[MLS] A league fixated on parity has a team at 4-0, and another is 0-4, and it also has a player on a torrid scoring streak. Here's what the fourth week of MLS play brought forth ...
QUAKES ARE … DEEP? In its first two seasons, San Jose hasn’t been able to assemble a consistently competitive first team, so questions about capable backups were moot. Yet in preseason this year, Coach Frank Yallop feted his squad’s depth as well as its competence, and results last week bore this out.
On Wednesday San Jose rallied from a 2-0 deficit and battled Real Salt Lake to a 3-3 overtime tie in the U.S. Open Cup before losing on penalties. Three days later it soundly beat a Revs’ team missing Shalrie Joseph, 2-0, with goals by Chris Wondolowski – at least fourth among forwards on the depth chart – and rookie Ike Opara, who missed the Open Cup game because of his academic schedule at Wake Forest.
The win put the Quakes (2-1-0) above the .500 mark for the first time since their reincarnation in 2008.
BUDDLE CENTRAL. There’s not much more to say about Edson Buddle; the Galaxy is 4-0 and he’s scored all seven of LA’s goals after netting twice in a 2-1 defeat of Real Salt Lake Saturday.
What may be different from the Buddle of 2008 and 2009 is the variety of goals he’s scoring. He’s always been able to run after balls and pound them into the net, but against RSL he fought through a challenge to head home a corner kick, and later killed a chipped pass dead-soft with one foot before using the other to drill a low liner into the net from about 20 yards.
He also seems to be fitter and stronger, and less prone to cement-like feet late in the game.
TFC THUDS BACK TO EARTH. Euphoria over TFC’s first win of the season Thursday faded in a 3-1 loss to Colorado Sunday, with a more than a few fingers being pointed at pricey international midfielder Julian de Guzman.
De Guzman started the sequence that yielded TFC’s penalty kick by finding a space in midfield to chip a 20-yard ball to Chad Barrett, who laid off it to the soon-to-be fouled Sam Cronin. TFC’s sputtering attack isn’t a function of de Guzman’s deficiencies, per se, but rather a glaring lack of effective wide play that limits the space for de Guzman and Dwayne De Rosario to attack.
Whether de Guzman can be an effective enough attacking midfielder to merit a Designated Player salary is another matter. Better flank flow would help, yet TFC is still a starter or two short of playoff caliber.
WHO ELSE IS FOR REAL? Besides defending champ RSL, which teams resemble championship contenders this early in the season, during which post-World Cup moves for Designated Players could change the landscape dramatically?
The champs are scoring – seven goals – yet have given up two goals in each of their last three games, including a pair of penalty kicks in a 2-1 loss to Houston and a very late equalizer (2-2) against Seattle, as well as the latest Buddle double-dip.
Coach Jason Kreis cited fatigue induced by the Open Cup overtime as a factor in his team’s defeat.
WILD WILD WEST. The Galaxy lost out on last year’s title by a penalty kick and might be over-reliant on Buddle, but one goal conceded in four games isn’t to be ignored. Houston looked a bit pale in its first few games, yet slammed Chivas USA, 3-0, in a very Dynamic performance. Seattle is struggling through a scoring funk; the return to health of Nate Jaqua will help, as should the arrival of Swiss striker Blaise N’Kufo during the summer. The Sounders luckily downed Kansas City, 1-0, with a quickly taken throw-in to set up an opportunistic goal by Michael Fucito, the first of his pro career, in stoppage time.
The surprise team so far in the west is Colorado. The midfield looks revived, Marvell Wynne has adjusted fairly well to central defense, and Omar Cummings is running rampant to set up chances for Conor Casey and a few other folks. FC Dallas has to show more, the Quakes are 2-1 and have shown rather well.
EASTERN ZONE. Chicago got off the winless schneid by beating United, which has lost its first four games and along with TFC hasn’t looked as good as expansion Philadelphia. Still, the Fire is a work-in-progress under new head coach Carlos de Los Cobos. Moving up the ladder, New England seemed lost without Joseph in losing to San Jose, and might be missing Jeff Larentowicz (traded to Colorado) a bit as well.
The Red Bulls have a playoff persona; midfielder Joel Lindpere should get some votes for Newcomer of the Year, defender Tim Ream is among the early rookie standouts, and Juan Pablo Angel is enjoying himself again. No team seems more improved, though, than Kansas City, for which Ryan Smith and Kei Kamara and Stephane Auvray are formidable. Like the Galaxy, KC has conceded only one goal, and defender Pablo Escobar is getting familiar with the league.
Columbus – the 2008 champion and 2009 Supporters’ Shield winner – sat out last weekend and is the only team to have played just two games. In its next two, it hosts RSL next week and plays at Seattle the following week. Those contests should reveal a lot about where the Crew and two tough Western foes stand among the contenders.