MLS Week 14: Part the First

No collective power rankings this week; with the midweek schedule so fat and plentiful, all other schedules seem messy and sideways. Speaking of which, hope everyone had a good 4th of July. Like the schedule, mine was messy and sideways and dealt heavily with children, fireworks, and some locus of fear and admiration of the latter.

Amid all that mess - and a 94-degree day passed in an irresponsible mix of baking and gin - I managed to catch a couple games as well as all the results of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Week 14, Part One. Thoughts on those two games - and four teams - follow; I’ll also throw in the few thoughts I had on the other results.

Let’s do this chronologically...makes as much sense as anything, right?

FC Dallas 2 - 0 Chivas USA
- Is it just me, or is Dallas finally building a respectable home record? Nope, they’re actually doing it.
- I have to confess I checked out of this one early; Dallas had the lone goal and Chivas didn’t look much like scoring one as the second half dragged on. Needing to see Dallas’ second provided the excuse to watch the highlight reel MLS put together, a production that made Chivas look the better team. I didn’t quite see that in real time: Chivas certainly did create the better openings early, but this was a pretty tight game.
- Dallas eventually, and gradually, took the upper hand; maybe the heat played a role.
- Nice as it was to see Ramon Nunez again (I told that dude he was still alive...have to find a way to collect on that one) and he scored a peach, but the Dallas player I’m enjoying the most lately has got to be Arturo Alvarez. What he does well isn’t showing in the numbers, but he’s doing as much as any Dallas player to shake up the opposition.
- The same can’t be said for a lumbering, long-shooting Carlos Ruiz.
- The most remarkable thing about Dallas’ late form, though, is the improvement in the defense. I’ll be damned if that half-cobbled back four isn’t gelling.
- Or is that gelling only apparent? Did Dallas’ D simply benefit from Chivas’ road woes? Based on how well FCD’s team defense held up against Houston at the end of June, I’m inclined to call it real (and that goes double given the match report to follow).
- The couple openings Chivas found over the top aside, they turned in a pretty unremarkable performance.
- All in all - and I curse them for this - Dallas has me thinking they have a shot again. Dallas has come to the table bluffing so many times that all signs of progress or promise feel like more of the same. On the other hand, Serioux ought to help stabilize the back - and he’s coming soon - Cooper will be back before long, and they’ve got some Brazilian or another in the pipeline, not to mention two of the best foreign recruits in Juan Toja and Pablo Ricchetti. So, damn them, but I’m starting to think Dallas is fer reals again.
- As for Chivas...I’m still trying to get a good bead on them. My present opinion tells me there’s something missing....but what?

Houston Dynamo 4 - 0 Red Bull New York
- Gimme a second, here. I’m helping New York get Houston’s foot out of its ass...
- The emblematic moment of this game for me came at some undetermined moment, perhaps in the second half (damn, cheap gin), when Dave van den Bergh got stood up on Houston’s right, attempted and failed on a short series of fakes, then ended the play by, essentially, giving up and bouncing the ball of the Houston defender; I swear I could feel the lazy, baffled frustration of that kick through the screen.
- The big thing here: Red Bull cannot defend set-pieces...either that, or Houston is just that good on them (their performance against Dallas tells me they’re not). It was just atrocious. And maybe it was the (horrendously cheap, probably toxic) gin working/talking, but I swear I could see the Houston players slip away from their marks on each goal; I mean, you could just see the goals happen in real time, something I can’t normally do in a scrum of players. But, here, the gaps opened so wide.
- Defense aside - the steady collapse of which a blind man totally unfamiliar with soccer could see - something bigger afflicts the Red Bulls. They looked a mess going forward, just a patchwork of soft, wayward passes and dead-end movement off the ball. We’re talking serious misfiring.
- It makes you wonder if MLS’s New York franchise will butcher another reputation. The Bruce suddenly looks less like a genius.
- Speaking of which, I don’t get Markus Schopp. Why he’s starting over Dane Richards - who, the line-up tells me, never got on the field - I’ll never know. Schopp looks slow and grumpy, like a past-it athlete uncle at a family reunion who seems more interested in pointing out your short-comings and sweating than in playing the game.
- I’m a confirmed Clint Mathis whore, so take this with a grain of salt: I thought New York improved once Mathis came on. Then again, that could be a factor of Houston taking their boot off the Bulls’ necks.
- Speaking of Houston, that defense is seriously something. Provided they pick up chances at the other end and put ‘em away, Houston is looking like a powerful outfit again. The scarier thing is that no one particularly stood out; solid all 'round.
- Well, except Stuart Holden, but that’s only because he’s a rookie. Then again, when he scored Houston’s fourth, I bet I wasn’t the only one who thought, “Was that DeRosario?” On the other hand, I might have been (stupid gin....).
- What’s happened to Red Bull? Counting from June 2, they’ve gone 1-4-1 in league play - and, if memory serves, that one win was a fortuitous one against Toronto. Is it just the defense? After all, they scored ten goals during that stretch, which ain’t a bad haul. Whatever it is, they’re definitely yesterday’s darlings.
- On the other hand, since I read this, let the record show that someone (Ian Plenderleith, actually) talks more about Houston's success than Red Bull's failures in analyzing this game.

I only caught the highlights on the rest of these, so I’ll embed’s match reports under the scores...may as well give you something better than snark to read...

Kansas City Wizards 0 - 1 DC United
- OK, except this one. For some reason, the video didn’t want to work for this game. Here’s a question, though: why don’t I mind? Why does DC so utterly fail to interest me?
- Whatever I think, they’re doing pretty damn well.
- Anyone else get the sinking feeling we might end up with the final predicted in preseason: DC v. Houston? But I don’t wanna pull for Houston!
- Oh yeah, I should mention KC. Anyone have them pegged at #1 any more? More importantly, are they still playing pretty? They need something to redeem their recent, shaky run.

Colorado Rapids 0 - 0 Columbus Crew
- It’s games like this that make me thankful I dropped the Columbus Crew beat for The Offside.
- I genuinely pity anyone who feels compelled to follow Colorado in 2007. They could at least do you the courtesy of sucking outright.
- On the Crew’s side of the ledger, the highlights suggested they had the better of the game. Whether or not that’s the case, this isn’t a bad result for them...keeps the unbeaten streak going at least.

Real Salt Lake 1 - 2 Toronto FC
- Hey, Toronto picked up their first road win...sort of. was RSL. Does that even count?
- Seriously, does it? Let’s just say the jury on that one is still out.
- RSL, on the other hand, probably just reclaimed 13th spot in everyone’s rankings (except Dan Loney’s, that is).

Los Angeles 2 - 0 Chicago Fire
- I thought LA’s penalties looked suspect, particularly the second, which can be safely filed under “phantom." Turns out, I wasn’t the only one. You can file Ain Plenderleith’s column on those under “incensed.”
- Like Chicago needs more bad luck/bad vibes/bad play. Against that, though, the highlights didn’t record a single instance of the ball leaving Chicago’s half of the field....all right, maybe one instance, but that’s it.

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