Week 4: Big Wrap Before the End

Since I’m waiting on tonight’s game before knocking out the usual power rankings and things of that sort, I built on that break with tradition by reading as widely as possible on the past weekend’s action. I’ll pass on links for further reading and what commentary as occurs to me on Saturday’s and Sunday’s games below and will try to make the big picture coherent come tomorrow. And, as I like doing, I’ll mark the games I watched in their entirety with an asterisk.

Needless to say, it was kind of a wacky weekend - a notion captured in a series of more general wraps from MSM outlets and a few blogs. Before going to the individual games, here are some general wraps of Week 4 in Major League Soccer:

- Dan Loney looks at how the "champs of April" of seasons past ended up.
- Ives Galarcep sees an early trend of a "deeper, stronger" East.
- A general wrap of the week's action appeared on USA Soccer Spot.
- Ditto on Who Ate All the Cupcakes, who took some time after Saturday's game to catch his breath and take stock.
- WVHooligan weighed in with a pair: one a Saturday wrap, the other a mirror-image look to Galarcep's at the seemingly weaker West.

Turning now, to the games:

Toronto FC 0 - 1 Kansas City Wizards
As nearly everyone pointed out, BMO Field rocked for Toronto’s first-ever game; damn shame they rocked to a stale, painful tune - e.g. no goals, another loss, and so on. Still, giving up one goals instead of three or four must feel something like progress. The big news out of this one was Eddie Johnson’s (EJ) ongoing rehabilitation - even if that one needs a big asterisk given the teams against which he’s scored. Another concern is word of a hamstring “tweak” to Carlos Marinelli, who has been dang impressive so far. For all I see Kansas City near the top of the East, what applies to EJ applies to KC: it’s hard to put much stock in that 3-1-0- record when two wins came against Toronto and the other against a decidedly wobbly DC United.
Further reading:
-MLSnet.com match report
- Kansas City Star - report, which notes Marinelli's hamstring
- The Toronto Star's main report has it all, from talk of stumbles in singing the U.S. anthem, to holding up the game, to an overall ebullient opening day. That's seconded by another atmosphere piece.
- Down the Byline turned in a tidy match report on behalf of the blogoverse.

Columbus Crew 1 - 0 DC United
Dude - and I mean that on two levels. One “dude” goes to DC - as in, “Dude, what the hell is up with your team?” The second is more of a happy surprise - as in, “Dude, those three ties suddenly look pretty killer, seeing as you’re undefeated and all.” Put another way, three ties look a hell of a lot better rounded out with a win - which says “hard to beat, yet just dangerous enough,” as opposed, “can’t fucking score with a blind, randy octogenarian on ecstasy,” which is a possible message sent by three draws and a loss. Three loses on three games sends a message, too, and it’s something like the one sent by a person with two advanced degrees in engineering answering a question about what she does for a living by answering, “I work graveyard at 7-11.” In all seriousness, DC fans must feel about as low as possible after this one - and not because they lost to the Crew, who has really shown some positive signs this year; it’s more to do with things going wrong on both ends of the field, as opposed to only the defense.
Further reading:
- I plugged a lot of links into the summary/(blind) analysis I did for the Crew Offside, so you'll find several good bits over there.
- DCenters weighed in with a worried pair of offerings: one a debriefing, the other a considered explanation of why firing DC head coach Tom Soehn isn't justified. For the record, he is/they are right; it's only three games!
- Quarter Volley says plenty by writing less.
- Steve Goff over at the Soccer Insider turned in a pair of post-match pieces, one extended quotes from Tom Soehn, the other a series of quotes from DC personnel; on the second one, the points of interest come in the comments.

LA Galaxy 3 - 1 Chivas USA*
I found a great, one-paragraph on this game on USA Soccer Spot (link above). Here’s that:

"The Galaxy made the most of their chances and deserved their win. Chivas looked the better team much of the match but were missing something in the final third. Besides, Goalkeeping played a part with Joe Cannon saving several shots destined to reach the back of the net while Brad Guzan's mistake gave LA an easy first goal and his continued lack of confidence showed with tentative movement the rest of the match."

The reads, roughly, like the game I watched. Apart from a rickety opening ten minutes, Chivas commanded two-thirds of the field for two-thirds of the game; if you sat down an uninterested party to watch ten randomly selected minutes and didn’t show them the score, I’m guessing they’d tell you Chivas looked like the better team. But better possession and passing aside, LA played the sharper soccer when and where it counted and Galaxy ‘keeper Joe Cannon made it stand. My take-away from this: LA isn’t as bad as many have assumed, while Chivas isn’t as good; with the latter, especially, think of the games they’ve won (Toronto, Real Salt Lake) and think again.
Further reading:
- MLSnet.com match report
- LA Soccer News match report
- LA Times, match report, in which I learned of Guevara's meltdown, which I only just registered when watching the game.
- There's a great glimpse into the fevered mind of a Chivas fan posted on the Chivas Offside.
- Whereas on the LA Galaxy Offside, things look pretty sunny - especially where Donovan and Cannon are concerned.

FC Dallas 0 - 1 New England Revolution
This one proves very hard to sort out from the Quick Kick highlights and match reports, the latter of which, especially, speak of the game in contrary terms. The one thing everyone agrees on is that Dallas was visibly tired when they needed energy most - e.g. toward the game’s end, when they needed to press for an equalizer. That suggests this may not tell us as much about Dallas as one might think; there’s also much being made of Carlos Ruiz’s scoring rut, but his apparent hamstring issues leaves that one on the table as well - at least as I see it. On the other side of the field, I can’t shake the feeling New England is worse than their record. They didn’t sound all that impressive here, which matches games I’ve seen from Columbus to their opener against Chicago. But one who really is impressing? Taylor Twellman. That guy is playing his skin off. Fantastic stuff - well, for the right kind of people anyway.
Further reading:
- MLSnet.com match report, which notes the horrid attendance and Twellman's 14 goals from 12 games haul against FCD.
- Dallas Soccer News match report, hits on Dallas' fatigue.
- Dallas Morning News match report
- Boston Globe match report, plus a bonus feature on Twellman and general player notes.
- Boston Herald match report
- FC Dallas Updates features informative bullets for the discerning FCD fan.

Houston Dynamo 0 - 1 Chicago Fire*
Holy shit, this one was hard to watch. I spent half the time chasing my three-year-old all over the apartment and it still felt like an eternal midfield scrum. Credit Chris Rolfe for a well-taken goal - likely as not, it will be a goal of the week contender based on this week’s somewhat thin offerings - and credit Chicago with what looks like a formidably solid defensive shape. I mean, holy hell, these guys are hard to score on. When they face Red Bull later this season, the intensity of the boredom might be such that it stops time. Making it worse, with both teams doing so well, we’ll all feel compelled to watch the thing. As for Houston, what can I say? They’re off. I followed a link to my site from a BigSoccer message board, the author of which seemed to be jabbing me for calling Houston a paper tiger. The more I weigh that judgment, the more I feel I may have overstated the case. But they’re not doing much right now, either. So, Houston’s somewhere between paper tiger and good team; I can’t say where, but they need to win at some point or their quality on paper becomes academic.
Further reading:
- MLSnet.com match report
- Chicagoland Soccer match report
- Windy City Soccer match report - for my money, the best I've read
- Chicago Tribune match report, the first to remind me that Houston has scored only once in 2007.
- Houston Chronicle match report
- Chicago Offside, who admits his team won ugly
- WVHooligan, after watching the game, wondered briefly if Houston sucks.

And, again, I'm spent.

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