I know we're only two weeks into the 13th MLS season, and declaring detections of trends at this stage is a fool's game, but I do see glimmers of a subtle yet critical phase in the maturation of
America's soccer league.
I see beautiful play and beastly defending, I see blowouts and shutouts, I see grace and gore. I see sustained intensity generating tougher tackles, certainly not
all the time, but more often.
I see sharper crossing, more intricate passing combinations, cleaner first touches, more dangerous dead balls. I see controlled breaks out of midfield
slicing apart scattered opponents and balls flying into the net. I see sloppy turnovers and clumsy touches punished ruthlessly.
Yet I see fiercely contested head balls sailing to safety,
tireless tracking rewarded with a ball-winning tackle, concerted and coordinated pressure forcing giveaways and errant passes.
I see Ryan Cochrane
stubbing a poor back pass,
swooping on the loose ball to feed David Beckham
, and Beckham drilling the ball through keeper Joe Cannon
I see Bobby Boswell
a careless clearance to Pablo Ricchetti
in his own half of the field yet Ricchetti playing a piercing through ball that Arturo Alvarez
takes uptown and sticks away.
teenager Sainey Nyassi
, a week after lighting up the night for the Revs against Houston, leaving his flank exposed by missing a tackle and Justin Mapp
centering a ball Chad
smacks into the net.
I see Donovan and Beckham mesh their minds and feet to swap the roles of scorer and provider and give the Galaxy a 2-0 win. I see Jaime Moreno
befuddling Tyrone Marshall
by brushing and nudging the ball or faking to do so before tapping a slow roller just inside the far post that ices a D.C. thumping of Toronto.
and Alecko Eksandarian
score for Chivas USA in their first games against Real Salt Lake, the team that traded them.
And I see Jimmy Conrad
goals not in the same year, nor the same month, but in the same game, and just two minutes apart. I never thought I'd see that.
I see Houston conceding three goals in consecutive league
I see New England concede four a week after blanking Houston. I see Kansas City and Colorado share four goals in 16 second-half minutes prior to the Wizards winning it late, 3-2.
I see Dallas taking two one-goal leads in Houston, and blowing both of them.
I see Crew keeper Will Hesmer
save a penalty kick for the second straight week. I see heroic TFC
goalie Greg Sutton
pull off a double stop only to concede the goal on a third shot, and later thwart Luciano Emilio
with an unbelievable point-blank reflex save as his team is
I also see Dario Sala
concede a free headed goal by backing into a teammate, and a shot by Kenny Cooper
worming its way under keeper Tony Caig
over the goal line. Again, in the same game.
I see 28 goals in seven matches last weekend and I know it can't last. I know coaches will tighten up their leaky defenses and implore their
players to take fewer risks, or else. I know the dog days of summer, which means July and September as well as August in many cities, and international conflicts will drain games of their flair
and frenzy and folly.
But in the highlights I see rookie Geoff Cameron
, who'd caught my notice during a preseason game on a chilly night in a cozy community stadium, dribbling in
from the left wing, pushing the ball to Brian Ching
, running onto a return ball, and -- just as two desperate defenders converge -- crashing a stoppage-time equalizer into the top corner as
a sea of orange behind the goal roils in celebration.
And I realize what I'm seeing is not just glimpses of soccer scenes savored in other parts of the world, but what fans are feeling:
the anticipation and excitement and passion and ferocity they share with players as they battle on the field.
In Toronto and Washington D.C. and Houston and Salt Lake City and Chicago
and a few other places, there are a lot of fans who care about their teams. Really care.
MLS isn't EPL or La Liga or Bundesliga or Serie A or the Mexican League, yet no league can
progress if the players who play and the people who pay don't really give a damn. When those people are reduced to a tiny minority, MLS will truly be major league.