Monday, March 28, 2011

Five Things We Learned From This Weekend's MLS Action

1. Hassli isn't the player we thought he was- No man better embodies the slogan "hero to zero" than French striker Eric Hassli. Superb last week, Hassli's two goals propelled the Whitecaps to a first win in Major League Soccer, and all the signs indicated that the forward player might become one of the league's few successful DPs. However, a week later, instead of lapping up the adoration of Vancouver's dedicated support, Hassli was facing their ire, after his sending off cost Vancouver at least a point in Philadelphia. No doubt, had his red card been received as consequence of a goal saving foul, or a harsh penalty decision, the player's reputation with the fans would have hardly been tarnished, but it was the nature of his dismissal which will rankle most with the Whitecaps' travelling support. Having already been booked for a pointless trip on defender Danny Calif, Hassli received his marching orders after a late tackle on Philly defender Valdes. Neither fouls were useful in stopping the Union's forward progress, rendering both of them totally pointless. Hassli now faces a one match ban, but come the day of his return, he'll have a lot of bridges to rebuild.

2. LA might not be any good this year- After a fine, opening day, away win at Qwest Field, it seemed certain that the LA Galaxy were ready to pick up from where they left off in last year's regular season, and continue to dominate Major League Soccer. However, that win was followed by an uninspiring one-one draw with Steve Nicol's New England side, and a week later, worse was to come. While defeat away at Real Salt Lake might not have been entirely unexpected, (Landon Donovan was away on international duty and star defender Omar Gonzalez was still injured) it is the manner of the absolute pounding that the Galaxy received which will hurt the most. From the off LA were second best, and by half time they were already three-nil down. Morales and Espindola were controlling the game for Real, and LA looked toothless in attack, even with Juan Pablo Angel on the field. Certainly, the voices which raised questions about the Galaxy's credentials last week, are going to start hitting fever pitch.

3. Colorado's MLS Cup triumph was no fluke- Lets face it, last year's MLS champions, the Colorado Rapids, were by no means the best Major League Soccer had to offer. They benefited from peaking at the right time, as well as a series of post season upsets which resulted in them not having to play New York or LA. This year however, Colorado are beginning to look like a side capable of dominating a regular season, with the team still delivering despite the absence of key players. Shorn of the likes of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey, Colorado still looked good value for their win against Chivas USA, a result which leaves them neck and neck with Real Salt Lake at the top of the Western Conference.

4. Wondo is no one season wonder- For any New York Red Bulls fan, the name Chris Wondolowski will still send shivers down the spine. Last year's top scorer in MLS caused the Red Bulls no end of problems in the Eastern Conference champions' play-off battle with San Jose. However, after a less than convincing first game against Real Salt Lake, questions were beginning to be raised about Chris Wondolowski's true capabilities. Countless numbers of players have succeeded one year only to crash and burn the next, and with zero goals from his first game, it looked as though last year's star might become this year's flop. And then came the FC Dallas game. Clearly ready to prove a point, Wondo was brilliant throughout, showing a superb touch and finish to blast San Jose into the lead, before displaying his predatory instincts, with a deft header to put his side 2-0 up. Those goals proved to be the match winners, and Wondolowski must take a huge amount of credit, for his ability to deliver under media scrutiny.

5. Portland could be in for a very long season- Whenever an expansion team comes into MLS there are always worries about the side's ability to cut it in the big league, and following a 3-1 collapse in Colorado, John Spencer's Portland Timbers side were beginning to be pushed into the "will struggle this season category," an opinion that was further validated by another defeat this weekend. On paper, an away loss to Toronto doesn't sound too bad, but in reality any game against a team as poor as Aron Winter's Toronto side should be seen as an ideal opportunity to pick up three points. Last week, Toronto were torn apart by this week's flop Eric Hassli, and pre-match Timbers fans would've been hopeful that star player Kenny Cooper could do likewise. However, all hopes were in vain as a double from Martina put pay to any Timbers dreams of a first MLS point.

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