Sunday, April 24, 2011

The MLS Grinder

I feel like I've been doing a lot of introductions lately, but this is the last (for a while), I promise. This will open up the once-weekly MLS roundup, examining the sublime, the strange and the silly from the weekend's action. Let's get into it this week, shall we?

Match of the week
New England 3, Kansas City 2

I know, I know. The Revs and Sporting? Two of the least sexy teams in the league? For all things holy, Sporting gave Chad Ochocinco a trial.

Well, sure. But the story was New England's falling star. Because it may be back on the rise again. The Revs finished 13th in the 16-team table last year, but the most troubling figures were of the attendance variety. In concert with flagging game-day environs, New England finished 13th in attendance last season, a five percent drop from the previous year. Only five teams in the league posted losses.

On a baseline level, this was an entertaining game, as the Revolution came back from a 2-1 deficit in the second half to post the win in the final 10 minutes. Further beneath the skin, though, you saw a Revs team that in no way reflected its previously dire turnout and declining league posture. The biggest change seems to be Benny Feilhaber's introduction, which (surprise, surprise) has injected fresh life. Both Feilhaber and promising Danish striker Rajko Lekic made their home debuts in the win, raising the curtain on the Revs' immediate future. It seems pretty bright.

I'm not saying the Revs are title contenders just yet, but I think it's safe to put away that red flag for the time being.

Best of the best
- I must of course first draw your attention to Juan Agudelo's nutty goal in a 4-0 win over DC United. Shades of Messi, shades of brilliance, shades of... a future Davies/Agudelo pairing up top for the Yanks? Yes, please.

- Welcome back, Landon Donovan. His slow, injury-riddled MLS start? History, it seems. His fingerprints were all over LA's impressive 3-0 drubbing of promising upstarts Portland. His numbers: 2 goals, 1 assist, tons of Donovan-like runs and a very happy Bruce Arena. Donovan's first goal, a penalty kick he drew himself, was his first in 731 minutes of MLS play. If LA plays as well as they did in the first half, RSL has a legit foil in the West.

Worst of the worst
- A very serious No. 1 this week goes to Brian Mullan, who's moronic tackle in a 1-0 Seattle win over Mullan's Rapids on Friday wiped out Steve Zakuani's season. For the brave:

Did you hear that crack? Considering the former No. 1 overall pick is probably sidelined for the season, if not longer, both Seattle and MLS brass are feeling the sting from the loss of one of the most promising young talents in the league. A close second on the injury watch goes to David Ferreira. The defending MLS MVP fractured his right ankle, dealing a further blow to an FC Dallas team that was already suffering through a slow start. It's doubly unfortunate for FCD because when it was on, the Hoops' midfield was an example of the type of creative interchange so new to the league. Now without Ferreira and Dax McCarty of course, who is in DC, I'll be interested to see if Schellas scraps the Brek Shea at LB project to move him up the park. Seems to make sense.

- The San Jose Earthquakes. For the poor souls left rooting for this rag-tag bunch, buckle up. With just four points from five games, Frank Yallop called a team-only meeting after the Quakes committed the unforgivable sin of losing to Chivas USA 2-1 on Saturday. With a striker the caliber of Chris Wondolowski, you've got to expect things will get better before they get worse. But is there a worse fate for an MLS team than a loss to to the previously winless Fake Goats? We'll see.

This week, the debate seems to be whether or not the upcoming CONCACAF Champions League final second leg between RSL and Monterrey on Wednesday is the biggest game in league history. Whatever side you stand on, it's a massive test for a league that yearns for legitimacy and attention beyond its shores. The fact that it's within our borders can only help. I'm no RSL fan, but as a fan of the league, I'd love to see Kreis' boys pull it off, a doable task with aggregate even and a pair of valuable away goals in their pocket. Kreis is already on the board as a possible successor to Bob Bradley. What would a CCL crown do for those hopes?

- Will Parchman

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