10 Bright Spots of MLS Week 1: The Gambians, Cooke, and a Salute to Youth

1. New England Revolution

Introduce two U-20 Gambian players and succeed? Sure. Steve Nicol certainly knows what he’s doing and his opener – without the services of Twellman – truly pays homage to his ability to man manage and bring along young talent. Let’s not forget Adam Cristman who worked well with Nyassi and Mansally. All three – along with the veteran presence of Steve Ralston (let’s hope that shoulder’s okay) and the patrolling of Joseph/Larentowicz in the middle – helped put together an attack that even Houston’s defense couldn’t withstand. On the other end, however, Parkhurst dealt with Ching effectively, while it’s pretty certain that Wondolowski should not be in there.

2. Terry Cooke

When did Terry Cooke get fast? We knew he had a boot, but his speed and tenacity was the difference versus the Galaxy. Could it have been the Englishman just wanted to show up his former teammate Beckham? If that’s the case – the opening goal in a 4-0 drubbing of the Galaxy and two subsequent assists will do just that. We can expect another big service year from Cooke. Someone explain to me how Cooke got awarded that second assist on Colin Clark’s goal??? Clark dribbled for what seemed like an eternity before beating Cronin near post…at what point does Cooke’s initial pass become “unassisted”? 

3. Kenny Mansally/Sainey Nyassi

These kids can play. Nyassi burnt Houston on the wings and was able to finish his first goal ever in his debut. Mansally had his hand in the first goal and looked strong on the ball with an uncharacteristic poise for a first year striker. If Mansally and Cristman do well enough up top, does Taylor Twellman technically become expendable?? (Answer is probably no…). Sainey Nyassi was hyped up a little less than Mansally throughout the preseason, but he arguably was the more effective player. Not even Corey Ashe had an answer for his speed on the wings. Both players if consistent provide the Revs with a depth that could account for the loss of Dorman and Noonan. Let’s wait for week two though…

4. Maykel Galindo

He did it at the expense if FC Dallas’ new acquisition and Mexican international Diulio Davino, but no matter how it happens, the Goats came away with a point. Davino mishandled a trap and Galindo capitalized by pouncing on it and sending it straight through Dario Sala’s legs to equalize with 5 minutes to go. What it made it more impressive was that Galindo is still recovering from sports hernia surgery and isn’t at 100%. The Cuban international then kissed the Chivas USA shield during his end-of-the-game interview. The guy is class.

5. Claudio Lopez

Eddie Johnson who? Lopez and Ivan Trujillo ripped apart a decent D.C. United defense with the help of Carlos Marinelli. Already, this is shaping up to be one interesting year. If I’m not mistaken though, there were some crazy results at the beginning of last year too. Anyways, Lopez is class and looks like he’ll end up being another DP success. In fact, you could almost say that about all the DP debuts.  

6. Dema Kovalenko

The guy got stiffed by RBNY and sent on over to Salt Lake (stiffed in the sense he’s more of a big city guy, Chicago his “adopted home”, etc.), but he made the best of his first appearance. Dema, within two minutes of coming, served a cross that was redirected into the Chicago goal by young Bakary Soumare. In a questionably sloppy game, Kovalenko got the job done. On top of that, Kova was just recently sworn in as an official citizen of the United States of America.

7. Adam Moffat

One hell of a game winning goal for Columbus from the star of the Crew’s preseason. A developmental contract that looks to make a significant contribution to the Crew’s run this season. Reminds me of a younger Kerry Zavagnin. 

8. John DiRaimondo/Nick LaBrocca/Kosuke Kimura

LaBrocca, the NJ native, and DiRaimondo really frustrated the hell out of an almost non-existant Los Angeles midfield. Fernando Clavijo’s injury predicament forced him to go with a lot of new blood. Kimura held his own at right back, keeping Donovan pretty quiet throughout the whole game. From the get go, it was clear who wanted to win the game and all three were a huge part of that.

