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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: Birthday Edition

1 (1) Los Angeles (1-0-0, 3 points). Didn’t play. The Galaxy got a week off for Champions League matches, though that now means they have a three-day window between that and the Chivas match. Up next: Chivas USA on Sunday

2 (2) Houston (1-0-0, 3 points). Didn’t play. With Seattle’s Champions League win, the pressure is on Houston, sort of, to get a result at Santos Laguna, which seems a bit unlikely. Up next: At Dallas on Sunday

3 (7) Vancouver (2-0-0, 6 points). Beat Columbus 2-1. Vancouver were occasionally dominant against Columbus, but their finishing was poor. Also, Darren Mattocks is still 20 goals shy of his 20 goal prediction for this year. Up next: At Houston on March 23

4 (6) Montreal (2-0-0, 6 points). Beat Portland 2-1. There isn’t really a question that Montreal is pretty good. The question is more whether they can keep this up all season. Up next: Toronto on Saturday

5 (4) Real Salt Lake (1-1-0, 3 points). Lost to DC United 1-0. It was an uninspiring – if a little cruel – defeat in DC this weekend. Nonetheless, Real looks playoff-quality. Up next: Colorado on Saturday

6 (3) Kansas City (1-1-0, 3 points). Lost to Toronto 2-1. For the second consecutive match, KC gave up an early goal in a road game, except this time they couldn’t come back to win. They can’t keep doing that if they want to stay among the elite. Up next: Chicago on Saturday

7 (11) DC United (1-1-0, 3 points). Beat Real Salt Lake 1-0. It was a mostly mediocre performance against RSL, but three points are good, and they’re bound to figure out their striker situation at some point. Up next: At New York on Saturday

8 (5) Columbus (1-1-0, 3 points). Lost to Vancouver 2-1. The Crew were less convincing against Vancouver than they were against Chivas, but still could’ve gotten a point. Up next: San Jose on Saturday

9 (14) New England (1-0-0, 3 points). Beat Chicago 1-0. Well that was a nice way to open the season, wasn’t it? Sure, the Fire were better early on, but the Revs grew into the match and could’ve won by multiple goals. Up next: At Philadelphia on Saturday

10 (8) Seattle (0-1-0, 0 points). Didn’t play. The Sounders became the first MLS team to beat a Mexican team in the Champions League quarterfinals. And apparently Obafemi Martins is on his way. Up next: Portland on Saturday

11 (13) San Jose (1-1-0, 3 points). Beat New York 2-1. For 80 minutes, it looked like the Quakes were going to go goalless and lose again, then they rallied and grabbed a crucial three points. Still, they really need their wounded players to get healthy. Up next: At Columbus on Saturday

12 (17) Philadelphia (1-1-0, 3 points). Beat Colorado 2-1. It’s debatable whether the Union deserved three points against Colorado in terrible conditions, but the Union will take it. They have a winnable match at home against the Revs up next. Up next: New England on Saturday

13 (12) New York (0-1-1, 1 point). Lost to San Jose 2-1. The Red Bulls are still all over the place defensively, but they look decent in attack and get to play at home next. Up next: DC United on Saturday

14 (18)  Toronto (1-1-0, 3 points). Beat Kansas City 2-1. Wow, that’s probably the best Toronto has played in a year, at least. They probably still won’t win much this season, but their fight is encouraging. And Robert Earnshaw could score 15 goals this year. Up next: At Montreal on Saturday

15 (19) Chivas USA (1-1-0, 3 points). Beat Dallas 3-1. OK, so is Chivas the team that were hammered by Columbus at home or the one that wore Dallas out at the end to romp to an easy victory. Will anyone watch? Up next: At LA Galaxy on Sunday

16 (9) Dallas (1-1-0, 3 points). Lost to Chivas 3-1. You could certainly make the argument that Dallas are still better than Chivas, but nonetheless, falling apart as they did late is worrying. Up next: Houston on Sunday

17 (15) Colorado (0-2-0, 0 points). Lost to Philadelphia 2-1. The Rapids desperately need Edson Buddle, Jaime Castrillon and Martin Rivero back. And some decent goalkeeping. Up next: At Real Salt Lake on Saturday

18 (10) Portland (0-1-1, 1 point). Lost 2-1 to Montreal. I still think the Timbers will get it going at some point this year. It might not be enough to get them into the playoffs, but it’ll happen. Up next: At Seattle on Saturday

19 (16) Chicago (0-2-0, 0 points). Lost to New England 1-0. Arne Friedrich is out for at least a few more weeks, if not longer. Sherjill MacDonald is a disappointment. The midfield isn’t working. Am I missing anything, Fire fans? Up next: At Kansas City on Saturday

