[MLS SPOTLIGHT] In the wake of USA defeats to Costa Rica and Belgium in friendlies last week came some notable MLS performances by a few players called up by Jurgen Klinsmann, as well as those not summoned.
UNITED DUO. Chris Pontius came back from his first callup -- though he was a late addition to the roster and didn’t play – by assisting on all three Charlie Davies goals as United boosted its playoff chances by thumping Chivas USA, 3-0, at Home Depot Center. Pontius pounced on two loose balls – one of which came off referee Richard Salazar – to set up Davies for goals three minutes apart early in the game, and the pair rounded off their hat tricks in the second half with another feed.
Davies, who hadn’t scored since June 25, greatly benefitted from a 20-day break in league play as he upped his seasonal tally to 11 goals. Obviously, his form is of great interest to USA fans as well as Klinsmann, given that one of the current squad’s problem areas is at forward. He’s been bothered by the wear and tear of a long season and how he handles the next two games could determine if he’s called up for games against Honduras and Ecuador early next month.
United coach Ben Olsen paired Pontius and Davies up front for the first time, but despite the impressive results, Klinsmann won’t be able to test the partnership any time soon. Late in the match, Pontius suffered a broken leg in a collision with David Junior Lopes and is out for the season.
THE OTHER BENNY. While Olsen enjoyed one of his important wins as a head coach, another USA hopeful helped New England knock off FC Dallas, 2-0.
Benny Feilhaber played the full 90 minutes and set up two good chances on corner kicks, one of which wound up in the net for the clinching goal. That was his fourth assist of the season and came three days after he scored a goal, his third in MLS, during a wild 4-4 tie at Philadelphia.
So far, Klinsmann’s proclamations about attacking soccer haven’t led him to Feilhaber, a member of the 2010 World Cup team whose move from Danish club AGF Aarhus to MLS was designed in part to revive his national-team career. He’s been a vital component of the Revs’ recent offensive revival; the addition of Milton Caraglio and steady play of striker Rajko Lekic has sparked an outburst of 10 goals in five games.
By the time Klinsmann picks his next squad, in about two weeks, the Revs will know if that big win over FCD truly revived their playoff hopes, and Feilhaber will know where he stands with the national team coach.
ANOTHER ZERO FOR OMAR AND CO. Landon Donovan came back from national-team duty on just two days’ rest to score the only goal as the Galaxy knocked off defending champion Colorado, 1-0, Friday at HDC. The goal moved him into a tie with Thierry Henry for the league lead with 12.
Defender Omar Gonzalez, one of several players awaiting his first callup from Klinsmann, buttressed a solid Los Angeles defense that recorded its 14th shutout of the season as regular keeper Donovan Ricketts, out since June 25 with a broken forearm, came back into the nets.
The Galaxy defense tops the league with only 22 goals conceded in 28 games for a per-game average of 0.79. Gonzalez, Todd Dunivant, Sean Franklin and A.J. DeLaGarza have each started at least 24 games and that continuity in the back, plus the return of Ricketts, should toughen the Galaxy’s back line down the stretch whether or not any of them are summoned by the USA for the October games.
CAPTAIN KYLE. On a weekend of huge victories, Real Salt Lake’s 2-1 triumph in Seattle has to rank at or near the top. On three days rest and after a long flight from Brussels, Kyle Beckerman followed up his 45 minutes against Belgium to go the distance at CenturyLink Field.
Handed a 1-0 lead on a terrible mistake by Kasey Keller, who bobbled a cross into his own goal, RSL conceded an equalizer playing 10-v-10 following the dismissal of defenders Tony Beltran and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado four minutes apart. Alvaro Saborio struck the winner in the 56th minute, and despite Seattle outshooting RSL, 19-10, for the entire match, Beckerman marshaled a confident effort that controlled the action sufficiently to grab the three points.
(Watch Keller's own goal HERE.)