Monday, October 3, 2011

The MLS Grinder: DC United's meek week

We begin our playoff madness with DC United this week. United had wild card nemesis New York's kryptonite entering the week: games played. With two in hand over New York and two games to play in four days this week, DC made up one of those in a Thursday tussle at Philly and then played Columbus on Sunday. The Union are doing their best to hang on to one of those precious automatic qualifier spots in the East, while DC sat a single point behind NY for the final wild card spot entering Thursday. Even a point from either of these battles works. Neither are gimmes, but if you're DC, points are precious now.

If United doesn't make the playoffs, look back at this past weekend as a primary contributor. On Thursday, Sebastian Le Toux flipped on beast mode in the first half, scoring two goals in the opening 15 minutes. DC, ever the resilient battlers, clawed back to 2-2 by half with goals from DeRo and Andy Najar. Then, well, Michael Farfan opened up his lunch pail and this fell out.

So DC is down but not out. Yet. That's a bullet turned into a blank, but there's still an extra one in the chamber to make up, so The Joker delivered a brief message before Sunday's away game at Columbus. It did not get home. Eddie Gaven, who'd just returned from two months on the trainer's table, got his head to this cross and spun DC's hopes of salvaging anything from the weekend right down the tubes.

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DC still has one in hand, but things are tighter now. DC's last three games are at home this year, but will that arrest the backslide? Keep in mind, New York has a rugged final three games - the Galaxy, at SKC and Philly, my pick for the next great MLS rivalry. Stay tuned, sports fans.

New York 1, Toronto 1: Yeah yeah, the Red Bulls continued to scuffle ahead of the playoffs and Danny Koevermans is scoring faster than a Lindsay Lohan court date, but what about Marquez?

Marquez, you'll remember, was handed a one-match ban for drawing the ire of the New York faithful by tanking terribly and throwing his teammates under the bus for not following. As I predicted, Backe backed down from further punishment with the playoffs peaking over the horizon and elected to start Marquez in a surprisingly defensive move. It did not pay off (surprise, surprise). Rafa played 79 mostly uneventful minutes as the Red Bulls trailed for 29 of those following yet another Koevermans goal. Marquez went off for Dax McCarty, NY's get in the DeRo trade, and it was McCarty's corner that set up this beauty from Thierry Henry in the 88th minute, saving a collapse against a non-playoff team that would've significantly damaged playoff hopes.

You can really only nod your head solemnly and mutter, "Heh, alright," quietly to yourself if you're TFC. If Vidic, Puyol or Hummels aren't about to stop that, neither are you.

The Red Bulls' point was vital. It allowed them to hang on to the final wild card spot, for now, by staying perfectly even with Portland on points (40) and games (31). The Timbers' lousy goal differential (-5) is what could keep them out of the playoffs, given that they can't win away from mighty Jeld Wen to save their lives...

Portland 1, Vancouver 0: ...unless they play in Vancouver. On the grand unveiling of BC Place. Oof.

First this.

Then this.

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Double oof.

Colorado 1, Dallas 0: How bad is FCD playing right now? Schellas Hyndman started wingers Brek Shea and Marvin Chavez in the same lineup for the first time since Aug. 27, FCD's last win, and they still couldn't muster a point. Or a goal for that matter. We have some franchise history to deal with here, and not the good kind: FCD has lost four straight 1-0 games and five more minutes of scoreless soccer will break the franchise record. They stand at 360 minutes without netting as we speak.

It's not as though the Rapids have been burning through the league lately either. Colorado hasn't won in the league since Aug. 13. That's 1-3-2 in the last six, for those keeping count. Yet the Rapids are still within shouting distance of FCD, just a point back with a game in hand. Keep in mind, everybody wants that top wild card spot. The team that takes it will face the Eastern Conference.

Best of the Rest

- Diego Fagundez, aka that 16-year-old kid that plays in MLS, scored again in a 2-1 loss to Seattle.
- Chivas is still alive? Chivas is still alive.
- Teal Bunbury is good. San Jose is not.

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- Will Parchman

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