MLS Week 2: What I Saw + Power Rankings

Just to keep current on my predictive powers, the guesses I posted Friday translated into a 3-3 result for the weekend, which takes my total to 6-7 on the season. Hey, I'll take it.

Moving on, now, to two things I know for sure:

- MLSLIVE.tv is fucking killer. It’s like the TiVo I can’t afford, but with a few more glitches. Sure my feed crapped out last night just before Chicago’s equalizer versus Colorado, but it was solid up till then and worked very well through some other games. But it also allowed me to skip and jump through the snooze-fest that was Columbus v. Real Salt Lake.

- If you don’t care about the knowing the score going in (I did, but now I know), forget the highlights you can find on the Video/Audio tab on MLSnet.com. Go straight to the Quick Kicks site. There, you’ll get better, more thorough highlights, you can expand the screen, pick and choose as opposed to watching the entire reel, etc. etc.

Seriously, MLS has worked friggin’ miracles in terms of making video content available online. If you demand more, you’ve either totally forgotten what things looked like just five years ago, or you’re just impossible to please...and thank God I’m not married to you because it wouldn’t end well.

Seeing as they’re all the rage, I’m joining the power rankings herd; this being my first edition, there are no previous weeks to track; and I’m going heavily on current form (with DC United standing as the exception). You’ll notice some entries are longer than others, which is a function of how much of my thinking came from direct observation. To be clear on how closely I observed the action, notes marked with a "@" come from games I watched (more or less) whole; "$" means I watched the “Quick Kicks” highlights, while "&" means I saw the rump highlights that come through the Video/Audio tab. Finally, for the record, I haven't read a stitch of anyone else's work in making this list...I love comparing notes, but want it to be an honest enterprise from my end.

Here goes:

1. Houston Dynamo ($): There’s a stink of luck about this team, but, like their famous win last year against DC United - the one that featured Ching’s “wunder-bike” - Houston seemed to give up a lot of ground to Chivas before scrapping for the winner. And a team can build a championship on that....God knows we shouldn’t have to watch it, but... Also, I can’t say when it happened in the game, but I would have sent off Eddie Robinson for one foul. Can’t wait for the next chapter in this series.

2. Colorado Rapids (@): What can I say? I’m starting to think these guys are fer real. How different might Sunday’s game have been? One Roberto Brown tackle - and it was pretty bad - and this intriguing game sputtered to the wrong kind of chess match. Boring, boring, boring. For all that, the Rapids showed some promising signs: good patience, good movement, fairly intelligent passing; teams are not going to get a lot through the Rapids center - they play hard there and foul a bit harder. One other note: I learned a couple things about Herculez Gomez against Chicago: 1) like the announcer said, that guy really needs to work on his left foot - he’ll be quite effective if he can deliver a cross from the line; he’s looking like a steal right now, what with being tied with Cunningham and Taylor Twellman at the top of the scorer’s chart (any others?). And, if you haven’t seen Gomez’ goal, that’s your goal of the week.

3. Chivas USA ($): One half the participants in what looked like the clear game of the week, Chivas looked to have seriously threatened Houston’s goal throughout the game. Perhaps the fact that the Quick Kicks highlight reel once read Chivas USA 1, Houston Dynamo 0 says something about how close Chivas came, not to mention how often. Still, they lost and on a good goal from Brian Ching. All in all, though, if Chicago is the semi-stretch I got right in preseason, early indications tell me that Chivas might be the one I got most wrong.

4. New England Revolution ($): Twellman took both his goals so very well, didn’t he? Even if Toronto’s (anonymous for me) defender totally blew the marking on T-n-T’s second goal, putting that away as he did still took some doing given how deep he was. Good as Twellman was, the happier signs came with the supporting cast: Steve Ralston looked three years younger than he is; Dorman buzzes around to nice effect, Adam Cristman showed some sharpness in setting up Twellman’s first and drawing the penalty, and, call me a sucker, but I think I see something fairly special in Wells Thompson; did the Nicol draft-day genius work again?

5. DC United(&): Holy ugly shit. Can we call Facundo Erpen a full-time liability now? Judging by the way his teammates glared at him after that first goal, I’m thinking the thought crossed their minds. The funny thing: Joshua Gros, one of the guys who looked to be shooting the sharpest daggers Erpen’s way, his stumble produced Kansas City’s second. Put another way, this was a painful, team collapse. So what’s going on with DC? They pulled themselves back in - and Luciano Emilio’s goal was a peach, especially the way he controlled the ball in; Christian Gomez’ struck me as fluky - only to repeat the two-goal collapse in the second half. Who’d a-thunk the overwhelming preseason favorites would start 0-2-0? And this one was at home and after resting up. I’m still pegging them high - maybe higher than I ought - but one more loss and the crisis in confidence becomes a straight-up crisis. And they’ll drop a mile on this chart at least.

