Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Searching for answers after MLS's Big Wednesday
by Ridge Mahoney, July 19th, 2012 3:10AM
Subscribe to Soccer America Confidential

TAGS:  mls


If you're still trying to get a bead on the best team in MLS, well, there’s just no end to the obstacles thrown in your way.

Sure, San Jose crushed Real Salt Lake, 5-0, last Saturday, but the Quakes scored four of those goals with a man-advantage. That game said more about the dire straits RSL is in than it did about The Team That Is More Than Wondo, who nailed a hat trick and also picked up an assist in his quest to match or exceed Roy Lassiter’s single season scoring mark of 27 goals.

Losing after going down a man isn’t a cause for concern, but collapse and capitulation – which that defeat seemed to entail – is worrisome in RSL Land. It sat out the busy Wednesday schedule to reflect and re-tool for the last three months of the season.

San Jose followed up that victory Wednesday by stretching its lead atop the Western Conference as well as the overall standings by beating FC Dallas, 2-1, even though the great Wondo failed to convert a penalty kick. Actually, he did nail an attempt past Kevin Hartman, but encroachment by teammate Justin Morrow forced a re-kick that Hartman – playing in his 403rd league match – lunged to his left to block.

Wondo’s miss with the score, 2-0, gave FCD a breath of hope, and it nearly stole a point. In the final minutes it closed to within a goal from a free kick and earned a penalty kick on a foul by Simon Dawkins, whose foul also led to the goal, but Jair Benitez drilled his shot over the crossbar.

Any coach will tell you that along with grit and talent, you need luck to win consistently, and the Quakes seem well-stocked with all the essential ingredients. They are also 7-1-2 at home.

The Eastern Conference leader, Sporting Kansas City, traveled to 2011 MLS Cup finalist Houston for a match that could have provided insight into how the defending conference champion is holding up. Alas, the red-card bug bit SKC as well, and though it battled deep into the second half tied, 1-1, it succumbed to Calen Carr’s second goal of the night and lost, 2-1.

Last year, a couple of midseason trades triggered a strong finish that propelled Houston all the way to MLS Cup, where it lost to the Galaxy, 1-0. In 2012, despite the transfer speculation swirling around Geoff Cameron – who didn’t play Wednesday as negotiations with Stoke City continue – the arrival of Designated Player Oscar Boniek Garcia, the breakout season of striker Will Bruin, and spot showings like that of Carr, who drew a foul from Peterson Joseph that resulted in his sending-off, could be enough for another stirring late-season run.

The Galaxy, supposedly revived by improving performances the past few weeks, sleep-walked through the first half of its match in Vancouver, and deservedly trailed at halftime, 2-0. Gerson Koffie punished some lackluster defending for a 1-0 lead and then recently arrived DP Barry Robson found space, and lots of it, to head home his first MLS goal.

But this is not the moribund Galaxy of late winter and early spring. It got a goal back when David Beckham, whose careless giveaway had set in motion the sequence for Koffie to score, hit a shot that a deflection took past ‘Caps keeper Joe Cannon. Then the Galaxy equalized dramatically in the 87th minute when Homegrown signing Jose Villarreal notched his first MLS goal with a left-footed smash from the edge of the penalty area.

Before and after the tying goal, Vancouver hit the crossbar twice, once on a shot deflected superbly by keeper Josh Saunders. Both goal frames were hit repeatedly in yet another wild offensive match involving the Galaxy – on June 30, it lost, 4-3, to the Quakes, and last weekend it downed the Timbers, 5-3.

So imbued with grit and luck, the Galaxy has to be taken seriously, because the talent is certainly there. If it starts showing up more often, L.A. has realistic aspirations of repeating as champion, though its defense persists with its porosity.

The Houston-SKC match wasn’t the only opportunity to closely examine the class of the East. Chicago played at New York, and the Red Bulls’ 1-0 win was tainted not by controversy or red cards but rather extreme heat and a 1 p.m. kickoff. In mid-summer, perhaps matinees should be held in air-conditioned theaters, but this special kickoff time didn’t deter Thierry Henry, whose clean trap and searing shot off the inside of the post gave the crowd a special moment, as well as a win, to celebrate.

The only MLS teams still unbeaten at home? New York and Houston, both at 6-0-3. SKC and D.C. United, which didn’t play Wednesday, have improved enough to raise the possibility that the top Eastern teams are the equals of their Western counterparts.

Seattle stepped outside league competition Wednesday and hosted another domestic cup winner in a friendly at CenturyLink Field. FA Cup winner Chelsea’s 4-2 win indicates there’s still a large gap between it and Seattle, which goes for its fourth straight U.S. Open Cup victory next month in Kansas City.

Even if it wins that game, the pressure on Seattle to at least reach MLS Cup this season is increasing, which is yet another reason to believe that while the Quakes are atop the heap, they aren’t automatically the best team. Not yet at least.

1 comment
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: July 19, 2012 at 9:58 p.m.
    Ridge, it's impossible to figure out the MLS. There are too many questions on each squad about the abilities and dedication of individual players. It's like tracking possession time in the MLS which in fact is impossible because of the excessive turnovers which plague each contest.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent Soccer America Confidential
Michael Bradley: USA prepared 'to tilt the bar in our favor' early against Honduras    
As they train in San Jose for a crucial Hexagonal match against Honduras on Friday, the ...
Next move for Real Salt Lake is the most crucial in a decade    
The history of RSL is one of remarkable stability -- just three head coaches since starting ...
U.S. roster announcement: Bruce Arena's return marked by a singleness of purpose    
Multiply the left-back debate with a few more positions each with several candidates and you'll have ...
Quakes encouraged but not giddy after impressive opener    
Four seasons without playoffs has left the fervent fans in San Jose discouraged, but a ray ...
MLS 1-22: Ranking the teams on the eve of a new season    
Eight different teams have played in the last four MLS Cup finals and last year, 2015 ...
Random thoughts as the MLS season draws near    
The 2017 MLS season starts next Friday, March 3, more than a month earlier than the ...
Walker Zimmerman joins the U.S. centerback pool with solid performance    
Two FC Dallas centerbacks were summoned to the first U.S, camp of 2017 and after Matt ...
Rare USA golazo inspires some hope    
One swallow doesn't make a summer, but the USA delivered something impressive with its goal in ...
Greg Garza, soccer wanderer, finds place to start anew, again    
A long voyage to several continents has led U.S. international Greg Garza to the MLS startup ...
With first Arena game out of the way, U.S. players can re-focus on task at hand    
The message going forward for the U.S, team after it opened 2017 by tying Serbia 0-0 ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives