Here are the 10 things we learned from gameweek nine of the Major League Soccer season.
1. Sleepwalking in LA
Alan Gordon has, single-handedly netted LA somewhere around five of their 13 points this season. Without Gordon, who hit the 200 appearance landmark against Seattle earlier this year, the Galaxy are bottom of the Western Conference.
This is, for the moment, LA’s worst team since 2008 – one look at the Robbie Keane-less lineups of the last month makes that clear. And it’s a shame, because when the Galaxy are good, the league is better for it.
Of course, this isn’t LA’s first slow start – it isn’t really even a slow start to begin with – but long-term, the success of this team is much less assured than in the past.
Bruce Arena still appears to have no idea who to put next to Juninho in central midfield, Jose Villarreal’s progress has slowed, and Gyasi Zardes and the recently absent Keane look much more manageable without the incision of Landon Donovan.
Steven Gerrard isn’t a slam-dunk signing. His struggles with Liverpool in the last year have been well-publicized, and how he plays for LA – lying deep or playing in a more advanced role – is going to be a major point of intrigue over the second half of the season.
This is still the class operation of MLS, but as home draws like the one last Saturday against Colorado, and earlier this year against Houston show, the Galaxy aren’t scaring anybody right now.
2. American Revolution
New England is the league’s hottest team right now. They handed the New York Red Bulls their first loss of the season on Saturday at Gillette Stadium in a swashbuckling 2-1 win that was never as close as the final scoreline indicated.
They play with panache, they dance, and they’re almost all American – in fact, 10 of XI Revs starters against the Red Bulls are in the US pool. They’re managed by an American in Jay Heaps, and are putting their best run of the year together with their two best players over the last two years – Lee Nguyen and Jose Goncalves – uninvolved.
New England appears to be the early favorites in the East. How they’re winning is a model for everyone else in MLS.
3. What has happened to Graham Zusi
Sporting Kansas City got a big 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire on Sunday, thanks in large part to benching their starting goalkeeper for career MLS journeyman Tim Melia.