By Chris Reiko
A – Arrieta, Jairo – Columbus Crew striker and goal scorer against the Red Bulls. Jairo also hit the post; he reminded us that he’s still in Ohio, and he still has World Cup hopes with the Costa Rican National Team. His production might not be impressive, but Costa Rica head coach Jorge Luis Pinto knows Uruguay, England and Italy are their group opponents, and Arrieta is one of those strikers that can score from half a chance.
B – Bocanegra, Carlos – Even though he always seemed to score against Poland, the Chivas USA centerback was for years one of my favorite USMNT players, one of those that you could always count on. “We have some good personalities in the locker room this year. We play a 4-5-1 system, and fits as very well this year. We will keep working hard, because we are confident we are going in the right direction” -said the former USMNT captain, clearly frustrated with the 1-0 loss to the Quakes.
C – Coors Light – Yes, time for beer. Goals, yellow and red cards, penalty kicks and final whistles wouldn’t count in the Kansas City stadium without Coors Light, but please drink responsibly. The brand has become Sporting Kansas City’s official beer partner, and will have a special section at their beautiful stadium. I’m not a big fan of American “mainstream” beers, but I love to see the fruits of hard work by the great SKC marketing department. Within a few years’ time, the Sporting marketing guys turned from outsiders to, marketing-wise, one of the strongest MLS teams, if not giants. The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and an MLS Cup Championship was won by the players under supervision of Peter Vermes and his coaching staff, but it wouldn’t be possible without marketing dollars generated by the hard working team in Sporting’s offices. Well done.
D – D.C. United scored 4 goals in one game, against MLS’s best team. Yes, they did. The United did not conceded 4–they actually scored 4, allowing just one. That’s a fact, but keep in mind that D.C. United are unbeaten in their last 5 games. They next travel to Portland, and I’m afraid their unbeaten streak will go to at least 6 matches.
E – The Earthquakes won their first game of the season. It was far from pretty, but they earned 3 points at home, and that’s a positive after another game played way below the team’s potential. Another thing worth a word was the fact that in the second game in a row, the Earthquakes’ defense and Jon Busch kept their sheets clean.
F – Fernandez, since last Saturday the most popular last name for MLS scouts in Argentina and Uruguay. Gaston “La Gata” Fernandez scored a beautiful first-touch upper-90 for the Timbers, and Sebastian Fernandez saved a point on the road for the Whitecaps. All the Fernandez’s from Argentina and Uruguay are getting their U.S. visa applications ready 🙂
G – Goalkeeping errors led to several game decisive goals this week. Sporting KC keeper Erik Kronberg, originally from the Santa Rosa area, which is known for very good wine. Hopefully his misjudgment with the ball and giveaway that cost his team a goal has nothing to do with wine. It was Kronberg’s error that started a poor weekend for goalkeepers. Dan Kennedy from Chivas USA had a good, quiet, easy game, but was red-carded for an accidental handball outside the box. Even week seven hero and USMNT candidate Nick Rimando could have done better on Sebastian Fernandez’s last-second desperado equalizer from 35 yards out.
H – Houston had problem in New York, but since Brad Davis is back, their opponents now have problems, which the Timbers learned firsthand last Sunday. I’d love to see Brad Davis get a chance with the World Cup roster; he sure has hopes of this, and he’s one of many MLS veterans that deserves USMNT recognition. Does he have enough time left to impress and convince Klinsmann?
I – If, and I mean big IF, is the 2014 version of the Portland Timbers. “If we hadn’t put ourselves in the position of going seven games without a win, this result would be acceptable,” said Timbers midfielder Will Johnson. With all the negativity, doubts, and in some cases panic, I would say the Timbers are still in good shape to make the playoffs. Even without a single win, they are only 5 points away from the last playoff spot in the table. The Timbers have 3 home games in a row, starting this Saturday vs D.C. United.
J – Jay Heaps of the New England Revolution does not have perfect working conditions, but he’s one of those who never complains, just gets ready, goes and does the job, and even if his team loses once a while, he knows he and the team did what they could. Jay Heaps’s tactical magic worked well vs MLS Cup Champs Sporting KC. If the Revs can beat The Champs, it means they can beat anybody. A win, 3 points and a huge confidence booster for the New England team ahead of their trip to Toronto.
