Week 3 of MLS featured the first ever “Rivalry Weekend,” a weekend filled with fixtures dedicated entirely to the rivalries sprinkled throughout the league. Overall, MLS deserves credit for creating a unique way to thank and acknowledge the passionate fans and groups that make the league tick.
In total, 17 goals were scored. Of the nine matches, 67 percent ended with a draw (six). No one player was the most prolific goalscorer on the weekend, as there were no multiple-goal efforts. Two games, New York vs. D.C and Kansas City vs. Chicago, ended without a goal.
The most wild match of the weekend came in Texas, as FC Dallas let a two-goal lead evaporate, only to have it salvaged by Kenny Cooper’s controversial late winner.
A few themes emerged. Here some of the best and worst, starting with the best.
Rookies Make an Impact: Three rookies got the first ever goals of their respective MLS careers, Deshorn Brown of the Colorado Rapids, Andrew Driver of the Houston Dynamo and Carlos Alvarez of Chivas USA.
Brown’s was the result of an innate striker’s anticipation, stripping a poor touch off Chris Schuler of Real Salt Lake and burying his solo effort.
Driver blasted a loose ball just beneath the crossbar. His effort sparked what could have been a potential comeback had Kenny Cooper not scored a late game-winning goal. Regardless, Driver showed his class and instinct, seizing a partially open-goal chance and striking with accuracy.
Alvarez made an intelligent run to the far post and calmly side-footed the late game-tying goal.
Kyle Bekker of Toronto FC put in a solid 30 minute shift in midfield for the Reds and Andrew Farrell of New England is showing why he was such a hot prospect in the draft. Farrell was all over the entire right flank against Philadelphia.
Steve Zakuani’s Game: When Steve Zakuani broke his leg a few years ago, there were concerns he would never walk again. Let alone regain his explosive speed and power, two traits that made him one of the best players in the league at the time.
After returning to action last season, it seems like Zakuani has finally regained his unique form. His assist to Eddie Johnson during Saturday’s Cascadia match suggests as much. Zakuani intercepted a simple midfield pass and took off down the left flank. He barreled past defenders; taking big touches out in front of himself, as pacey players do and served a cross on a platter to a streaking Johnson.
Poetry in motion, textbook wide-play and proof that one of the most dynamic wingers in league history is back to his old tricks.
The Montreal Impact Remain Perfect: The Montreal Impact provided more evidence that they are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference this season, nabbing a third win and remaining perfect on the season.
The Impact are a side acutely aware of who they are and how they want to play. They sport a veteran back line, with leaders prolific. Their midfield is clear in how each players is to operate and their strikers are exactly that, pure scorers. They are a team in the truest definition of the word. That fact, makes them a great watch.
How Goals Were Scored: Goals from creative, build-up soccer were missing this weekend. Of the 17 goals scored, two were from penalties, three followed corners and one came from a set-piece situation. The goals that did come from the run of play were more the result of defensive errors, broken plays or individual offensive efforts; rather than team soccer and high-volume passing sequences.
Chicago Fire’s Offense: The Fire deserve credit for earning their first point of the season, a 0-0 road draw against their rival, Sporting Kansas City. However, there are issues on offense which continue to emerge. They went another week without scoring. They were rarely dangerous, mustering up a scant seven total shots and only managing to put one on target.
Unlike Montreal, their tactics do not appear clear. Chris Rolfe looked like their best threat on the day but rarely did they offer him service in the attacking third of the pitch.
They have the talent on the flanks in Patrick Nyarko and Dilly Duka but wide-play was mostly-missing, as they only pumped in 5 crosses.
Clearly, they will not be competitive if they are unable to score goals.
No Goals After Dominating Play: It is frustrating to watch teams dominate a match for 90 minutes without justifying their play with a goal. This was the case for the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City
Both played in similar matches. They had the ball for a majority, peppered the opponent with shots, had near misses, big chances and were incapable scoring.
D.C. United and Chicago Fire sat back and made numbers behind the ball a priority. This is a justifiable tactic and is prudent on the road. However, both were broken down on numerous occasions, only to be bailed out by great goalkeeping or near misses.
New York and Kansas City deserved more. More proof that soccer is the cruelest game on the planet.