- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On March 28, 2011
- 5 Comments
- 2011 MLS Season, 2011 Week 2, MLS Weekend Recaps, What We Learned
One thing we should probably stress right now is that it is still very early in the season. I bring that up right out of the gate so some fans don’t go nutty when they realize their club is two games in with zero to one point, or if their club just got hammered this past weekend, yeah you know who I am talking about.
The season is only two weeks old but we’re finding out quickly who’s really going to be contenders and who still have a little bit of a ways to figure this whole thing out. Here are some notes I had from this past week.
1. Real is for real. Sure LA was missing Landon Donovan but would that really have made that much of a difference Saturday night at Rio Tinto? I doubt the scoreline would have been 4-1 but I’m fairly confident that the result would have been close to that line as RSL absolutely dominated LA from start to finish. Javier Morales showed why I dubbed him as a MVP candidate to start the season with his two goals. RSL rattled LA from the first whistle to the last, and really gave a full proof plan on how to handle LA.
2. Seeing Red. After great debuts for Vancouver’s Eric Hassli and Sporting Kansas City’s Omar Bravo, both saw early baths this past weekend. For the second straight week Chicago striker Gaston Puerari caused a red card on his way to goal. In week one he fell to the ground after a slight bump from FC Dallas defender Brek Shea and in Chicago against KC he did the same when Bravo came in on him.
As for the other card, Hassli was frustrated all afternoon by Philly’s Danny Califf. The game was physical and the Union gave a proper blueprint on how to handle the big Frenchman for the Whitecaps. Get him frustrated early, foul him a bit, get him to foul you in a stupid action away from the ball and get him sent off shortly after. Hassli let his frustrations with Philly’s defense get the best of him Saturday, which definitely played into the Union winning 1-0.
3. Six points in Union-land. I’m sure plenty of Union fans would agree they saw this number in the standings after week two but most around the league did not. Good for them and their club. Right now Philly is sitting on top of the Eastern Conference standings. Yes, you read that correctly, the Philadelphia Union are setting atop the Eastern Conference standings. Yeah, typing twice still seems odd but it is definitely true. Kudos on Peter Nowak’s side for gutting out another tough three points Saturday. Two games, two goals, but two wins. The offense still needs to come alive though before more folks take them serious. With Danny Mwanga, Carlos Ruiz and Sebastien Le Toux up top, they will. It is only a matter of time before one of those three (hell or all three of them) get hot and this club really takes off.
4. 20 Minutes from Hell for D.C. If you watched the opening 20 minutes in the D.C.-New England game you saw two crazy goals for the Revs. Two that probably should have happened the way they did. Two PKs in this one, 31 fouls, five cards and one red card. Not a great day for either club actually but for United, those opening 20 set the tone for the long evening in New England. United spent just as much time fighting with the Revs as they did fighting with the refs. The first goal was a clear handball on Zak Schilawski and the second was a debatable penalty on Dax McCarty.
At least Charlie Davies got on the scoresheet again with a late PK for the Black-and-Red. Three goals in two games for Davies. Not bad folks. Not bad at all.
5. Rapids Quietly Move Forward. Not surprisingly the Colorado Rapids went to Chivas, did their work and came away with another three points. I know the Rapids have still yet to beat anyone big (they knocked off Portland, then Chivas…yeah not world beaters there), but this club showed grit and toughness that you want to see out of a defending champion. Gary Smith was without Omar Cummings (call-up with Jamaica) and had Conor Casey on the bench to start the match (still working out an injury I think). Still, the Rapids controlled this game with their midfield like one would expect. They got a goal and continued to dominate Chivas at the possession game.
6. Wondo is no one-hit wonder. I nearly called this 20 minutes of hell for FC Dallas but I’ll get into them in a moment. Chris Wondolowski proved to me on Saturday that he is a total pest for any club. Why? Take a look at both of his goals against Dallas and you’ll see why. The man moves through the offensive third without a care in the world if someone is marking him, and for some reason even if he is marked he finds a way to get free of that mark. His first goal was pure class. A beautiful first touch, turn and bam! The second one was vintage Wondo. Think of this for a moment, he has scored his club’s last 12 regular season goals (dating back to last year). Yeah, last 12. That is absolutely sick…but it also shows, you stop Wondo, you stop San Jose.
7. Trouble in Big D? No exactly, but close. The defense that most here in Dallas expected to be strong yet again in 2011 has really been anything but at moments so far this season. The three goals given up by Dallas so far this season were all miscues of some sort. Still, the club possesses the ball better than most teams in the league. The trouble really comes down to their lack of finishing. Time and time again against San Jose, Dallas had the chances, the space and the ball to do damage but no dice in the goal scored column in the stat sheet. Give credit to Jon Busch though in goal for SJ, he was a beast at times on Saturday night.
One bright spot though was seeing both newcomer Fabian Castillo and Ruben Luna on the pitch together. That is the future of this club folks. Those two in the offensive third are going to be electric together, in time.
8. Reds find offense. Again, it is still early and Toronto did just face an expansion side for the second week in a row (how the hell did they manage that in their schedule?). Toronto found two brillant goals from newcomer Javier Martina. Yeah Martina is just one of the several newcomers to this Toronto side. I must say he looked to be one that could very well work out nicely in MLS this season for Aron Winter. He was confident in space and took chances when they were needed. That’s what you want out of a striker and Toronto could be lucky to have him if he can keep it up.
9. Still no power in Sounder offense. Three games in and the Sounders have one goal to their name. Yeah just one. But one thing is certain to me, they are close to breaking through and maybe that late Steve Zakuani goal against Houston was what they needed. The Sounders dominated in the possession game against the Dynamo but just failed to see any results with it until Zakuani’s late heroics. I got a good feeling we’ll see more out of them in the coming weeks.
10. Crew waste chance. With New York missing so many key players you would have thought Columbus would have broken through and made the most of their chance against them to get three valuable points. But they did not. Instead the Crew wasted most of the chilly afternoon in the midfield. I know they had plenty of new faces to work in the offense and part of the defense but at some point you do wonder if all the change this offseason really did any good. If the Crew can’t muster up some offense next week, I think it will be a sign that this will indeed be a long, long season for the boys in gold.
11. Cold hits attendance. Should have known the second week of the season we’d see more empty seats. Can’t blame folks in Chicago or even in Toronto too much for not filling the stands. Yes, you read that right, Toronto did not fill BMO for their opener, marking the first time in club history that they failed to sellout their season opener. To be fair, Toronto had sub-zero temperatures for game time and they still did manage a reported gate of a shade over 20k.
PPL Park was sold out though, as was Rio Tinto Stadium which saw a record crowd against LA. Columbus and Chicago had chilly weather and each got 10k and 12k respectively. Dallas was back down to their old numbers with just a shade over 11k at Pizza Hut Park. New England also saw their season opener with around 12k as well.
League wide average after two weeks is still a cool 19,225. That is about three thousand more than last year’s average.