Monday, June 27, 2011

The MLS Grinder: Blotting out the transgressions of the USMNT since '96

Mike Magee: Comic relief for cloudy days
In a sense, we are all still hung over from the great panic in Pasadena. It smarts. There is little else to do but accept the failure of the day and all its implications, push them aside and plow ever onward. Thankfully, we have MLS to turn to, which for now will be a welcome ointment for the Dos a Cuatro gash the Mexicans so brazenly left us with, bleeding profusely as they dance back across the border with a trophy that, such is its metaphorical and physical size, will reflect enough sunlight that those across the country who remember Dos a Cero will catch fleeting glimpses as a reminder of the scar.

There are pointed questions to be answered. Bob Bradley must turn some of his fledgling talent loose to club teams, not all of which are sure-footed situations, and must pray that the best of his talent can stiff-arm stagnation.

But for now, like a gust of the purest of winds, here comes MLS. Welcome back. It feels good.

Game of the Week
San Jose 0, LA Galaxy 0

Wait, what? A scoreless draw? You betcha! Thank God for Mike Magee.

The perspective on which category this belongs depends on which side of the Galaxy/Quakes divide you sit. Since I straddle the line, here it stays. Because getting a glimpse at little Mike Magee in goal was much-needed hilarity defined, and probably the MLS image of the week. 

The first domino fell when Donovan Ricketts snapped his arm in the 24th minute in his first game back from Gold Cup duty with Jamaica, and the second came in the 43rd when backup Josh Saunders was issued a straight red for elbowing Steven Lenhart in the face, an idea most of us have entertained at one point or another.

That forced little Magee to pull on Saunders' oversized jersey and hunker down between the pipes for the final 47 minutes. San Jose had trouble making Magee work, forcing the 5-9 midfielder to make just four saves - three after the 80th minute - despite being a man up.

Still. Magee told this to the LA Times earlier this week.

“I don’t even remember ever being in goal. Ever,” he said. “Maybe playing around to try and stop a penalty kick. But I’ve never really seriously tried to save a ball in goal. This was ridiculously random.”

And ridiculously fraught with tension. He had to make a few late saves, including a bullet-reaction kick save when Lenhart connected on an in-swinging corner in the 80th minute, which Magee went to ground on and awkwardly booted out. Despite the complete lack of style points, LA survived the bitter California Clasico on the road in front of a record crowd a man down for 47 minutes without dropping the full three points, kept alive their 10-game unbeaten streak to stay atop the league table and they get back a fuming, motivated Landon Donovan this week.

It's as though Magee watched the Gold Cup final and put on his funny pants to cheer us all up a tick. Thanks, Mike. Needed that.

- Best of the Best

Mwanga! (82nd minute game-winner at 6:22)

Not only was that a buttery-smooth finish, but it prompted the strangest post-goal call I think I've ever heard ("With no regard for humanity?!"). I'm going to start screaming it when I accomplish menial tasks, like completing a routine transaction at the bank and see what happens. "WITH NO REGARD FOR HUMANITY, this roast beef is expertly prepared!!!"

- Seattle has finally found a measured stride without Zakuani. Goals from Tyson Wahl and Alvaro Fernandez lifted the Sounders over the Revs, 2-1, to push the winning streak to three games and put some heat on LA in the West.

Wahl's sweet stroke was his first career MLS goal. Way to open your domestic account, bud. Have fun with the follow-up!

Worst of the Worst

- The league's brutish reputation took another hit when Conor Casey opened up another ear hole on the side of William Hesmer's face in Columbus' 4-1 victory over Colorado on Sunday night.

Ugly stuff. Casey to me has always been analogous to the prototypical American striker that populates so many MLS rosters. He represents qualities like industriousness without so much skill, work rate without the ability to channel it into more productive avenues. He is a good player without the ability of ever being great, which brings to mind more than a few MLSers.

To me, these qualities can make for dangerous conditions. Javier Morales and Steve Zakuani no doubt agree. It's like handing a child a blowtorch and telling him to go fix the garage door. There's a chance he gets it perfect. There's a better chance he brings the whole thing down on your car.

Casey's intent was doubtless not to reset Hesmer's jaw an inch to the right - his drooped head as he lay over Hesmer's contorted body is a dead giveaway - but then there goes that saying about the paving stones to hell resembling good intentions. Actions are what leave marks, and Hesmer's will be around for a while.

- Portland is beginning to crash back to the harsh realities of life as a first-year MLS franchise. The grind is catching up. If their 4-0 defeat to FC Dallas was a case where they "laid down and died," as John Spencer so eloquently put it, its surely no way to get back on track. Portland is so, so bad on the road.

- After a 1-1 result against New York on Sunday, Chicago has now recorded six straight home draws, a club record I'm sure few are excited about. In fact, I know they're not that jacked about it. Not when you're seventh in the Eastern table, have just two wins from 17 games and have a caretaker manager.

- Will Parchman

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