MLS Week 23 Perspecto-Scope: Of Cream, Milk, and Curds

I’ve been struggling to come up with a theme for the past week’s action in Major League Soccer (MLS).  “Big Cities Rising,” “Eastern Conference (and Chivas) Rising”: none of them quite captured the essential dynamic of the week with the due touch of “pizzazz!”  And writing out “DC and Chivas are really good; everyone else, not so much” accurate as it is, doesn’t exactly sparkle as a headline.

Reality is reality, though, and the two-game, four-point performances turned in by both DC United and Chivas USA are the stories of Week 23.  Add the fact that these teams tied one another to open the week and it’s hard to shake the sense these two float delicately above the rest, the Cream of MLS.  While several relevant teams also pulled out wins this weekend, each contained some admixtures of dirty, disgusting milk (sorry; got tripped up in my metaphor; cream does rise, right?).  And that’s when the title, for what it’s worth, came to me.

Speaking of that draw, may as well dispense with the obvious: what kind of result do people think Chivas would have picked up away from the Home Depot Center (HDC), the California team’s rather outsized good luck charm?  If I had to guess, I’d say DC would win at RFK, but in a close one; Chivas isn’t bad on the road, but DC is strong at home.  The take-away from this takes the form of a two-parter: 1) I still think DC is the better team, but, 2) Chivas has an advantage in the HDC they need to exploit for all it’s worth come playoff time.  They’re good enough on the road, though, to keep them in with the contenders.

Speaking of which, the most significant thing about the subsequent wins enjoyed by both teams – Chivas against Red Bull New York and, more or less impressively depending on one’s view of the officiating, DC’s fighting win over the New England Revolution – came against arguable contenders…OK, no, I can’t type that.  New England I can call a contender, but Red Bull…nah, not with that defense and persistent sputters in midfield.  In all honesty, the Revs don’t wear that ribbon all that comfortably either; there’s something too plodding about the 2007 Revolution to put much stock in a return to the finals.  Maybe it’s the feeling that their formula has aged past vintage.

Even as a New England fan, I’ll pray to whatever god you give me that they spare us from a repeat of last year’s final.

And that final included…the Houston Dynamo, who, along with their Texas rivals, FC Dallas, falls under the “relevant teams [who] also pulled out wins” category.  And yet neither win ought to convince anyone; Houston’s came against Real Salt Lake – and it was close – while Dallas beat the Gang Who Can’t Shoot Straight Without Ronnie O’Brien, Toronto FC.  As much as unlikely heroes (ahem!  Nate Jaqua…cough..cough…Abe Thompson…cough) make for great story lines, here they prompt the question of where the likely heroes got off to.  And stepping up to take a PK – no matter how well done – doesn’t cut it, Mr. Denilson.  No matter who one slices it, both teams played two of MLS’s worst at home and, in all likelihood, sent the fans home feeling happy and apprehensive all at once.

Nearly lost somewhere in all the above was the one game I caught this weekend: the Chicago Fire’s 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew.  As I wrote yesterday, I view this as a fair result.  By most any measure, Chicago has climbed over the Crew, forcing the latter into their previously held spot in MLS’s sparsely populated basement.  With some justification, people credit Chicago’s new arrivals to both the coaching and playing staff for this two-way reversal of fortune; put another way, the Fire got a whiff of fresh oxygen while the Crew continued the long road through the season with the same wearying cast.  Is the narrative that tidy?  Probably not.  And I haven’t written off the Crew’s season entirely, not least for the reasons Fire_Juve10 left in the comments (see second link), but they’ve got to change up some part of the formula or they’ll enjoy their third straight early vacation.

One other game did take place over the weekend, the Los Angeles Galaxy’s face-saving win (or was it “freeing”…what?) over the Colorado Rapids.  From that pinched little corner of my heart that shares a room with pity, I wish the Galaxy a couple more wins this year.  As for the Rapids, a team I like for the same reason one might hang out with a guy who likes picking fights (e.g. cautiously and for cheap thrills only), a time comes when a team has to make their own luck – that time was Saturday against a reeling time like Los Angeles.

Roll all that rambling crap together and you wind up in the same spot: DC and Chivas look like winners right now.  The good teams that lost, lost to them, while the good teams that won beat basement-dwelling scrappers.  Somewhere in between the fight for the eighth and final playoff spot carried on – and, lord, it wasn’t pretty.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: