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What We Learned This Weekend In The MLS

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.

MLS Power Rankings: March 4

1 (1) Los Angeles (1-0-0, 3 points). Beat Chicago 4-0. Mike Magee and the Galaxy announced they wouldn’t be pushovers sans Donovan and Beckham by thrashing the Fire. Now they deal with Champions League matches. Up next: Chivas USA on March 17

2 (2) Houston (1-0-0, 3 points). Beat DC United 2-0. Houston did what they were supposed to, beating a surprisingly defensive DC United. Next up is the Champions League. Up next: At FC Dallas on March 17

3 (3) Kansas City (1-0-0, 3 points). Beat Philadelphia 3-1. KC was a bit shaky initially against Philadelphia, but cruised in a dominant second half. Up next: At Toronto on Saturday

4 (6) Real Salt Lake (1-0-0, 3 points). Beat San Jose 2-0. RSL might have been a bit lucky that San Jose’s finishing was so poor, but the attack – particularly Joao Plata – looks good. Up next: At DC United on Saturday

5 (5) Columbus (1-0-0, 3 points). Beat Chivas USA 3-0. Since Chivas were arguably the worst team in opening weekend, it’s hard to give the Crew too much credit. They were very good, though. Up next: At Vancouver on Saturday

6 (17) Montreal (1-0-0, 3 points). Beat Seattle 1-0. The Impact could’ve been three goals up against Seattle in the first half, but will have to just settle for three points on the road. Up next: At Portland on Saturday

7 (11) Vancouver (1-0-0, 3 points). Beat Toronto 1-0. It wasn’t a vintage display from Vancouver against Toronto, but this still looks like a fairly solid team. Now for Kenny Miller to start scoring. Up next: Columbus on Saturday

8 (4) Seattle (0-1-0, 0 points). Lost 1-0 to Montreal. Perhaps their opener wasn’t a true indication of Seattle’s quality, but it was still disappointing. Up next: Portland on March 16

9 (12) Dallas (1-0-0, 3 points). Beat Colorado 1-0. A win is a win, but Dallas’s inability to put Colorado away in the second half was a warning sign. Up next: At Chivas on Sunday

10 (13) Portland (0-0-1, 1 point). Drew 3-3 with New York. Based on one match, the Timbers will be a fun attacking team that can’t stop anyone. Mikael Silvestre in particular had arguably the worst MLS debut EVER. Up next: Montreal on Saturday

11 (9) DC United (0-1-0, 0 points). Lost 2-0 to Houston. United were perhaps a bit unlucky to not leave Houston with a point, but they were surprisingly flat. Up next: Real Salt Lake on Saturday

12 (8) New York (0-0-1, 1 point). Drew 3-3 with Portland. What’s worse, giving up 3 goals at home or blowing a 2-goal lead on the road? Not sure, but the Red Bulls look all out of sorts on defense. Up next: At San Jose on Sunday

13 (7) San Jose (0-1-0, 0 points). Lost to Real Salt Lake 2-0. Uncharacteristically poor finishing from Chris Wondolowski and Mike Fucito … well, Wondolowski, anyway … was mostly to blame for the Quakes loss. Up next: New York on Sunday

14 (15) New England (0-0-0, 0 points). Didn’t play. Chicago on Saturday will either be a rude awakening for a young team or a good opportunity to take advantage of a struggling one (Chicago). Up next: At Chicago on Saturday

15 (14) Colorado (0-1-0, 0 points). Lost to Dallas 1-0. The Rapids were probably a bit unlucky against Dallas, but were sorely lacking a creative presence in midfield with Martin Riveros injured. And decent goalkeeping … Up next: Philadelphia on Saturday

16 (10) Chicago (0-1-0, 0 points). Lost to Los Angeles 4-0. The Fire probably aren’t as bad as this scoreline indicates, but wow, when you say “At least it wasn’t 5-0!” that’ s not the way a playoff team wants to start. Up next: New England on Saturday

