[MLS] Major League Soccer's two-week break for the World Cup could not come at a worse time for its young guns, who have been on fire in recent weeks. Golazos from three Seattle Sounders were also among the six noteworthy elements of last weekend’s action in Week 11 ...
YOUNG GUNS. The modern breed of domestically produced young players doesn’t need the denuded rosters of past World Cup seasons to crack starting lineups: several have already established themselves as regulars, and their performances last weekend -- the last full slate prior to the World Cup break -- were just the latest examples of productive efforts.
Former U.S. under-17 and under-20 midfielder Brek Shea (20) hit two goals in less than three minutes as FC Dallas downed San Jose, 2-0. Academy product Andy Najar (17), who scored as a overtime sub in D.C. United’s 2-1 U.S. Open Cup triumph over Real Salt Lake, played solidly as a starter in a 0-0 league encounter Saturday. Another academy graduate, Tristan Bowen (19), whose first name is the same as that of Landon Donovan’s twin sister, scored his third goal as Galaxy Light (without Donovan and Edson Buddle) humiliated Houston, 4-1.
Only four current MLS players made the World Cup squad of 23, the lowest representation since the league’s startup in 1996. Numerous young foreign players have come to MLS in the past year or two, and the rookie class (players out of college) of 2010 looks to be another strong crop. Yet the initiatives taken for MLS teams to find and groom their own players are yielding some impressive performers.
GOLAZOS. A team mired in a scoring drought can’t be picky and will do anything just to put the stinking ball over the goal line to break the curse. Often it can be the scruffiest, ugliest goal that restores belief and revives the attack.
Not so in Seattle. Just the opposite, in fact. After scoring just two goals in six games despite generating a fair number of chances, the Sounders pummeled New England not only in shots (19-2), as had been the case several times during the bleak streak, but also on the scoreboard: 3-0.
Left back Leo Gonzalez came up that flank to nail a screamer with the outside of this left foot in the fifth minute, and rookie Steve Zakuani blasted a first-time missile off the underside of the crossbar midway through the first half. Fredy Montero hit the third shortly before halftime by veering inside from the left flank to shoot low under Revs keeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
Seattle hosts D.C. United Thursday in its final match prior to the World Cup break, which would have been a mighty long interval indeed had the curse not been exorcised. The three-goal salvo should make the wait for Swiss striker Blaise Nkufo, who arrives next month, much less anxious.
SHAKY QUAKES. The San Jose defense, greatly improved this season from the creaky group that conceded 50 goals last year, has sprung leaks the past few weeks.
Keeper Joe Cannon and defender Chris Leitch shared the blame through slipshod touches to permit a long kick to reach and be controlled by Shea for the second goal in FCD’s 2-0 win Saturday. One of the goals conceded by the Quakes in a 2-2 tie with Columbus last Wednesday came when they failed to clear a ball following a save by Cannon.
In a 3-1 home loss to Toronto May 29, normally reliable central defender Jason Hernandez botched long ball played over the top and presented Chad Barrett a great chance he converted.
MIDWEEK IMBALANCE. Of the four teams that played Wednesday and again last Saturday, only New York won both of its games, and not surprisingly, both were at home.
After beating reeling Houston, 2-1, midweek on a stoppage-time free kick by Juan Pablo Angel, the Red Bulls downed Chivas USA, 1-0, on a long-distance strike by Seth Stammler to move into a first-place tie with Columbus. After tying in San Jose, the Crew staggered through 85 minutes even with Colorado but surrendered a goal to Drew Moor in the 85th minute to lose, 1-0. Quakes coach Frank Yallop blamed fatigue for his team’s loss at Dallas.
As for the Dynamo, after losing in New York, it flew cross-country to face the Galaxy, and fell behind on a Jovan Kirovski goal in first minute. It equalized five minutes later but fell behind again to another Kirovski goal, and didn’t have the legs nor the ideas to mount a serious challenge.
GOALIE GLORY. Keepers can’t often win games, but they can certainly lose them, so any time a goalie can take the best efforts of an opponent and throw back a big save it’s a boost for a team’s morale as well as the quest for points.
RSL keeper Nick Rimando, who stoned Stephen King and a few of his teammates in earning a 0-0 tie with D.C. United at RFK Stadium, was joined by Jimmy Nielsen of Kansas City among the heroes of last weekend.
Two superb saves, including one off Nielsen’s face from a drive by Jacob Peterson, enabled Kansas City to take a 0-0 result out of Toronto, which could have lost if not for Stefan Frei’s excellent flying deflection of a Ryan Smith shot bound for the top corner. Nielsen also thwarted a pair of good shots by midfielder Julian de Guzman, who is proving each week he’s much more than your typical MLS holding mid.
TIGHT SHIP. How can a team that has scored only 11 goals in 10 games have won six of them? Defense, of course, and in the case of Colorado (6-3-1, 19 points, third place in the Western Conference), that means just seven goals allowed.
A bit of luck has helped; Guillermo Barros Schelotto misfired on a great chance in the fourth minute last weekend, but the Rapids have been exceedingly pragmatic most of the season.
Its last five league games have ended 1-0 one way or the other. Will the streak continue Wednesday in Chicago?