Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things to take away from Week 10:
1. MLS' Joe Theismann moment: Sadly, Major League Soccer may have just had its Joe Theismann moment. As mileposts go, it was probably inevitable for the league, although wholly unfortunate.
Theismann, then a Redskins quarterback, infamously broke his leg on Monday Night Football in 1985. Obviously, not as many people saw Preston Burpo's horrible moment on Saturday as he and Red Bull winger Dane Richards challenged at full speed with disastrous results for the Revolution goalkeeper. Burpo, 37, grotesquely fractured his right tibia and fibula, just as Theismann did 25 years ago.
The severity was immediately apparent from reactions of players on both sides and the instant urgency of all medical personnel on hand. Even the wide angle camera caught the gruesome aftermath as his leg flailed in ways a human limb never should. Revolution winger Sainey Nyassi wept visibly as his coach, Steve Nicol, strained to console the young winger.
Networks sometimes feel differently about replaying these things. Saturday's match from Gillette was part of Galavision's Spanish-language package, and officials there showed the replay several times from various angles.
Clearly, there's no silver lining in an injury that might finish the veteran goalkeeper's career. But at the very least, New England shouldn't be without a top-tier goalkeeper for long. Longtime No. 1 Matt Reis is eligible to come off IR this week, although he has yet to be cleared by the medical staff. Most likely, Nicol will use young backup Bobby Shuttleworth this week, providing extra recovery and training time for Reis during the two-week league break that follows.
By the way, Richards can be a sneaky little fellow sometimes, reckless at times, even. But this looked by all accounts like a freak accident. New England officials said there were no suggestions from inside the Revs locker room that Richards had done anything wrong.
2. How the "left behind" fared: MLS matches became the refuge for five of the seven heartbroken players released by Bob Bradley last week.
Brian Ching quickly demonstrated that he wasn't gong to sit around feeling sorry for himself, needing just six minutes after his halftime introduction to strike against Philadelphia. (Props to Peter Nowak's Union for hanging tough and turning up the franchise's first road win, 3-2, down in Houston no less!)
Houston's defense isn't the same this year, but Ching and recently re-signed Joseph Ngwenya make Houston the league's deepest team at striker. Currently, Dominic Oduro and Luis Angel Landin are starting.
Heath Pearce came in and helped Dallas nurse home a point in Chicago. Playing in midfield, Pearce helped the visitors retain possession toward the end, as it was Dallas hunting for the game winner more than Chicago.
Chad Marshall got right into Columbus' lineup in the weekend's marquee match of first-place sides. He didn't have much to do against a Galaxy team working the doctrine of defend-and-counter to absolute perfection. Columbus dominated possession, shots, corners, etc., but the Galaxy simply knows how to win games. Bruce Arena's team prevailed at Crew Stadium, 2-0.
Columbus' Robbie Rogers, on the other hand, reminded us why Bradley declined to bequeath him one of the golden passes to South Africa. He had some good moments, but also some rather sloppy ones. And finally, Chivas USA's Sacha Kljestan slogged through an uneventful night at RFK in a weekend argument of last-place teams.
3. The World Wide Web and an epidemic of whiffs: No one will top poor Kei Kamara for mother of all missed sitters in MLS this season -- but we're sure building quite a stack of runner-ups.
Kamara's bungle was a doozey -- although suggestions that it was the worst whiff of a sure thing in modern soccer are surely exaggerated. Just check the generous range of searchable videos for proof.
If you missed it back in April, a ball more or less awaited on the goal line. If Kamara had more time, he probably could have convinced it to cross the line using nothing more than strong language. Rather, the luckless Wizards forward hurried in, lunged at top speed, fell over and managed to miss with his feet. Instead, he nailed it with his hand and, well, that's about how it's been going lately for Kansas City.
That was around the same time of Maicon Santos' lamentable missed sitter for Chivas USA against the Galaxy, a moment that could have changed fortunes for two sides around the Home Depot Center. Well, maybe that's overstating the case -- but it would have equalized the L.A. derby late. As it was, the Galaxy won by a 2-0 count and the sides have been going opposite directions ever since.
