Best and Worst from MLS Week 5
Week 5 of Major League Soccer continued to provide the same awe-inspiring and outlandish moments that have categorized the most paradoxical league on the planet.
FC Dallas’ 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution propelled the Hoops to first in the Supporters’ Shield standings. The Portland Timbers were awarded a penalty kick for the first time since 2011, while the Seattle Sounders have failed to impress thus far this season.
Yet for all of that excellence—or in Seattle’s case, a lack thereof—neither was able to make the list of best and worst from Week 5 in MLS.
Read on to find out who did.
Best: Thierry Henry
Few players are capable of taking over a match as a second-half substitute. Then again, few players are named Thierry Henry.
The Frenchman did not disappoint.
Henry’s magisterial performance nearly culminated in a 76th-minute game-winner. Fortunately for the Philadelphia Union, his attempted bicycle screamed past the far post.
But in the 81st minute—from nearly the same spot—Henry finished a skillful volley to give the New York Red Bulls an insurmountable 2-1 lead. It was his first goal of the season.
Henry proved once more that the Red Bulls will go only as far as he can carry them. New Yorkers are hopeful it’s to the first MLS Cup in franchise history.
Worst: Chivas USA's Attendance Record
Kobe Bryant lost millions after being accused of sexual assault in 2003. After winning his fifth championship with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant is now earning an estimated $32 million per year in endorsements (per Forbes.com)
Michael Vick shared the same wrath after being sentenced to prison for running an illegal dogfighting operation in 2007. But after his 2010 Comeback Player of the Year campaign, Vick signed a six-year, $100 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Apparently, winning solves everything—unless you’re Chivas USA. An impressive record in the standings has been overshadowed by a pathetic attendance record at home.
Despite an impressive 10 points from the upstart Goats, Chivas failed to house a respectable crowd Saturday night. An announced crowd of 8,354 sparsely occupied the Home Depot Center.
There was even an attempt to start the wave from the scattered crowd. But with such a minuscule presence, it bore a resemblance to a ripple—much like this scene from the 1989 classic Major League.
If Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps doesn’t inspire the Los Angeles faithful to attend home matches, what will?
Honorable Mention: A bit of optimism for a deserving team. No one has scored more goals in MLS than Chivas USA (10).
Best: Dillon Powers' Searing Goal
Dillon Powers dropped jaws with his goal in Colorado’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. It wasn’t because it was the Rapids’ first goal in 160 minutes. It was because of the manner in which Dillon powered it home.
After controlling a pass from Chris Klute, Powers fired a searing shot that landed in the upper corner of the net. It was the first goal of his young career.
But all of his collegiate accolades—which include a NSCAA First Team All-American honor and being named to the All-Big East First Team—will fail to live up to what should be a forthcoming MLS Goal of the Week.
The first of his young career.
Honorable Mention: Referee Drew Fischer’s stumble over Jack Jewsbury’s feet makes this highlight that much better.
Worst: Conor Casey's Challenge
In search of a late equalizer, the stocky forward undercut Luis Robles from just outside the six-yard box. The challenge capsized the 6’1” keeper, rendering him motionless for several minutes.
A startled crowd of 15,000-plus collectively breathed a sigh of relief as Robles was able to gather himself and finish the match. But for a brief moment, it did not look good for the two-year veteran.
Head coach Mike Petke addressed Robles’ health in his postgame comments (via Brian Lewis):
“He seems all right. He better be all right because if they let him stay back in the game and something’s wrong with his head I’d be very upset. I think he got rattled a bit and took some time, and he’s fine now.”
The Red Bulls recently signed 38-year-old veteran Kevin Hartman, but had Robles been unable to finish the match, it would have meant the MLS debut of 17-year-old Santiago Castano.
Fortunately for New York, that was not the case.
Best: The Houston Dynamo's Historic Streak
The other 18 teams in MLS have been put on notice. Don’t allow the Houston Dynamo to capture the Supporters’ Shield. The MLS Cup will come along with it if the Orange Crush do.
Houston remained unbeaten in its 34th consecutive match at home Saturday night—tying the league record set by Real Salt Lake in 2011. BBVA Compass Stadium has never seen a visitor walk away with a full three points.
The San Jose Earthquakes were no different Saturday night and proved to be little competition for the Dynamo.
San Jose only managed to muster one shot on target.
As a result, Houston will have the chance to put an exclamation point on an already impressive streak April 14 when they host the woeful Chicago Fire.
Worst: Jun Marques Davidson's Own Goal
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Carlos Alvarez’s attempted cross was deflected off of Davidson’s shoulder and into the back of the net. Joe Cannon was unable to react, looking to defend the pending cross for a charging Tristan Bowen.
In the end, Vancouver was unable to complete the comeback following Kenny Miller’s header in the 64th minute. And without an equalizer, Davidson’s blunder is increasingly culpable.
Best: American Youth
Youth was served Saturday night. American youth to be exact.
The Under-20 U.S. Men’s National Team—led by Jose Villarreal and Luis Gil—were an overtime away from claiming the CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
That display of exuberant excellence transferred to MLS as the two put on an enthralling display on Saturday.
Villarreal proved to be a crucial sub for Bruce Arena in the 70th minute—scoring a fantastic equalizer for the Los Angeles Galaxy in the second minute of stoppage time. It was the 19-year-old’s first goal of the 2013 MLS season.
It’s never too early think about the future. Should the two continue to develop, the future of the USMNT is in good hands.
Worst: Football or Soccer at Gillette Stadium?
It was a beautiful 51 degrees in Foxborough on Saturday afternoon. That is the only positive thing that can be said about the playing conditions at Gillette Stadium.
Never mind that Gillette was named the worst field in MLS by select players (per Grant Wahl’s preseason player survey). There are zero New England Patriots games in the coming months. Why are there visible football lines on the pitch?
The New England Revolution are not the only MLS team to occupy an NFL stadium. Turf or not, the Seattle Sounders do a wonderful job of removing any semblance of its cohabitants—the Seattle Seahawks—on game day.
Robert Kraft was named the worst MLS owner in Wahl's survey. Yesterday’s poor display gives credence to that notion. It was just another example of the Krafts being uninterested in the deterioration of this once-proud franchise.
Only Chivas USA and the San Jose Earthquakes have a lower attendance record than the Revs.
This isn’t 1996. MLS is beyond this display. It's matches like this that leave MLS vulnerable to a warped perception from foreign spectators. Sepp Blatter’s interview with Al Jazeera last December is living proof.
"It is a question of time, I thought -- we had the World Cup in 1994. But it is now 18 years in, so it should have been done now. But they are still struggling."
Best and Worst: Landon Donovan
There are always two sides to every argument when it comes to Landon Donovan. This slide is no different.
After an extensive self-imposed exile, Donovan was subbed on in the 61st minute for 18-year-old Jack McBean. For American soccer fans everywhere, it was delight to see the most decorated soccer player in American history lace up his cleats one more time.
Fingers crossed he makes a lasting impact against Monterrey this coming Wednesday.
Worst: It was great to see Donovan on the field. But it would have been nice to see him finish his chance just moments after his anticipated return.
With a beautiful through ball at his feet—delivered by Mike Magee—Donovan found himself with an opportunity to complete the perfect comeback.
Instead, he scoffed it and safely delivered the ball into the hands of Joe Bendik.
There’s still some rust to work off, Donovan. But it’s great to have you back.
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