20 March 2012

MLS Week 2: What I saw

It’s hard to follow MLS comprehensively these days. Weekends have nine games, so watching every minute is virtually impossible, but I was able to see large parts of several games and the highlight packages from all of them in Week 2, and I had a few thoughts to throw out there. Keep reading for a couple of things to point out from each game of the weekend.

Montreal Impact 1, Chicago Fire 1 – I watched most of this game on MLS Live
  • I feel like Jesse Marsch has too many players without a set position. Guys like Davy Arnaud, Sanna Nyassi, and Andrew Wenger are seeing time both at forward and as attacking midfielders, even switching in-game, and I feel like Nyassi and Wenger, at least, will be most effective if settled into one spot on a long-term basis.
  • Hunter Jumper impressed me in a short stint at left back for Chicago, mostly with his left-footed delivery going forward. I wonder if he can push Gonzalo Segares for a starting spot.
  • In the Montreal goal, Donovan Ricketts still doesn’t look like his old, intimidating self. I’m not faulting him on the goal, specifically, but even going back to last year he has looked more tentative than in the past when leaving his six-yard box.
  • Patrick Nyarko deserves an assist for his pass to Sebastian Grazzini on Chicago’s tying goal. If MLS is going to continue giving two assists, which I’m OK with, somebody needs to explain to me how that isn’t one.

Houston Dynamo 1, San Jose Earthquakes 0 – caught bits and pieces while preparing for Saturday’s broadcast
  • The Dynamo are really, really tall. This sounds obvious, but it was even more apparent on Saturday, when Luiz Camargo and Corey Ashe were replaced by Je-Vaughn Watson and Jermaine Taylor. That means the Dynamo had nine of 11 players standing at least 6 feet tall (in descending height order: Hall, Cameron, Boswell, Bruin, Ching, Watson, Clark, Hainault, Moffat, with Davis at 5-11 and Taylor at 5-10 the shortest players. Houston’s subs? Weaver (6-4), Carr (6-0), Sturgis (5-10). Kandji, another 6-4 option, didn’t even get in.
  • I still like Victor Bernardez and Marvin Chavez as offseason additions for San Jose. They would have a good chance at the playoffs in the Eastern Conference but may be out of luck in the West.

FC Dallas 1, Portland Timbers 1 – called game
Not an easy play
  • I liked seeing Bryan Leyva start, and I didn’t like seeing him come off. His technical ability to one-time a shot across the goal, hitting a flat half-volley with his laces rather than his instep, was the difference in putting Dallas on the scoreboard. I’m all for defensive work rate, but I thought it was a little harsh for him to be taken out, and when Dallas had just two offensive players on the field in the second half (Pérez, Villar), you had to think they missed Leyva.
  • I was surprised Kalif Alhassan took as many free kicks as he did. It’s no coincidence that when Jack Jewsbury delivered free kicks, the Timbers were more dangerous (see Lovel Palmer’s header off the post), although it’s possible the decision was affected by the stiff wind on longer, higher deliveries.
  • Darlington Nagbe may be able to get on the field more at forward than in midfield. Portland needs forwards, with only Bright Dike available after Kris Boyd and Jorge Perlaza, and as head coach John Spencer basically said on the air, Nagbe was better holding the ball up than Perlaza. He’s quicker, too, which could make him a better foil for Boyd.

Sporting Kansas City 3, New England Revolution 0 – watched highlights
  • I’m in agreement with the Revs that Stephen McCarthy should not have been sent off. C.J. Sapong was too wide on the field, too far from goal, and was giving too much physical punishment of his own to McCarthy for that to be a red card. That said, by the letter of the law, the call is justifiable, which means I do not expect New England to appeal (you only get two wrong appeals per season).
  • On the Kansas City side, I’ve never been a big Seth Sinovic fan – I think outside back is a spot KC needs to upgrade – but credit to him for taking advantage of the extra space on the field to get forward and factor into the buildup of all three goals. I didn’t see the whole game, but it seemed like one of his best.

Real Salt Lake 2, New York Red Bulls 0 – watched highlights, saw bits and pieces of second half
  • New York’s technical ability was terrible throughout the match. Simple passes were misplayed, and Salt Lake doesn’t need any help keeping possession.
  • Real Salt Lake is going to be good for a while. Luis Gil, Sebastian Velazquez, and Chris Schuler are young guys who impress me and should help keep RSL one of the top teams in the league over the lives of their respective contracts.

Seattle Sounders 3, Toronto FC 1 – watched highlights
  • David Estrada got the headlines and the Player of the Week award, but Alvaro Fernandez was the man of the match in my opinion. His passes were responsible for Estrada’s scoring exploits, and he was dangerous in almost every highlight.
  • Neither goalkeeper, Milos Kocic or Michael Gspurning, has done enough to convince me yet. I thought Kocic should have done better on one scramble in the box, while I’ve seen an awkward style from Gspurning of bringing his hands down to smother the ball, and it tends to produce big rebounds.
  • Ryan Johnson’s left-footed curler can be summed up in one word: Wow.

Vancouver Whitecaps 1, Chivas USA 0 – watched highlights
  • I was a little disappointed in Vancouver. Given their strong preseason and some of the skill they have, I expected them to be more dangerous against Chivas USA. That said, road wins are not easy.
  • While Chivas has a lot of things to address, Ryan Smith looked motivated and dangerous when he was on the field.

Colorado Rapids 2, Philadelphia Union 1 – watched most of the match live
  • I just don’t get Peter Nowak. He went back to the same 5-3-2 well from which he pulled his starting lineup in the first game of last year’s playoffs, and while it wasn’t as bad this time, I still don’t think it was effective. His decisions to name Zac MacMath No. 1 goalkeeper and play Chris Albright also look iffy, although it's very early.
  • Like most of the Philadelphia fans, I love Roger Torres. Like Leyva, I know the defensive ability is not always there, but doesn’t this kid need to be on the field more? He should at least get a chance to prove it while Adu and Okugo are with the Olympic squad.
  • The MLS highlights from the match conspicuously omit Drew Moor’s early tackle. Knowing a little about the process, it’s not necessarily an intentional omission, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

LA Galaxy 3, D.C. United 1 – watched highlights, bits and pieces live
  • Robbie Keane is good. Not to bore you with too many details of my MLS fantasy team, but I spent most of the second half frightened he would get a third goal and condemn me to losses in three of my four leagues. As it was, he stopped at two, and I held on to go 2-2.
  • Ho-hum multi-goal wins are really fun because they don’t happen all that often in MLS, even for the star-studded Galaxy (kings of 1-0 last year).

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