Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things we learned from Week 25:
Not yet. Keep reading.
A come-from-behind win over the league's worst side hardly puts the Galaxy on the fast track to reclaim that April-May-June swagger. (Especially when the visitor's sloppiness along the back line practically teed up
Games in August and September have exposed the Galaxy's soft spots.
None of that is new news. But this is: There's hope yet for Galaxy fans. It comes in the form of
There may be a tendency to suspect that Beckham is now more of a pretty hood ornament than a set of performance tires. After all, how many 35-year-old flank midfielders can still make it happen? Especially when they are coming off a serious injury? But Beckham is Beckham for a reason. He was always a special player because of a rare set of abilities. (Well, that and his cover-boy looks.)
The game was level when Beckham slipped into his old spot along the right 53 minutes into Saturday's contest, but L.A. would soon trail by a goal. Beckham's entrance allowed Donovan, relatively quiet by his high standards to that point, to play higher up the field, centrally as a withdrawn striker. And it completely changed the game. Beckham isn't moving well at the moment, but he can still deliver those signature laser passes, even over a mighty distance.
How Beckham will deal with the Red Bull's midfield next week as his minutes presumably increase -- perhaps a half for Becks in the marquee match of Round 26? -- is another matter. In fact, look for teams to start picking on Beckham's side, making him work on defense. That's
But Arena will surely have a plan for that, too. He has to, because keeping Beckham relevant is the Galaxy's best chance to get back into the championship conversations.
Here's what Donovan told Fox Soccer Channel about the Galaxy's performance Saturday, never mind the result: "We played poor tonight, no question about it. All over the field. Sometimes you have nights like that, where you've got to find a way to win. I'm proud of us for keeping on, for keeping going, but we gotta be better than that."
Two times zones to the west, 17-year-old
It doesn't look like either player will make the playoffs. So ponder this: Where are De Rosario and Najar in the race for important MLS awards?
There are great league MVP candidates, including Seattle's
Here's the hook: Never has a league MVP come from a non-playoff team. A few more nights like Saturday and we won't need to have this conversation. If De Rosario drives his team into the playoffs, just go ahead and start planning the MVP celebratory party in or around BMO Field. If not ... we may have to revisit this notion of the league's best player coming from a non-playoff club.
Najar has been the league's best rookie. Period. Red Bulls center back
Did we mention that he's just 17?
What might he look like if United wasn't such cheap hamburger this year, if the players around the talented young attacker were better? But the bunch from RFK isn't, and that's the point. United isn't just bad; it may be historically bad. And yet Najar keeps looking so good. Perhaps awarding Rookie of the Year to a member of a non-playoff team may be a little more palatable to voters than doing so for MVP.
So here's the question: Will this fivesome begin resting starters? And if so, will other sides start complaining about it?
Columbus goes into New England this week, for instance. The Crew have CONCACAF Champions League to worry about.
So maybe, just maybe, the Crew coach gives some starters a break this weekend, especially on Gillette Stadium's artificial turf. But how might that sit with Chicago, Kansas City or Toronto, the teams ahead of New England still chasing the "Group of 8," the teams holding the playoff spots?
FC Dallas coach
But Dallas plays Kansas City this week. Kansas City has the best chance of catching San Jose, Seattle or Colorado. A whole bunch of teams aren't going to be happy if Hyndman fields more rookies and reserves in that one than he absolutely must.
Backe quickly dismissed the careening theories of why Angel found himself on the bench. No injury, no falling out, the coach said. He just wanted to see what his Red Bulls might look like in another tactical setup. He clearly believes the Red Bulls are OK at the moment, but not good enough to win it all just yet. So it makes sense to tinker.
On Thursday against Dallas, he looked at Henry in a more advanced area, closer to goal, with Ballouchy playing in behind. Backe also hinted that he may look at Ballouchy playing in behind both Angel and Henry. The straight 4-4-2 he has used all year, he explained, can be a little static for his liking.
Ballouchy's entrance into Red Bull Arena will be interesting. He was having a good season at Colorado but always looked a little like a duck out of water, playing wide on the right as he was.
Ballouchy was always leaning inside. And he wasn't the guy who was going to work the touchline and whip in crosses as a quintessential English-type winger would.
Mullan, however, is exactly that type player. Which is why last week's late trades, just before the MLS roster freeze deadlines, make sense for all three teams involved. (The Rapids were involved in separate swaps with Houston and New York.)
In the 32-year-old Mullan, Colorado gets a guy who may not be productive as a full-time starter much longer, but one who can certainly help now. He's playing well lately, and he looked feisty and motivated as the Rapids tore through New England at home Saturday. Suddenly, the league's best strike tandem of the moment -- sorry, it's not Henry and Angel -- will have a workhorse like Mullan to serve it. With
It makes sense for Houston, which got the injured
It also improves Colorado because the Rapids acquired
D.C. United and Toronto are under the direction of interim bosses, soon to make decisions about their coaching positions for 2011. El Salvador may want Chicago's