1. There is no great team in the MLS this year. At least, not yet. Probably the best team so far has been Kansas City, but they were predictably thumped in LA by the Galaxy in their second match this week and just aren’t scoring as many goals as their domination suggests they should. The Galaxy will be helped out by Landon Donovan’s return to fitness, but don’t look as dominant as last year yet. Dallas and Montreal are probably the two surprises of the season so far, but does anyone expect either to win the MLS Cup this year? That’s what I thought. Houston are as bad away as they are good at home. Meanwhile, last year’s playoff teams like New York, DC United, Chicago, Seattle, San Jose, Vancouver and Real Salt Lake are all off to less than convincing starts. Will anyone step up?
2. Jack McInerney and Robert Earnshaw are the two best forwards in the league. It remains to be seen whether they will keep this up all season long, but McInerney (6 goals in 7 matches) and Earnshaw (5 goals in 6 matches) are scoring goals in bunches for teams that don’t necessarily create a lot of chances. Earnshaw in particularly has been a revelation (or as much as a guy who has scored double figures in the Premier League and has 164 total in England can be a revelation) in his ability to create something out of nothing for Toronto. Meanwhile, Robbie Keane and Chris Wondolowski, who combined for 49 goals in all competitions last year, are blowing chances more often than they’re scoring, and their teams are struggling in attack as a result.
3. Ben Olsen could be the first coach to lose his job. Do I think he will? Well, MLS teams tend to be a bit more patient with their managers than their European counterparts (See Toronto and Winter, Aron). However, with United’s start this season – 1 win in 7; 17th in goals scored; but perhaps more importantly, a string of dreadful performances to go along with their results – it wouldn’t be too shocking to see Olsen either get dismissed or just resign. It’s hard to say what’s wrong with this team. The defense is experienced; they have experienced stars in Dwayne DeRosario and Chris Pontius; and they were one of the best teams in the MLS last year. Clearly the blame for the start can’t be laid solely at the feet of Lionard Pajoy – as terrible as he has been, he is the team’s leading scorer. If something doesn’t happen too soon, the Olsen tenure could be over in DC.
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood
As someone who is more or less a neutral when it comes to MLS teams – I vowed to support whatever team is closest to wherever my job is located after graduation, I’m always amused by MLS offseason transactions. Sure, there are always a bunch of Colombians signed, and the odd designated player no one has heard of who is doomed to play 12 matches and then sign with some mid-level team in Paraguay. But the thing I am always struck by is how many stunningly mediocre MLS vets continue to get signed by new teams – probably at or near their already exorbitant wages. Here are a few examples:
John Thorrington (MF, DC United). Previously played for: Chicago Fire, Vancouver Whitecaps. When Thorrington was younger, he was a serviceable winger, but now he’s 33. Last year, Thorrington made $170,000, which is more than All-MLS defender Young-Pyo Lee or up-and-coming midfielder Gershon Koffie made for the Caps – heck, it was almost four times the amount San Jose paid Steven Beitashour, one of the best players in the league. For this salary, Thorrington contributed one assist in 19 games – which was an improvement over the previous year. In the last 7 years, he’s made 89 appearances total. He probably didn’t sign with DC for $170,000, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the figure was still over $100,000.
Maicon Santos (F, Chicago). Previously played for: Chivas USA, Toronto, FC Dallas, DC United. I get the attraction with Santos – he’s big, he’s Brazilian, he occasionally scores goals in bunches. Unfortunately, as his previous four MLS employers have found, when he’s not scoring goals – and let’s face it, 21 in 88 matches does not count as prolific – he does little else. Don’t worry, Fire fans, based on his past history, it’s doubtful he’ll be with the team by the time the playoffs roll around. I’m going to guess and say he’ll be with Columbus. Here’s a video of Maicon Santos in action.