6. Whoopin’ and Hollerin’ in KC (&): Eddie Johnson: Player of the Week. I never thought I’d write that phrase again, but I don’t know how one avoids it - not unless Twellman gets it (and he’s probably in with a shout for Goal of the Week too). It was very hard to judge this game from the puny highlights alone, but this was an interesting win - and I suspect it was less comprehensive than it looked on the scoreboard. Still, Kansas City + a reborn Johnson spells trouble for the rest of the league. This is a bit of a soft ranking for them; can’t wait for their next game.

7. Chicago Fire (@): These guys deserve the lion’s share of the blame for rendering Sunday’s contest borderline unwatchable - and I couldn’t fast-forward through this one, ‘cause I caught it live. The quality of their equalizer - Rolfe, I think, to Barrett, who managed a tidy, five-hole finish on Bouna Coundoul - somewhat made up for the tedium that came before...but only somewhat. They labored to very little effect to that point and turned in the most undeserving result I’ve seen so far this year - though I have to confess I didn’t see their win against the Revs. I’m thinking I pegged this team correctly in my preview.

8. Red Bull New York (&): Anyone else tempted to chalk up this win to Clint Mathis? No? Didn’t think so. Still, good to see the man in position to score the kind of tap-in amateurs like to do on the pool table: slam that fucker home, right? Frankly, I never thought I’d name three Red Bulls as having scored goals in one game unless one of them was an own goal. The opening header, which I assume came from Josmer Altidore (couldn’t rightly say; as I said, I haven't read a thing) stood as the peach of the bunch, though Dave Van Den Bergh’s clean-up goal looked all right as well. For all that, I’m not really surprised they beat up on Dallas, a team that must be dead-tired this morning.

9. FC Dallas (&): The nightmare of being on the wrong side of a 3-0 scoreline aside, I’m guessing Dallas is pleased to have four points from nine on this devilish opening road trip. At least they looked all right against LA, right? Well, so long as you stress the “all right,” that is. Put another way, I’m not surprised a team knocked three goals past FCD; I’m just surprised it was Red Bull. That defense remains too serious a concern to ignore.

10. Columbus Crew (@): Watching the Crew work the ball out of defense and through the midfield is pretty impressive. Schmid has his side playing quite well all things considered: the whole team moves off the ball well, the players get their heads up and, generally, make smart passes. This holds up to the top of the opposition’s penalty area then...then...I’m not quite sure what happens, but I know it bears a strong resemblance to nothing. Swear to God, these guys are a quality striker away, but that’s a major hurdle at this point. Based on the first two games of the season, Jason Garey ain’t it. In fact, he was pretty awful on Saturday, but the team played some clever balls in - especially Grabavoy. But a win feels farther away this week than it did last.

11. LA Galaxy (@): I made more extended observations on LA (and Dallas for that matter) after the Thursday night game. If these guys’ defense doesn’t hold together, they’re in for a LONG season with the way their offense is playing.

12. Real Salt Lake (@): How lonely did Jeff Cunningham and Mehdi Ballouchy look versus Columbus? I counted at least two occasions where his teammates sent Cunningham the ball deep in Columbus’ half and, for the life of me, they left him there to score on his own; the support never came or it came late. Apart from him, only Ballouchy looked active or effective. Having missed the line-ups, I wasn’t sure Freddy Adu was out there till a good distance into the game. At least RSL’s defense looked better - though, given Columbus’ final third offense, it didn’t take much.

13. Toronto FC ($): Consciously or not - and I think it’s the latter - these guys seem built on a dangerous premise: having their offense score more than their leaky defense lets in. This works for Brazil, but with Toronto’s offensive output relying on long-range bombs from Alecko Eskandarian and Edson Buddle stumbling into the penalty area, it’s clearly time for Plan B - which really, really ought to include playing 8 guys in front of their goal till they get the defense sorted out. Will these guys be Chivas ’05 bad? I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility.

4 comments:

Michael said...

While I enjoy your power rankings very much, I must issue a token comment for your complaint box: The Wizards beat DC United 4-2 AWAY coming off a bye week while DC has now garnered a total of 0 points from two games.

What more could KC have done to win your favor? What less could DC have done for you to kick them out of the top five?

The Manly Ferry said...

Michael, you brute...(seriously, totally fair comment).

To be honest, I'm not sure my answer to this will satisfy anyone. But here it is, anyway: I made the call solely to avoid getting carried away with one result. There was also the fact that I saw only the highlights of this one, which made me more cautious still (though, based on later reading, that seems like a mistake).

Going from the other side, I think I'm still hanging on to preseason expectations; everyone thought DC would be a power this year, myself included. Even as I raised flags about the defense in all the previews I did, there's something giving me pause about writing off DC too early. I actually wrote the comment in the preliminaries about DC United - e.g. them being the exception to "leaning heavily on current form" - immediately after placing them fifth.

So, as I said, I don't think I can justify this call. It's part gut-reaction, part caution. For the record, though, I'd really enjoy seeing DC crash - no offense to them or their fans; it's just a better story. And, as a national team fan, I'd LOVE to see Eddie Johnson take off.

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