9. Traveling Toronto FC Fans

TFC had something like 2,000 supporters travel down to Columbus to take over Columbus Crew stadium. The Crew still outplayed them in the end, but Crew Stadium was still Toronto’s for the afternoon. Take those supporters away and you have one pitiful Columbus crowd. Mr. Gillett, you want a team? I got one for you…

10. Jon Busch

The seemingly eternal back-up began his Chicago starting career with a big game. A potent Real Salt Lake offense tested him again and again, forcing him into 8 saves. Busch, who last started regularly in 2004 with the Columbus Crew, looked shaky in the beginning but ultimately showed well and solidified his number one spot. In 2004, Busch was the brightest spot on a decent Columbus team – he posted a 1.07 GAA and a 12-5-12 winning record. Then he was replaced….Here’s to hoping he finds that success again.

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Colorado Rapids 2007 Season Review: The Difference between “Playing” and “Eating”

Colorado Rapids
Record (W-L-T): 9-13-8; 29 GF; 34 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports

Overview
It seems fitting somehow that I should approach a review of the Colorado Rapids 2007 in the same almost aggressively feckless manner in which the Rapids’ front office runs the team – e.g. not reading the match reports, but operating from memory. I understand this isn’t logical, but, given how they run their team, neither is the continued existence of the Rapids. This review also involves an element of the personal; after all, in my 2007 Western Conference preview, I wrote “I see great things coming out of Denver this year.”

Obviously, this is not what happened. In fact, some of the worst things came out of Denver in 2007. Colorado not only missed the playoffs, but managed to violate standards of aesthetics along the way. This was supposed to be a great year in Colorado, if for no better reason than the opening of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, a soccer-specific stadium to call to home. Apparently, the memo about playing at The Dick as oppose to eating dick, failed to reach the relevant parties. Is it any wonder that enthusiasm seems in shorter supply in Colorado than in any other MLS market?

All right, all right. Time to talk about games. Optimism – Colorado fans’ and mine – was somewhat justified till around June. The team started a respectable 4-2-3 with the losses coming to Western Conference powerhouses like the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas (OK, maybe not the second so much). The team had a colossal forward in Panamanian Roberto Brown, who seemed ideally suited for latching onto crosses from Terry Cooke, who either led or tied for assists in 2006. With Bouna Coundoul providing incredible value at ‘keeper the trade that swapped ‘keeper Joe Cannon for Herculez Gomez and Ugo Ihemelu looked all upside.

And then, at some point – it matters so little when that I’m not going to look it up – Roberto Brown was shipped off to wherever they send out-of-shape players and, possibly around the same time, Gomez went down. And when Gomez fell, the Rapids offense collapsed with him; stars from yesteryear – players like “Nico” Hernandez, Jovan Kirovski, and Jacob Peterson – picked up too little of the slack to register. If there’s a silver lining in all this, it comes with the arrival of Toronto FC: had they not been around and sucking eggs on offense everyone would have noticed that Colorado beat the goal-scoring nadir set by the Columbus Crew in 2006; Colorado scored only 29 goals over 30 games, just edging out the Crew’s earlier league record of 30 in 30 games.

In their defense, the Rapids had a defense of which they can be proud: only Houston and Chivas had a better defensive record and Colorado’s finest tied Supporters’ Shield winners DC United. And it’s not like the team stood pat amid the problems. Clavijo scrambled up a couple of acquisitions like forwards Daniel Osorno and Conor Casey. Unfortunately, discussing roster changes leads to the one Clavijo got very wrong: sending Kyle Beckerman, a centerpiece of the team, to Rocky Mountain rivals Real Salt Lake in exchange for Mehdi Ballouchy, a whisp of a midfielder who, for all his “skillz,” is still finding his feet as a pro.

All that may read a little harsh. Moreover, I can’t claim to know a hell of a lot about the Rapids because, any time past May, every time I started to watch them play, I wanted to stop shortly thereafter. Continue reading