MLS rankings: April 24

1 – 1. Sporting Kansas City (7-0-1 – 21 pts, 12 gf, 3 ga). This week: Lost to Portland 1-0. Despite suffering their first loss of the season, KC stays in top spot. Now they get a week off to stew on the loss. Up next: Montreal on May 5

2 – 3. San Jose Earthquakes (5-1-1 – 16 pts, 13 gf, 5 ga). This week: Beat Real Salt Lake 3-1. The scoreline might have flattered San Jose a bit, but nonetheless, they have come through two big tests with good performances. Up next: At Philadelphia on Saturday

3 – 4. Seattle Sounders (3-1-1 – 10 pts, 6 gf, 2 ga). This week: Didn’t play. The Sounders haven’t been scoring much, but they are (along with Kansas City) probably the top defensive team in the league. Up next: At Chicago on Saturday

4 – 2. Real Salt Lake (5-0-3 – 15 pts, 12 gf, 8 ga). This week: Lost 3-1 to San Jose. Once again RSL played fairly even with, but couldn’t beat, one of their playoff challengers. But, they’re road games, at least. Up next: At FC Dallas on Wednesday

5 – 9. DC United (3-3-2 – 12 pts, 12 gf, 8 ga). This week: Beat New York 4-1. This week is the biggest test for DC in showing they are a playoff team: Winning two matches in a row for the first time since 2010. Can they do it against a tired Houston squad? Up next: Houston on Saturday

6 – 6. Houston Dynamo (2-2-1 – 8 pts, 5 gf, 5 ga). This week: Drew 2-2 with Columbus. Houston have coped reasonably well with their 7-match road trip – and they probably deserved a win against Columbus. Up next: At DC United on Saturday

7 – 10. Vancouver Whitecaps (3-2-2 – 11 pts, 6 gf, 6 ga). This week: Beat Dallas 1-0. The Whitecaps should just keep Hassli on the bench, play LeToux at forward and let Camilo cut from the wings. It works better. Up next: At Colombus on Saturday

8 – 7. FC Dallas (3-1-3 – 10 pts, 8 gf, 10 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 at Vancouver. Dallas might statistically be a playoff team, but unless they find someone who can score goals without Blas Perez setting them up or scoring them, they’re going to struggle to make it. Up next: Real Salt Lake on Sunday

9 – 11. Chicago Fire (2-2-1 – 8 pts, 6 gf, 6 ga). This week: Beat Toronto 3-2. Sure, every goal the Fire scored against Toronto was thanks to poor defending. You still have to capitalize on those mistakes, amiright? Up next: Seattle on Saturday

10 – 12. LA Galaxy (3-0-3 – 9 pts, 10 gf, 10 ga). This week: Beat Colorado 2-1. The Galaxy have won their last two, but this weekend’s match against Dallas is probably a good marker for what seems to be two very equal teams. Up next: FC Dallas on Saturday

11 – 5. New York Red Bulls (3-1-3 – 10 pts, 17 gf, 14 ga) This week: Lost to DC United 4-1. Only Toronto is a more chaotic, awful defending team than New York. But at least the Red Bulls can score goals. Up next: New England on Saturday

12 – 8. Colorado Rapids (3-0-4 – 9 pts, 8 gf, 10 ga). This week: Lost 2-1 to LA Galaxy. The Rapids almost got a Get Out of Jail Free card against LA with the penalty call that wasn’t. But drawing that match wouldn’t paper over the lack of attacking impetus the team has so far. Up next: Chivas USA on Saturday

13 – 14. Columbus Crew (2-1-3 – 7 pts, 6 gf, 9 ga). This week: Drew 2-2 with Houston. The Crew grabbed a point at home against Houston, but their key players have been worryingly unproductive so far. Up next: Vancouver on Saturday

14 – 16. Portland Timbers (2-1-4 – 7 pts, 9 gf, 11 ga). This week: Beat Kansas City 1-0. It wasn’t pretty, but the Timbers four-match slide is over, and against the league’s best team to boot. Now they need to show it wasn’t a fluke by beating Montreal. Up next: At Montreal on Saturday

15 – 15. New England Revolution (2-0-4 – 6 pts, 5 gf, 8 ga). This week: Didn’t play. Players like Lee Nguyen, Saer Sene, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Moreno and Kelyn Rowe must be licking their lips at the opportunity to take on the catastrophic Red Bulls defense. New England’s defense? Well, not so much. Up next: At New York on Saturday

16 – 17. Philadelphia Union (2-1-3 – 7 pts, 4 gf, 6 ga). This week: Beat Chivas USA 1-0. Red cards to Keon Daniels and one of the Farfan brothers is not the way Union supporters hoped their team would gear up for San Jose’s visit. It was nice to see Freddy Adu score, though. Up next: San Jose on Saturday

