The Digital Crawl: Week 4 MLS Recap

CHESTER, PA - MARCH 31: Goalkeeper Joe Cannon #1 of the Vancouver Whitecaps accidentally punches Lionard Pajoy #23 of the Philadelphia Union in the face while he attempts to make a save during the second half of a Major League Soccer game on March 31, 2012 at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. The game ended in a scoreless tie. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Lot's of interesting games this last week. A great week for the East, and some teams are either starting to show some strength or are just simply not as bad as we thought.

Sporting Kansas City Links

Historical start doesn't interest Sporting KC's Vermes | Sporting Kansas City
"We still have a lot to work on," he said. "We haven’t hit the stride we want to. We’re slowly growing. It’s a long season and, so far, this is nothing to write home about. Now, we just have to get ready for our next game against LA."

I love this quote from Vermes, and the general prickly reaction to the overwhelming positive sentiment coming from the press and fans. While we are 4-0-0, the matches haven't been the prettiest, and I would agree the team isn't at their full potential yet. Scary for everyone else.

Fantastic 4-0 | Sporting Kansas City
Chivas USA midfielder Ryan Smith suffered five fouls on Sunday, tied for the most by a player in an MLS match this season.

That'll teach him.

Sporting KC Reports: Postgame Reaction: Sporting KC VS Chivas USA (4/1/12)
While watching the game, I couldn't help but start thinking about Convey. Don't get me wrong, I pick him over Peterson always, but Convey hasn't really lived up to his potential. His finishing lacks a lot, and overall he's pretty invisible during games. I don't know if it's a serviceable but not flashy performance, or he's just not playing well. We really don't have another left winger, besides Peterson, so he'll definitely be sticking around. I just hope his performance improves throughout the season.

A good point about Bobby Convey, as Jacob Peterson looked more lively in the match. Part of that has to do with the open flow of the second half, but I think Convey is hurt by how good Kei Kamara has been. We've been using the right flank far more often for attack the past two games.

The Goat Parade Recap

Sporked: Sporting Kansas City 1, Chivas USA 0 - The Goat Parade
Chivas played checkers, SKC played chess on the goal: When Graham Zusi hit a long-range blast in the 47th minute, Dan Kennedy made a save to push it off the post. That the rebound bounced up in the air so lazily and stayed in play was a fluke, but instead of heading the floating ball directly at goal, which most players in the league would have done, Zusi headed it across the goalmouth to Sapong, who was waiting, and he finished easily. Heath Pearce was muscled off the ball on Zusi's header, and Rauwshan McKenzie didn't anticipate the threat from Sapong. Kennedy had to prioritize whether to guard against Zusi shooting point blank at goal or other possible threats, so he made the right decision in sealing the main chance. But Zusi was a step ahead of Chivas, and set up a simple goal. A play like that distinguishes the decent teams from the very good, and while the scoreline wasn't a blowout and the play was quite tight at times, it demonstrated that there still is gap in decision-making between the teams.'

Best analysis of that goal that I've read.

(Every other game after the jump)

D.C. United 4 FC Dallas 1

Maicon's Revenge: DC United Flattens FC Dallas 4-1 - Big D Soccer
FC Dallas Defender Ugo Ihemelu: "We just let down, there wasn’t enough energy. We knew they were going to come out hard and fight for a win; they weren’t going to settle for a tie. So, we have to match that energy and go after them – we are on the road. We knew what to expect."

DCU Reax, Game 4: Great Day in the Morning, Victory Is Ours. - Black And Red United
This game, despite the lopsided scoreline, was nothing if not entertaining. And it showed us a bit of what this team is capable of. Dwayne De Rosario was back to his old tricks, dishing out two assists. Maicon Santos was a man possessed. Nick DeLeon and Danny Cruz showed us that Ben Olsen's side really is two deep through the midfield. Daniel Woolard made us forget ol' what's his name who opened the season at left fullback (it couldn't have been the same guy). All in all, Friday was a great night for us fans of D.C. United.

That was the DC United attack we expected this season, but it might reflect more on Dallas. Like last week, they seemed beat in the second half, which is why I put that Ihemelu quote above.

Columbus Crew 1 Toronto FC 0

Toronto FC 0 - 1 Columbus Crew: A Frustrating Day - Waking The Red
So from Winter there is no panic at all. In fact, he looked to Sporting Kansas City last season to show that it is possible to over come a slow start in MLS. So if the players are frustrated and the manager is not concerned where should that leave the fans? Is it time to start hitting the panic button around the club, and if not, how much longer do we wait before becoming concerned?

Crew @ Toronto - Match Recap - Massive Report
The Crew defense as a unit had excellent games. They faced 31 crosses, 14 shots, and spent much of the 2nd half in their own end. They yielded only a few good chances for the home team.

Toronto is an enigma at this point. They are obviously doing well in the CCL, going into their 2nd leg of the semi-final even with Mexican Clausura leaders Santos Laguna. In MLS play, they are strapped for goals, and the polar opposite of Sporting KC. 0-4-0 1 GF 7 GA -6 GD. After CCL play concludes, they are a good bet to improve. Luckily for them the Eastern Conference pack hasn't separated itself from them yet. Columbus bores me and will probably qualify for the playoffs to spite me.

New York Red Bulls 5 Montreal Impact 2

Henry Hat-Trick Propels Red Bulls Past Montreal Impact - Once A Metro
The home side's reaction to going a goal down was lacking -- the Red Bulls didn't look bad after conceding, but nor did they storm down the other end and place Ricketts' goal under sustained pressure. They played as they did for most of the first half, keeping the ball for the most part on the New York side of midfield, making too many bad passes going forward, and occasionally struggling to pass the ball out of the back.

