MLS Week 7 Feelings Check: Sister Kissing and Absent Forwards

ImageAs just about anyone who cares to know knows, Major League Soccer has a major sister-kissing problem. Hell, the Chicago Fire’s already well around second base, but more than a few other teams – my Portland Timbers among them – well, let’s just say they’re grasping at all the wrong bra straps. Look outside the nuclear family, boys, and chalk up some decent, American wins. Ya sickos…

This has been commented on and, fortunately, there is an upside. Those ties are a fucking god-send when your team is struggling to get started. At least one team comes to mind…with hope’s wings a-flutter over it.

A couple other thoughts occurred to me over this past Week 7, things that don’t fit neatly into the team-by-team narrative that will unfold below. On that, I quit Power Rankings cold turkey (seems to be the only way), so don’t read anything into the order below; I listed all 19 teams in the order that they came to me. And that’s it. I’ll make my measure of them in the comments (and why the hell do I sound like a late 19th-century prospector tonight?).

Getting back to those trends, how many teams are suffering from lost gambles on certain forwards to solve the problem? Think Eddie Johnson, Teal Bunbury, and, more recently, Andrew Wenger (no, I will not give him time to get going). There are more, I’m sure. What about the struggles of once/former stars like Marco DiVaio, who has failed to get going so far, or even Will Bruin who promised so very much….though that was in one game…maybe we all should have seen that coming.

On a related note, I’m not even sure the Timbers have a forward…

With forwards, though, two forwards are making headlines so far this season and they’re very similar types: Sporting KC’s Dom Dwyer and the Chicago Fire’s Quincy Amirakwa. Both players are of the wild-eyed, pain-in-the-ass variety – which is to say, they’re both strong and willing to work hard enough to make defenders fight or fail. Is this the new model MLS forward – or, more accurately, the American version of that model? I’m not saying it is so much as I’m saying this is something to watch for.

All right, here’s what comes to mind as I watch(ed) and ponder each of Major League Soccer’s 19 teams. And if I learned everything I know from, say, stuff I read or the highlights reels, I’ll confess to the shortcoming with an (H/R) after their name. The absence of that symbol means I watched them play on the weekend prior.

And, one final note: this will be a link-happy affair next time. Promise…I just need a system.

Portland Timbers
If you scroll down through past posts (linking to them hurts too much), you will see evidence of panic. Two more consecutive losses and I…I’ll just shut down. Go catatonic. That’s a good coping mechanism, right? In all seriousness, the Timbers need a clean sheet, however they get it. The performance against RSL was promising. Most players, Diego Valeri excepted, are close to coming on line. Tempting as it is to go for broke against Houston, I’d really, really rather see a clean sheet.

Seattle Sounders (H/R)
The most interesting thing about this club right now is the 48 Hours vibe I get from Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins (“we ain’t brothers, we ain’t partners, and we ain’t friends”). On the other hand, they’re indisputably getting it done in the attack; Deuce even dropped an assist on Martins foot (no, I will never get tired of that gag). A couple other notes: 1) they clearly believe in Chad Marshall as a set-piece weapon – and why wouldn’t they?; and 2) it might have happened only once against Chivas, but I’ve seen Seattle struggle to clear up corners all season. Not a good sign (and, no, I’m not just projecting).

Vancouver Whitecaps
I dissected the ‘Caps’ draw with LA pretty thoroughly earlier, but then I read something about this team being “spoiled for choice” in player selection. Eh, maybe. Manneh might be one hell of a late sub (or a halftime one), but he looks like he’d give value all game. Then again, forward is the one spot where Vancouver isn’t struggling. Put it this way: I hope Jay DeMerit is working back to form as opposed to just being old; this team doesn’t look all that proactive on D.

FC Dallas (H/R)
I find my lack of faith in this club disturbing – but that’s mainly because I can’t justify it. I can allege dodginess to certain players all I like (see: Michel), but dos that matter when they are set-piece hell, damn, ass kings? Someone nominated Dallas defender Chris Hedges for player of the week. I won’t second, but wouldn’t begrudge anyone the choice either. His presence on corners is Marshall-sized. Bigger this season.