17 (16) Philadelphia (0-1-0, 0 points). Lost to Kansas City 3-1. After a very good start against Kansas City, the Union were steamrolled. But, all things considered, they looked mostly OK. Up next: At Colorado on Saturday

18 (18)  Toronto (0-1-0, 0 points). Lost to Vancouver 1-0. As lacking as Toronto is in the squad department, they were well-organized against Vancouver. Not a playoff team, but maybe they’ll fight their way out of last place. Up next: Kansas City on Saturday

19 (18) Chivas USA (0-1-0, 0 points). Lost to Columbus 3-0. Well, based on one match, the Chelis’ experiment is an unmitigated failure. Let’s hope it gets better. Up next: Dallas on Sunday

MLS rankings: May 8

1 – 3. Seattle Sounders (6-1-1 – 19 pts, 11 gf, 3 ga). This week: Beat Philadelphia 1-0. The Sounders have been virtually flawless the last couple weeks, hence the jump up to first this week Up next: At Dallas on Wednesday

2 – 2. San Jose Earthquakes (7-1-2 – 22 pts, 21 gf, 11 ga). This week: Lost 2-1 to Vancouver. The Earthquakes weren’t bad against a good Vancouver team, but their defense is definitely their weak point. Up next: Chivas USA on Sunday

3 – 1. Sporting Kansas City (7-0-2 – 21 pts, 12 gf, 5 ga). This week: Lost to Montreal 2-0. More worrying than a home loss to Montreal was KC’s complete inability to muster anything offensively against an expansion team. Up next: At Chicago on Saturday

4 – 4. Real Salt Lake (7-1-3 – 22 pts, 18 gf, 12 ga). This week: Beat New England 2-1. Poor refereeing overshadowed a decent performance by RSL defensively with only 10 men. Up next: At Chicago on Wednesday

5 – 5. Vancouver Whitecaps (5-2-2 – 17 pts, 9 gf, 7 ga). This week: Beat San Jose 2-1. With the win against San Jose, can we finally call Vancouver elite? Not quite yet, I don’t think. Up next: At New England on Saturday

6 – 6. DC United (5-3-3 – 18 pts, 20 gf, 15 ga). This week: Beat Toronto 2-0. United get back on track at Toronto, but it WAS Toronto. Up next: At Houston on Saturday

7 – 9. New York Red Bulls (5-1-3 – 16 pts, 19 gf, 14 ga) This week: Beat LA 1-0. Two matches, two clean sheets? What happened to this team? Up next: Houston on Wednesday

8 – 8. Houston Dynamo (2-2-2 – 8 pts, 7 gf, 8 ga). This week: Didn’t play. Dynamo had their third weekend off of the season already and close out their season-opening road trip at New York on Wednesday. Up next: At New York on Wednesday

9 – 10. Colorado Rapids (5-0-5 – 15 pts, 15 gf, 12 ga). This week: Beat Dallas 2-0. It might have been mostly thanks to the two red cards, but the Rapids come back from a bad loss to get a big win. What’s next? Up next: At DC United on May 16

10 – 11. Chicago Fire (3-2-2 – 11 pts, 9 gf, 9 ga). This week: Beat Chivas USA 2-1. Can a win at Chivas get the Fire’s season going? Up next: Real Salt Lake on Wednesday

11 – 7. FC Dallas (3-3-4 – 12 pts, 10 gf, 14 ga). This week: Lost 2-0 to Colorado. Moments of madness from Daniel Hernandez and Blas Perez condemned Dallas to a home loss, but they didn’t look like winning before the sendings-off. Can they beat Seattle without the two? Up next: Seattle on Wednesday

12 – 16. Montreal Impact (3-2-5 – 11 pts, 11 gf, 15 ga). This week: Beat Kansas City 2-0. Based on their performance of the last two weeks, maybe the Impact can make it to the playoffs. They’re only another mid- to late-thirties Italian away! Up next: LA Galaxy on Saturday

