Five things to note from MLS Week 18
FRISCO, Texas -- At least this time, nobody tried to break David Beckham's leg.
Otherwise, it's difficult to find many kind things to say about Beckham and the Galaxy on their latest pass through Pizza Hut Park.
The margin could have been far worse; FC Dallas hit the crossbar three times in claiming a first MLS victory for new manager Schellas Hyndman. The Galaxy put just two shots on goal (compared to 11 for Dallas) and didn't force a corner kick until the 70th minute.
It was a far cry from L.A.'s last stroll through Frisco, a 5-1 Galaxy win back in May. The only thing that went wrong that night was Adrian Serioux's awful challenge on Beckham, which earned the FCD defender a two-game suspension.
Sunday, neither team could relish such difficult circumstances: 100 degrees at kickoff with no breeze. Half the game played out in the blazing sun, before evening shade could mercifully offer some respite.
It affected the Galaxy worse than FC Dallas, and Beckham was the first to say so.
"We didn't deserve to win," he said. "Our attitude wasn't good to start the game. So, nothing really positive to take from this game."
The Galaxy were behind early as Kenny Cooper scored the first of his pair in the 15th minute. In the 17th he stripped debuting Galaxy defender Eduardo Dominguez, worked a quick exchange with Dominic Oduro and then finished neatly into the corner.
"Chasing the game is always tough, especially in this heat," Beckham said. "We didn't start the game well, even before they scored the goal. We were losing the ball, wasn't passing the ball around the field. We just didn't play well."
Beckham acknowledged that fatigue was a factor, although not an overriding one. Along with Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle, he participated in Thursday's All-Star game in Toronto. Beckham went all 90 minutes on the artificial surface. He flew back to Los Angeles on Friday, trained with the team Saturday and then hopped right back on a flight across two time zones Saturday evening.
Dealing with less-than-ideal circumstances is a way of life in MLS, and Beckham said he and the team simply need to cope better.
"There must be some lesson learned. At the moment, we're trying to find what it is. Because I think the big thing was our attitude maybe, because we just didn't start well."
Other things that stood out about the 18th round of MLS matches:
1. Hot enough for you? Whoever thought kicking off a match at 6 p.m. in Dallas, in the middle of the interminable summer -- well, that person needs a good talking to.
But who was responsible? Nobody seemed to know.
Originally, the match was scheduled to be part of a Telefutura doubleheader. When the Spanish-language network decided against a second afternoon broadcast, nobody apparently thought to arrange a post-sunset kickoff.
It all seems a bit much to Galaxy manager Ruud Gullit, who has alluded to the peculiar ways of MLS before.
"Everything that is supposed to be logical is not..." Gullit said, his voice trailing off as he began to laugh, or as he perhaps began to consider the adage of "biting the hand that feeds you."
"Unfortunately, I think next week we play at noon," he continued. "Everything that is logical, well, like an All-Star game on Thursday, this is also strange ... like I said, it's difficult. All the time you come to difficulties. For me, this week it was difficult, as a coach, to prepare your team. Some players were coming back Friday afternoon."
2. Muted Beckham buzz. For a bit of a change, much of the buzz about the crowd wasn't about Beckham; rather, it was about whether Kenny Cooper, who has become an enormously popular presence around Pizza Hut Park, was playing his final match.
Upon the final whistle, Cooper made a point to collect the ball and hand it to the team equipment manager. Fans and media who noticed took that as the surest of signs. Presumably, he wanted the game ball from his last MLS match.
It may indeed be Cooper's MLS curtain call -- but that's not what the game ball bit was about. Rather, Cooper wanted to make sure coach Schellas Hyndman got the ball for his first MLS victory.
3. Kenny Cooper nitty-gritty. A decision on Cooper is now, more or less, up to Hunt Sports Group. Here's where it stands: Norway's Rosenborg remains interested with an offer of $2 million, with incentives that can take the final transfer price to $3 million, according to sources familiar with negotiations.
Cardiff City from the English Championship began pursuing Cooper aggressively last week. It initially matched Rosenborg's offer but has since dangled $4 million. Cooper's salary would be around $1 million a year.
He has two years remaining on his current MLS deal that pays about $100,000 annually. The league has offered a new package worth about $300,000 annually, with incentives that would take it to $400,000.
League commissioner Don Garber spoke to Cooper during the All-Star break, assuring the striker and his family that MLS wanted to make everyone happy and that he would help facilitate a sell if that's what Cooper wants.
What Cooper really wants is to be in Dallas -- just not at a bargain-bin price.
4. No more passing the Red Bull buck. Now that Red Bull coach Juan Carlos Osorio has most of the fellows he wants on board, it should be time to stop blaming the squad. Right?
Only problem is, debuting starter Juan Pietravallo was wholly underwhelming in Sunday's 1-1 draw in San Jose. Ditto for newly acquired playmaker Jorge Rojas, who certainly didn't work as a withdrawn striker.
Osorio's wanderlust for new talent and new ways to tinker with can buy him only so much time.
Meanwhile, San Jose is slowly rounding into shape. With Ronnie O'Brien and Darren Huckerby, the Earthquakes have guys on the outside who can make things happen and ask questions of defenders.
5. A big week for goalies. Wil Hesmer was outstanding for Columbus against Colorado (which enjoyed a 14-0 edge in corner kicks and a 17-2 edge in shots, but managed to lose to the Crew 2-0). Jon Busch had a great night for Chicago against Kansas City. Jon Conway and Joe Cannon were on top of their games in the Red Bull-San Jose draw.
Steve Davis is a Dallas-based freelance writer who covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He can be reached at BigTexSoccer@yahoo.com.