Openers: MLS Week One

Theme of the weekend...

Swoops Edu

….and we’re off!

Hell of an opening weekend to MLS. You don’t have to be an MLS apologist to like some of the end-to-end action that transpired in Vancouver, Portland and DC among other places.

Single observations are always very fleeting and often incorrect, but here are some one’s that may be material as the season gets going.

• Choreography improves.

One of the more subtle knocks on MLS is that the movement of the players doesn’t exist within a set team system. There are acceptable reasons for this–lack of some technical ability, lack of coaches with deep portfolios and little academy or d-league development. It’s hard to assume that any one player will be on the same team come the next year still AND that if they’re not, that the next man down the ladder will be ready to step-up.

However, in Columbus–with the movement of Hector Jiminez, Josh Williams & Higuain–he deserves a single moniker; for Philadelphia, with the movement of Maidana, Gaddis & Nogueira and even in Vancouver with the movement of Fernandez, Kenny Miller and, gulp, Darren Mattocks showed better and more systemic choreography of movement in creating chances.

I also don’t think that it’s any surprise that these combinations were by players educated outside the domestic system, but it’s welcome nonetheless.

…and one final note on that gorgeous goal by the Crew….you’re better than that Nick DeLeon. You really are.

• Don’t bring a bulldozer to a motorcycle fight.

Here’s was my tweet Saturday evening.

Stand up Union fans–at least for this week and despite that stoppage time mess–there should be a spring in your step. And Hackworth Ire should diminish–for now.

The Union went into Portland and gave Portland something to be seriously concerned about and that is, “Our midfield and fullback support are as fast or faster than yours.”

The Timbs busted teams up in 2013 by laying waste to the opponent’s midfield.

In Week One, Chainsaw fans saw the back of Diego Chara more than front as Chara raced back frequently to help close down Philly wingers–specifically Cristian Maidana–after the triumvirate of Brian Carroll,  Vincent Nogueira & Maurice–hereby by dubbed “Swoops–Edu continually linked through and around Will Johnson, Diego Valeria and Chara.

(Quick aside, Maidana might’ve quashed even the smallest hope that Michael Harrington had for a shot at the USMNT leftback  chart.)

More so, even when the Timbs got out on the break, Edu and Nogueira rushed to get back behind the ball. Probably easy to grab double digit images of times when the Timbers outletted and by the time they were bearing down on goal in the attacking third as many as seven Union defenders were there to greet them.

With Austin Berry and Amobi Okugo–you may not find a young defender with a better understanding of the game in MLS than Okugo–keeping a tight line, the Timbers had some looks but for the most part got bottled. That said, Portland being Portland capitalized on a singular fundamental mistake of the Union to wrest a point back at the death–good teams find a way to win without their–not pun intended–fastball.

The grander point here is–and one that was witnessed as Vancouver bum-rushed the Red Bulls–is that this year it is clear that you better have a midfield that can compete with speed at a minimum, but frankly technical ability as well. (FC Dallas had some pretty linking on the weekend as well.)


• The replacement refs should get to the negotiating table

…because that was a well-refereed first weekend–something that is not always present with said “regular refs.”

• Chivas USA should’ve had it easier

Ultimately an authoritative header by Bobby Burling closed out what was a great first stanza by Wilmer Cabrera’s “FC ML”S squad. That said, Dan Kennedy had a bit of shocker.

The two goals he gave up were extremely soft–the first one being banged home by Benji Joya after Kennedy did a poor job of parrying and the second one–though screened–a poor reaction on a good, but not great ball on the turn outside the box.

Kennedy will be fine, but he dodged a two-point bullet today.

… and while we’re on keepers, Bill Hamid has too many reps to have as poor body language as he does.

• Bruin revolution?

It was an unfortunate call by many in pre-season but the Revs stumbles out of the gate is not surprising, but should it be troubling?

Hopefully, it’s singularly on account of the lack of continuity with Lee Nguyen and Andre Farrell nursing injuries.

Jose Goncalves was apparently not 100% and showed as such. He’s battling his contract situation as much as a knock. Scott Caldwell was hesitant–to put it kindly–on shutting down in the middle. And the Revs’ loss stands in stark contrast to when Jay Heap’s side went down to Houston last year and ran the Dynamo off the pitch.