13 – 12. LA Galaxy (3-1-5 – 10 pts, 11 gf, 14 ga). This week: Lost to New York 1-0. Congrats, Galaxy, you’ve officially dropped below an expansion team in the power rankings. Up next: At Montreal on Saturday

14 – 13. New England Revolution (3-0-6 – 9 pts, 8 gf, 12 ga). This week: Lost 2-1 to Real Salt Lake. The Revs were unlucky to come away from Salt Lake City with a loss, due to some horrendous ref’ing. Up next: Vancouver on Saturday

15 – 14. Columbus Crew (2-2-4 – 8 pts, 6 gf, 10 ga). This week: Drew 0-0 with Portland. I suppose a scoreless draw at Portland counts as a positive result for the Crew now, right? Up next: Dallas on Saturday

16 – 17. Portland Timbers (2-2-5 – 8 pts, 9 gf, 13 ga). This week: Drew 0-0 with Columbus. The Timbers’ play was much-improved against Columbus, but if they want to get back in the playoff race (and keep John Spencer in a job), they’re going to have to start winning games. Up next: At Houston on May 15

17 – 15. Philadelphia Union (2-1-5 – 7 pts, 5 gf, 9 ga). This week: Lost to Seattle 1-0. Kai Herdling looks like a decent signing at forward, but the Union just are not creating goal-scoring chances for him or Lionard Pajoy. Up next: New York on Sunday

18 – 18. Chivas USA (3-0-6 – 9 pts, 5 gf, 11 ga). This week: Lost 2-1 to Chicago. The last-second loss to Chicago must have been hard to take, but it was deserved. Up next: At San Jose on Sunday

19 – 19. Toronto FC (0-0-8 – 0 pts, 6 gf, 18 ga). This week: Lost 2-0 to DC United. Toronto is doomed. Seriously, why haven’t they fired Aron Winter yet? Up next: At DC United on May 19

MLS rankings: March 27

And you thought today wouldn't start off so sexy.

For once, MLSsoccer.com’s Power Rankings and ours relatively agree. That’s nice to see. I’m not trying to rhyme. Not a lot of huge changes in the rankings, though good performances by San Jose and Chivas USA have them moving up a little bit. With Sporting Kansas City and Seattle off to such good starts, the onus will be on the Galaxy to keep pace after a bye week. Luckily they’re playing the Revs.

1 – 1. Sporting Kansas City (3-0-0 – 9 pts, 6 gf, 1 ga). This week: Beat Dallas 2-1. KC grinds out a result, which is a good sign for a team hoping to challenge the Galaxy, who are kings of grinding out results. Up next: At Chivas USA on Sunday

2 – 3. Seattle Sounders (2-0-0 – 6 pts, 5 gf, 1 ga). This week: Beat Houston 2-0. The Sounders aren’t great at retaining possession, which is a bit surprising for what is clearly one of the top teams in the league. They do have enough weapons that it doesn’t matter, though. Up next: San Jose on Saturday

3 – 4. LA Galaxy (1-0-1 – 3 pts, 4 gf, 4 ga). This week: The Galaxy got a week off so Landon Donovan can concentrate on his real love: Crocheting. Up next: New England on Saturday

4 – 2. Real Salt Lake (2-0-1 – 6 pts, 5 gf, 2 ga). This week: Lost to Chivas USA 1-0. RSL never should have lost to Chivas USA, but they certainly weren’t helped out by Alvaro Saborio’s annual March dry spell in front of goal. Up next: At Portland on Saturday

5 – 7. Vancouver Whitecaps (2-1-0 – 7 pts, 3 gf, 0 ga). This week: Drew 0-0 with DC United. For a team having Camilo, Eric Hassli and Sebastian LeToux up front, the Caps have struggled to score. But they still have yet to concede a goal. Up next: At Philadelphia on Saturday

