MLS Review Policy to be Tested this Week
Over the past few weeks, MLS players midweek have been issued suspensions or fines by the league for actions that occurred in the past. The league’s new policy of reviewing harsh fouls and plays have led to the main office retroactively punishing players for deeds that were let go on the field or flat-out missed by the officials. The goal of this retroactive punishment is to prevent players from getting away with dangerous tackles and make MLS a little less physical, something the league feels is needed after a number of injuries to high-profile players last year. You can debate the merits of working behind an official’s back and what it says about the league’s officiating staff, or whether it is fair to punish players for crimes not deemed worthy of cards during matches. However, the reality is the policy is in place and being used by MLS.
This weekend the existence of retroactive punishments should certainly be used and would show the importance of leagues being able to look back and make an after-the-fact judgement. The Red Bulls v. Earthquakes match is the prime example of why it exists. Both teams were certainly guilty of careless, even reckless plays in the second half that turned a wide-open game into a slow slug-fest. Rafa Marquez’s incident stands out as the most flagrantly obvious, when he grabbed Shea Salinas in the box and put him to the ground, then kicked him on his way up. Salinas, an important part of this San Jose team, allegedly suffered a broken collarbone yet no card or foul was given.
However, the ‘Quakes themselves were not innocent. Martin Chavez’s tackle on Roy Miller was eerily reminiscent of the type of tackle that ended David Ferreira’s season last year and was nothing more than a classless attempt to slow down a player that had beaten him. He was lucky to only get a yellow. Ultimately, the success in the league’s replay system will depend on how (or if) they punish these types of flagrant fouls. If Chavez and Marquez are not given suspensions for their actions, then the league office needs to review itself.
Player of the Week
The player of the week comes from the team of the week. Aurelien Collin has played some outstanding defense these past few weeks for the red hot Sporting Kansas City and Saturday was no different. Although the goalless result was a team effort, Collin was excellent as usual in disrupting the Real Salt Lake attack and preventing them for creating many good scoring chances. What earns him the POTW nod, however, was his goal scored in the 63rd minute off a corner after a previous KC effort was taken off the board. For all of his contributions, Collin receives the POTW honors.
Honorable Mention Player of the Week
MMS loves to give love to the defenders, and will do so again this week by giving recognition to the man in the box. Dan Kennedy of Chivas USA faced a determined Toronto side on their own turf and despite this was able to keep a clean sheet for the Goats. Toronto had five shots on goal but the quality of the saves is what earns Kennedy this honor. This is especially true of his denial of Danny Koevermans late in the game after some atrocious play by his defenders. After a very good 2011, it looks like Kennedy may be ready to step up into a more elite level of MLS keepers.
The Downside of the Unbalanced Schedule
In order to accommodate a 19 team league and not increase the number of games played, the league this offseason switched to an unbalanced schedule. Gone are the days of seeing an opponent twice a year (home and away) but instead teams now see some division foes three times, some twice, and the other conference only once. The positive is reduced travel and more games against opponents that, to be frank, matter more in a league where conferences matter greatly.
But the past two weeks have shown the downside of the unbalanced schedule. Four inter-conference games were played this weekend and two of them I would love to see again at the visitor’s home stadium. I wonder what RSL v. Sporting KC would look like at Rio Tinto; I suspect Real Salt Lake would be more aggressive in that match with their passionate fans behind their goal. Also, there is a budding rivalry between San Jose and New York, as it seems like every time they play something interesting happens. However, due to unbalanced scheduling, we will have to wait potentially for the MLS Cup to see these teams face off in MLS play again this year. Last week we saw possibly for the last time this year Sporting Kansas City face the LA Galaxy while DC and Seattle renewed a fun cross-country “rivalry”. I understand the need for an unbalanced schedule and logically I support it. However, I lament MLS’s missed opportunities for rematches and replays of some juicy early season match-ups.
Coaching Move of the Week
It seems like Schellas Hyndman is destined to be mentioned in this column every week, but the FC Dallas head man has a way of tinkering with the game that either blows up spectacularly or clicks just right. Such as it was in Dallas’ 2-1 win over a surprisingly strong Montreal team in front of 16,000 fans in Texas. For the first half, Dallas played a more traditional 4-4-2 lineup that failed to connect the midfield and the forwards. After the penalty that gave the Impact a 1-0 lead, the home side played with a renewed passion that was assisted by some substitutions and a formation change. Bobby Warshaw and Bruno Guarda came on at halftime which allowed Hyndman to shift his team into a 4-1-4-1/4-5-1 and allow them to begin to dominate midfield play.
Quote of the Week Part 1
“In soccer, it only takes a few seconds to score a goal, one play to break down for the other team to score and it takes total concentration for 90 minutes. As the game goes on guys get a little leggy, a little tired, but it can’t be an excuse for us. It’s something we have to get better with.”
Clyde Simms, on the team’s second straight loss by allowing a late goal (h/t to The Bent Musket)
Head Scratcher of the Week
We all acknowledge how good of a team Sporting Kansas City is at this point but I didn’t think that Jason Kreis would recognize this in his tactics. Kreis must have talked away tactics with Roberto Mancini prior to the game as his team played with conservative tactics throughout the first half before switching to a more attacking, yet no more effective 4-3-3 to match KC’s in the second half. Steve Davis noted that the RSL fullbacks played back to prevent Kei Kamara and Bobby Convey from roaming the flanks, but the midfield was also slow to support the forwards in the attack. RSL has the talent to take on KC, so I am disappointed we didn’t see more of it displayed.
Quote of the Week Part 2
“It was a terrible first touch, but it took me into a shooting position and I knew as soon as I hit it that it was going in. I enjoyed it.”
David Beckham on his wonder goal (h/t to Stumptown Footy for the postgame transcript)
Videos of the Week
There are two for you to enjoy this week. The first is the David Beckham goal making its way through the internet:
while the second is another goal scored in a much more amusing way
MMS Non-Scientific Power Poll
10. DC United (10): If they can win back-to-back games for the first time in three years this Wednesday, I’ll move them up in these rankings. The potential for a top 8 team is there, but consistency is the key.
9. Chivas USA (NR): 0-3-0 at home, 3-0-0 on the road. Odd splits but a may work to get them into the playoffs once they figure out the Home Depot Center.
8. Houston Dynamo (8): Rain halted a pretty good match between the Dynamo and Fire, but Houston survives bad weather and injuries with a point.
7. Vancouver Whitecaps (7): Off this week but face quite the challenge hosting Kansas City on Wednesday.
6. FC Dallas (9): This team may be righting the ship as it gets healthy and begins to figure out how to play its personnel. If they can continue to draw over 15k to games, they will gain a home field advantage.
5. San Jose Earthquakes (5): Go into New York, take a point, and hold them to two goals? I’m convinced this is a very good team, but one whose depth is about to be tested.
4. New York Red Bulls (3): The draw still saw New York score almost at will and give the Henry-Cooper duo more additions to their impressive numbers. But San Jose may have figured out how to beat this team, and that bodes ill for their next game at DC United, who has similar strengths to San Jose.
3. Seattle Sounders (3): Seattle basically allowed Colorado to play with the ball, then when they got too close to the net yanked it from them and threatened to score. Very effective game and a well deserved three points.
2. Real Salt Lake (2): Yes they lost this weekend but their two losses have been to an amazing road team (Chivas USA) and on the road to the best team in MLS. Can’t fault them too much for that.
1. Sporting Kansas City (1): Safe to say they’ve earned this spot for the time being