Eric Brunner (D, Houston). Previously played for: New York, Columbus, Portland. At one point Brunner was seen as a rising star in U.S. soccer ranks, but two seasons in Portland exposed him as a lightweight (despite his height) central defender who doesn’t move particularly well and struggles at set pieces. On the bright side, it’s hard to see him displacing Hainault and Boswell in the Dynamo defense, so as long as they stay healthy …
Chad Barrett (F, New England). Previously played for: Chicago, Toronto, LA Galaxy. Oh, Chad Barrett. Perhaps it’s his Wayne Rooney-esque stature that keeps getting Barrett jobs, because it can’t be his goal-scoring. Barrett’s two-year stint in Los Angeles saw him score 8 goals in 45 matches – and that’s with the likes of Donovan, Juninho, Beckham and Keane supplying him. For this, he was paid more than $250,000 each year. By way of comparison, Alan Gordon, who scored 13 goals in 23 matches for San Jose, earned $120,000. With his average of a goal ever five matches and joining a Revs team without LA’s firepower, he’s got to be at least good for 2 or 3 this year.
Dan Gargan and Ty Harden (D, San Jose). Previously played for: Colorado, Chivas USA, Toronto, Chicago (Gargan); LA Galaxy, Colorado, Toronto (Harden). After earning the MLS Supporter Shield last year for best regular season record, apparently Earthquakes execs decided they wanted no part of success this year by signing two players that are undeniably among the worst regular starters (though in fairness to Harden, his time as a regular starter has rapidly faded) in the MLS. I don’t have much in the way of stats to support this argument, except to say that both played regularly for Toronto in the last two years.
Good luck, MLS fans!
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer
Montreal 2 Portland 0. Montreal scores two late goals, one through a fairly harsh handball call and the subsequent penalty from Bernardo Corradi, and the other after backup keeper Joe Bednik failed to deal with a Davy Arnaud cross and Sinisa Ubiparipovic scored. Montreal dominated the match, which has prompted me to do a writeup on the Timbers’ struggles, which I’ll post some time this week. Hopefully today. Prediction: 1-1
New York 1 New England 0. Thierry Henry scores his league-leading ninth goal, then goes off injured, and against all odds the Red Bulls keep a clean sheet. Who knew? I didn’t watch this match – sounds like I didn’t miss much, but Red Bulls fans have to be happy that the team’s ongoing defensive miscues came to a halt, however temporarily. Prediction: New York 3-2
Philadelphia 1 San Jose 2. Steven Lenhart scores two goals off headers, one late in injury time, to help San Jose overcome a Gabriel Gomez equalizer in the 83rd minute. The second goal came off a nice bit of juking from Marvin Chavez before crossing – amazing what he can do when he’s not flopping to the ground like he’s been shot. The Union didn’t actually play too badly, which makes you worry about the safety of Piotr Nowak’s job, if they keep losing, since he was suspended for this match. Prediction: San Jose 2-1
Columbus 0 Vancouver 1. A dreadful match is won on Lee Young-Pyo’s free kick, which was either meant or accidental, depending on who you talk to. Columbus dominated possession, but failed to score, which leads me to believe that either the Whitecaps defense is great (it is good, though), or that Vargas is the second coming of Andres MenD’oh!za in the penalty area for the Crew. Prediction: Columbus 2-1
DC United 3 Houston 2. A fairly-barnstorming match where Dwayne DeRosario gets his firsts goal of the season, Maicon “Maybe I’m Not As Worthless As Jeremiah Always Says” Santos scores twice, including the winner, and United win two matches in a row for the first time since 2010. Will Bruin scored twice for Houston, the second one being basically bobbled into the net by DC keeper Joe Willis. Is it time to get Bill Hamid back in the starting lineup? Prediction: DC 2-0
