Coping with international absences last week tested the depth of numerous MLS teams, and of those that passed the tests there was at least one major surprise.
Despite being deprived of important players, Houston (Ricardo Clark, Brian Ching
) and Chivas USA (Sacha Kljestan, Jonathan Bornstein
) both won, by narrow 1-0 scores,
against Chicago and Seattle, respectively, heading into their meeting Wednesday at Robertson Stadium.
Veteran Richard Mulrooney
replaced Clark in central midfield and
helped stave off several Fire attacks after Stuart Holden
had scored in the fourth minute. Ching had to sit out because of a hamstring injury. Kljestan hasn't had much impact in many
league matches this season, yet a squad still hard-hit by injuries got a victory with "Sueno MLS" winner Jorge Flores
and rookie Michael Lahoud
on the field.
The Galaxy, missing not only Landon Donovan
but defender Gregg Berhalter
(suspended) as well, went to Toronto - lacking Amado Guevara
- and won, 2-1. The Los Angeles attack has been sparked in recent weeks by the improved form of Edson Buddle
, who netted the winner from a feed by
forward partner Alan Gordon
, scorer of the first goal. Tony Sanneh
replaced Berhalter in a back line that sprung numerous leaks, forcing the savior, literally, to be
goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts
, who thwarted TFC with several brilliant stops among his 10 saves.
A late call-up to replace the injured Ching stripped away Rapids forward
, yet still Colorado struck with a late goal at Rio Tinto Stadium to come home with a 1-1 tie. Jacob Peterson
took the spot up front normally occupied by
Casey, whose regular partner, Omar Cummings
, drilled a spectacular goal into the roof of the net to earn the point despite Colorado being outshot, 18-9.
The Rapids are
off this week, so Confederation Cup-bound Casey might miss just one more league match, a June 20 home date with D.C. United. Given the choice, which he apparently was by U.S. coach Bob
, Rapids coach Gary Smith
would rather lose Casey now than next month during the Gold Cup, for which Cummings will probably be summoned by Jamaica. The status of
, though, for the Gold Cup has yet to be determined.
Chicago lost its second straight home game in the absence of Cuauhtemoc Blanco
1-0, to Houston, yet limited the Dynamo to just five shots despite also missing defenders Bakary Soumare
and Gonzalo Segares
as well as the injured Wilman
. Chris Rolfe
and Patrick Nyarko
conjured up enough offensive spark to earn at least a tie, but Mulrooney headed away a goal-bound Nyarko shot from
underneath the crossbar and his teammates pulled off several crucial defensive plays to deny the Fire.
The conflicts and compromises inflicted by international competitions are just
beginning. Chivas USA, New England, Chicago and Kansas City are about to start up their commitments in the SuperLiga, more than two dozen MLS players will be called up for the Gold Cup in July, and
the start of Concacaf Champions' League group play for Columbus, Houston, D.C. United and New York, and perhaps Toronto, gets rolling in mid-August.
With domestic and international
transfer windows open for much of the summer, radical changes in personnel and performance are likely during the next few months. Which teams consistently crank out results, and which hit sharp dips
in form, will give some clues as to how the 2009 playoffs may play out.