6 – 5. Houston Dynamo (2-0-1 – 6 pts, 2 gf, 2 ga). This week: Lost to Seattle 2-0. After their 2-0-0 start on their 7-match season-opening road trip, the Dynamo crash down to Earth at Seattle, though they weren’t dominated. If they can pick up another win on their travels, they’ll be well-placed for the playoff battle when they return home. Up next: At Chicago on April 15

7 – 11. San Jose Earthquakes (2-0-1 – 6 pts, 4 gf, 1 ga). This week: Beat Toronto 3-0. They don’t play beautiful football, but their defense is solid, and Chris Wondolowski is the best finisher in the MLS. And with a much deeper team this year, the Earthquakes have to think the playoffs are a very real goal. Up next: At Seattle on Saturday

8 – 10. Chicago Fire (1-1-0 – 4 pts, 2 gf, 1 ga). This week: Beat Philadelphia 1-0. It’s been a bit of an uneven first two matches for the Fire, but they have enough quality in the team that they shouldn’t fall apart like they did last year after starting 1-1-0. Up next: At Colorado on Sunday

9 – 6. Portland Timbers (1-1-1 – 4 pts, 4 gf, 3 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 at New England. If the Timbers want to be serious contenders in the West, they need better performances from their midfield – Jack Jewsbury and Diego Chara were dominated by the Revs midfield. Don’t expect Kris Boyd to miss as many chances as he did in that game, though. Up next: Real Salt Lake on Saturday

10 – 9. FC Dallas (1-1-1 – 4 pts, 4 gf, 4 ga). This week: Lost 2-1 to Kansas City. Dallas continues to wait on David Fereira returning from injury. At some point, they have to find a plan B if they want to challenge for the MLS Cup. Up next: At DC United on Friday

11 – 12. Columbus Crew (1-0-1 – 3 pts, 2 gf, 2 ga). This week: Beat Montreal 2-0. New DP Mirosevic looks like quite a player, which is good, because the Crew need him to be if they’re going to go far in the playoffs. Up next: At Toronto on Saturday

12 – 8. Colorado Rapids (2-0-1 – 6 pts, 5 gf, 5 ga). This week: Lost to New York 4-1. The Rapids were inept in New York, but falling victim to a bunch of dumb defensive mistakes, it wasn’t a completely accurate picture of the team’s quality. Up next: Chicago on Sunday

13 – 14. New York Red Bulls (1-0-2 – 3 pts, 5 gf, 5 ga) This week: Beat Colorado 4-1. Yes, the Red Bulls beat the Rapids by three goals. If they want to move up in the rankings, they need to produce like that more often. Up next: Montreal on Saturday

14 – 13. DC United (0-1-2 – 1 pt, 1 gf, 4 ga). This week: Drew 0-0 with Vancouver. Could United’s laboring offense be all Maicon Santos’s fault? If you read OLS regularly, you know the answer can only be yes. Up next: FC Dallas on Saturday

15 – 19. Chivas USA (1-0-2 – 3 pts, 1 gf, 2 ga). This week: Beat Real Salt Lake 1-0. Chivas finally scored! Chivas finally scored! This team is still a mess. Up next: Sporting Kansas City on Sunday

16 – 18. New England Revolution (1-0-2 – 3 pts, 1 gf, 4 ga). This week: Beat Portland 1-0. Lee Nguyen provided quite a spark in midfield for the Revs, though the jury is still out on Saer Sene’s ability to be a top-notch striker. Up next: LA Galaxy on Saturday

17-16. Montreal Impact (0-1-2 – 1 pt, 1 gf, 5 ga). This week: Lost to Columbus 2-0. Only woeful starts for Philadelphia and Toronto are keeping the Impact from propping up the rest of the league in the rankings. They should be doing it pretty soon. Up next: At New York on Saturday

18 – 17. Philadelphia Union (0-0-3 – 0 pts, 2 gf, 6 ga). This week: Lost to Chicago 1-0. A better performance from Zack MacMath is a start, but the Union are still porous defensively and punchless offensively. Up next: Vancouver on Saturday

19 – 15. Toronto FC (0-0-2 – 0 pts, 1 gf, 6 ga). This week: Lost to San Jose 3-0. Losing Sebastian Freis for two months really hurts a team that can’t defend anyway. When does Torsten Frings get back? Up next: Columbus on Saturday

MLS Playoffs: Sporting Kansas City 2, Colorado Rapids 0 (KC wins 4-0 aggregate)

CJ Sapong only likes song with "swag" in the title.