Will Bruin last year regressed and scored in spurts. He got a soft NE side out of the gate Saturday–needs to keep up the consistency to show a healthy correction.

• Uri-nated (sorry)

Olum's passing chart.

Olum’s passing chart.

Plaudits for the work Saturday of such noted midfielders as Osvaldo Alonso for the Highlighters and Benny Feilhaber for Powder Blues, but the key midfielder for both sides Saturday was Uri Rosell, who sat on the day. Lawrence Olum filled in for the visitors and with KC missing their first-choice fullbacks in Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic, Seattle was able to get the ball in transition where it wanted to go faster and create some opportunities.

Continually with Rosell not moving the ball quickly out of the back, Feilhaber had a good game, but was much less integral in creating chances without Rosell protecting him.

For some visual and quantitative perspective, above is Olum’s passing chart (11 of 30 to go with some difficulties defensively). While not apples to apples (and in a 1-0 loss at home last year), Rosell went 14-of-66 against the Sonics at Sporting Park. Hard to overcome the engine out of the back being absent if the fullbacks require cover as well.

And PSA: Jeb Brovsky…onto another good cause. Have a click-and-sign if you would:

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by matthewsf on 2014/03/09 at 11:47 PM

    BTW, good goal from McNamara of Chivas USA, but he also played matador defense on the 2nd goal for Chicago.


  2. Concerning the referees, there was some controversy if you’re a Montreal fan. The ref was involved in all 3 Dallas goals.

    Let’s start with the penalty kick. It was awful defending from Jeb Brovsky and some were wondering why he was starting instead of Wandrile Lefèvre after missing the whole Disney Cup tournament due to an injury. But was it really a penalty? He barely touched the player (Diaz) who flopped to the ground like he was trying to earn a spot on his country diving team for the next Olympics.

    Also on the first goal there is a handball from Dallas (Blas Perez) in the buildup. I can get that it’s circumstantial and that the referee can blow his whistle (or not) in that case. But in the second half, on the foul that leads to the goal on the direct free kick for Dallas, the handball is just as circumstantial. Bernardello has his hands close to his body and is not gaining an advantage and is not making himself bigger.

    Just as the first one the ref can decide if he whistle the foul or not, but they are both pretty much the same and it should’ve been the exact same decicion in both cases. Instead Montreal gets on the wrong end of both calls and loses a game in which they could’ve at least got a point.

    What is your tought on that game?

    Sorry if my english is not perfect, it’s been a while since I wrote in that language.


  3. […] Shin Guardian praises the Union’s midfield and defense. “The Union went into Portland and gave Portland something to be seriously concerned about and that is, ‘Our midfield and fullback support are as fast or faster than yours.’” […]


  4. Posted by dth on 2014/03/10 at 11:31 AM

    Is it…

    1. DC just needing time to gel


    2. My god, it’s going to be another year of this bull?

    (Don’t) tune in to find out the answer!

    I’m not sure the Timbers mostly got bottled — seems to me they were close to putting it together on a number of occasions, but they don’t quite have that forward they need. (which is well-rounded, with a finisher). Urruti might come close but hasn’t quite shown that potency they need. This, by the way, is the reason MLS has so much parity: MLS has finishers, and it has well-rounded forwards, but it doesn’t have well-rounded forwards who are also finishers. Top teams in other leagues spend the cash until they find such a player.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2014/03/10 at 12:24 PM

      No idea on DCU.

      Timbers missed some chances AND a physically-fit Gaga makes a difference, but don’t let those chances fool you….

      The Timbers midfield got overrrun. The only time they made runs the other way is when they got the ball out to Nagbe and he carried it a good ways.

      Chara and Johnson got worked by Nogueira and Edu. I was sitting there in shock.


  5. Posted by KickinNames... on 2014/03/17 at 8:02 AM

    On another non-MLS note..the sad sad story of Stu Holden just took another hard turn south….at 28-29 I guess we’ll just have to settle for what might have been…fantastic heart but can’t see him coming back from a 3rd major ACL with both knees involved in 3 yrs….yet another reason to hate on the f ing Man U hacks..another notch in no talent Jonny Evans’ belt…


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