[MLS] The rich got richer over the weekend, with the teams on winning streaks continuing to win and the struggling teams unable to reverse the momentum. Here are six observations from those 450 minutes, plus stoppage time.
WHY PICK ON FREDDIE? After enduring another frustrating 90 minutes of numerous chances and no goals that sent a rabid home crowd home disappointed, Seattle coach Sigi Schmid tore into attacker Freddie Ljungberg for complaining too much about fouls and rough play.
Since he came to MLS, Ljungberg hasn’t been shy about criticizing MLS officials, who he believes are far too reluctant to punish kicks aimed at ankles and knees. And he does give them a lot of stick, often while on his butt waving his arms while play continues. Perhaps Schmid believes that whining distracts the Sounders from the job at hand, but in a 1-0 loss to San Jose Saturday Ljungberg scythed through the opposition. One crafty run took him past two defenders to the left byline, where he cut back a ball that produced only a weak shot on goal.
Schmid also brought on young Miguel Montano and veteran Pat Noonan as subs to no avail, despite an incredible 18-3 edge in shots. Sometimes the ball just won’t go in the net, and that’s what’s happened to Seattle in its last two home games.
OUTSHOT AS WELL. Kansas City carried most of the play against Columbus Sunday, yet came out on the short end by the same 1-0 score. Keeper Will Hesmer, who’s been bothered by a bad back, wasn’t really tested despite the Wizards piling up an 18-7 edge in shots. Central defenders Andy Iro and Eric Brunner were careful enough to mark closely but not over-commit when confronted by dribbles and shots.
After winning their first two games of the season, Kansas City has failed to win in the last six. The Crew survived another shot off the post; a week earlier, of course, New York hit the woodwork three times in a 3-1 loss. Luck is part of the game, but scoring four goals in two road games spaced just two days apart is also a good way to pick up points.
CHIVAS CHOKE. A spectacular equalizer by substitute Justin Braun should have been rewarded with at least a point against Real Salt Lake; instead, Chivas USA surrendered an 89th minute goal to Fabian Espindola when he latched onto a pass and raced behind the back line to drill a low shot into the net for a 2-1 win.
It’s getting tiresome for Chivas USA fans to keep hearing this, but which of the two 2005 expansion teams is on the right track? RSL won MLS Cup last year and is moving back up the standings after a rocky start; Chivas USA is at the bottom of a very competitive Western Conference. It lost 1-0 in Columbus a week ago when Braun committed a foul in the penalty area to provide the Crew with a penalty kick, and gave up another late goal to RSL to throw away another two points.
D.C. DOWNER. United looked listless from the kickoff against Houston, and fell behind in the 10th minute on a goal by Danny Cruz, who was making his first MLS start. D.C. United failed to score against keeper Tally Hall, who was starting his first MLS game.
Except for a brief flurry midway through the first half, D.C. United seldom looked capable of either scoring a goal or stopping the Dynamo, which missed a few good opportunities yet still notched a second goal through Dominic Oduro. A summer overhaul, even if one can be implemented, may be too late, but at this point D.C. United doesn’t seem good enough to compete, much less win.
RENTERIA REDUX. In both of the Crew’s road wins last week, Emilio Renteria scored after coming on as a sub. Against the Red Bulls he pounced on a mixup between Tim Ream and Mike Petke to collect long ball that eluded both of them, then neatly rounded keeper Bouna Coundoul to stroke the ball home. In the Kansas City game, five minutes after replacing Emmanuel Ekpo, Renteria got his head to a Guillermo Barros Schelotto corner kick to direct a glancing header past keeper Jimmy Nielsen.
Renteria started his move from in front of the goalkeeper and, unmarked, simply ran toward the ball to get his head on it, thus exploiting the narrow field at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Barros Schelotto hit a low, line-drive corner to the near post and none of the Wizards could react in time. On a tight field, defending a corner kick normally requires a player on the near side of the goal area to cut off just the kind of ball Schelotto delivered.
AND FINALLY, WONDO. With his fifth goal in six games, Chris Wondolowski got the Quakes all they needed to win again as they posted a fourth straight shutout.
On this one, though, he might have been a tad offside, as defender Bobby Burling flicked a deflected cross to him at the far post. Still, he took the chance cleanly, rifling home a shot on a short bounce that would have befuddled more than a few MLS forwards, even though he struck the ball a few yards from goal.
San Jose has some depth at forward this year, with Ryan Johnson the regular starter and Trinidad & Tobago internationals Cornell Glen and Scott Sealy, along with Brazilian Eduardo, among the candidates. Right now, though, the guy from Chico State has the edge