Real Salt Lake
I admire this team, I hate this team (no, not really). I admire Nick Rimando, I hate Nick Rimando (no, not really). A 3-0-4 record has no business feeling this impressive, but I’m not the only one saying it is. Sure, Rimando did well against the Timbers, but the reality is RSL got it done. Because they know how to get it done. The biggest threat to this team is injury and/or tired legs. Word of reinforcements bodes well for them, poorly for the rest of us.

New England Revolution (H/R)
2-3-2 isn’t anything to brag about. It is, however, good enough to be on the right side of the playoff line in 2014. Not that it matters now. I’ve noted the problem with Teal Bunbury up above (I only see him when he’s falling…after failing to convert a one-on-one); it’s an issue with invisibility. Based on reports, real and imagined, the defense is still coming together, so credit the midfield for all good things – particularly, Daigo Kobayashi and Lee Nguyen. I count the latter as one of the most underrated players in the league.

Columbus Crew
I was among those most thoroughly stoned by the Crew’s promising early run; the win against Seattle, in particular, had me swooning. I can’t say they impressed me against DC – and nothing hurt quite like DC’s goal coming off a mistake by key player Federico Higuain. Proves he’s mortal at least (the balding helps, too). The late heroics by Will Trapp got the attention they deserved, but Columbus has put that 3-0-0 start well behind them. Welcome to the season, boys. Roll up them sleeves, or perish.

DC United
People can talk about this team “winning ugly” all they want, but they didn’t look at all bad against Columbus. Even if Eddie Johnson has failed to deliver – and utterly – Fabian Espindola has and other players, here, I’m thinking Davy Arnaud, look like they’re getting comfortable in their roles. Johnson looks (according to my notes; taken in an elevated state of mind) “petulant, aloof,” so there’s a mystery to solve there. Fortunately, DC has a happy mystery as well: Nick DeLeon can amble around the field for huge stretches, but still deliver something like the goods – and I mean out of the blue.

Colorado Rapids (H/R)
Holy shit, was that a terrible game. The most interesting about Colorado’s weekend could very well be the alleged locker room kvetch between Edson “Uh, 99 goals” Buddle and Danny “You’re Still Playing?” Mwanga (Kid, seriously?). I guess they were due a stinker, though. I’ll admit to thinking too much of this team and thinking that, maybe, they’re not as good as I credit them with being. And there’s (potential) bad news on the injury front.

San Jose Earthquakes (H/R)
San Jose looked OK against Colorado. Good crosses coming in from Shea Salinas, Alan Gordon getting on the end, Chris Wondolowski getting on the end, etc. The problem is, they still looked like San Jose. I’ve heard good chatter about new-kid Yannick Djalo, but didn’t see evidence of him in the highlights (not worth posting; seriously). Sad to say, though, I think most teams have the ‘Quakes sufficiently figured out.

Sporting Kansas City (H/R)
If there’s a key to KC’s success, it surely comes with the fact that they always seem to field their full first team. Seriously, they had one guy out for this game – Uri Rossell – and I think he was suspended. So, to your health, KC: it serves you well. Also, is there a type of fan who just loves Benny Feilhaber? I know I’m one of them; hell, part of me wonders if he wasn’t the missing piece that put them over the top in 2013. Anyway, Dwyer was noted above and that’s to the good for KC. That said, the highlights suggest that the 4-0 scoreline flattered them a little.

Montreal Impact (H/R)
Speaking of…hey, it’s this season’s goats! That seems a harsh judgment of Montreal in all honesty. Or maybe the highlights just flattered this bunch? Judging from afar (and video clips that run less than 10 minutes), Montreal is creating decent chances – and that’s something against KC, one of the league’s best defenses. The league’s worst defense is a problem, obviously, if not the exact thing that gives people as much faith in Montreal as they put in Congress…or it could be that, whenever I think of Troy Perkins, the image that comes to me is him collapsing into the side netting.