New York Red Bulls vs Montreal Impact #4 Post-Game: Some Good. Some Bad, Some Ugly - Mount Royal Soccer
Donovan Ricketts had just about the worst game a goalie could have. On the first Red Bulls goal, his was not in good position and his reaction to Henry's header was even worse. He had some awful butter fingers on a lot of plays, he didn't control his back line with any authority and showed nothing that resembles a former MLS Keeper of the year.

I don't see why anyone is getting on the Red Bull bandwagon yet. They still have that unsettling complacency, but now with Kenny Cooper have a player who can complement Thierry Henry. That attack is for real, the defense is still a sieve, and Rafa Marquez is still disinterested. As for Montreal, expansion teams are going to need a solid goalie, and Ricketts didn't bring it last week.

Philadelphia Union 0 Vancouver Whitecaps 0

Two Up, Two Down - Week 4 - Eighty Six Forever
Maybe this is just a euphemism for "boring crappy teams defend with 11 men," but to be successful on the road you need to soak up the attack, slow the game down, and capitalize on your chances.

Recap: First Points Of The Season For Union After Scoreless Draw With Vancouver - Brotherly Game
"As I said, it's going to help all of these guys with their confidence," Nowak said of the team's and MacMath's performance. "We stopped the negative series, regardless of how you slice it, but we didn't get a goal. I think the defensive block was very solid."

A game of intrigue turns out boring, Jim Rome loves this. Philly still isn't making any strides and Vancouver will take a road draw any day. Oddly, Vancouver still hasn't conceded a goal on the year. I included the above picture from this game because it is just awesome.

San Jose Earthquakes 1 Seattle Sounders 0

Sounders Vs. Earthquakes: Well, That Wasn't So Pretty - Sounder At Heart
There is plenty of room for debate about this one. On one hand, Burch definitely impeded Lenhart's path and did look like he may have stuck his leg out a bit. On the other, it was inconsequential to the play that was developing and Lenhart wasn't even making a move toward the goal. The validity of the call aside, Burch knows he let Lenhart get the best of him on the play and it was absolutely avoidable.

The response from the coach, players, and this recap are all solid in acknowledging the bogus nature of the penalty while remaining civil and even accepting. The national media and I disagree; it was a crap call and Lenhart shouldn't be rewarded for such a cynical move. That said, San Jose is off to an impressive start in a deep conference.

Real Salt Lake 3 Portland Timbers 2

Portland Dominates for 84 Minutes; Too Bad Games Last 90 Minutes - Stumptown Footy
By the 85th Minute Portland had abandoned all pretense of attack and just hoofed the ball up the field. RSL continued to attack and possess the ball in Portland's half, and in the 89th minute they were able to find the equalizer. James Mareclin had his pocket picked deep in Portland's half, and the loose ball found it's way to Jonny Steele, who played the ball to Javier Morales. Morales drew the attention of 3 Portland Defenders but easily played the ball right up the middle of the pitch to Johnson, who laid the ball off to a wide open Steele. Steele beat Brunner and then nutmegged Jean-Baptiste with his shot to the far post and in.

Real Salt Lake picks up a stoppage time win 3-2 over the Portland Timbers - Recap and Facts - RSL Soapbox
So there you have it, and when you read the details it just lacks something, there is no way to capture the excitement of this match in words, it was perhaps one of the best examples of what Major League Soccer can be. It featured two teams of players who went 90 minutes playing positive, aggressive, attacking soccer, it was simply one of the best matches I have seen in a very long time.

Early candidate for best match of the year. This is why everyone thinks RSL is still the favorite despite our solid start. They didn't give up on this game and pulled three points out of nothing and did this at Jeld Wen Field which is certainly Portland's best asset. The saying in football, "Prevent defense prevents you from winning", fits here, as does hoofing the ball up the field against RSL instead of running the ball away like Kamara did for us Sunday.

New England Revolution 3 LA Galaxy 1

Galaxy 1, Revolution 3: A Learning Day In LA - LAG Confidential
Arena: "If I could have taken all eleven out, I would have"

Post-Game Hangover: Reflections On Revs @ Galaxy - The Bent Musket
Prepared. Communicative. In-sync. Those are three ways I would describe the New England Revolution on Saturday night. Everyone seemed to know their role, and it really showed. It may be too early to say most things I feel like saying right now, but I will say this: Jay Heaps has changed this team.

Woof. That defense is bad, but we shouldn't take them lightly. They still have most of the pieces of the championship team of last year, but I'd argue that Omar Gonzalez may have been the most important. Good to see the Revs improving after that perhaps unfair red against us; specifically Lee Nguyen has been a great pickup for them. I like the club who succeeds despite no help from ownership, in such contrast to our own situation.

Colorado Rapids 2 Chicago Fire 0

Chicago Fire fall flat on road against Colorado Rapids - Hot Time In Old Town
It was a goal that surely frustrated Fire supporters as Segares looked to be jogging to track back and cover Mullan. Then, on the cross, there were four Fire players within the vicinity of Cummings, but none of them marking him. The result was a defensive breakdown that highlighted the Fire's flaws on the day.

Colorado Rapids 2 Chicago Fire 0 - Masterful Debuts - Burgundy Wave
If this is any indication of how Rivero is going to play this season - Chicago is certainly no slouch of a team to have that kind of performance against - the Rapids should be just fine in 2012. This is the kind of form the Rapids need to have with a road trip at Salt Lake and Seattle coming up.

Last week's match against New York shouldn't count heavily against the Rapids; they were without their best three players. When they are at full strength, they are probably the team closest to Real Salt Lake in the West right now. They just don't have great depth. Chicago hasn't taken that step forward I expected, but I am frequently wrong so there's that.

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