, so the mix of personalities and assignments hasn’t matured.
RSL adopts Hispanic look.
Real Salt Lake is bringing more of a Hispanic look to their its title defense.
Midfielder Javier Morales, who scored twice in a 3-0 thrashing of San Jose last weekend, hit the net again to give RSL a 1-0 halftime lead in Houston.
Two Brad Davis penalties (which both followed fouls by Colombian Jamison Olave) enabled the Dynamo to pull out a 2-1 win, yet RSL played some fluid attacking soccer as Morales and fellow Argentine Fabian Espindola showed their flair and guile.
Coach Jason Kreis also gave Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio his first MLS start, and brought on another Argentine, Nelson Gonzalez, in the second half. RSL is forged by a solid core of hard work, but it is layered by possession players as well.
Palmer could help Dynamo.
Jamaican midfielder Lovel Palmer might be key component in the rebuilt Dynamo midfield.
He only played the last few minutes in his MLS debut, yet Palmer could see a lot of time if Coach Dominic Kinnear elects to split time for Richard Mulrooney between right back and center mid.
Geoff Cameron has taken on the role of offensive catalyst; Mulrooney is older (33) and has the experience, and Palmer offers youth (25) and remarkable physical tools.
“He’s got youth, athleticism, and he makes good decisions on the ball,” says Kinnear. “One thing I’m very impressed about him is he can smash a ball with both feet. He’s not afraid to line himself up for a crack at goal. The more he’s with us, the better he’s going to get.”