Chicago 1 Seattle 2. Despite the Fire being the better team for most of the match, Seattle takes the lead through an Arne Friedrich own goal (What? MLS awarded an own goal? Heresy!) before Eddie Johnson’s head probably exploded with the realization he had put the ball in the back of the net. Celebrate it, Seattle fans, because it might not happen again in 2012. Chicago pulled one back after a Marco Pappa scored with his corner kick – not intentional. Seattle is a good team, so Chicago fans need not worry too much about this loss, it’s just every other loss or draw they should worry about. Prediction: 2-2
Colorado 4 Chivas USA 0. Finally Chivas back up all the complaining I constantly do about how bad they are with a performance that lives up to expectations. The Rapids got second-half goals from Tony Cascio, Kamani Hill (two) and Jeff Larentowicz, and probably could’ve scored six or seven. My analysis isn’t totally accurate, actually – the teams were fairly even in the first half, but the second half was a nightmare for Chivas. For Colorado, Conor Casey finally got into a game, which has to have Omar Cummings breathing a sigh of relief. Prediction: Colorado 3-1
Real Salt Lake 3 Toronto 2. I actually felt a bit sorry for Toronto after this match, because they were decent and probably deserved a point. TFC only made one horrible glaring defensive mistake to give up a goal, which is a step in the right direction. And sadly, this performance probably gave Aron Winter a couple more weeks as manager, which means they could start the season 0-0-10. Oh, goals were by … *looks at stats* … for RSL, Kyle Beckerman, a Richard Eckersley own goal and Johhny Steele (the winner in injury time). For Toronto, Eric Avila had a great match, scored and hit the post, and Donnell Henry also scored . Prediction: RSL 3-0
LA Galaxy 1 Dallas 1. Pat Noonan (What? He’s still alive?) scores a late goal for the Galaxy to give them a point. Brek Shea scored the first goal on a penalty. A dull match. I don’t think the Galaxy are even in first gear yet, just puttering along in neutral down a slope. Luckily, the MLS’s “Everyone makes the playoffs” policy will probably see them slide in at No. 8 or something. Prediction: 2-2
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer
All times Pacific, as usual.
Montreal (1-2-5) v. Portland (2-1-4). (11 a.m.) The Impact are looking for their second win of the season against a Portland team that ended a four-match losing streak last week by beating first-place Kansas City. Montreal play decent football, but give away too many fouls and are struggling on defense. Portland haven’t played too bad this season, but have given a few bad goals away late in matches. A win in this match would get Portland back in the playoff hunt. Prediction: 1-1
New York (3-1-3) v. New England (2-0-4). (12:30 p.m.) The Red Bulls come into this match after giving up four goals to DC United last week in a horrendous defensive display. They’re still missing Teemu Tainio, Roy Miller, Rafa Marquez, Wilman Conde and Juan Agudelo (who probably wouldn’t be playing anyway, but still) to injury or suspension. Which means that the Connor Lade-Marcus Holgersson-Victor Palsson-Stephen Keel (if he’s fit) defensive nightmare gets another match to show they’re not as horrible as they’ve looked. New England have looked good at times this year, but don’t yet know how to win. I think they’ll struggle to stop New York. Prediction: New York 3-2
Philadelphia (2-1-3) v. San Jose (5-1-1). (4 p.m.) The Union got three points last week against Chivas USA, but did it despite having two players (and coach Piotr Nowak) sent off and not necessarily playing well. San Jose have been the best team in the Western Conference so far. Missing Gabriel Farfan and Keon Daniels, I have a hard time seeing Philadelphia putting together enough in attack to win this match. Prediction: San Jose 2-1
Columbus (2-1-3) v. Vancouver (3-2-2). (4:30 p.m.) The Crew, who haven’t won their last three matches, take on Vancouver, who returned to winning ways by beating Dallas (somewhat fortuitously, I should say). The biggest problem the Crew have had so far this season is their defense. Julius James has yet to play a match, and Carlos Mendes, who would probably be James’ replacement, has also been injured. The Whitecaps still aren’t scoring goals, but they’ve been mostly solid on defense. Prediction: Columbus 2-1