Chivas USA (H/R)
For all the talk of positive trends around this club, I know one thing about this club: they are straight-up fucked if Dan Kennedy’s form falls off. As it did against Seattle. As much as the defense didn’t help him on the Martins goal (guys: Dempsey is good, but he’s not that good), Kennedy got two truly shitty plays into the highlights. They do have some upside – to name them, Erick Torres, Mauro Rosales, and (from what little I’ve seen) Leandro Barrera – so maybe the rumors or true? Gawd, do I have to watch this team? Well, there were an unusual number of fans in the stands…

Houston Dynamo (H/R)
Bruin? Bruin? Bruin? (Think of Ben Stein’s voice from Ferris Bueller for the full effect.) I’ve seen Houston at least twice this season and thought they looked decent going forward. It turns out that this could be a lonely position. I dunno. What I do know is that all the happy talk from that opening 4-0 over New England is long gone. Someone in the highlights broadcast cited red cards cheaply given as a possible source – god knows Kofi Sarkodie’s was kinda nuts (the ref looks like he’d forgotten the first, in fact, when he gave the second yellow) – but actual good teams find a way. Houston has not.

Red Bull New York
I think…yeah, they were idle this week, right? Wait…oh my god. I watched the April 16 game against Philly and I’ll be damned if I remember a thing. Let’s see…think, think, think. OH! It’s possible New York is coming back. As much as I think Bradley Wright-Phillips isn’t helping a ton, and that, at times, Thierry Henry regards his teammates in the spirit of a disappointed father, guys you wouldn’t expect – e.g. Lloyd Sam, Peguy Liyundula, and….shit! That’s it! Eric Alexander. I had this huge post (that I never posted) about Eric Alexander and what a weird playmaker he is – e.g. he makes things happen on the dribble, and with short combinations. Anyhoo, Alexander had a hell of a game for them against Philly and that’s a good sign for New York. Things like that free up the superstars….the big question for me (and I have no answer) is why Johnny Steele wasn’t out there.

Philadelphia Union (one game N/R)
There’s not much to say about the Union’s season besides sputter, sputter, sputter. Or one could go with the hail of “boos” that came down from PPL Park after the draw against Houston. Having a team full of good parts doesn’t mean a whole lot of they don’t quite work together. Then there’s the whole mystery behind the Jack McInerney/Andrew Wenger trade. As much as Wenger might help with chemistry (and, does he?) he almost muffed the only goal he scored. Really makes one wonder if these guys ran out of ideas after the summer – particularly in terms of how to deploy the considerable talent on hand.

Chicago Fire (N/R)
You can start to dissect this team with Patrick Nyarko’s clumsy, shitty year. Between red cards and PKs that guy has gifted the opposition points on at least three occasions. Brutal year for a player who usuaully has some upside. Then there’s Juan Luis Anongano….I mean, holy shit, did that acquisition blow up. With Mike Magee not quite started and that massive string of draws, this could be Chicago’s year of total failure to launch. Excel, my friends. Tie every goddamn game. At least you’ll go down in history…

Toronto FC (N/R)
Has the knock on Toronto come true? Are they really victims of their lack of depth so early in the season? Time will tell. What I do believe is that they’re relying on magic-in-the-moment to win more than most teams – e.g. defend, counter and see what Michael Bradley can do…now! Yeah, that seems a little thin. I saw that their new guy, Issey Nakajima-Farran, got on the board against Dallas. (In a rush, I listed him as “Itchy-Itchy Farran”; couldn’t hear the announcers properly). Maybe he’ll help. God knows they need a more sustainable formula.

LA Galaxy
While I didn’t write a ton of words about LA in my write-up on their draw against Vancouver, I made the words count. These guys looked very, very comfortable against Vancouver….at least until Kekuta Manneh got rolling. Personally, I think it’s only a matter of time before they click. Then again, I am of the cult that thinks Landon Donovan is struggling….or, more interestingly, that he’s laying low in order to scream, “Happy Halloween, bitches!” when the World Cup rolls around.

Holy….spent is a polite word for what I am. Golly.

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