Ten things to note from MLS Week 19
Sweeping up after the MLS weekend party (Week 19 edition), here are 10 things I found lying around:
Stop and study what unheralded rookie Geoff Cameron is doing right now for Houston, which suddenly has its stuff together and has carved out a four-game winning streak, including a 5-1-4 mark in its past 10 games (in both MLS and the SuperLiga).
Cameron was finishing classes at the University of Rhode Island this time last year, soon to become the 42nd-overall MLS draft pick, the final selection of Round 3 -- a province that rarely portends future MLS starter status.
But the 6-foot-3 former midfielder has started six MLS matches and all four Dynamo SuperLiga contests. More impressively, he has lined up as a forward, an outside midfielder and lately as Bobby Boswell's partner in the middle of the league champ's depleted back line. And Cameron looks right at home there.
Houston needs a few players, unsung and otherwise, rising to the moment. The Dynamo just finished their 29th competitive match this year (with half of 'em in the South Texas sauna). We hear about fixture congestion around the world. Well, a few MLS teams could speak on the subject now; Houston, for instance, could easily reach the 50-game plateau this year.
2. Just because we haven't done this in a while, and because it's so much fun. MLS matches that don't involve the Galaxy average 2.4 goals through Week 19. Matches involving the offensively charged and defensively challenged Galaxy average 4.1 goals, including Sunday's 3-2 loss at San Jose.
3. More fun with stats. Here's the home record for the four clubs that play their matches on artificial turf (Red Bull, New England, Toronto and Real Salt Lake): 19-4-14.
And one more: Average attendance in five weekend matches, which included no high-wattage doubleheaders or evenings tricked up with huge concerts or fancy firework shows: a solid 20,182.
4. That guy's still playing? I'm not sure what it says about the state of MLS goalkeeping when Zach Thornton, 34 years old and looking at least 34 pounds overweight, can land on a roster and immediately start for a team in the middle of the Western muddle.
Look around the league and see how many starting goalkeepers make you go, "eh." There's Zach Wells at D.C., Jon Conway at Red Bull New York, Greg Sutton at Toronto, Steve Cronin at L.A., Dario Sala at Dallas, Bouna Coundoul at Colorado and now, apparently, Thornton at Chivas USA.
5. The right stuff? And a bit more about Wells, who flirted with calamity on a couple of occasions Saturday, once while dealing with a fairly routine cross: United always fancies itself a title contender. And, indeed, Tom Soehn's team sometimes seems to have the stuff. But you've got to wonder if Wells is a guy that United can win a title behind?
6. The elephant in the Chicago Fire locker room. Might the team from Toyota Park play better without Cuauhtemoc Blanco right now?
That's probably a stretch -- but you just know a few folks in and around Bridgeview have wondered so.
If they don't play better, they certainly play differently, moving the ball faster sans their suspended playmaker -- who hasn't been making plays for almost two months now. Blanco has neither scored nor assisted since June 7.
Let that sink in for a second.
Blanco was out for Saturday's 1-0 win over Chivas USA due yellow card accumulation. In the end, resting Blanco is probably the best thing that could happen to Denis Hamlett's club, which won for only the second time in its last eight MLS matches.
7. Return on the DP dollar. Who can blame top Wizard Curt Onalfo for trying anything now as the desperate hunt for goals slogs on in the heartland? Currently, pricey Argentine striker Claudio Lopez is playing out wide in midfield.
With Lopez in the midfield, K.C. lacks sophistication in the runs and combo play up top. Again, sitting with just 17 goals in 18 matches, Onalfo is correct to get creative.
Still, if you go sign a goal-scoring DP and you pay him DP money to score goals, at some point, well, you get it.
Saturday, midfielder Davey Arnaud played at striker while Lopez probed from behind. Lopez never looks particularly bad. It's just that the numbers don't lie. Three goals in 18 games is hardly good return on the DP dollar.
8. Indigestion from Tex-Mex. FCD defender Drew Moor was spot-on Sunday at BMO, commanding the defense in place of the injured Duilio Davino, who has looked like a mismatch or an outright mistake from Day 1. And Moor did so for less than a fifth of Davino's salary.
The other interesting note from Dallas' 2-0 win Sunday at BMO: the frustration is mounting in Amado Guevara, a toxic locker room threat when things aren't going swimmingly. He clearly can't find the game as a central partner in a 4-4-2, where he's had to play during Maurice Edu's absence. Then, to be ejected late Sunday and effectively kill any TFC rally chances, that's another huge red flag in terms of character -- and it's just not smart.
9. Dodging a Giants mistake. Every night, when Fire defender Wilman Conde addresses his maker, he should say a little "Thanks, Big Guy" for keeping him at Chicago and out of the mess at Giants Stadium.
FYI: the best center back pairing in MLS right now is a toss-up between Chicago's Conde and Bakary Soumare or RSL's tandem of Nat Borchers and the increasingly imposing Jamison Olave.
All of Chicago's issues have to do with scoring goals, not with defense.
10. Sudden thought. As all these globe-trotting high performers pass through MLS territory at this time of year (Barcelona, Everton and several Mexican sides were here just in the last few days, for example), the big earners get asked the same question, "Would you like to play in MLS someday?" Well, it's a bit pointless, isn't it? Has anybody ever said, "No way!"
Will they ever? Of course not. So why bother?
And yet, we all take the bait and write about it anyway. I'm just sayin' ...
Steve Davis is a Dallas-based freelance writer who covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He can be reached at BigTexSoccer@yahoo.com.