Goals: Aurelien Collin (1), CJ Sapong (1)

Kansas City becomes the first team to advance to the “conference semifinals” with a fairly easy win at home against Colorado. The Rapids were always going to be up against it having lost 2-0 at home to Kansas City and dealing with a ton of injuries, but they created virtually nothing in the match. The impressive Aurelien Collin scored the opener to basically put it away, and then CJ Sapong, who I interviewed in June, added the second. Kansas City takes on the winner of Philadelphia and Houston.

MLS Playoffs: Colorado Rapids 0, Sporting Kansas City 2, first leg

Teal Bunbury: Sure he was born in Canada, but they don't have a soccer team. Do they?

Goals: Teal Bunbury 2 (2)

A miserable day for Colorado, who lose three players through injury, have Tyrone Marshall sent off and manage, I think, only one shot on goal. Teal Bunbury was just too fast and powerful for the Colorado backline, and hopefully performances like this will get him called up to the national team again, so we don’t have to see Edson Buddle any more. I don’t see Colorado beating Kansas City by two goals in Kansas City. Could KC be a dark horse contender for the Cup?

MLS rankings: Week 20

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

Sorry for the lack of rankings last week, but I was in the hospital watching my baby being born. Sort of. She did OK these rankings, though.

All times Pacific; first number is current ranking, second is previous ranking. I trust you can figure out the rest…

1 – 4. FC Dallas beat Chivas USA 1-0 at home; drew 2-2 at New York. Dallas escaped from New York with a point and beat Chivas, and also moved on easily in the Champions League. Will they cement their spot at No. 1 by beating the Galaxy, or will they drop down to No. 4 again after one week at the top like they did last time? Season: 12-6-5, 30 gf, 20 ga. Up next: At LA Galaxy on Saturday

2 – 2. LA Galaxy lost 3-0 at Portland; won 4-0 at Vancouver. The Galaxy would have moved back into first place if they’d even lost to Portland by a 1-0 scoreline. But 3-0? From the title favorites? With Beckham and Donovan playing? Not good enough. Season: 12-9-3, 32 gf, 19 ga; Up next: FC Dallas on Saturday

3 – 3. Seattle Sounders lost 3-1 at Houston. The Sounders seem to have gotten over their resounding defeat at home to Manchester United by advancing in the Champions League (is this the first time all the MLS teams have advanced? I think so.) They need to grab a point against KC in the quest for the Supporters Shield. Season: 10-8-5, 33 gf, 26 ga; Up next: At Sporting Kansas City on Saturday

4 – 7. Columbus Crew won 2-0 at Real Salt Lake; won 1-0 at home against Portland. What? The Crew is up to No. 4? Yeah, that’s what I said too. When you compare lineups with New York, you think that there is no possible way this team is better, but they are. They defend, they score important goals (though not many), but man are they ugly to watch. Season: 9-7-6, 24 gf 20 ga; Up next: Colorado on Friday

5 – 1. Real Salt Lake lost 2-0 at Sporting Kansas City; lost 2-0 at home to Columbus; beat San Jose 4-0 at home. After crushing San Jose, RSL has been woeful the last two matches – even at home. This team is missing something. (Could it be a playmaker?) Also: I think Alvaro Saborio is overrated. Season: 9-6-5, 26 gf, 16 ga; Up next: New York on Saturday