Dallas' Jeff Cunningham is building his own personal collection as coach Schellas Hyndman shows the patience of Job.
The latest: Chicago's Mike Banner mangled a glistening opportunity Thursday in Bridgeview against Dallas. He was three yards from goal as he skied Justin Mapp's perfectly placed, low centering pass over the bar. It's YouTube worthy -- even if it's not quite Kamara caliber.
By the way, history has taught us that teams that can't win at home don't make the playoffs. Banner's miss was a key moment in a draw that left Chicago's home record in a 1-1-3 ditch, with a scant six goals scored. The Fire did sneak into last year's postseason with a 5-4-6 mark at home for 21 points. But there's an additional team in the field this year. So, teams with playoff ambitions certainly need to wring more than 21 points from a possible 45 in friendly territory.
(Oh, how to explain Chad Barrett's absence from an item on blown chances? Well, what can I say? The man's been playing well at Toronto. He struck again this weekend, No. 4 on the year, even if it was a gift from San Jose center back Jason Hernandez. He's missed a couple here and there, but he's leaving the worst of the whiffs for others in 2010.)
4. More mayhem from the men in the middle -- and now from the assistants, too: An MLS match is a refereeing fiasco waiting to happen. Now the referee's assistants cannot be trusted either, apparently.
The weekend supplied the usual hodgepodge of laws unevenly applied, feeble game management and match-killing leniency. At RFK, Jasen Anno was so curiously reluctant to call fouls it actually turned mildly entertaining. Late, United probably deserved a penalty kick as Santino Quaranta successfully went looking for the decision, but dismissing Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton for his part in the scrum seemed terribly harsh.
How Real Salt Lake got away with its game-winner over 10-man Kansas City, only the referee assistant could say. Fabian Espindola was clearly in an offside position and probably screening Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen to some extend as a free kick clattered around and evolved into a goal. But in turns of butchery along the sidelines, Thursday's Dallas-Chicago match stole the prize.
Brek Shea's goal for Dallas was disallowed when it shouldn't have been. At least that one was close. At the other end, Brian McBride was clearly offside on his equalizer, and there was nothing fast or particularly tricky about the simple serve-receive sequence. Someone needs a talking to over that one.
Also in the RSL-Kansas City contest, referee Ricardo Salazar showed Kansas City captain Davy Arnaud a second yellow for dissent. It's true that Arnaud should have shown more discretion while carrying a yellow, and it's true that he probably paid the price for over-yapping all game long. Still, it was also a shining example of the inconsistency that rules MLS grounds. Players do as much throughout pretty much every match.
But we'll let Red Bulls coach Hans Backe have the last word on the vexing officiating that continues to drag down overall quality (even as a burgeoning inventory of skillful performers should be making this league increasingly worth the price of admission). Besides, Backe is sure to be fined for his comments, for what he had to say about seeing two Red Bulls ejected against New England, one correctly and one not so much:
"I would say it's an absolute disgrace," he told the Boston Herald. "It's ridiculous, it's a joke. When the referee decides games like this, probably the MLS should do an investigation ... You can see the level of the referee, the level went like this [up and down]. It's a joke. If this had been in Italy there would be an investigation if the referee was bought."
Well, then. "Excuse me, Mr. Backe, commissioner Don Garber is on Line One."
5. Team of the week: Goalkeeper: Stefan Frei (Toronto); Defenders: Marvell Wynne (Colorado), Adrian Cann (Toronto), Todd Dunivant (L.A. Galaxy).
Midfielders: Shea Salinas (Philadelphia), Andy Najar (DC United), Shalrie Joseph (New England), Joel Lindpere (Red Bull New York), Clyde Simms (D.C. United).
Forwards: Danny Mwanga (Philadelphia), Fabian Espindola (Real Salt Lake).