Sunday, April 17, 2011

East Shows Its Might In MLS Week Five

Often criticized, yesterday night the MLS Eastern Conferences showed why its sides are still forces to be reckoned with.

In the day's early game, the Philadelphia Union were unlucky to be denied victory by the Seattle Sounders. The Union had taken the lead through MLS veteran Carlos Ruiz's free kick, before a last minute Fernandez header earned Zhiggi Schmidt's side a point. Despite the concession of that late goal, the Union had once again proved that defensively they are more than a match for the best that MLS has to offer. Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes are fast becoming one of the best central defensive pairings in the league, and with the experienced Mondragon in goal, Philly look set for a solid second season in the league.

The big news surrounding the Eastern Conference's most storied franchise, DC United, this weekend was Charlie Davies' first start since the car crash in early 2010. The injuries sustained in that accident contributed to the strikers' failure to make Bob Bradley's US squad, a disappointment which still scars the American today. However, Davies has started this season in fine fettle, and with five goals to his name he tops the Major League Soccer top scorers list.

Yesterday, Davies and DC United faced a difficult away trip to the rejuvenated Toronto FC. Aron Winter is looking to leave his own, very Dutch, mark on the side, by setting 2007's expansion team up with a dynamic 4-3-3 formation. On Wednesday, Toronto looked superb at the back as they shutout Beckham and the Galaxy, but withing minutes of yesterday's game they were behind to a well taken Chris Pontius effort. Just minutes later DC were at it again, with Charlie Davies converting the rebound after a Josh Wolff effort was saved by Frei. 2-0 up and comfortable, DC dominated the game despite the difficult venue and when Toronto's Ty Harden was sent off early in the second half the game was very much up, a fact highlighted when Chris Pontius scored his second of the night, a sweeping finish to make it 3-0, with fifteen minutes remaining.

Perhaps the most impressive of the Eastern Conference teams in action on Saturday was the star speckled New York Red Bulls side. Despite boasting a wealth of attacking talent in De Rosario, Henry, Agudelo and Richards the Red Bulls have struggled to score goals this year. However, all memories of those struggles were erased with a convincing 3-0 win over San Jose which saw Luke Rodgers grab his first two goals in MLS, before Thierry Henry claimed his first of the season. Amazingly, that 3-0 scoreline actually flattered the San Jose Earthquakes, who just couldn't deal with New York's fast, flexible attack. Henry and Rodgers combined well on two of the goals, proving that even without Juan Agudelo New York have plenty to offer upfront, and De Rosario continued to impress following his promising start, putting in a solid shift in the center of midfield. On the wing, Dane Richards terrorized the San Jose full backs all night, setting up Rodger's opener, and providing a handy route between midfield and attack. Touted as MLS Cup favorites at the beginning of the year, the New York Red Bulls at last fulfilled their pre-season promise, with Henry finally playing the part expected of him.

Columbus 1, Sporting KC 0While the Philadelphia Union have gained most of the defensive plaudits so far this year, it is the Columbus Crew's defense which looks to be the most impenetrable at the moment. After losing 3-1 at DC, Columbus have claimed four straight shut outs, preventing the dangerous likes of New York, Dallas and Kansas City from finding the net. Chad Marshall is enjoying a bit of a renaissance in defense for the Crew, while goalkeeper Will Hesmer has also been well protected by the likes of Julius James and Sebastian Miranda. Up front things have been slightly less rosy, but winger Robbie Rogers has started 2011 in good form, with two goals, including the winner last night. If Columbus maintain this defensive solidity across the whole of the season, then 2011 may well become more than just a season of transition.

There is no doubt that the cream of MLS still resides mainly in the Western Conference. RSL have started the season superbly, and have been rightly dubbed Supporter's Shield favorites. LA and defending champions Colorado will both also pose a playoff threat to the Eastern Conference sides mentioned above, but, with a bit of luck, a team from the East may well end up contesting the 2011 MLS Cup final.

1 comment:

  1. Which of these teams is most likely to reach the MLS Cup final?