DC United (3-3-2) v. Houston (2-2-1). (4:30 p.m.) United haven’t lost in their last six matches, but still have yet to win back-to-back games. Since 2010. This is actually a pretty good chance for them to do just that. Houston have been playing reasonably well, but are winding up their 7-match away streak to start the season, so will probably be a bit tired. Prediction: DC 2-0
Chicago (2-2-1) v. Seattle (3-1-1). (5:30 p.m.) After a fairly easy stretch of matches to start the season, the Fire get their hardest match of the season so far, taking on the Sounders, who just had a week off. Chicago might have Chris Rolfe playing again, which might help out their struggling attack. The Sounders will probably have Mauro Rosales back, at least for part of the match, which bodes well for them. Prediction: 2-2
Colorado (3-0-4) v. Chivas USA (3-0-4). (6 p.m.) If you went strictly by statistics, you would note that Chivas USA are 3-0-0 on the road so far this season, and are taking a Rapids squad that lost their last home match, to the Galaxy. However, doing so would ignore the fact that Chivas aren’t very good, and can mostly attribute their road success to the fact they are decent defensively and have gotten a bit lucky on the road. Colorado should have Conor Casey back, which has to be a relief for Omar Cummings, who has had to play up front with the likes of Andre Akpan for the last year. Yeesh. Prediction: Colorado 3-1
Real Salt Lake (5-1-3) v. Toronto (0-0-6). (6 p.m.) After two losses and a draw in a 3-game road trip, RSL return home to take on the league’s worst team. Toronto manager Aron Winter keeps talking about how they’re just about to turn it around, but they keep losing. It’s hard to see that changing in this match, even if they play well. I feel like I’ll say this every week until Winter is fired, but I’m amazed he hasn’t been fired yet. Prediction: RSL 3-0
LA Galaxy (3-0-3) v. Dallas (3-2-3). (7:30 p.m.) Back-to-back wins almost has the Galaxy starting to look like the defending champs. They’re still fairly bad defensively, though, and only Robbie Keane seems to be that interested in the attacking end. Dallas have played well lately, but the injuries are starting to pile up. Prediction: 2-2
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer
All times Pacific, as usual.
Toronto (0-0-5) v. Chicago (1-2-1). (12:30 p.m.) With apologies to TFC and Fire fans, this is another scintillating game of the week for NBC. At this rate, they’re just going to cancel their contract with the MLS. At least the Philly-Columbus match turned out to be a decent one. Or at least I hope so – I didn’t watch it. What was I talking about here? Oh yeah, Toronto hasn’t won yet; The Fire are still in their jammies, waiting for the season to start. Prediction: 3-3
Columbus (2-0-3) v. Houston (2-1-1). (4:30 p.m.) Columbus aren’t as bad as their record (or their ranking, for that matter) suggests, but they’re always one (or sometimes, two or three) mistakes from Eric Gehrig from a loss. It’s hard to judge Houston, who are still on their 7-match road trip and had two weeks off before last weekend’s 1-1 draw in a match shortened because of lightning. Prediction: 1-1
Colorado (3-0-3) v. LA Galaxy (2-0-4). (6 p.m.) Kudos to MLSsoccer.com for resisting the urge to bump the Galaxy up to 4th in their rankings just because they labored to their second win of the year. Colorado have been weird this year – they’re playing nice football, but haven’t created much at all in the way of goal-scoring opportunities, particularly on the road. This match should be a good way to evaluate the comparative strength of both teams. Until LA comes up with a “we’re the defending champs, try and stop us” performance, I’m not picking them to win any more. Unless they’re playing Toronto. Prediction: Colorado 2-1
Vancouver (2-2-2) v. Dallas (3-1-2). (7 p.m.) The suddenly leaky Whitecaps defense takes on Dallas, who have played well their last two matches, but had to score late in both to get three points. The Caps might benefit from resting Eric Hassli, who has yet to score and blew an easy chance against Kansas City on Wednesday. Prediction: Vancouver 2-1
