[MLS] A busy week of international friendlies cut the MLS schedule down to just four games during the weekend, and trends are beginning to develop as teams incorporate their midseason additions.
NEW FACES, GOOD AND BAD.FC Dallas got a goal from Colombian forward Milton Rodriguez in just his second MLS game, a 1-1 tie at Toronto, yet recent Crew arrival Leandre Griffit easily topped that performance by scoring just minutes after coming on as a sub.
Griffit, 26, entered in the 88th minute and two minutes later slammed home a rebound for the final goal of a 3-0 Crew defeat of Houston. He signed with the Crew in May and hopes to revive a pro career that had stagnated somewhat following several years (2003-06) with Southampton.
Rodriguez, 34, headed home a David Ferreira corner kick in the 77th minute to earn FC Dallas another road point. It has not lost in the last seven away games and Rodriguez's presence is vital to shore up a forward corps that hasn’t been producing. Rodriguez’s goal was the first scored by an FCD forward since May. He hit the crossbar with a shot last week in his debut, a 2-0 defeat of Real Salt Lake.
A recent addition for Toronto, the Spanish midfielder Mista, didn’t make much of an impact in his 35 minutes as a substitute.
ZAKUANI ZIPS PAST RAPIDS. Another midseason addition, Swiss World Cup player Blaise Nkufo, got the start and played most of a 2-1 Seattle win over Colorado in which winger Steve Zakuani got credit for both goals. Nkufo didn’t get many looks at goal yet gave the Colorado central defense a target man to grapple with.
Zakuani's first goal caromed off the back of goalkeeper Matt Pickens into the net after a low shot from Zakuani had rebounded off the base of the post. The former University of Akron player also got the second goal from close range on a feed from Sanny Nyassi, who broke down the right flank to center a ball Pickens could only nick with his foot into Zakuani’s path.
As for Freddie Ljungberg, he’s persona non grata. Zakuani, Nyassi and Fredy Montero give the Sounders a speedier attack than was usually the case with Ljungberg, whose achy knees and disputes with referees have prompted him to seek a move to another team, possibly overseas.
GOALIE GAFFES. One of the league’s top keepers and a usually reliable backup presented goals to their opponents with dreadful mistakes.
Emilio Renteria walked the ball into the net for the first Crew goal in the 34th minute after Dynamo goalie Tally Hall, who got the start because of an abdominal injury to Pat Onstad, fumbled a ball he should have covered easily. After defender Bobby Boswell received a second yellow card for what appeared to be a soft foul on Renteria, Houston couldn’t muster a goal to get back in the game.
Real Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando let a long shot from Jesus Padilla slip off his hands and through his legs just a minute after a great strike by Ned Grabavoy had given RSL a 1-0 lead. RSL did extend its unbeaten streak at home to 19 games, and is 6-0-3 at home this season.