[MLS] There may be parity in MLS, but conference leaders New York and Los Angeles continue to win, while D.C. United and FC Dallas don’t seem capable of beating anybody except themselves. Here are six items of note from the eight matches played last Saturday ...
SPEED WINS. After running into blind alleys and double-teams often in their first few pro seasons, burners Dane Richards and Patrick Nyarko are learning the nuances of effective wing play.
Nyarko, a forward in college who was taken by Chicago as the seventh overall pick of the 2008 SuperDraft, has been a handful in every game this season and is doing as much effective work off the ball as on the dribble.
Nyarko set up the Fire’s goal in a 1-1 tie with Chivas USA Saturday by holding his run down the right flank long enough stay even with the last defender, and then controlled a bouncing cross from Marco Pappa on a tricky bounce and centered it for Baggio Husidic to bang into the net. He got in behind the back line again in the 80th minute but couldn’t set up a teammate for a shot that could have won the game.
New York's Richards still has his moments of “all speed, no brains,” though they are fewer than in the past. Sent down the right flank by Juan Pablo Angel in the 51st minute against D.C. United, instead of just trying to force a cross past left back Rodney Wallace, Richards instead cut inside him and centered a ball that Ibrahim Salou managed to control and tap into the net. Supported and occasionally joined by right back Jeremy Hall, himself blessed with some pace, the Red Bulls are getting a much more danger out of Richards than in past seasons.
BUDDLE BRILLIANCE. The song remains the same for Galaxy striker Edson Buddle, who played a role in all three goals as Los Angeles won its fifth game, 3-1, over expansion Philadelphia. But the variations on this tune are new.
His assist on the game’s first goal in the first minute might not have happened a year or two ago. Rather than straying offside to kill off a promising sequence as he’s done so often in the past, he got his timing right to catch up to a ball from Michael Stephens, and played it through a narrow corridor between keeper Chris Seitz and his backtracking defenders for A.J. DeLaGarza to bang into the net.
Buddle might have been a shade offside on his second goal, the third goal for LA, when he and Landon Donovan broke away with only defender Danny Califf back. Yet Buddle did slow down just before Donovan passed the ball to him and frankly, even viewing replays from a good angle, it’s a very close decision. He’d already scored during a goalmouth scramble on a rebound of a shot he first tried to back-heel through a crowd; when that failed, his persistence got another chance, with which he scored.
DIRE STRAITS. Toronto FC and D.C. United failed to transform midweek cup victories to league success and are scrapping for points, along with Philly, at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with the three worst goal differences in MLS. TFC and Philly are minus-5, D.C. is a grotesque minus-11.
Fatigued or not, TFC managed only a late penalty kick in losing, 2-1, at Real Salt Lake after beating Montreal, 2-0, to open the Nutrilite Canadian Championship on Wednesday. Dwayne De Rosario, Julian de Guzman, Sam Cronin and O’Brian White started the game on the bench; all except Cronin entered in the second half, when it was too late.
United applied some moderate pressure to the Red Bulls back line in the first half, only to be denied by keeper Bouna Coundoul. After Richards set up Salou to open the scoring, United’s subs included recycled Brazilian striker Luciano Emilio, signed earlier this week to a three-month contract. United’s 0-5 start is the worst in team history; more worrying is the tenacity shown Wednesday while beating FC Dallas, 4-2, in the U.S. Open Cup seemed to evaporate once it fell behind.
NO LATE SHOW. Quakes coach Frank Yallop and his players admitted the last-second penalty kicks whistled against them last year’s mid-September meetings with the Rapids were haunting the final minutes of their match Saturday. In both of those games, Conor Casey converted from the spot to turn 1-0 wins into 1-1 ties.
Yet though San Jose couldn’t muster a second goal to ease the nerves, it did blunt Omar Cummings enough to trigger his substitution. Keeper Joe Cannon parried a hard shot from Wells Thompson and got conked in the head diving to collect a ball at the on-rushing Casey’s feet – which is something like trying to tackle a rolling refrigerator – as the Quakes averted yet another soccer version of Groundhog Day to win, 1-0.
Rapids coach Gary Smith claimed San Jose’s goal by Chris Wondolowski was offside, and replays indicated Smith probably had it right. Yet the Quakes firmly believe neither of last year’s penalty kicks were justified, and those fluctuations of fortune are all part of the game, too.
RED MIST. Five players were sent off in the eight games played Saturday; including Crew defender Danny O’Rourke and Revs midfielder Joseph Niouky, who got yellows before getting sent off.. Philadelphia's Stefani Miglioranzi lunged into a two-footed midfield tackle to earn a red against the Galaxy, his former team; Davy Arnaud jabbed a foot into Dynamo keeper Pat Onstad as he collected a ball off the ground; and Kheli Dube went off for an ugly tackle on FC Dallas defender Ugo Ihemelu.
REVS GET RELIEF. Despite playing with a two-man advantage following the dismissals of Dube and Niouky, FCD couldn’t manage to get a winning goal past keeper Preston Burpo, who recorded 10 saves.
With the score, 1-1, Brek Shea and Jeff Cunningham hit the crossbar, Burpo thwarted Jason Yeisley’s header in stoppage time, and Shea wasted another chance by shooting high. Burpo had also turned away an Atiba Harris header with a superb save earlier in the second half, about six minutes before Harris netted an equalizer.
New England has placed keeper Matt Reis, who is recovering from offseason knee and shoulder surgeries, on the disabled list. He will miss at least the next six games; MLS has granted the team roster relief, which it has used to sign Tim Murray, a product of Providence College. He will back up Burpo, whose offseason acquisition in a trade with Colorado is especially crucial now that Reis’ absence will continue into the summer.