17 – 13. Chivas USA (3-0-4 – 9 pts, 4 gf, 5 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 to Philadelphia. At some point Chivas’s weird “See, we’re a playoff team, no one can beat us on the road” charade has to end – particularly after losing to a team that was down to 9 men. What better place than Denver? Up next: At Colorado on Saturday

18-18. Montreal Impact (1-2-5 – 5 pts, 7 gf, 15 ga). This week: Didn’t play. After some half-decent matches lately, Portland, who aren’t completely out of the woods with their struggles yet, represents a half-decent chance for Montreal to get a home point or win. Up next: Portland on Saturday

19 – 19. Toronto FC (0-0-6 – 0 pts, 4 gf, 13 ga). This week: Lost 3-2 to Chicago. On the bright side for TFC, no one expects them to beat RSL, so they won’t have to worry about the weight of expectations hanging over them. On the not-so-bright side, everything else. Up next: At Real Salt Lake on Saturday

MLS Weekend Preview: April 21-22

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer

All times Pacific, as usual.

Saturday

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

Sunday

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

MLS rankings: Week 18

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

I get the league’s justification for all the exhibition matches against English and Spanish teams – it’s a money maker and they do it every summer. But next to, oh, a major international tournament, it severely disrupts the regular season. And for what? So you can find out that Frederico Macheda would probably be a viable goal scorer in the MLS. Exciting stuff. It’ll be interesting to see how some of the teams pick themselves up after these exhibition matches. The Galaxy beat Columbus after being throttled by Real Madrid. New England was hammered by Manchester United, then lost to Philadelphia. Seattle’s 2nd team gave up six goals in the second half to ManU. Next up: Chicago and Philadelphia. The thing is, of course Manchester United will crush MLS teams. They have to. All it does is highlight the disparity between the money flowing into Manchester, excuse me, Boston or New York or wherever the owners live, and since the major teams in Europe operate without financial restriction, it makes perfect sense that they can stockpile talent. And that’s what makes the current state of European soccer so painfully dull. Nice to see Mame Biram Diouf get a goal for Manchester United, since he probably won’t see a minute for this team in the regular season. But you know what? He’d score double-digit goals in the MLS. Anyway, off my soapbox and on to the rankings.

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

1 – 1. Real Salt Lake did not play. RSL didn’t play, but as noted the last few rankings, have been playing back to almost their best. A visit from struggling San Jose shouldn’t change that. Season: 8-6-3, 22 gf, 12 ga; Up next: San Jose on Saturday

2 – 2. LA Galaxy beat Columbus 1-0 at home. The Galaxy were whipped by Real Madrid – predictably – but recovered for a somewhat uninspiring win over Columbus. And that’s all they need to do, really. Season: 11-9-2, 28 gf, 16 ga; Up next: At Vancouver on July 30

3 – 4. Seattle Sounders won 4-3 at home against Colorado. The big question is, will Seattles 8-match unbeaten streak be adversely affected by the absolute pasting their B team (They were only down 1-0 with the starters in) took against Manchester United? For the sake of their fans, let’s hope not. Season: 10-8-4, 32 gf, 23 ga; Up next: Houston on July 30

4 – 3. FC Dallas won 1-0 at Toronto; drew 0-0 at home with DC United. Dallas had a tougher than expected (maybe) couple of matches against DC United and Toronto, but did what good teams do and got results. Brek Shea continues to have a fantastic year, even if his hair is dumb. Season: 11-5-5, 27 gf, 18 ga. Up next: At New York on Saturday

5 – 5. Philadelphia Union won 3-0 at New England. An impressive road victory over New England will probably be followed by a spanking at the hands of Real Madrid. Nonetheless, Philadelphia have firmly established themselves as the class of the East. Season: 8-7-4, 24 gf, 16 ga; Up next: Colorado on July 29

6 – 8. Colorado Rapids won 4-1 at home against New York; lost 4-3 at Seattle. After improved play lately, the Rapids finally broke out and crushed New York. This will be a team to watch in the push for the Top 3 playoff spots late in the year. Season record: 7-9-6, 29 goals for, 28 goal against; Up next: New England on Saturday

7 – 7. Columbus Crew lost 1-0 at LA Galaxy; drew 0-0 at home with San Jose. The Crew are competitive, but they’re also tied for fourth from last in goals scored. It’s nice that their defense is so tight, but they’re doomed to an unfavourable playoff matchup unless they start putting the ball in the back of the net.  Season: 7-7-6, 21 gf 20 ga; Up next: Portland on Saturday

