Sunday April 24th, 2011

From Landon Donovan's double to Benny Feilhaber's New England debut, here are five thoughts from Saturday's MLS action ...

1. Landon Donovan breaks his goal drought. Thierry Henry and Fredy Montero (and Chelsea's Fernando Torres, for what it's worth) each recently snapped their extended scoring droughts, leaving the spotlight on Landon Donovan to do the same.

Eight minutes into his return to the Los Angeles Galaxy lineup from a knee injury, Donovan accomplished his mission.

Portland Timbers' defender Rodney Wallace pulled Donovan from behind just inside the box, and the Galaxy captain converted the ensuing penalty kick to score his first goal since Sept. 18, 2010 -- a span of 11-plus league matches and 1,002 minutes.

Donovan didn't settle for just the PK. He headed home a cross from Juan Pablo Angel midway through the second half for his second goal and put pressure on Portland's vulnerable defense throughout the night in a 3-0 win.

The Timbers, meanwhile, found out that life away from the rocking confines of Jeld-Wen Field isn't that kind. On the bright side, Designated Player Diego Chara made his debut with the club, coming on as a halftime substitute.

2. Was Tony Tchani's dismissal warranted? Another goal in Canada, another goal-celebration card controversy. When Vancouver's Eric Hassli removed his shirt after scoring on a penalty kick in the Whitecaps' 1-1 draw with the New England Revolution at Empire Field on April 6, he received his second yellow card and was sent off. That incident was pretty cut and dry.

When Tchani scored a great goal for Toronto FC Saturday afternoon at BMO Field to snap the Columbus Crew's 413-minute shutout streak and open his account with Toronto, he jumped into the stands to celebrate with his fans, who, lord knows, could use a reason to celebrate.

Problem is, Tchani was sitting on a yellow card, and according to FIFA's Laws of the Game:

"A player must be cautioned if he climbs on to a perimeter fence to celebrate a goal being scored."

One would imagine that when Tchani left the field of play, leapt over the ad boards and jumped onto the edge of the fence containing the Toronto supporters, referee David Gantar had seen enough, and he showed Tchani his second yellow card. Columbus went on to score a goal with the man advantage to score a 1-1 draw in the Trillium Cup matchup. Gantar might be a marked man in Toronto, but he technically has the Laws on his side. The Laws do include the following stipulation, though:

"Leaving the field of play to celebrate a goal is not a cautionable offence in itself, but it is essential that players return to the field of play as soon as possible. Referees are expected to act in a preventative manner and to exercise common sense in dealing with the celebration of a goal."

While not many casual spectators will dispute that it's an unnecessary yellow card to hand out, it's ultimately on the player -- and in this case, Tchani -- to exhibit better judgment and restraint in celebrating unbridled joy and take any possible ruling power away from the referee.

3. Feilhaber's New England Revolution debut certainly wasn't dull. He started, went the distance and played a valuable role in the Revs' 3-2 victory over Sporting Kansas City. For much of the match he played as advertised, assisting on Marko Perovic's opening goal in the 12th minute with a smooth lay off and spraying the ball around with accuracy and consistency from his spot in the middle of the park.

Feilhaber also was involved in a moment that got new K.C. center back Aurelien Collin wrongly sent off. After Collin collided with goalkeeper Matt Reis on a valid challenge, Feilhaber stormed over and stood over Collin, who was on the ground. The U.S. national team midfielder took a push from Birahim Diop and flopped to the ground, making it appear that Collin had punched him. The K.C. defender was shown a straight red card, and the Revolution went on to win through a Rajko Lekic header.

The other notable item to come out of the match, one in which New England debuted its new, sponsored jerseys, was that Shalrie Joseph played as a forward for the first 64 minutes. Instead of pairing Joseph with Feilhaber from the start, coach Steve Nicol curiously experimented a bit and left a hole in front of his back line, where Joseph typically dominates and provides a calming force.

As for K.C., the 3-2 result was the team's third this season. The club has found itself on the wrong end of that score twice and has also blown a two-goal lead against Vancouver to tie 3-3. The bottom line is that the team's defensive issues continue to be a problem. Julio Cesar, another recent center back signing, was suspended for Saturday's match after seeing red last week, and now Collin will replace him on the sidelines for K.C.'s next match with his pending suspension.

It doesn't get any easier for K.C. and its weary back line, which is in the midst of its season-opening 10-game road trip: the high-flying New York Red Bulls are next up on the schedule.

4. David Ferreira is now a wounded MVP. FC Dallas' reigning league MVP had enough of a bad day when he shanked a penalty kick that would've leveled the score at the time in the club's 2-1, come-from-behind victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

It went from bad to worse when he was on the wrong end of a seemingly standard challenge from Jonathan Leathers midway through the second half on a run down the left side. Ferreira immediately waved for help and clutched his right ankle. After minutes on the pitch, he was stretchered off, and the team confirmed that he left the stadium during the match to get X-rays at a nearby hospital.

Needless to say, if Ferreira has to miss an extended period of time, FC Dallas is in a world of trouble. The team showed tremendous heart and character to come back and earn the win without him, but he's the engine that makes that team go and is paramount to the club's success.

5. What's wrong with the San Jose Earthquakes? The San Jose Earthquakes were a fluky goal away from potentially reaching the MLS Cup last season. A few months later, sporting a very similar roster, they look like a lost bunch.

The Earthquakes dropped a 2-1 home result to lowly Chivas USA, blowing a one-goal lead in the process. That's two points through four home matches. Not good.

So who's to blame? For starters, Bobby Convey has not been nearly as influential on the left as he was in his renaissance last season. Also, as good a goal scorer as Chris Wondolowski has proved to be -- he scored the lone goal against Chivas -- he needs service, and he's hardly getting it. So many of his tallies are of the first-time variety, and none of his teammates are putting him in position to succeed.

New personnel isn't necessarily the answer, but a newfound level of commitment and effort would get things going in the right direction. Next weekend's match at Philadelphia is gut-check time for the Earthquakes.

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