8 Things We Learned from MLS Week 11: World Cup Duty Affects Play of Many Clubs

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 19, 2014

8 Things We Learned from MLS Week 11: World Cup Duty Affects Play of Many Clubs

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    The 11th week of play in Major League Soccer was different than any of the previous 10 because of the departures of many players due to international duty. 

    Teams like Sporting Kansas City, Seattle and Toronto all faced a bit of adversity due to the arrivals of their players at the United States World Cup camp. 

    All three of those teams taught us something about themselves with their play in Week 11, and so did a few other sides that have been either hot, cold or both during the 2014 campaign.

    Continue reading for the eight biggest lessons from Week 11 in MLS. 

There Is Still Time to Hop on the Lee Nguyen Bandwagon

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    After 11 weeks of play in MLS, you can legitimately make a case that New England's Lee Nguyen is a favorite in the race for Most Valuable Player. 

    The 27-year-old midfielder was so good on Saturday in New England's 5-3 win over Philadelphia that Union manager John Hackworth went out of his way to praise his play. 

    Nguyen scored once, and his hustle and creativity caused the first two goals that the Revolution put past Zac MacMath. 

    His exceptional performance on Saturday gained him more fans, and if he continues his fine form, there is no doubt he will start in the MLS All-Star Game. 

Will Johnson's Postgame Comments Were Phenomenal and Accurate

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    The Portland Timbers earned a point at home on Saturday after they put together a comeback down a man against Columbus.

    However, the Timbers did make a few stupid mistakes once again, as Futty Danso pulled down Giancarlo Gonzalez in the box right before halftime, and then he caused the third Crew goal with a misplayed deflection off an Ethan Finlay shot. 

    After the game, Will Johnson, who scored one of the two equalizers in the match, did not mince his words with his very accurate description of his team. 

    There is no doubt that the Timbers have a ton of heart, like a lion, but it is also true that they have made plenty of defensive blunders this season as well. 

The Rapids Had Plenty of Reasons to Be Upset with Mark Geiger

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    In the 50th minute of Colorado's Rocky Mountain Cup game at Real Salt Lake, keeper Clint Irwin and defender Drew Moor were left in shock after referee Mark Geiger whistled for a penalty. 

    After further review, the pair had plenty of reasons to be upset about the call, as it looked like RSL forward Devon Sandoval went down in the box on his own without any contact. 

    The botched call resulted in a converted penalty by Javier Morales, which ended up being the game-winner in the 2-1 win at home for the Claret and Cobalt. 

    Had the call gone the other way, the Rapids may have had a chance to equalize earlier and take down a still-unbeaten RSL side.

Fabian Espindola Will Be the Key to Eddie Johnson's Success

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    On Saturday, D.C. United's Eddie Johnson scored his first goal of the season in his team's 1-1 home draw with Montreal. 

    Johnson was able to put home the strike with his head thanks to a cross from Fabian Espindola, who has quietly been rounding into form over the last few weeks. 

    In his 10 games this season, Espindola has four goals and four assists for a team that needs a veteran playmaker. 

    The goals will certainly come for the Argentinian forward, but it is more important to his team that he continues to set up plays for his teammates.

    If Espindola can continue to excel in that part of his game, Johnson will see more goals fly past opposing goalkeepers. 

Sporting Kansas City Is Just Experiencing a Few Bumps in the Road

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    There is no doubt that Week 11 was a bad one for Sporting Kansas City, as the club fell at home to Philadelphia on Wednesday and then lost on the road in Chicago on Sunday. 

    In the loss to the Union, Sporting defender Aurelien Collin pulled up lame with a hamstring injury and left the match in the 61st minute. 

    After that match, the team lost Matt Besler and Graham Zusi to international duty with the United States, and because of that, their depth was depleted a bit. 

    During the match at Toyota Park, 17-year-old Erik Palmer-Brown was sent off after a second yellow, which left Sporting without their top five center backs for Friday's clash with Toronto. 

    Despite their issues at center back, Sporting still have had a chance to win both games, which is a sign of the club's resolve and skill at the other positions on the pitch.

    If, for some reason, Peter Vermes' side slips up against Toronto, do not go into panic mode, as it is just a rough stretch in a season that will see Sporting play better games in the future. 

Bradley Orr Is Turning out to Be a Key Addition to Toronto's Roster

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    When Bradley Orr joined Toronto FC on loan from Blackburn Rovers in January, not many people thought he would be a key cog in the Reds' defensive machine at this point in the season. 

    That is exactly what the former QPR and Bristol City player has turned into because of injuries and players out on international duty.

    In his seven games for the Reds, Orr has played at his traditional right back position, as well as center back and defensive midfield, where he played on Saturday. 

    Orr's best performances of the season, including in the 2-0 win over New York, have come when he is out of position, which may come as a shock to some. 

    With Orr able to shift into a few different defensive positions, manager Ryan Nelsen has been able to give opportunities to players like Nick Hagglund and Kyle Bekker, both of whom have played well this season when handed a spot in the starting 11. 

It Might Be Time to Start Worrying About the Galaxy

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    After the LA Galaxy fell to Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday night, the team fell to last place in the Western Conference standings. 

    With nine points from a league-low eight games, the Galaxy have not hit their stride yet, and they may not until after the World Cup break. 

    Regardless of when the Galaxy get it together, it is time to start worrying about just how good the team will be this season.

    Manager Bruce Arena added a few impressive parts in Rob Friend, Samuel and Stefan Ishizaki during the offseason, but the results have not come as expected, despite how well the three have acclimated themselves to their new team. 

    The good news for LA is that it will play FC Dallas, Philadelphia and Chivas USA at home before the World Cup break, which could be the perfect solution to the team's struggles. 

We Can't Judge How Seattle Will Do Without Dempsey Yet

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    The Seattle Sounders won their league-high eighth game of the season over San Jose at home on Saturday night, but they did it against a depleted Earthquakes side. 

    Some will take the result as an example of how Seattle can grind out a win without one of its stars in the lineup, but the reality is not much can be learned about the team after Week 11. 

    San Jose did not put out its best starting 11, and without Jon Busch in goal, the game could have easily turned into a blowout. 

    For Seattle to convince neutrals that it is for real, it will have to earn a result in Vancouver on Saturday and then take down Real Salt Lake on its home pitch seven days later. 

    If the Sounders come out of those matches with more than four points, we can legitimately call them the best team in the league heading into the World Cup break. 


    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.