8 – 6. Red Bull New York lost 4-1 at Colorado; drew 0-0 at Chivas USA. I thought that the Red Bulls couldn’t get any worse than their 11-match stretch where they won once earlier in the year. I was wrong. The first half against Colorado was as bad as I’ve seen any team in the MLS play this year, and that’s including Toronto’s 7-1 loss to Philadelphia. Season: 6-11-5, 35 gf, 28 ga; Up next: FC Dallas on Saturday

9 – 10. Sporting Kansas City drew 1-1 at Houston. KC lucked out a bit in getting a draw at Houston. They face a potential banana peel in hosting Toronto this weekend. It’s a match they should win easily, but Toronto looked better with all the new players in the team, and Kansas City hasn’t shown any killer instinct lately. Season: 5-8-6, 24 gf, 25 ga; Up next: Toronto on Saturday

10 – 9. DC United lost 1-0 at home to New England; drew 0-0 at FC Dallas. After being a fun, high-scoring team the first half of the year, now United can’t score, despite having Dwayne De Rosario in the team. Was trading for him a mistake? Season: 5-8-6, 24 gf, 30 ga; Up next: San Jose on July 30

11 – 11. Chivas USA drew 0-0 at home against New York. Chivas have to be disappointed failing to score goals against the hapless Red Bulls. They’re still on the fringes of playoff qualification. Season: 5-8-7, 24 gf, 23 ga; Up next: Houston on Saturday

12 – 13. San Jose Earthquakes drew 2-2 at home against Vancouver; drew 0-0 at Columbus. After failing to score in ages, the Earthquakes finally came out of their shells against Vancouver. Who was the culprit? Well, Chris Wondolowski, of course. Season: 5-9-6, 24 gf, 23 ga; Up next: At Real Salt Lake on Saturday

13 – 12. Houston Dynamo drew 1-1 at home against Sporting Kansas City. Houston were dead-set on three points against KC and then their players inexplicably went crazy and started committing bad fouls and getting sent off. Poor discipline is to blame for their failure to get three points, and we’ll have to see if that torpedoes their season. Season: 5-9-6, 23 gf, 23 ga; Up next: At Chivas USA on Saturday

14 – 16. Portland Timbers won 1-0 at Chicago. It seems that playing the Fire is a cure-all for struggling teams, and last weekend, the Timbers were the beneficiary. Did they deserve the win? Well, not really. Nonetheless, they’ll take it, and maybe even push on from here, though don’t count on it, unless they can find a remedy for their striking woes. Season: 6-3-9, 22 gf, 31 ga; Up next: At Columbus on Saturday

15 – 14. Chicago Fire lost 1-0 at home against Portland. Alright Fire, I’m not predicting a win for you again this year. You were taking on the team in the worst run of form in the league, at home, and you couldn’t score a single goal. Pitiful. I hope the Fire win the US Open Cup, because it’ll give them something to look at instead of watching the playoffs on TV. Season: 2-12-6, 20 gf, 25 ga; Up next: Philadelphia on Aug. 3

16 – 17. Vancouver Whitecaps drew 2-2 at San Jose. The Caps finally got Eric Hassli back and immediately looked dramatically better. He should be the MLS newcomer of the year. They’re still having trouble winning games, though. Season: 2-9-10, 21 gf, 30 ga; Up next: LA Galaxy on July 30

17 – 18. Toronto FC lost 1-0 at home to FC Dallas. Toronto looked considerably better with all the new signings, though it remains to be seen whether all the pieces can gel before the playoffs are completely out of reach. Season: 3-9-10, 17 gf, 37 ga; Up next: At Sporting Kansas City

18 – 15. New England Revolution won 1-0 at DC United; lost 3-0 at home to Philadelphia. Based on their win at DC, I would move New England up in the rankings, but a dreary home loss to Philadelphia is keeping them in dead last. Season: 4-7-9, 17 gf, 27 ga; Up next: At Colorado on Saturday

Toronto FC signs Frings, Koevermans to bolster squad

Toronto FC just announced they signed Germany midfielder Torsten Frings and former Dutch international Danny Koevermans, which sounds – at least at first thought – like a pretty bold move for the team. With Frings, they’re getting a hardened, experienced international midfielder, and since last I heard Toronto was last in the MLS in possession in the attacking half, this is a key, key signing. Of course, you never know how a player will translate to the MLS after a career in Europe, but the Bundesliga is a fast, physical league, so I would think that Frings would be a great signing. It’s a little harder to tell with Koevermans, who hasn’t played much in the last year or so with PSV Eindhoven, but he does have a great record of producing for club teams, so it stands to reason that he should be fairly productive – at least for a year or two. It remains to be seen whether the two players will transform Toronto into a playoff team – and at 33 and 32 respectively, these aren’t signings for the long term, but they should bring a substantial bump to Toronto’s competitiveness on the field. And let’s be honest: Thank god for that.

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