MLS Week 5 Review: Positives and Negatives
Week five of the 2012 Major League Soccer campaign saw several teams reach important milestones. It was also a week where struggling teams didn't do enough to alleviate the worries of their fan bases.
Records were broken, and streaks were stopped. Teams continued to dominate, while others still struggle at the bottom.
There are multiple ways of breaking down this week's actions, but let me simply start by naming the positive and negative trends that earned my interest this past weekend.
NEGATIVE: Portland's Defense
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In two straight games, the Portland Timbers have let points slip away in the last 10 minutes of the game. Both times at home.
Portland's center-back issues with Andrew Baptiste were to be expected. He is a rookie and still adapting to the speed and physicality of the game.
But his partner, Eric Brunner, with more than 70 appearances, hasn't done any better of a job. And Rodney Wallace has seen being beaten on several occasion on the wings.
Portland's head coach John Spencer has been able to improve the midfield and offense. The Timbers have scored seven goals in five games, which isn't terrible. But it does offset the stat when the defense has allowed eight goals in the same amount of games.
And when those goals come late in the game and lead to points being given up, it's an indication that maybe the back four combination Spencer is using is not up to the task.
POSITIVE: The Goats Are Starting to Kick
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Put another notch in the road victory column for Chivas USA as they traveled to take on the Portland Timbers and came back from behind to win.
Even though Portland went ahead in the 18th minute, Chivas' defense—well, actually, goalkeeping—held up the Timbers long enough to string the comeback.
Chivas head coach Robin Fraser just needed to get the offense rolling, and it finally did so last weekend.
Alejandro Moreno, who returned from injury, tied the match three minutes into the second half. Nick LaBrocca notched the game-winner in the 82th minute.
Both goals were assisted by Ryan Smith, whom Chivas acquired before the season from Sporting Kansas City.
This win was crucial for the Rojiblancos, and the club needs to take advantage and learn how to replicate the performance.
The top Western Conference teams are starting to separate themselves from the bottom dwellers, and Chivas doesn't want to be outside looking in once again.
NEGATIVE: Goodbye Vancouver's Undefeated and Shutout Streak
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In the 62nd minute the club broke the record—previously held by New York—but the celebration was short-lived as San Jose's Chris Wondolowski scored the game equalizer six minutes later.
Having Vancouver's streak end wouldn't have been bad if the team hadn't allowed two more goals to drop the lead and lose its first game of the 2012 season.
San Jose exposed faults in Vancouver's defensive back-line that no other team was able to.
Now, with one loss and no more streak, the Whitecaps probably feel some sense of relief. They will need regroup and once again become the same defense that earned them the title of stingiest team in league history to start any MLS season.
There are also a couple of other points to talk about from this game, but we'll get there.
POSITIVE: Earthquakes Keep on Rolling
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The Earthquakes fell behind four minutes into the second half. But a brace by Chris Wondolowski and the game-winner by Alan Gordon in the 72nd minute helped San Jose capture the three points with a 3-1 mark over the Whitecaps.
With the two goals over Vancouver, Wondolowski has accounted for six of San Jose's eight goals.
The Earthquakes, with 12 points, sit in second place, three points behind Real Salt Lake.
NEGATIVE: D.C. United's Averageness
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D.C. United is average and boring. Just look at the stats so far this season.
The team has a 1-2-2 record. It has five points from five games, and they have scored five goals while allowing five.
I'm not claiming that United hasn't been playing soccer. I just expect more from a line-up that has Maicon Santos, Hamdi Salihi, Dwayne De Rosario.
But this weekend again showed the futility that D.C. hasn't been able to cope with.
It's great to tally a clean sheet against a hard opponent like the Seattle Sounders—game ended scoreless—but to not find the back of the net for the win and three points must be frustrating for United fans.
There is still time for the club to move up the Eastern ladder, but they must find those goals.
POSITIVE: The Impact Get First Win
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Both squads came into this game playing a match midweek, but it had been the Impact that has showed a better sense of unity in the last couple of weeks.
It all culminated in the 81st minute when Montreal rookie Andrew Wenger notched his first goal of his pro career and the eventual game-winner.
The victory comes as a huge confidence booster for Montreal and its young head coach, Jesse Marsch, who has been slowly chipping away at the team's faults and imperfections.
Now the squad is starting to look like a solid bunch that can climb the ladder of the Eastern Conference.
NEGATIVE: Edson Buddle Not so 'Super'
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For several seasons when Edson Buddle would find the back of the net, the Los Angeles faithful would respond with a "Su-Su-Super Ed! Super Edson Buddle!" chant.
Most recently, those fans have been silent, not being able to cheer as loudly as they did when the news broke out that Buddle was returning to the Los Angeles Galaxy before the 2012 season.
In four appearances, Buddle has mustered only one goal, and that was back in the home opener against Real Salt Lake. Since then Buddle has only been able to tally one other shot on goal and eight shots in total.
Against Sporting KC, he didn't do anything to change his critics' minds. Buddle had horrible touches and looked lost in the Galaxy's offensive third. Eventually he was subbed out for Chad Barrett.
Buddle is probably still on Klinsmann's radar, and maybe the pressure to impress him as well as get results for his club is getting the better of him mentally.
Or maybe he's just showing the inconsistency many Galaxy fans have been inclined to complain about since he was acquired in 2007.
POSITIVE: Thierry-Kenny Tandem
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So I guess Red Bulls does give you wings.
It took some time, but these two have been able to understand how to play with and off each very quickly, becoming one of the most lethal duos in MLS.
The Red Bulls are currently second in the East and six points behind Sporting KC.
NEGATIVE: Galaxy in a Universe of Its Own
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Usually that headline rings as a compliment for the Los Angeles club.
The team being on a different universe, light-years ahead of everyone else in Major League Soccer, has become a norm. Well, in 2012, the team might be in a different universe, but only because it's being left behind by the rest of the league.
The reigning MLS Cup champs are dead last in the Western Conference, with three points from four games, including two 3-1 defeats and recently a 1-0 loss to Sporting KC.
The midfield looks out of sync and in utter disarray. The defense can't cope with strong strikers and is abysmal in the air. The forwards can't seem to find the back of the net even if a group of supporters stood behind the goal with neon-colored arrows.
The loss of Omar Gonzalez was a huge blow for the squad. But it's difficult to comprehend how the loss of one player can impact a team that on paper is the exact same squad from last year.
The injury bug has also bitten LA as of late (Landon Donovan was out against New England, and David Beckham didn't fly to Kansas City), but it's hard to use it as an excuse for such horrible performances.
This setback seems to be more of a mental issue the team has to cope with, and the players have to do it soon. There is not much time to waste in this tough Western Conference.
POSITIVE: Sporting (Kansas City) Perfection
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It's crazy to see how a new stadium and change in identity can help a team succeed so rapidly.
Oh, and who did Sporting KC beat to reach that milestone? The LA Galaxy.
The home side beat a very shaky LA squad, 1-0, with Kei Kamara's goal.
Kansas City may not have worldwide-recognizable names on its squad, but they have the two most important things an MLS team needs: speed and youth.
Graham Zusi, C.J. Sapong, and Kamara are all very young and have shown time and time again a hunger to be the best in this league. Behind the trio is also Teal Bunbury, who has been coming off the bench but can be a big threat offensively.
Not to be outdone is the defense. Against Los Angeles, the combination of Seth Sinovic, Matt Beasler and Chance Myers prevented the top-heavy Galaxy from even getting a shot at goal.