K – Klinsmann, Jurgen – His name can be heard louder and louder in all the MLS stadiums, where crowds are counting on him to call their favorite boy(s) to the World Cup roster. Well, to be fair and honest, some of those WC candidates hope that Klinsmann was busy and did not see them last weekend.
L – Logo – The new Earthquakes logo got some blame, and by some was even called unlucky. Its designers have had nightmares and gotten a little nervous thinking about why their baby has been so unlucky for their client. The fact is, under the new logo, the Quakes have had huge problem winning a single game. Finally Chivas USA visited Buck Shaw, and while it was not easy, the monkey is finally off their back.
M – Mamma Mia – “They scored, and they actually won the game!” could be heard last Saturday in the Jean Talon district, the Italian part of Montreal. A few older fans double-checked to make sure it was true. Congrats to the Impact team and head coach Frank Klopas for his first win as Montreal’s manager. I hope this is just the beginning. The Impact played their home game on grass for the first time this year at Saputo Stadium. The win was crucial for the future of head coach Frank Klopas, and as well as for Sporting Director Nick De Santis. The team’s poor performance made for tons of tension in the Montreal club, to the point that De Santis met with the media, assuring them of his support of coach Klopas. De Santis had no choice besides giving Klopas support, but his position in the club is also under huge question mark. Montreal Impact fans knows their soccer, and they came up with a set of banners that said it all. A win is a win, and a good 3 points for the Impact buys some time and breathing room, but the internal team issues and tension are far from over.
N – The New York Red Bulls, as I told you, are loaded with talent and confidence as never before. After their winless streak at the beginning of the season, I told you they will start winning by the end of April, and here we go. I know we’ve heard that before, but the Red Bulls are once again title contenders.
O – Olsen, Ben – The D.C. United head coach is a tough cookie and is getting tougher.
It looks like he finally got personnel that he can communicate with, and they going in the right direction. I have nothing but huge amounts of respect for Benny, for regardless of the circumstances he stayed with the club in really tough, and many said hopeless, days. After every thunderstorm the sun comes out, and it’s about time we see coach Ben Olsen and general manager Dave Kasper with smiles on their faces. Keep going guys, in October no one will remember that FC Dallas got 2 red cards, but these 3 points may get DCU into the playoff zone. Yes, I’m damn serious about it 🙂
P – The Portland Timbers are winless in their first 8 games of the season, but it looks like this year they really don’t care about the playoffs. Instead, the Timbers are going for the record for the number of draws in a single regular season, which was set last year with 15 in 34 games; this year they already have 5 in 8. What’s interesting is that Caleb Porter’s side is actually solid defensively, but has huge problems creating chances. “The one piece we need to continue to do better is in the final third” – said Timbers coach Caleb Porter.
Q – The Quakes will face (almost) Spanish Champions Atletico Madrid. Don’t think their magician head coach Diego Simeone has already started preparing for Mark Watson’s tactical tricks, but fans should also have some fun.
The Earthquakes announced the friendly match vs Atletico Madrid on July 27 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The match will be possible thanks to the sponsorship deal the Atletico Madrid club has with U.S.-based media giant DIRECT TV. The Quakes might get decent deal playing such a high ranked, prestigious opponent. The Quakes got the Atletico game as part of the package. 3 days later Atletico will face Mexican giant Club America in Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
R – The Revolution shocked the entire MLS. Once again the game plan by New England head coach Jay Heaps worked perfectly, but of course with huge help from referee Alan Kelly, who sent off Aurelien Collin and made more room for the Revs to operate.
S – The Sounders are on fire, and they just keep going. Clint Dempsey is having a great time between these often-confused MLS defenders, and he added another 2 goals in the Sounders’ 4-1 victory over the Rapids. Dempsey has already scored 8 in his last 4 games, and it’s obvious he’s not done yet. People are already asking him if this is his best year, and if he’s going for the MLS scoring record. “The year I scored 23 with Fulham, I was on a pretty good run there,” Dempsey answered with a smile. Hope he stays in form at least until the end of June. What magic touch changed Clint Demsey game under letter M in MLS Alphabet week 6
T – Teal Bunbury, traded by Sporting Kansas City to the Revolution, took full revenge on his former team by scoring a goal in stoppage time. Teal is one of those talents that always seems to get injured just when when gets going. In 2011, early in Teal’s career in Kansas City, assistant coach Zoran Savic told me that he’s going to be subject of the highest transfer fee to Europe in MLS history. Zoran went even further, as one of the target clubs he mentioned was Chelsea FC. Time went by, and Teal, already 24, is still playing in MLS for the Revolution, and scoring against KC. Hm, you would say that’s soccer life, but now if he goes to Chelsea, he could only go to the one from Kuala Lumpur.
