[MLS] The Los Angeles Galaxy and Columbus Crew are still unbeaten but both have two players headed off to the U.S. World Cup training camp. Even without Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle, the Galaxy shouldn't miss a beat. Chad Marshall and Robbie Rogers won't be with Crew Thursday when it visits Red Bull Arena with a chance to take over first place New York. Here are six items of note from Week 8.
THE REPLACEMENTS. Toronto FC managed to blank the Galaxy in the last pre-World Cup game for Donovan (definitely) and Buddle (maybe) as several players who will be counted on for offense tuned up for a month of action, at least, in their stead.
Twice sub Mike Magee was turned away by TFC keeper Stefan Frei, and midfielder Chris Klein, who also came on as a sub, got down the right flank to create a couple of chances. Magee and Klein, as well as Clint Mathis and Jovan Kirovski, will be among those expected to take up as much of the slack as they can. Replacing Buddle’s nine goals and Donovan’s nine assists is impossible, but so good is the Galaxy’s defense, it isn’t necessary.
LA lost goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to a strained elbow, yet still posted another shutout. Backup Josh Saunders – who hadn’t played a competitive league match since he replaced Ricketts in MLS Cup 2009 – stepped in, and in the opening minutes stopped a fierce drive by Chad Barrett. The beat goes on.
CREW CREEPS CLOSER. Though it has played two fewer games than Eastern Conference leader New York, the unbeaten Crew (4-0-2, 14 points) is just a point behind the Red Bulls (5-3-0).
Columbus hasn’t been terribly impressive, and needed a 90th-minute penalty kick by Guillermo Barros Schelotto to down Chivas USA, 1-0. But it has allowed only five goals – second to the Galaxy’s incredible two goals conceded – and in addition to some key saves by goalie Will Hesmer, denied Chivas USA with a pair of goal-line stops by left back Gino Padula in quick succession.
Padula got his right foot on a low shot by Jonathan Bornstein, and after the ball was cleared to midfield, another attack yielded a Hesmer save and rebound that Blair Gavin directed on frame, only for Padula to head it clear.
The Crew can take over first place Thursday when it visits Red Bull Arena, where New York fell to Seattle, 1-0, Saturday.
SEITZ HANGS IN THERE. Union rookie keeper Chris Seitz has suffered through some embarrassing moments, but given his team’s penchant for red cards and defensive gaffes, he still gets a passing grade for the first two months of his pro career.
Philly managed to finish the game with 11 men Saturday, but right back Christian Arrieta spun out of the way to give Brek Shea the space he need to score FC Dallas’s goal from the left side, and centerback’s Danny Califf appalling giveaway set up Jeff Cunningham for a great chance that he squandered.
The Union hung tight at 0-1 before No. 1 draft pick Danny Mwanga equalized in stoppage time with an incredible blast from outside the penalty area.
BACK ON TRACK? The Sounders and defending champion Real Salt Lake were expected to duke it out with Houston and Los Angeles for the conference title; the Galaxy is romping along loose on the lead, and until last weekend Seattle and RSL were closer to the bottom of the conference than the top.
Yes, it’s been a very tightly bunched set of teams behind the Galaxy, yet Seattle needed that win over New York just to even out its record at 3-3-3. RSL (4-3-1) got over the .500 mark by belting Houston, 3-1, last Thursday in its most impressive game of the season.
True, it scored three amazing goals to beat San Jose, 3-0, in the season opener, yet it dominated the Dynamo for most of the game before losing a shutout in the 72nd minute.
KEEP IT TIGHT. The logjam behind the Galaxy (7-0-2, 23 points) continues, with only three points separating the four teams tied for second with 13 points from last-place Chivas USA (3-5-1, 10 points), which would be tied for third with Toronto (3-4-1) if it was in the East.
Of the six Eastern teams, only Columbus managed to win its interconference game -- and just barely did so at home. Toronto came out of Home Depot Center with a point, but the other results favored the Western teams.
Colorado at D.C. United and Seattle got 1-0 wins on the road; San Jose at New England and FC Dallas earned ties.
STREAKY. New England managed to stop Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski’s scoring streak at four games, but a 0-0 tie at Gillette Stadium extended the Revs’ winless run to six matches. The Revs (2-5-2) have already lost half as many games as they did in 2009 (11-10-9).
On the other hand, a stingy Quakes defense posted its third straight shutout, and fourth of the season. They’ve conceded seven goals in seven games; last year, San Jose conceded 50 goals, the most in the league. Veteran centerback Jason Hernandez has been paired with both rookie Ike Opara (two goals in his first two games) and Bobby Burling (scored a goal in a 4-0 rout of the Red Bulls), and coach Frank Yallop has used both rookie Steve Beitashour and veteran Chris Leitch at right back. Goalie Joe Cannon has been solid and also capable of the big save, as he showed against Sanny Nyassi late in the first half.
“We’ve done some shape stuff and worked as a unit, but when you’re out on the field, you’ve got to sort it out for yourself,” Yallop said earlier in the season. “[The other team] could change the system at any point, they could play a guy underneath or put someone out wide. They’ve got to figure it out and they have, and I think Jason’s become a leader back there, too.”