Monday, May 23, 2011

Five Things We Learned From This Week's MLS Action

1. Portland are rather fond of set pieces- Another home win for the Timbers, and another set piece win as well.  The Timbers currently lead the league in goals scored off set pieces, the likes of Futti Danso and Kenny Coopers have been the main beneficiaries of Jack Jewsbury's incredibly consistent deliveries. This time around, it was Eric Brunner with the goal, the big central defender was the difference between Portland and the Columbus Crew. Last week, the Timbers' set piece tactics were the subject of complaints from Seattle manager Zhiggi Schmidt, but personally, I don't see anything wrong with playing to your strengths. Following that win, Portland have risen to fifth in the West, and if they can keep up their home form then the playoffs might not be too far fetched a fantasy.

2. LA can win ugly too- After a few weeks of flowing goals, Landon Donovan celebrations and easy wins, LA have proved that they can grind out the odd result too. With Donovan unable to find the score sheet, it was Chad Barrett who made the difference, converting a header directly off a whipped David Beckham free kick. To be perfectly honest, the Galaxy did not deserve the three points which they went on to gain, Chivas USA had their chances, but were unable to pounce upon them. However, the ability to find a way to win while playing poorly is one that could prove to be a great boon to LA, as they look to go one better than two years ago, and win the MLS Cup.

3. MLS is a wee short on goals- For a league so full of sharp, exciting attacking players, the dearth of goals in MLS is starting to become a real problem. Only four out of the last ten games have yielded more than two goals, and both Sunday's MLS match ups ended goalless. With the Gold Cup fast approaching, it is unlikely that things will improve either, players like De Rosario, Donovan, Agudelo and Wondolowski will all leave the league for several weeks, leaving Major League Soccer's injury hit attack short of numbers.

4. Carlos Ruiz deserves goal of the year already- There is nothing better than a brilliant goal scored at a big moment in a tight game. On Saturday, Major League Soccer fans had the pleasure of witnessing by far the goal of the season so far, one which was the decider in a delicately poised match. Latching onto his own poor free kick, Ruiz took a touch before lashing a high dipping effort into the back of the net from outside the penalty area. That goal led the Philadelphia Union to their first two goal haul of the 2011 MLS season, an astounding statistic for a team currently leading the Eastern Conference. Also scoring in that game was youngster Michael Farfan, a full back of real pedigree, and a man fast becoming an integral part of the Philadelphia Union's water tight defense.

5. Sporting KC can't get home quick enough- Everyone in MLS must be feeling sorry for Sporting Kansas City. Clearly fatigued, Sporting KC have yet to play a home match this season, and reside at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. However, following two away matches at Colorado and Toronto, Sporting will finally open Livestrong Park against the Chicago Fire, a date which can't come quick enough, especially after Saturday's heartbreak. Away at Qwest Field, and having held out strongly for what looked to be a precious away point, Sporting were hit with a late set piece sucker punch, as a Jeff Parke header helped the Sounders to the three points. Peter Vermes will hope that his side can pick up at least one win before the club's home opener, but even if they don't, a series of home games later on could boost the team up the table.

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