Monday, May 30, 2011

The MLS Grinder: 3 penalty kicks, 1 goal

Game of the Week
DC United 3, Portland 2

The images from this one are both strange and unbelievable. I'll let this bold officiating crew grab the mic for a second.

I mean... what? Hamid did come off his line twice, and I imagine that's a much easier call to make in Portland than in DC. But watching Hamid flip his lid not once but twice, Spencer gesturing wildly for Jewsbury to take the third kick, the DC sideline going volcanic after each successive re-do... just surreal stuff.

Seeing what we've already seen, it goes without saying that the game itself was an interesting one. United played without forwards Charlie Davies and Josh Wolff, both of whom missed starts with injuries. Blake Brettschneider and Joseph Ngwenya started instead. So rookie Perry Kitchen, with all his defensive sensibilities, stepped in front of a nice center and booted home the opening goal in the opening 15 minutes. The second half was pure madness, as Hamid lost his marbles for a moment and Diego Chara's handball -- which looked eight kinds of unintentional -- handed DC the goal to make it 2-1 not long after. Wolff's savvy chip with five minutes to go made it 3-1 before Portland put in a final goal and juuust missed a stoppage time equalizer from Jorge Perlaza.

Timbers supporters are not used to opponents breaching their Jeld-Wen castle walls, especially not a team that flew across three time zones to get there. It was Portland's first home loss all season, a remarkable feat considering the Timbers' status. Full props to United, which played open and free despite lacking Davies and Wolff for much of the match. Chris Pontius, who put away DC's penalty, played phenomenal, slotting away his second penno in as many matches as the team's second-leading scorer. He's having a year to remember.

Best of the Best

- Last week, a moment of panic swept through a few MLS meeting places when a few folks took a look at the league's goal-scoring trend, or lack thereof, and lamented fully. The goal numbers had dipped considerably. A goalless Sunday last week when both FC Dallas and RSL, a pair of suave attacking teams on their best days, both skated through with goalless draws was seen as a bad omen. For a league starved for attention, goalless games and flickering attacks are not good things.

Just goes to show how fast things can change. This weekend, a full 35 goals were scored across nine games, an average of nearly four goals per game. Only one team, New England, failed to find the net. That includes a six-goal thriller split evenly between Columbus and Chivas, as well as a 6-2 Philly win (that's right... six goals from the Union) in Toronto. Reports of the league's scoring demise have been greatly exaggerated.

- Pure class from Luke Rodgers on this pretty flick-on goal. An interesting story on this guy, too. Check it out here.

(I'll have to direct you to the Goal of the Week vid since I can't find it anywhere else, but it's the first one up).

Worst of the Worst

- A generous No. 1 this week goes to Teitur Thordarson, who was sacked today as the Whitecaps' boss. Former director of club operations Tom Soehn will take the reins for now. Goalkeepers coach Mike Salmon followed Thordarson out the door.

What led to Thordarson's ouster? On a baseline level, he was unable to replicate what John Spencer has done in Portland. Since opening with a 4-2 win over similarly misshapen Toronto on the first day of the season, Vancouver has lost five and drawn six matches. While Spencer has benefitted from more talent in Portland, he was able to keep the nucleus of his winning USL side together and graft in new pieces to fill holes. Vancouver's cohesion has been sorely lacking this year, and a few hard-luck draws probably makes the 'Caps seem a bit more wayward than they've been. Their -4 goal differential still isn't the worst in the league by a pretty defined margin. Was it a rash move? Premature, maybe? Perhaps. Considering all the factors, an enormous one being that speed bumps are expected among expansion sides, it seems a tad early to scuttle Thordarson's ship before it barely had a chance to exit the harbor.

The cruelest twist in this whole thing could be that it will barely register on Vancouver's sports richter scale. Something tells me this will be crowded toward the bottom of the sports page tomorrow. I think there's a Stanley Cup Finals series on or something.

Stefan Frei would like to forget all about this right here
- As we've touched upon already, Philly blasted six goals past Toronto last weekend. That was two fewer goals than the Union had scored all season... in 10 games. Now that Philly is firmly entrenched atop the East, they'll be impossible to ignore going forward, but I'm reluctant to place too much stock in the result seeing as the game was so sloppily played on both ends and Toronto is playing really, really poorly right now. When Philly comes out with its attack guns blazing against the league's best, it'll make a far deeper impression.

But anyway, this is the worst of the worst section, so we've got Toronto on the docket. Lots of ways to go here, but Stefan Frei took it on the chin this week, letting in a club-record six goals and doing his part to allow a double club record four-goal margin to stand.

Toronto isn't taking it easy on its Reds.

- Will Parchman

1 comment:

jon said...

After yesterday's game, the 2 hour drive home from Portland actually felt like a long drive home for the first time all year. But after some time to cool off it's hard to believe I could have been so disappointed to see us go 5/6 at home to start the season.