6 – 6. Colorado Rapids won 2-1 at Philadelphia; drew 2-2 at home with New England. Despite the injuries this team has dealt with, they have been playing the last few weeks like the defending champions that they are. They are in for a tough match this weekend, though against the current top team in the East. Season record: 8-10-6, 33 goals for, 31 goal against; Up next: Columbus on Friday

7 – 5. Philadelphia Union drew 1-1 at Chicago; lost 2-1 at home to Colorado. The Union have had a bit of a bump in the road as of late – could losing Carlos Ruiz hurt them? Nonetheless, they are a good enough team to beat Houston at home and stay in the hunt for first in the East. Season: 8-8-5, 26 gf, 19 ga; Up next: Houston on Saturday

8 – 9. Sporting Kansas City beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 at home; drew 1-1 at home against New England; won 4-2 at home against Toronto. Sporting’s long inexorable climb up the standings continues. I never thought after starting the season 1-1-6 that they would eventually be challenging for a Top 4 spot, but it looks highly likely at this point thanks to their 14-match unbeaten streak (and wealth of home matches). Season: 7-9-6, 31 gf, 28 ga; Up next: Seattle on Saturday

9 – 8. Red Bull New York drew 2-2 at home with Dallas. Yay, the Red Bulls won the Emirates Cup! It’s just too bad they can’t beat anyone in the MLS. Season: 6-12-5, 37 gf, 30 ga; Up next: At Real Salt Lake on Saturday

10 – 10. DC United won 2-0 at San Jose. United got a fairly workman-like win at San Jose, thanks to two Dwayne De Rosario goals. Their defense (and the play of goalkeeper Bill Hamid) has been significantly better the second half of the season. Season: 6-8-6, 26 gf, 30 ga; Up next: Toronto on Saturday

11 – 11. Chivas USA lost 1-0 at Dallas; beat Houston 3-0 at home. Some decent performances lately has Chivas fans hopeful of a playoff berth. New England is a perfectly winnable game on Saturday, though they probably need Justin Braun to end his “I only score hat tricks, but once every two months” run of play. Season: 6-8-8, 27 gf, 24 ga; Up next: At New England on Saturday

12 – 14. Portland Timbers beat LA Galaxy 3-0 at home; drew 2-2 at home with Toronto; lost 1-0 at Columbus. The Timbers got the performance their fans had been waiting for, for awhile, and amazingly it came against Los Angeles. Now with crumbling San Jose visiting, they have an excellent chance to charge into the final playoff spot. Side note: Eddie Johnson is a way better forward than Kenny Cooper or Jorge Perlaza in their system. Season: 7-4-10, 27 gf, 34 ga; Up next: At San Jose on Saturday

13 – 13. Houston Dynamo beat Seattle 3-1 at home; lost 3-0 at Chivas USA. Despite only picking up 15 points from their last 15 matches, the Dynamo are still in the final wild card playoff spot after beating Seattle. As uneven as their play has been of late, the same can be said of their competitors for the final spot (Chivas, Portland, DC United).  Season: 6-9-7, 26 gf, 27 ga; Up next: At Philadelphia on Saturday

14 – 12. San Jose Earthquakes lost 2-0 at home to San Jose; lost 4-0 at Real Salt Lake. So far, the Earthquakes have came out the worst from midseason trades, losing all punch up front with Ryan Johnson gone and leaking goals at the back minus Brandon McDonald. What is the identity of this team? A loss to Portland this weekend could spell the end for their playoff hopes. Season: 5-9-8, 24 gf, 29 ga; Up next: Portland on Saturday

15 – 18. New England Revolution drew 1-1 at Sporting Kansas City; drew 2-2 at Colorado. The Revs have been improved since getting thrashed at home by Philadelphia a couple weeks ago. But really, it’s not surprising – their roster certainly isn’t the worst in the MLS. Nonetheless, if they want to make the playoffs, they have to beat Chivas. Season: 4-9-9, 20 gf, 30 ga; Up next: Chivas USA on Saturday

