MLS Landmarks in Canada – Monday Morning Sweeper
Canadian Teams Setting New Milestones, Both Good and Bad
Canada is the center of the MLS world this week after the results by Montreal and Toronto on Saturday. The Impact continued to add to the team’s MLS history with their first shutout by defeating the visiting Portland Timbers 2-0. While the game itself was kind of dull for most of the match, Montreal took advantage of the opportunities given to it to grab the win. In particular, a controversial penalty awarded for an alleged handball by Steven Smith allowed them to break the game open. So why is this a big deal? It’s growth for the expansion team that is getting its feet in the league. In the home opener, the team conceded an equalizer to Chicago after taking breaking a scoreless tie in the second half. This time they held on, albeit against a miserable road team. As they check off milestones, the team will progress up the standings and become more of a factor in the East. As it is, while they are level on points for a playoff spot they are miles from being actual contenders.
Conversely, their fellow countrymen from Ontario tied a record Saturday for most consecutive MLS losses to begin a season. To their credit, Toronto put up a good fight and for most of the match looked like they would escape the tough Rio Tinto with a much needed point. But their defensive lapses struck late as RSL’s Jonny Steele hammered home a third goal to give RSL all three points after TFC had twice tied the match and Joao Plata almost gave the visitors the late lead. The task does not get any easier for Toronto as they can break the record for worst start to an MLS season when DC United visits a likely uneasy and tense BMO Field on Saturday.
Player of the Week
MMS is an unabashed Kyle Beckerman fan both for personal reasons and professional reasons. His play on Saturday night was outright impressive. First, he got a high-scoring affair off to a good start by cleaning up a pass right in front of the Toronto net for a goal. Then, on the deciding goal, he “saved” a Javier Morales pass by diving to lay it out for Steele’s rocket game winner. Beckerman is a perennial MVP candidate because he plays defense well, scores on occasion, and sets up his teammates for scoring opportunities. He did all three well this past weekend.
Honorable Mention Player of the Week
Last year’s Golden Boot winner this year had not notched a goal, and despite playing fairly well this season Dwayne De Rosario still had the goalless anchor. He shed it in style on Saturday night at RFK and was the most consistent player on the pitch, something desperately needed to help beat a depleted Houston midfield. He pushed DC ahead in the second half on a nice curling cross/shot that barely found the far post and deflected into the goal (with maybe a slight deflection from a Dynamo defender). Late in the game DeRo had a few great runs to elude the Houston defense and maintain possession for the home team, a tricky proposition on an especially slick pitch.
NBC Sports Has Almost As Many Bad Preseason Predictions As MMS
You have to feel bad for NBC Sports (unless you are ESPN, where you are cackling). After doing a great job of promoting the new product on the new NBC Sports Network and making some smart hires with Arlo White and Kyle Martino, the network has the pieces in place to make their MLS package successful. But, without seeing this weekend’s ratings, so far the network has swung and missed on most of the games it has televised.
Recognizing that it does not have total control over what games they show (otherwise we’d see New York and Los Angeles every week), the line-up NBC Sports Network has shown has failed to live up to its promise. This Saturday, they had the privilege of showing a 1-0 game between New York and New England, a game where the most recognizable star limped off midway through the first half due to a hamstring pull. Bad games happen, but this has been one in a series of recent duds in terms of in-game excitement: Philadelphia 1, Columbus 0 (April 14); DC United 4, FC Dallas 1 (March 30); and Colorado 2, Philadelphia 1 (March 18). While there have been a few good games shown so far, there haven’t been too many game of the week candidates. Next week will probably not be better, as the highlight game is Philadelphia visiting Seattle, but scheduled in a few weeks is the highly-anticipated Sporting Kansas City/San Jose match-up.
Coaching Move of the Week
Colorado had gotten part of coach Oscar Pareja’s 4-3-3 right the past few weeks by dominating possession and running up good passing statistics. What was lacking were the goals. Not on Saturday, at least in the second half. In the 70th minute of a fairly even 1-0 game, Pareja subbed off Martin Rivero for Kamani Hill, who was able to use Omar Cumming’s speedy runs to create two goals. The first was well done, as he patiently took a pass from Cummings and extended the Colorado lead. He added a second goal in stoppage time, but it was his first that swung the game and gave the visitors their first away loss of the season.
Quote of the Week Part 1
“You might have just called it a reserve game. Backup goalkeepers were required for both teams, both made their presence felt, and it was reserve forward Pat Noonan who saved the Galaxy in stoppage time of a 1-1 tie with FC Dallas Saturday night at Home Depot Center.”
The Daily Breeze - Galaxy Sputter to a Frustrating Tie with FC Dallas
Head Scratcher of the Week
Landon Donovan is 30 for 33 in his career for MLS penalty kicks (thanks Steve Davis!). He is a natural choice to take a penalty. Robbie Keane is quite the striker and has had an illustrious career. But in a tight game, you would expect the almost perfect penalty kicker to take the penalty and put your team ahead. Instead, this happened:
Quote of the Week Part 2
“I’d have to see the tape, but I didn’t see anything more than words exchanged.”
Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas, responding to a question on the Seattle v. Chicago post game scrum (via Dave Clark)
Video of the Week
Take it away Gus….
MMS Non-Scientific Power Rankings:
10. FC Dallas (NR): They have been rotating injured players on and off the pitch every game but they are still getting points. If they can get their best XI on the pitch at the same time, watch out.
9. Colorado Rapids (NR): The Chivas win was nice because it showed them that possession and opportunities can equal goals. Almost as nice was the Conor Casey sighting for a few minutes in stoppage time.
8. Houston Dynamo (6): Will Bruin himself kept Houston in their match with DC, scoring twice in the game. But the Dynamo defense was less than dynamic, leaving Tally Hall exposed multiple times.
7. New York Red Bulls (10): The Red Bulls played well this weekend but the injury big struck yet again, this time depriving the team of its best player for the next few weeks.
6. DC United (8): For the first time since 2009, they’ve won back-to-back games. Yes, their defense looked porous after Dudar left with an injury but the team went ahead every time Houston tied it up. That’s good resiliency.
5. Vancouver Whitecaps (5): Good teams beat bad teams, which may sound stupidly simplistic but is a good indicator of quality. Vancouver kicked Columbus while they were down, maybe not in the most attractive way but effectively. The Lee Young-Pyo goal may have been the best of the year so far.
4. Real Salt Lake (4): They may be the most exciting team in MLS due to their heart-stopping games. They got another late winner against an inspired but less-talented team.
3. Seattle Sounders (3): Chicago could end up being one of the best teams in the East, so this is a quality road win for the Sounders. And they continue getting healthier.
2. San Jose Earthquakes (2): The theme song for the team this week should be “Takin’ Care of Business” due to their hard-work victory over the Union.
1. Sporting Kansas City (1): The best team in MLS takes the week off to prepare for Montreal then the murderers row of at Chicago, at Colorado, and hosting San Jose.