U – Ultras, the most passionate and creative San Jose Earthquakes fans and their Tifo got well-deserved recognition all over the continent. The net located right below the Ultras’ section once again turned out to be very lucky for the Quakes. The game winner scored by Portuguese sensation Yannick Djalo was in front of the Ultras section. Not everything is as sweet as you would think in the Ultras sector.
Ultras group members keep exchanging punches with Quakes President Dave Kaval. Fortunate for Dave, these punches, at least for now, are in the form of emails and text messages, but both sides are not perfect in some of these conflicts. The Ultras repeatedly asked club President Dave Kaval and MLS to waive their ban, which is still being upheld after four of them had “disorderly conduct” charges in a 2013 Portland incident. The charges in Portland were dismissed against the 4 members that continue to be punished. Last Friday, April 25, Ray Whitworth the head of security for MLS met with the 4 banned members and told them that because they didn’t defend themselves in court the ban will stay for the rest of 2014 season. This ban has been in effect since August of 2013. One of the Ultras’ key members stated that: “MLS banned people for their long-over alleged second degree charge that was eventually dismissed.” I get it, safety first, but do they really have to go through this to watch an Earthquakes game? What’s your take on it?
V – Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s character and never-say-die attitude, you can say it’s copied from last year’s Earthquakes, except for those goals from 35 yards out by Sebastian Fernandez.
W – Wright-Phillips, Bradley – With 4 goals in 4 days, it’s hard to ask for more from the New York Red Bulls winger.
The obvious choice for MLS Player of the Week, Wright-Phillips nailed a hat trick in the Red Bulls’ 4-0 win against Houston on Wednesday night, then added another nice goal in their 1-1 draw in Columbus. Bradley comes from family with big football traditions and rich history. His father Ian Wright scored 128 goals in his long career for Arsenal and 9 for England, and is also very accomplished off the field as well. Bradley’s dad Ian has not only an incredible eye for talent, but also big heart, and should be example to all the rich soccer stars out there. Ian Wright, when he realized he’s making enough, adopted Bradley’s half brother Shaun Wright-Phillips, who btw has 36 caps and 6 goals for England and still plays for QPR. Last week, Bradley Wright-Phillips proved that he’s a great MLS ambassador to the football motherland, the country of England.
X-Factor – How long is long? 5 hours in soccer is like a century. 319 minutes, that’s what Houston Dynamo fans had to wait for their team to score, when finally Will Bruin netted one. Bruin’s goal wasn’t enough for a win, but it’s good that Houston have at least one monkey of their back. Maybe it’s just me, but this is the weakest Dynamo team I have ever seen. Any idea why?
Y – Yannick Djalo has quickly become one of my favorite MLS players, even in the little time we’ve seen him on the pitch.
On Saturday, the Earthquakes clearly struggled against Chivas USA in the first half, but things changed when Djalo got in. His first MLS goal, from Shea Salinas’s assist, turned out to be game winner, and Djalo’s quickly gaining popularity in the Bay Area, and not only in young female eyes. He’s already earned lots of respect in the locker room. “We love to have him here. He’s practically unstoppable in one-on-one situations” said one of the Earthquakes’ leaders, Sam Cronin.
Z – ZIP UP the game, or how to close out the game, being 2 goals up? It seems like it would be easy, especially when not many teams can even get a 2-goal lead, but this year our only unbeaten team, RSL, gave away 4 sure points to San Jose in the first week and last Saturday against the Whitecaps. Even though he’s having a spectacular pre-World Cup season, goalie Nick Rimando wasn’t perfect when he let in the last-second equalizer from 35 yards out.
You can contact the author, Chris Reiko, at ChrisReiko@hotmail.comFollow @@ChrisReiko tweet
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