Monday, April 18, 2011

Five Things We Learned From This Weekend's MLS Action

1. Luke Rodgers is actually a decent player-  I have to admit, over the past few weeks I had not been wholly impressed with New York forward Luke Rodgers. The Englishman had not delivered anything during a host of substitution cameos, and the man he always seemed to be replacing (Dane Richards) looked by far the more dangerous player. However, on Saturday, Rodgers proved to me as well as to the rest of MLS, that he is more than worthy of a starting place with the New York Red Bulls. Scoring twice in the first fifteen minutes, Rodgers insured that the Bulls would enjoy a comfortable night at Red Bull Arena, and his superb cross on eighty-five made sure that even a certain Thierry Henry would end the game happily.

2. Philadelphia still have a complacent streak- Much improved from last year, the Union have started this season in fine form, and Peter Nowak's side currently sit top of the Eastern Conference, inspired by players like Carlos Ruiz, Carlos Valdes, and Danny Califf. Certainly, the defensive area has been the most improved part of Philly, but on Saturday the Union showed that their back four is still prone to the odd moment of complacency. One-nil up after a deflected Ruiz free kick had given them the lead, Philadelphia looked to be cruising towards a comfortable 1-0 win. However, a moment of madness at the heart of defense allowed Fernandez to steal in and head home for Seattle, insuring that Zhiggi Schmidt's side left the East coast with a share of the spoils. That momentary loss of concentration will offer hope to future opponents, who were no doubt frightened by the quality of Philly's back four in their recent 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls.

3. Portland might not be as poor as we thought they were- Two home games, and now two home wins for MLS' newest franchise. The Timbers started this season with a run of losses but since their home opener on Thursday, the team looks transformed. Against Chicago, the Timbers looked capable of breaking down the away side's defense at any moment, with the front duo of Kenny Cooper and Perlaza looking dangerously fluid. In midfield, new signing Jack Jewsbury looked solid, providing a useful connection between defense and attack. However, at the back the Timbers are still very shaky, against Chicago they nearly blew a three goal lead and only luck kept them away from another collapse on Sunday. Three-nil up and cruising, Portland let their guard down, and a goal each from Brek Shea and Davide Ferreira set the Timbers up for a nervous finish. Luckily for John Spencer and his side, Dallas were unable to break through for a third time, but the expansion team must be wary of these late capitulations.

4. DC United could be on their way to the playoffs- After a season of purgatory for DC United fans, the famous white and black look to be on their way to a much more successful year. The tone for this season was set with the high profile loan signing of Charlie Davies, and it has been the American's form which has inspired DC to a solid start. Davies was at it again on Saturday, scoring the second in a three-nil away win against Toronto. Also on the score sheet was Chris Pontius, who displayed his ability to finish with two fine strikes. Ben Olsen's  team look to be really dangerous in the attacking third of the field,  while they are much improved defensively from last year.

5. New England don't like playing Houston- For two years straight the New England Revolutio took a 1-0 lead over the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup Final and for two years straight they were pegged back, losing on penalties in 2006, and succumbing to a De-Ro winner in 2007. Yesterday, the Revs had the chance to avenge those two cup final defeats, but it was not to be, with Houston coming up trumps by a score of one goal to nil. As I mentioned in Friday's prediction column, neither side is likely to make the playoffs this year, making small victories, like ones of vengence, all the more important.

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