[MLS WEEK 7: WHAT TO WATCH] The disappointment of RSL's loss to Monterrey in the Concacaf Champions League gives away to a full slate of league games, with Seattle (Steve Zakuani) and FC Dallas (David Ferreira) coping with the losses of two outstanding attackers, and several teams trying to climb out of winless funks.
HOUSTON HOMECOMING. Keeper Pat Onstad backstopped three teams -- San Jose (2003) and Houston (2006, 2007) -- to league titles, but after last season didn’t feel he could get it done anymore, so he announced his retirement at age 42 and took an assistant coaching job with D.C. United.
Injuries forced United to sign him to a playing contract and though Bill Hamid has recovered sufficiently to take over in goal, Onstad – who turned 43 in January -- remains on the playing roster and stepped into the net for the Open Cup game Tuesday. For United’s league game at Houston Friday, Dynamo management is paying for wife Becky, sons Peyton and Owen, and daughter Abby to fly out for ceremonies that will honor the former Canadian international.
“I don’t think I’ve ever come across a more dedicated professional,” says Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear, who was a San Jose assistant coach when Onstad came to MLS from Rochester of the A-League in 2003. “What he did in the offseason to stay fit and sharp enabled him to play longer than probably even he expected.
“His statistics and awards speak for themselves and he’s also a real gentleman who has a good mind for the game and will be a very good coach.”
Not so cordial will be defender Bobby Boswell, who lost the faith of United management after being named 2006 Defender of the Year. He was traded to Houston prior to the 2008 season, and always relishes games against his former team.
BENNY AND THE NEW REVS. The Revs rang up three goals in the MLS debut of Benny Feilhaber, who in addition to assisting on the first goal and displaying some nice touches also took a couple of shots at opponents that could have earned him a caution. How he adjusts to MLS officiating, and vice versa, will bear watching in his first few games.
Another notable addition, French midfielder Ousmane Dabo, could make his MLS debut when the Revs play at Chivas USA, which got off the winless schneid by beating the Quakes, 2-1, on the road. Dabo, 34, started and played 76 minutes in a 3-2 U.S. Open Cup victory over D.C. United; how he and his teammates recover from that game and handle a long trip to the West Coast – their third such journey already this season -- will determine their chances of building on a 3-2 defeat of Kansas City last weekend.
Homegrown player Diego Fagundez, just 16, replaced Dabo to make his first-team debut.
ON THE SKIDS? Defending champion Colorado has lost three straight games heading into a home game Saturday against Chicago, which had lost three straight prior to a 1-1 tie at home with Houston last week. The Rapids are deprived of one of their most experienced players; MLS has handed a 10-game suspension to midfielder Brian Mullan for the vicious tackle that sidelined Seattle attacker Steve Zakuani with two broken bones in his leg.
San Jose players called a players-only meeting Monday after falling at home to Chivas, 2-1, last Saturday and Coach Frank Yallop is pondering lineup changes for a game Saturday at Philadelphia. The Quakes are winless in their last four games. Forward Steven Lenhart, who has missed most of the season so far because of injury and the death of his father, has proclaimed himself ready to start.
Toronto FC has failed to win in its last five league games and to resume league play moves a bit further west to Seattle after thumping second-division Edmonton, 3-0, in the first leg of a Nutrilite Canadian Championship series Wednesday at Commonwealth Stadium. TFC’s task was greatly simplified by the dismissal of Mounties’ midfielder Shaun Saiko midway through the first half.
CAN RSL REBOUND? A break from league play notwithstanding, RSL could be physically and emotionally drained when it plays Portland at Jeld-Wen Field Saturday, less than 72 hours after leaving Rio Tinto Stadium dispirited by its 1-0 loss to Monterrey in the Concacaf Champions League final second leg.
“From my point of view, we’ll see what kind of people we are now,” said Coach Jason Kreis said to mlssoccer.com. “You know, it’s a really easy task to talk about how good everybody is and how happy we are and all those sorts of things, when things are going our way. So now we have this major, major disappointment; let’s see how we respond.”
RSL (4-0-0) is just three points behind overall points leader Los Angeles (4-1-3) despite playing four fewer games. The Galaxy is also on the road and also has a tough assignment; at Pizza Hut Park to play FC Dallas, which must overcome the loss of 2010 MVP David Ferreira, sidelined by a broken ankle suffered in a 2-1 defeat of Vancouver last week.