De Rosario in the zone for Toronto
Sweeping up after the MLS weekend party, here are a few things I found lying around:
1. Word to MLS -- here comes De Ro: Once a season or so, Dwayne De Rosario finds the sweet spot.
And when De Ro finds his groove, everyone in the house needs to drop the soda or brat and pay attention every time he gets possession. When his confidence soars, exciting and special things happen.
Toronto's swashbuckling, slashing attacker is one of the league's truly dynamic forces when he accesses one of these zones. (And maybe he'd get there more quickly if Toronto would play through him and Amado Guevara a little more often and finally shake loose of that confounded English mentality of knocking it forward to "the big lad.")
2. Pick your poison: Quick question: Who has the worst midfield in California right now? San Jose or the Galaxy? A real head scratcher, that one.
San Jose's midfield is hopeless. Its construction is fatally flawed, as no one in the current first-choice foursome is a natural at his current position. Ramiro Corrales is a converted fullback. Bobby Convey is clearly not central material. Like Corrales, if the right complementary parts were around, he might have a chance to grow into the role.
Arturo Alvarez always has had talent, but his complete ambivalence to that right foot is severely limiting. The Quakes have no width on the right because Alvarez is always looking to scoot inside. Darren Huckerby, of course, is the real deal as a left flanker. But he's injured -- so there you go.
It was men against boys in the midfield Saturday at Robertson, where Houston was always in control.
3. And the case against L.A.: You can talk all day about flagging combination play, the lack of a younger left-sided player (which would allow 35-year-old Eddie Lewis to play left back), the lack of a true holding presence. And you'd be right on all accounts.
Or, you can just cut through the clutter and say: The talent isn't there. Period.
On Saturday, Bruce Arena's men couldn't finish off Dallas despite a man advantage for 65 minutes. Josh Tudela, Dema Kovalenko, Mike Magee and Lewis simply couldn't move the ball fast enough or muster enough ideas to exploit the extra space. Landon Donovan was clearly frustrated coming off the field.
Arena contends the team is hamstrung by poor choices of the previous regimes. Fair enough. Then again, Galaxy ownership selected Arena because, presumably, he could dig up answers and begin leading this wandering lot out of the woods.
4. It's gonna get worse before it gets better: If you think the Galaxy attack is a wasteland now, wait until Donovan leaves next week for international duty. David Beckham's first game likely will be July 15 in New York. So for almost all of June, during qualifier and Confederations Cup time, the Galaxy offense will be all smoke and mirrors -- assuming there's any offense at all.
5. Maximizing movement at BMO Field: Nobody gets more from limited movement than Danny Dichio. The TFC target man is about as mobile as an office plant these days, but he can be pretty tidy with his feet once he does get around the ball. His turn and decisive early pass to De Rosario were critical in Saturday's win. Generally, Dichio is at his best at the top of the penalty area, where he always seems to know where his teammates are.
Chicago at Chivas USA
Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360
6. Slippage alert: We appear to be seeing the first slippage in Chivas USA's mighty run. Preki's men gave up two late goals in last week's draw. Then came Saturday's 1-1 tie in Kansas City. While a road draw might ordinarily pass muster, the Goats had a man advantage for 22 minutes (and a two-man advantage for almost 10 minutes). Not that any of it really matters. Chivas has so many points already, raging mediocrity for the duration would still earn a playoff spot.
7. Glove love: March and April were an absolute buffet of goalkeeper blunders. But things have settled lately in the domain of parry and punt. Josh Wicks made the most of his turn in that (unstable) D.C. United three-man rotation. Kevin Hartman was an absolute wall as his team finished with nine men against Chivas USA. Kasey Keller had two stunning world-class saves before the break against Colorado. Ray Burse was a big part of the reason 10-man Dallas tied Los Angeles. And finally, Jon Busch was The Man at the end as Chicago held off a late Red Bull push.
8. Year of the draw: Four of seven contests ended level in Week 10; 62 of 150 matches so far (41 percent) have finished in draws.
One reason is so many red cards issued to home teams. When that happens, the hosts often are happy to split the points. Just look at this weekend: Josh Wolff and Santiago Hirsig were sent off (both rather dubiously) as their side hosted Chivas USA. And Marcelo Saragosa was expelled as Dallas hosted Los Angeles.
Last week's only ejection came in New York, where the Red Bulls' Jorge Rojas was sent off. A week prior, Seattle's James Riley was at home when he was ejected. Those account for all the expulsions over the past three weeks -- and all ended in draws.
9. True passion: Seattle's Osvaldo Alonso wept as he left the field with a quadriceps injury at DSG Park outside Denver, distraught and inconsolable over having to leave his teammates in need. That's the kind of contagious, impassioned commitment to the cause that drives organizations.
10. One that got away: MLS commissioner Don Garber gets most things right. Bottom line, he's been good for the league.
But he really lost credibility points last week when he proclaimed that all is well with MLS referees. "Nothing to see here, folks, just move along" was the message.
He's correct that referees miss calls around the globe. But where MLS officials fail so regularly is in match management and overall tone. Perfect example: Everybody saw what happened two weeks ago when Los Angeles defender Gregg Berhalter picked up a ball to delay a restart. Madness ensued. A Seattle player was (rightly) ejected in the ensuing scrum, etc., etc.
So it approaches utter madness when the same thing happens with the same team in nearly identical circumstances, as it did Saturday in Dallas.
Saragosa's boyish push on Lewis' noggin was stupid, and the red card was wholly deserved. But it also was entirely avoidable through just a little bit of referee management. It all happened when Lewis picked up a ball along the sideline to prevent a faster restart.
He already had delayed a previous restart by kicking away a ball and attempted to delay another one by kicking a ball onto the field. If referee Paul Ward had had a quick word with Lewis on either occasion, none of the later sideline silliness would have happened.
The same night, Wolff's ejection never would have happened if referee Jasen Anno had called Chivas USA's Mariano Trujillo for using the bottom of his studs against the K.C. attacker. (For whatever reason, Trujillo seems to get away with that a lot.) That goes to "tone," as MLS officials routinely ignore fouls in a misguided effort to maintain flow. It's a "physical" league, as we hear ad nauseum.
Later, Anno seemed to count "one, two, three" as he showed Hirsig a second yellow. That would be OK, of course, as persistent infringement is surely a cautionable offense -- except that Hirsig had committed just three fouls the entire match, with his previous infraction coming in the 13th minute.
Steve Davis is a Dallas-based freelance writer who covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He can be reached at BigTexSoccer@yahoo.com.