[MLS] The Galaxy got its mojo -- and David Beckham -- back by beating Columbus, 3-1, in a matchup of conference leaders, New York dispatched Colorado by the same score, and Dallas extended its unbeaten streak to 14 games by tying 0-0 in San Jose. Here are some observations of the last week’s action and what it all means ...
GALAXY GLORY. Whether it was the opposition, or the specter of Beckham, or the return of Brazilian midfielder Juninho after missing some time due to personal reasons, L.A. came to play against the Crew and outclassed its foe in a meeting of the conference leaders.
Edson Buddle broke a personal scoreless streak of 363 minutes by netting the opening goal in the 13th minute, and Dema Kovalenko scored his first MLS goal since the 2008 season to carry the Galaxy past a rather listless Crew, which didn’t get much out of Steven Lenhart and Eddie Gaven and was missing midfielder Robbie Rogers.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto, when not bickering with the officials, gave a lively performance without causing too much trouble. Newcomer Andres Mendoza, a native of Peru, tallied his first MLS goal for the Crew in the 85th minute.
By winning, the Galaxy regained first place in the Western Conference and the overall points lead (14-5-5, 47 points). Columbus (13-6-5, 44 points) is tied with RSL for second place overall and is four points in front of second-place New York (12-8-4, 40 points).
PACK FALLING BACK. This is the time of year when the playoff race should be tightening up, but it isn’t. The eight playoff teams are more or less maintaining their distance from a bunch of pursuers unable to close much ground.
Since the All-Star break, the hottest teams have been FC Dallas (4-0-3, 15 points), New York (4-2-2, 14 points), and Real Salt Lake (3-0-4, 13 points), all of which have been in the playoff tier for months. Conference leaders Columbus (3-3-1, 10 points) and Los Angeles (2-3-1, 7 points) haven’t been scintillating, but they haven’t needed to be. They wrapped up their playoff spots, for all intents and purposes, a month ago. Colorado (3-2-2, 11 points) has not been able to catch the top teams but isn't dropping, either.
Seattle (3-1-2, 11 points) and San Jose (3-3-1, 10 points) have held onto the last two playoff spots as New England (3-4-1, 10 points), Chicago (2-3-3, nine points) and especially Toronto FC (1-5-2, five points) have failed to amass enough points to close in. Kansas City (3-1-2, 11 points) has moved past the Fire and into fourth place in the Eastern Conference but at 7-9-6 (27 points) it is still six points behind San Jose and Seattle.
Ranked by points per games played, here how the MLS teams stack up since the All-Star break (teams currently in the playoff tier marked by *):
1. FC Dallas* 2.15 pts. per game; 2. RSL* 1.86 pts.; 3. Seattle*, Kansas City 1.83 pts.; 5. New York* 1.75 pts; 6. Colorado* 1.57 pts; 7. Chivas USA, Columbus*, San Jose* 1.43 pts.; 10. New England 1.25 pts.; 11. Los Angeles* 1.17 pts.; 12. Chicago 1.12 pts.; 13. Philadelphia 1.11 pts.; 14. D.C. United 0.86 pts.; 15. Houston 0.67 pts.; 16. Toronto FC 0.62 pts.
SCHEDULE GLUT. Concacaf Champions’ League play resumes this week, and none of the four MLS participants will get off lightly.
Facing the roughest stretch is Seattle, which plays 12 games – including the U.S. Open Cup final against the Crew Oct. 5 – between now and the end of the league season Oct. 26. The Sounders are in Costa Rica to play Deportivo Saprissa on Tuesday, get back to league duty Saturday in Columbus, then head down to Mexico to play Monterrey a week from Sept. 22.
After another road trip to Chicago for a Sept. 25 match against the Fire, the Sounders return to Seattle for the first of six home games – including an Oct. 12 friendly against Guadalajara – it plays before finishing the regular season in Houston. It also has a road game against Kansas City remaining on the schedule.
The Sounders are 0-2 in CCL play and could be near elimination from the group stage when they get back after playing Monterrey in its fourth group match.
Columbus can pile up some points when it hosts Joe Public this week and Santos of Mexico next week. The other two MLS representatives play each other in two of their next three CCL games: Sept. 15 at Rio Tinto Stadium; and Sept. 28 at BMO Field. In between, next week Toronto plays Cruz Azul in Mexico City and RSL faces Arabe Unido in La Chorerra, Panama.
TFC TAILSPIN. Coach Preki cited fatigue induced by a crunch of CCL games as one reason his players looked tired and jaded while losing at home to D.C. United, 1-0, on a goal by defender Julius James, who’d originally been drafted into MLS by Toronto in 2008.
TFC has won only two of its last 14 games and hasn’t scored in 400 minutes of play. The loss to D.C. was its third game in seven days, yet James’ goal in the 81 st minute triggered waves of boos as many fans bolted for the BMO Field exits. Apparently, fatigue is not an option.
Preki guided Chivas USA into the playoffs in each of his three seasons as head but each time failed to advance past the first round. TFC hired him after missing the postseason in its first three years of existence, so for him and Director of Soccer Mo Johnston, failure may not be an option.