16 – 15. Chicago Fire drew 1-1 at home with Philadelphia. So far the Fire’s calling card this season has been decent U.S. Open Cup performances and arguably the best showing by any MLS team against Manchester United. As for their play in the MLS? Yuck. Season: 2-13-6, 21 gf, 26 ga; Up next: At Vancouver on Sunday

17 – 17. Toronto FC drew 2-2 at Portland; lost 4-2 at Sporting Kansas City. Though you get the feeling that the roster decisions that have (mostly) revitalized Toronto came too late, they have looked, at the very least, like a decent attacking team in the second half of the season – and they are still in the Champions League. They still can’t defend, though. Season: 3-10-11, 21 gf, 43 ga; Up next: DC United on Saturday

18 – 16. Vancouver Whitecaps lost 4-0 at home to LA Galaxy. It’s been a bitterly disappointing season for Vancouver – even as an expansion team. Despite the signing of Eric Hassli, who has been very good, the other personnel decisions by this team (Mustapha Jarju? Trading Terry Dunfield) are the reason this team is the worst in the MLS. Season: 2-9-11, 21 gf, 34 ga; Up next: Chicago on Sunday

Jarju to Vancouver, Smith leaving Wiz, oops, Sporting KC

When I googled Ryan Smith, this photo popped up. Not the same guy.

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

Two player transactions of note in the MLS today. The Whitecaps have signed Gambian forward Mustapha Jarju, who scored heaps of goals last year for 2nd division Belgian team RAEC Mons. It remains to be seen whether that will translate into heaps of goals for the Whitecaps, but he certainly seems like a prolifict striker with an eye for goal, and he did reasonably well playing in the top division in Belgium as well. Whether or not this lends credence to the rumor of Camilo heading overseas or not remains to be seen, but even if it does, Jarju and man mountain Hassli figures to be a nice combination in front of goal, though some might argue there are other places where the Whitecaps need help. What, I didn’t say that I said it, I said some might argue that!

The other news is that apparently, according to Spanish sources, KC winger Ryan Smith underwent a medical to join Real Zaragoza in Spain’s La Liga. To be honest, though Smith is a decent player, he hasn’t particularly caught my eye in the few KC matches I’ve seen him play this season. Sporting is pretty loaded in attack anyway, so I don’t expect him leaving will cause them too many difficulties, and they probably get some cash out of the deal. Good luck to him.

MLS pinpoints Tucson as possible spring training destination

I can't use Daily Star photos, so here instead is one of Daily Star photographer Dean Knuth from my wedding – Photo courtesy Chris Richards, Esq

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

In a story by Patrick Finley of the Arizona Daily Star, (Link here) MLS exec Nelson Rodriguez has pitched the idea of the league using Tucson (I hope I don’t have to tell you it’s in Arizona) and possibly a site in Florida as potential “spring training” locations for the league.

I for one would be more than happy with the idea – and not just because Tucson is only a three-hour drive away. Some of the teams already do pre-season work in the Phoenix area, but Tucson is a better climate and not a hideous monstrosity of cement and fake breasts. Also, adding a spring training format will only serve to drum up interest in the league as it does with Major League Baseball. Tucson’s spring Desert Classic tournament with the Red Bulls and Kansas City was a success, with some estimates placing attendance for the games in the 10,000 range, which is better than a couple MLS teams get for regular season matches. You have to think that if people will pay money to sit through three hours of watching double-A players try out for the Florida Marlins, they’d be more than happy to watch 90 minutes of soccer. Plus, it raises the possibility of some interesting friendlies with Mexican clubs, which are always competitive and well-attended. Last but not least, Sonoran dogs!!

10 Questions with CJ Sapong

CJ Sapong - Courtesy Sporting Kansas City

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

Today is our first edition of our (hopefully regular) segment where I ask 10 questions of MLS players. Our first is with Sporting Kansas City forward CJ Sapong.

