Sunday, April 24, 2011

Five Things We Learned From This Week's MLS Action

1. Goals are like London buses- For much of the early part of the 2011 MLS season, all fans and pundits could talk about was New York's consistent struggles to find the net despite their myriad of attacking options. However, last weekend, NYRB finally broke their duck, scoring three goals to rout San Jose at Red Bull Arena. It appeared that a mental dam had been broken, and that thought was confirmed when the Red Bulls continued to rack up the goals on Thursday night. This time around, DC United were the victims, as strikes from Thierry Henry (twice), Joel Lindpere and Juan Agudelo helped New York cruise through to an easy 4-0 win. That victory has put New York on top of the Eastern Conference, and has left future opposition quivering in their boots.

2. Injuries are no fun at all- Unfortunately, what was an otherwise an absorbing MLS week was marred by two major injuries to two of MLS' most exciting attacking players. First, on Friday, Steve Zakuani was the victim of a terrible tackle from Brian Mullan, one which leaves Zakuani with a broken leg, and a hugely long absence awaiting him. Seattle went on to win that win that game, but there remained a surreal sense about the Sounders' celebrations, Zakuani's injury could come back to hurt them in the near future. Then, on Saturday, a second injury blow as FC Dallas' Davide Ferreira broke his ankle during his side's 2-1 away victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps. Last year's MVP was just starting to pick up a head of steam in this year's season, only for that injury to put him back immensely. While MLS still boasts plenty of other sources of attacking talent, Ferreira and Zakuani's injuries have certainly put a downer on what had been an exhilarating start to MLS '11.

3. Players should think before they celebrate- You would think that all the players plying their trade in Major League Soccer would have taken note of Eric Hassli's incredibly stupid sending off against New England a few weeks ago. The Frenchman, already on a booking, ripped his shirt off in celebration of a goal  only to see the referee brandish a second yellow card, one that resulted in a second consecutive dismissal for the DP. However, one man obviously wasn't watching that match, with the player in question being Tony Tchani. Tchani has done well since joining Toronto from the New York Red Bulls, and his goal on Saturday must have been a great moment in his fledgling career. Unfortunately though, the player took his celebration too far, jumping over the advertising boardings so as to celebrate along with the TFC fans. Not only did that action result in his sending off, but Toronto went on to lose the lead Tchani had given them, a precious two points gone. It is important to point out that booking players for over celebrating is one of the more asinine FIFA regulations, but the players know that such rules are in place, and not adhering to them when already on a yellow is simply unacceptable.

4. Kansas City need that stadium to be finished- MLS 2011 has all the makings of a great year for Sporting Kansas City. The newly branded franchise boasts an impressive array of attacking talent, and they're set to have a new stadium unveiled in the coming months. However, due to the need for extra time in finishing the stadium, Sporting have been forced to kick off 2011 with a run of away games, a run that has been damaging to their Eastern Conference ranking. Currently, Kansas City are enduring a tough run of results, a sequence which was continued yesterday by a 3-2 loss in New England. Despite a Kei Kamara brace, KC were unable to hold on for the three points, and they now sit bottom of the East. With only a win and a draw from the opening exchanges in 2011, Sporting Kansas City are the worst team in MLS, one in dire need of the inspiration of a home crowd. A look at the way Portland's fortunes changed once they started playing at home provides an indicator of what Sporting supporters could expect, but in the meantime they need to start winning on the road.

5. Landon is ready to roll- Until Saturday night, the Galaxy had been unable to benefit from the best of what Landon Donovan has to offer due to a combination of international engagements and injury. However, against Portland, Landy Cakes showed off his quality, scoring twice in a 3-0 win over the Portland Timbers. Donovan's decision not to make a loan move to one of Europe's elite over the MLS break was greeted with different reactions from different people, some saying that rest was a good idea while others lamented the waste of such a fine player. Personally, while disappointed not to see the American back at Everton, I thought, and still do think, that Donovan's decision will benefit LA hugely, a well rested Landon is exactly what the Galaxy need to bounce back from two straight play off disappointments.

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