San Jose (4-1-1) v. Real Salt Lake (5-0-2). (7:30 p.m.) RSL’s tour of the MLS’s best continues with a trip to San Jose to take on the Quakes, who have been improving every week. San Jose have been playing nice football and creating a lot of chances, which always bodes well when Chris Wondolowski is lurking in the penalty area. You have to wonder when they’re going to slip up, though. Prediction: 1-1
Portland (1-1-4) v. Kansas City (7-0-0). (7:30 p.m.) I actually think the Timbers, who have lost four in a row, have a chance in this match. They’re taking on the league leaders, who have yet to drop a point, but KC aren’t going to go 34-0 (or however many matches MLS teams are playing this year), AND they played in midweek. So anything can happen. Kansas City are lethal on special teams and rarely allow the opposing side any shots at goal, which is a good way to win matches in this league (or any other league). Prediction: 1-1
Chivas USA (3-0-3) v. Philadelphia (1-1-3). (7:30 p.m.) Another barnburner, this, between a team that can’t win at home (Chivas) and a team that has yet to win on the road (Philly). At least of the two teams, the Union have scored a goal away – Chivas hasn’t even scored at home yet. I’ll pass. Prediction: 0-0
DC United (2-3-2) v. New York (3-1-2). (3 p.m.) Despite picking up four points the last two matches, United didn’t play particularly well in either, which was especially disappointing against Montreal. New York is missing Rafa Marquez through suspension, but far more harmful for the team will be the absence of Wilman Conde and Teemu Tainio, both of whom are injured. It’s hard to count the Red Bulls out the way they’ve been scoring goals, but they might be missing too many key pieces to keep DC from scoring. Prediction: 2-2
1 – 1. Sporting Kansas City (7-0-0 – 21 pts, 12 gf, 2 ga). This week: Beat Vancouver 3-1; Beat Real Salt Lake 1-0. KC looked uncharacteristically shaky once Vancouver scored in their 3-1 win Sunday, but still held on. Aurelien Collin might be the league’s most dangerous player on set plays. Up next: At Portland on Saturday
2 – 2. Real Salt Lake (5-0-2 – 15 pts, 11 gf, 5 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 to Sporting Kansas City. Despite the loss to KC, RSL showed enough to keep them as a favorite for the MLS Cup. Next up: A trip to the surprise package of the season so far, San Jose. Up next: At San Jose on Saturday
3 – 3. San Jose Earthquakes (4-1-1 – 13 pts, 10 gf, 4 ga). This week: Drew 2-2 with New York. After starting out the season as a long-ball team striking on the counter, the Quakes’ performance against New York was the first to establish that they can actually play some nice football. Up next: Real Salt Lake on Saturday
4 – 4. Seattle Sounders (3-1-1 – 10 pts, 6 gf, 2 ga). This week: Beat Colorado 1-0. After beating Colorado, the Sounders get a week off to hopefully get Mauro Rosales and Steve Zakuani closer to coming back. Up next: At Chicago on April 28
5 – 5. New York Red Bulls (3-1-2 – 10 pts, 16 gf, 10 ga) This week: Drew 2-2 with San Jose. The Red Bulls looked strong on the attack against San Jose, but were fairly well dominated in the second half, and will be without Rafa Marquez, who was suspended for three matches. Up next: At DC United on Sunday
6 – 6. Houston Dynamo (2-1-1 – 7 pts, 3 gf, 3 ga). This week: Drew 1-1 with Chicago. The Dynamo’s seven-match road streak continues with a trip to struggling Columbus, but at least Houston is more than half way through. Up next: At Columbus on Saturday
7 – 10. FC Dallas (3-1-2 – 10 pts, 8 gf, 9 ga). This week: Beat Montreal 2-1. Dallas has improved dramatically the last couple weeks, though a trip to Vancouver could be a challenge. Up next: At Vancouver on Saturday
8 – 8. Colorado Rapids (3-0-3 – 9 pts, 7 gf, 8 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 to Seattle. The Rapids have been playing nice football, but not creating chances. They must test LA’s defense in this match. Up next: LA Galaxy on Saturday
9 – 12. DC United (2-3-2 – 9 pts, 8 gf, 7 ga). This week: Drew 1-1 with Montreal; Beat New England 2-1. Up next: New York on Sunday
10 – 7. Vancouver Whitecaps (2-2-2 – 8 pts, 5 gf, 6 ga). This week: Lost 3-1 to Kansas City. After not allowing a single goal in their first match, the Whitecaps have conceded six in their last two. Up next: Dallas on Saturday
