Introducing, The Perspecto-Scope: MLS Week 19 (+ Goals Video)

As threatened, I’m going to make a stab today at putting Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Week 19 in perspective – just generally looking at trends in form imagined or real in a less constrained (and, puzzlingly, thorough) format than power rankings.

To start with the most tempting – and probably, the most imaginary – of trends, Houston did more than just suffer a second consecutive defeat, but they did so against Western Conference rival and third-tier team (explanation; after the rankings), the Colorado Rapids. A couple of coincidences – starting with the fact that Loss #1 came against lowly Real Salt Lake – raises the possibility that the Dynamo may have peaked too early in the season. Given the noteworthy resemblances, down even to the opponent who kicked it off, this space will hereafter refer to the phenomenon of ending a hot-streak at the wrong time and against a horrible team as “Pulling a DC.” Conventional wisdom no doubt expects a Dynamo recovery, but, in fairness, we all thought DC would pull out of last year’s late-season nose-dive as opposed to testing the theory that Christian Gomez could, in fact, win MLS Cup single-handed.

At the same time, a couple realities in Colorado points to continued futility, the first of them the fact that the Rapids didn’t even score the winning goal against Houston. But the most worrisome thing from the Rapids’ perspective comes with the sense that the formula that got them to the playoffs for the past couple seasons – e.g. solid home record – hasn’t held up for 2007. If “doomed” was a color, one could add it to the Rapids’ home claret-and-blue.

Speaking of doomed, hello Los Angeles! As we all know – not least because David Beckham is the undeclared singularity of soccer in the United States – the LA Galaxy continued to serve as the PR anchor for MLS by racking up two losses this past week; fortunately, only one of those games aired before a national audience. Speaking of Beckham (not least because we all have to), I suspect ESPN’s broadcast team is mistaking the tense expression he is so often wears: the concentration they’re seeing grows from Beckham’s attempt to recall the escape clause cited by Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon in his contract with the Galaxy. On the upside, the Galaxy have a late-August/early-September soft-patch beginning and ending with “SuperClasicos” against Chivas USA, a team they beat more often than not. Cheer up, Becks. Maybe the sun will come out tomorrow…

The tragedy of the Powers That Be continue foisting LA Galaxy games on the American soccer-viewing only deepens when one sees the games they’re neglecting – notably, the rousing shoot-out between FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew. Having already devoted a post to the halcyon happiness in Dallas, I’ll only say one thing here: as Dan Loney pointed out yesterday, Dallas, along with their various bandwagoneers inside and outside Dallas (twits like me, for example), have been here before, only to see everything fall apart somewhere around Denver, Colorado (which, as I understand it, sits kitty-corner to Hell). Seeing as getting carried away is half the fun, however, I recommend Dallas fans carry on.

Unfortunately, that luxury seems sadly unavailable to Crew fans. At a time when the Crew are playing as well and fluidly as ever, the harsh reality of two playoff-free years has created a somewhat paranoid expectation that each loss will be the first of several (witness subtle cracks in a brave face in the first paragraph here). Personally, I think nothing short of a trip to the conference finals can cure psychic pathologies of this sort – and, on the upside, I think this Crew team can swing that. Unfortunately, “can” and “will” ain’t synonyms in this universe, but, trust me, the Crew will eventually get the girl, lose their virginity, etc.

Turning to “also-rans” operating a couple levels higher, the New England Revolution looks like they’re sitting pretty, being tied at the top of MLS along with FC Dallas. So, why am I about to lay into New England after so eagerly jumping onto the Hoops’ bandwagon? The larger piece of hesitation grows from personal concerns about the Revs’ profligacy in front of goal (I’m looking at you, Taylor Twellman), an unwelcome feature in this weekend’s game against LA. Add a pinch of impossibly high expectations (my fault), and you get my ongoing doubts about New England’s staying power. Here they are, unlike the overwhelming majority of MLS, still in contention for the U.S. Open Cup, tied in the Supporter’s Shield race, and some asshole/nominal fan who lives across the country doesn’t think they’ll make it past the first round.

Long story short, I’ve never trusted New England’s promising runs of form; call it the next-level of paranoia from that Crew fans endure, the result of three trips and three soul-scouring losses in MLS Cup…and the last was the worst.

Success in MLS Cup naturally turns the conversation to the most successful club in MLS history, DC United. And, in spite of having seen them in action against LA, I can’t quite put my finger on what makes this team work – but, dammit, they work. What most impressed me from their win over LA, however, was how well they functioned as a team – e.g. the alert, assured, and, this is crucial, coordinated movements both to and away from the player on the ball. While DC looks the likeliest to upset New England’s shot at the Eastern Crown, annual losses to Real Salt Lake speak to a troublesome love for stepping on banana peels.

One bandwagon I won’t be jumping on is the Red Bull Express. Resistance grows mainly from the theory that they didn’t play that well on the way into their short lay-off and they only beat a weak and battered Toronto FC on their way back. Hmm…after further review, it appears Red Bull actually follows more of an up-down pattern. Eh, I’m still waiting for clearer signs before saying Red Bull has arrived. More specifically, as well as their forward tandem worked on Sunday, both them, not to mention the team as a whole, benefited from playing a team entirely unable to hold onto the ball. I wouldn’t be surprised if LA beat them this weekend…in fact, I’m throwing down my marker, right here, right now! Who wants some action?

Finally, Toronto…Toronto, Toronto, Toronto. I feel for these guys, honestly, suffering as they are from the rough equivalent of a bus running over the entire right side of their starting eleven, before going into a roll that wiped out their starting forwards; small wonder they haven’t scored in a game or two. It’s tempting to say that bad luck Poltergeist-esque proportions scuttled head coach Mo Johnston’s half-savvy trades, but that feels like a stretch. The hard reality is that this team’s July/August looks like their first few games – albeit without the blowouts…well, till last Sunday anyway – and, even at their best, a two-game winning streak was the best they could manage.

Well, that’s it for Week 19. I’m still working on style and getting myself to focus on the week at hand. More later…some ideas grew from this post…

And, by the way, if you haven’t voted for Goal of the Week, here’s a look at the candidates:

One Response

  1. […] Week 20 Power Rankings To start with a question, is my once-employed “Perspecto-Scope” basically power rankings SANS bullet points? As the originator of that fine, Frank-Castle-esque […]

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