CJ Sapong
Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 185
Age: 22
College: James Madison
More: Drafted #10 by Sporting KC … in 2011 has made 12 appearances scoring 1 goal and handing out two assists … generally considered a player to watch in the MLS.

1. At what point did you realize that you could be a professional soccer player?

I’d say my senior year in college. After playing PLD (Premier Developmental League) in the summer, I started to get some interest from coaches, and people started to tell me there was some interest from some of the MLS teams. So, probably at the beginning of my senior season.

2. With Sporting Kansas City getting ready to come home, what do you think about Kansas City’s chances of getting in the playoffs and competing for the MLS Cup this year?

Very high. I think the thing about the MLS is, from top to bottom, any team could win on any given day. Especially with our team, I think we’re a very dangerous team. I think it’s taken us longer than most teams, but I think we finally found our identity and what works for us. I think coming in with more home games than away games, I’m pretty sure we’ll get those results. When we get those results at home, it puts us in a positive mindset for the remaining away games.

 3. Omar Bravo, a huge star in Mexico, what’s it been like practicing and playing with him?

Not just him, but all of the veterans, they’re all classy. With me being a rookie, it gives me something to strive for. It makes me make sure that I’m acting the right way and going about everything the right way. On the field, whether it’s finishing or simple passes, I watch everything that they do. Omar is just, very cheeky and technical. He plays in a way that you can’t ignore. So, I’m always taking stuff from his game and trying to emulate it, if I can.

4. Do you have a favorite team over in Europe that you like to follow?

I have a lot, and it depends on the league. For Ligue 1, I like Marseille. For the Premier League, I like ManU (Manchester United) a lot. In Italy, I like AC Milan. I like (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic. I like watching the game; I’m definitely a student of the game. I’m going to continue to watch as much soccer as possible and take as many skills from other people as I can.

5. You mentioned picking up some skills from Omar Bravo, what players would you say you’ve modeled your game after or taken inspiration from?

(Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, I try to stay strong like him. Thierry Henry, I like his change of pace and his nice finish to the back post. Cristiano Ronaldo of course, just the dribbling part of it. I’d so those three are probably the top three players.

6. We talked about the ten game road trip, and how tough that’s been. How tough has it been for you guys knowing that you wouldn’t get to play in front of the home fans for almost three months here at the start of the season?

It was tough. From the beginning it wasn’t that bad for me because I was just enjoying the experience of going to different cities and playing in different stadiums. As of late, you can definitely tell it’s taken its toll on some of the player’s’ bodies and our sleep cycles are getting kind of messed up. We’re definitely looking forward to the home opener and more home games so we can get results and points, and then start believing in what we’re doing.

7. How would you describe your style of play?

I would say at first it was very laid back. But we have skills and speed, which is a pretty deadly combination. So now it’s like, if you’re going to beat us, beat us. We’re not going to make any mistakes and we’re not going to give you anything.

8. How about you personally (your style of play)?

I’d say, hold the ball and keep possession to try to get a lot of other players involved. Whenever I get around the box, just try to keep shooting and try to score.

9. If you were allowed to pick a specific song to be played whenever you subbed into a match or when you were announced in the starting lineup, what would that song be?

It would either have to be Dougie (“Teach Me How to Dougie” by the California Swag District), or a song that’s called “Pretty Boy Swag” by Gucci Mane. Those are songs that get me really hyped; they get me really in the mood.

10. Other than Matt Besler, who’s sitting right here, who’s the toughest defender you’ve faced in major league soccer?

I’d have to say the right back for New York (Jan Gunnar Solli), just because he’s very solid and he gets forward a lot, so I had to think twice about getting forward and going at him. He kind of locked me up over on the sidelines.

 10b. Last question, Beyonce or Katy Perry?

Beyonce, all day. That’s not even a question! (Editor’s note: I totally agree)

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Thanks CJ!

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