11 – 9. Chicago Fire (1-2-1 – 5 pts, 3 gf, 4 ga). This week: Drew 1-1 with Houston. You would think after last season’s awful start that the Fire had learned their lesson, but their intensity so far this season suggests that they haven’t. Up next: At Toronto on Saturday
12 – 11. LA Galaxy (2-0-3 – 6 pts, 8 gf, 9 ga). This week: Beat Portland 3-1. Despite a reasonably impressive scoreline, the Galaxy were somewhat lucky to grab three points against Portland. Colorado is a better team. Up next: At Colorado on Saturday
13 – 15. Chivas USA (3-0-3 – 9 pts, 4 gf, 4 ga). This week: Beat Toronto 1-0. Wow, Chivas really have three wins? Who knew? This team needs to start winning some matches at home. Up next: Philadelphia on Saturday
14 – 13. Columbus Crew (2-0-3 – 6 pts, 4 gf, 7 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 to Philadelphia. The Crew have been a disaster the last two weeks defensively. Will Erig Gehrig Gehrig their chances again this week? Up next: Houston on Saturday
15 – 14. New England Revolution (2-0-4 – 6 pts, 5 gf, 8 ga). This week: Lost 2-1 to DC United. The Revs are a work in progress, but at least it should be an interesting one. Up next: At New York on April 28
16 – 16. Portland Timbers (1-1-4 – 4 pts, 8 gf, 11 ga). This week: Lost 3-1 to LA Galaxy. Despite the rough stretch lately, the Timbers are far from the worst team in the league. Can they turn things around against the league leaders? Umm…not so sure. Up next: Kansas City on Saturday
17 – 18. Philadelphia Union (1-1-3 – 4 pts, 3 gf, 6 ga). This week: Beat Columbus 1-0. The Union are OK defensively, but arguably the league’s worst attacking team. Will the addition of new signing Kai Herdling help? Up next: At Chivas USA on Saturday
18-17. Montreal Impact (1-2-5 – 5 pts, 7 gf, 15 ga). This week: Drew 1-1 with DC United; Lost 2-1 to Dallas. The Impact have played well enough the last two matches to get six points, but unfortunately just grabbed one. Oh, expansion teams. Up next: Portland on April 28
19 – 19. Toronto FC (0-0-5 – 0 pts, 2 gf, 10 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 to Chivas USA. Operation Save Aron Winters Job continues with a home match against the Fire. What defensive player’s error will give Chicago three points in this match? Up next: Chicago on Saturday
So in two separate trades, DC United acquired Dwayne DeRosario from the New York Red Bulls and Brandon McDonald from the Earthquakes. The Red Bulls picked up Dax McCarty from United. I believe the McDonald trade was done for picks and/or allocation money.
I think it’s likely that United are starting to think they might have a shot at the playoffs. DeRosario adds some offense to the team, though you get the feeling no one loves playing with him too much. McDonald is much-needed on the defensive side of the ball, where DC definitely needs help.
From the Red Bulls’ perspective, maybe this will shore up their ball retention in midfield, or maybe they just needed less ego? I’m not sure.
By James Morgan
In a move sure to upset some supporters, the Portland Timbers traded 27-year-old goalkeeper Steve Cronin, below, to DC United on Friday in return for Troy Perkins.
Cronin, one of the first four players the Timbers signed to MLS contract, has played a leadership role on the team for the past two years of USSL First Division play and is a local favorite. Timbers Technical Director Gavin Wilkinson acknowledged that the trade was a difficult decision, but said that as a proven commodity at the MLS level, Tony Perkins “just made sense. You can’t have unproven players at one of the most important positions.”
Perkins, 29, below, played the last five years with DC United as well as with the U.S. National team. He has played 77 career MLS regular-season matches and was named MLS goalkeeper of the year in 2006. His record is 36-19-22, though he struggled with last-place United last year with a goals-against average of 1.68 per game, one of the worst in MLS.
For his part, Cronin will not be moving to totally unfamiliar territory as he played for DC United last year on loan from October until the end of the MLS season. Still, there are likely to be hard feelings about the trade in Portland among some of the fans. As one 30-year-old supporter said, “It’s a disgrace. I feel like he was one of ours, like he was family.”