Who's Hot, Who's Not

No quite one-third of the way through the season, yet with a busy summer of international competitions and callups on the horizon, these are a few of the impressions taken of what has transpired so far in MLS:

LJUNGBERG'S LAMENTS. Notable by his absence from Seattle's 1-1 tie with FC Dallas was Freddie Ljungberg, not only for his contributions to the attack and overall team cohesion, but by his incessant complaining the week before in a 1-1 tie with Los Angeles.

Nearly every time he lost the ball and/or hit the ground, he spread his arms wide in outraged indignation, and he and referee Tim Weyland conversed so often you'd think they were discussing the governmental bailouts. This was the same game in which Weyland waved off Seattle penalty claims when Dema Kovalenko wiped out Nate Jaqua as he was about to confront LA keeper Donovan Ricketts, and sent off James Riley for swatting Mike Magee during a melee triggered when Riley wrestled Gregg Berhalter to the ground trying to get the ball away. Weyland issued eight cautions in addition to sending off Riley, which left Seattle a man down for final 33 minutes.

So no doubt Ljungberg and his teammates had cause to be upset with Mr. Weyland, yet Ljungberg had begun his protests long before Kovalenko fouled Jaqua, also taunted Kovalenko during the match in a most unflattering manner, and didn't let up after Weyland cautioned him in the 61 st minute.

The good news is that Ljungberg is adding a lot of class and savvy to the Seattle attack, and is looking like a pretty solid DP investment. If he can mute his carping at the officials just a tad and not become (Cuauhtemoc) Blanco West, he'll augment Seattle's push for a playoff spot.

BMO BUMMER. There's something missing at Toronto FC, which had a great chance to stamp itself as the real deal with a home game against a tough team, and completely squandered the opportunity by losing to Chicago and the real Blanco, 2-0.

A few days earlier, Toronto had run rings around USL-1 foe Montreal while winning, 1-0, in the Canadian Nutrilite Championship. But it came out flat against the Fire and after a truly turgid first half, didn't awaken until Chris Rolfe breached the offside trap on a feed from Blanco and caught goalie Stefan Frei's in no-man's land to score in the 48 th minute.

TFC did conjure up a few opportunities and Amado Guevara rattled the crossbar with a free kick before Frei pushed away a low shot that Mike Banner corralled and crossed from Brian McBride to bang into the empty net with nine minutes left.

By winning, Chicago (3-0-6) remains unbeaten and is tied with D.C. United atop the East. By losing, TFC's home record drops to 2-2-2. Yes, it had been on a six-game unbeaten run prior to the Fire game, but despite the raucous support at BMO Field, TFC has yet to turn it into the fortress it should be.

DALLAS DILEMMA. After being run off the (Pizza Hut) Park for most of the first half by Seattle last week, FC Dallas stole a 45th-minute equalizer from Andre Rocha, and pressed hard in the second half for a winning goal.

It never came, and the game finished, 1-1. At first blush the team's switch to a 3-5-2 formation for the second half and insertion of holding midfielder Pablo Ricchetti in central defense seemed to herald a new way forward. Well, maybe. Or maybe not.

Truth be told, Seattle came in shorthanded with Ljungberg not available and the suspended Riley replaced by Pat Ianni, and lost left back Zach Scott to an injury early in the match. Still, FCD had to make changes, too; defenders George John and Steve Purdy were replaced prior to the second-half kickoff, and teenager Brek Shea took over for Jeff Cunningham midway through the first half.

Nine games (1-6-2) into the season, Coach Schellas Hyndman is still looking for the right formula. Getting Shea, who was impressive by his touches and movement off the ball, somewhere into the lineup is just one issue to be resolved. He twice failed to put away point-blank headers that could have won the match for his team.

Dave van den Bergh again supplied several dangerous crosses that weren't exploited, and Kenny Cooper labored through another quiet match. Somehow, Cooper has to get on the end of van den Bergh's service, either on balls played to the near post or loopers to the back stick that Cooper can attack.

TOP TEAMS TIE. Chivas USA got a valuable lesson at relatively low cost Saturday night at Home Depot Center by letting a 2-0 lead devolve into a 2-2 tie with D.C. United.

The team's remarkable defensive record - now five goals conceded in 10 games - has masked a failure to put games away and instead rely far too heavily on goalie Zach Thornton. His string of remarkable saves this season is laudable but really too much to expect over the long haul.

Last Saturday Chivas USA conceded goals in the 77th and 85 th minutes to get the tie it probably deserved, especially since Maykel Galindo scored its first goal after being a good yard offside when the ball was played to him. And United demonstrated once again its remarkable powers of recovery to retain a share of first place in the Eastern Conference.

CRY OF THE WOLFF. Speaking of statements, props to Kansas City for beating RSL, 2-0, with a pair of goals by Josh Wolff.

He doesn't have the wheels he did a few years ago, yet at age 32, Wolff still has the speed to test MLS defenses, and is league co-leader, along with former U.S. teammate Brian McBride, with six goals. Wolff and Davy Arnaud and Claudio Lopez are still sorting out their roles in the attacking slots while newcomer Santiago Hirsig adjusts to MLS as the holding midfielder.

The Wizards attack lacks a true target striker, which is why it acquired Adam Cristman from New England during the offseason. Cristman has yet to play because of a foot injury suffered in preseason. If and when he comes back healthy, he'll add the final piece to a very potent offense.


2 comments about "Who's Hot, Who's Not".
  1. Austin Gomez, May 18, 2009 at 3:40 p.m.

    Ridge, in keeping with your sagacious ALLITERATIONS (very well-thought titles, I might add), why not the title for your last segment of: "Wolff the Wizard." instead of the "Cry of the Wolff"? ----- just a silly thought that the Western author of "Cry of the Wolf" would probably have approved of!


  2. Kevin Leahy, May 18, 2009 at 7:51 p.m.

    D.C. United needs to fix the problems in the back. The center back keeps getting manhandled. Every goalkeeper has at least one major gaff a game. They have turned several wins into ties.

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