A look around MLS while waiting for Barcelona and Real Madrid to play again (and again, and...)
My computer ate my homework last week, which was a shame as that column included an epic prose poem to Frank Yallop and John Doyle congratulating them on their well earned contract extensions. These guys have delivered a playoff team on time and on (a severely limited) budget, and are well positioned for bigger and better headlines to come. Yes, the game in New Jersey showed there’s plenty of work to be done, but the ‘Quakes have built a solid core group, and still have a lot of salary cap room to play with in the next transfer window.
One thing we learned from the Red Bulls game: Thierry Henry may not be in the same form as the guy who scored all those goals for Arsenal, but he’s Determined To Make A Difference. The Red Bulls scored more goals Saturday than they had in their first four matches combined, and the game could have easily been 5-0 or 6-0. Not bad for a side that’s still learning to play together.
Tune in to Fox Soccer or Telefutura Wednesday for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Final in Monterey. How big is Salt Lake’s CCL run? This is the first time in ten years that a MLS side has reached the finals for the CONCACAF crown (LA won it in ‘00, DC won it in ‘98).
I’m not going to jinx Salt Lake by drawing attention to their impressive stretch of 34 home matches without a loss, dating back to May 2009. I will say that Salt Lake is for Real. First, they go to New England, sit seven (!) starters, and win, 2-0, then extend their perfect start to 4-0-0 against Colorado, aided by an off-sides call that wasn’t made. I guess the CCL isn’t so much of a distraction after all.
FYI, based on CONCACAF tournaments MLS isn’t the second best domestic league in the region. MLS is sitting third. Mexican teams usually take home the trophy, but clubs from Costa Rica have won the CONCACAF Champions Cup/Champions League three times since MLS joined the competition. Time for MLS to step up.
If you missed last Thursday’s televised home opener for Portland, too bad. The Timbers saw Vancouver’s dream franchise debut, and not only matched their 4-2 score line (beating Chicago), they raised them an a cappella national anthem and a chorus of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.” World class.
To show their opener wasn’t a fluke, the Timbers hosted another loud sellout crowd Sunday, took another 3-0 lead, and hung on for a 3-2 win over Dallas. Dallas almost came all the way back to tie it, but David Ferreira’s blast in stoppage time was deflected off the cross bar by GK Jake Gleeson.
Columbus drew less than 8,000 to see them beat the SporKCs 1-0, but with four straight shutouts the Crew are grinding out the points.
More trouble in Toronto. Saturday, TFC had their smallest crowd yet, 16,313, and did little to win any hearts and minds, going down 2-0 to DC after only 10 minutes, and finally losing 3-0. Charlie Davies scored his 5th goal for DC, best in the league.
Good teams find a way to win without their stars. LA was missing Donovan (hurt), Beckham and Juninho (suspended), and still won on the road in Chicago (Bridgeview) Sunday, 2-1.
The Galaxy’s roommates, Chivas USA, are first in line for Benny Felhaber, good news for a franchise which is currently the most under-performing side in the league. The headline in the LA Times after their dismal scoreless draw at home last week against Columbus was, “That’s not entertainment.” Their scoreless draw this week in Vancouver was another cure for insomnia, at least for the guys in red and white. The Whitecaps would’ve taken all three points but hit the woodwork a couple times.
Chivas USA’s next match is this Saturday at Buck Shaw. Remember, it’s an early start, a 1:00 kickoff. See you there.