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Ratajczak's Weekend Wrap: A big step forward for MLS

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(Pete Ratajczak has covered American soccer since he was a wee lad covering the NASL and has twice served on the board of the Professional Soccer Reporters Association. Most often, he contributes match reports to Center Line Soccer, but this year he's going to provide some additional observations on the American game as often as his schedule allows. Happy to have you branching out, Pete! — Editor)

An un-comprehensive and un-objective look back at the weekend that was:

I liked the seeing the new Quakes get some minutes, and each addition brought some energy to the attack. Simon Dawkins is definitely not confused where the goal is, a nice change from watching Ryan Johnson, who just seems confused, period.

Welcome back Kari Stephenson. He almost tied in the game in the 73rd minute, jumping on a poor clearance and shooting from 25 yards. Rimando got only a piece of it, and was lucky the deflection didn’t find the net.

I read with interest the NY Times piece on a statistical analysis of MLS. Quoting here: “M.L.S. is a relatively low scoring and shooting circuit compared to the European leagues.” Nice to know the stats back up what my eyes plainly see. True story: Near the end of the first half Saturday, my computer went into “sleep” mode.

Listening to my recorded interviews post game, I stumbled upon the sound bites from the last Quakes home game, the 1-0 playoff loss to NY. I was hearing Chris Wondolowski stand and face the media and say how he should’ve scored and how disappointing the game was. He then, of course, went to NY and scored the decisive goal in San Jose’s upset 3-2 aggregate win, send the Quakes through to the MLS Cup semi-final. Will he bounce back the same way this Saturday?

Good news: Clint Dempsey scored his 10th goal of the year for Fulham Saturday, a left footed drive from the top of the arc, to become the first American to reach double figures in the Premiership. (Brian McBride twice bagged 9 for that same club.) Let this be a lesson to all those who claim college soccer programs can’t produce quality players; Dempsey played three years at Furman U.

Bad news: Stuart Holden, another of the wave of Yanks showing the world that American talent isn’t limited to goalkeepers, was stretchered off the Old Trafford pitch Saturday with a cut left knee, courtesy of a studs up challenge (a straight red card to Man United’s Jonny Evans). Holden will be out for some time and will miss this summer’s Gold Cup for the USA.

Vancouver opened their MLS existence in style, scoring four goals, two from Designated Player Eric Hassli and beating Toronto. Good crowd, good game. Joe Cannon watched it all from the bench.

Juan Agudelo’s goal to lift NY past Seattle was properly Major League. For any team owners out there wondering, “Should I really invest in my team’s academy, or just make a token effort?” look at this product of Red Bull Academy for an example of what the  ROI can be.

Good to see Charlie Davies score twice in DC’s home opening win. If you’re not rooting for Charlie’s comeback, you’re a have no heart.

The Sporks, a.k.a Sporting Kansas City, got off to a dream start, winning 3-2 on the road at Chivas USA. DP Omar Bravo, who’s the second all-time leading scorer for the real Chivas, scored twice. Delicious.

As for that terrible name and even worse team badge, my advice to the Sporting Kansas City brass: own it. Have a sense of humor. Go Sporks!  Personally, I would have told that design team to go spork themselves, but it’s too late to turn back now.

But seriously, folks, while all the attention is on the excitement and enthusiasm Vancouver and Portland are bringing to the league, another Big Step Forward for MLS is the investment in the heartland that the KC ownership group is making. KC opens the season with a 10 game road trip, while they put the finishing touches to Livestrong Sporting Park, which opens on June 9.