A pair of regretful moments marred an otherwise entertaining MLS Week 7, in which an impressive record fell, as did the two-time defending MLS Cup champions, and a new team claimed the top spot in the Power Rankings ...
1. Gordon crosses The Line. When Portland Timbers captain Will Johnson held up three fingers in San Jose Earthquakes forward Alan Gordon's face Sunday night in Portland, it wasn't to signify that he was about to score his third goal in three games and deliver the Timbers another three-point haul. It was to preemptively deliver the news of the multi-game suspension that Gordon should receive from the MLS league office any minute now.
Even though MLS has taken a hard stance in recent years regarding racism and homophobia, dealing harshly with a pair of incidents in which gay slurs have been used in games and touting its "Don't Cross The Line" campaign, that didn't stop Gordon from joining Colin Clark and Marc Burch in the infamous pantheon of players to let a homophobic slur slip in the heat of the moment. It remains beyond inexcusable and will undoubtedly yield at least the three-game bans that Clark received for his regretful outburst at a Seattle Sounders ballboy last March and Burch got for his lapse in judgment directed at Johnson, of all people, one that forced him to miss time in the playoffs.
Gordon, to his credit, released a statement of apology on the Earthquakes' website late Sunday, though he was not made available to media after the game, in which he was sent off in the 69th minute for a separate incident.
"I sincerely apologize for what I said in our game tonight," Gordon wrote. "Although I said it in the heat of the moment, that language has no place in our game. That is not my character, but there is still no excuse for saying what I said. I made a mistake and I accept full responsibility for my actions."
That's fine and nice, and given Gordon's reputation and track record (and the immediate contrition on his face after he recognized what he said), he does not seem like a maliciously prejudiced player. That does not mean there is any justifiable reason for letting that slur slip. Don't Cross The Line and England's Kick It Out campaign lay it out pretty clearly and in catch terms for how players, coaches and fans should conduct themselves. Couple Gordon's incident with the bonehead FC Dallas fan who thought it was wise to chuck a beer bottle at George John's head after he scored the game-winning goal against the LA Galaxy, though, and there are only two simple words necessary for players, fans, coaches and anyone else inside a stadium during a game: STOP IT.
Timing is everything, too. Former Columbus Crew and U.S. national team winger Robbie Rogers' first TV interviews since coming out air Monday night on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 and on ABC's Nightline. Perhaps those will provide a little bit more personalized inspiration for the next time an MLS player, no matter where his intent is, elects to stoop to the lowest of levels when emotions rise highest.
2. Is the Disciplinary Committee becoming softer? While Gordon is sure to hear from the MLS Disciplinary Committee for his actions, it certainly seems as if the MLS DC has backed off considerably in its second season of enforcing retroactive punishment.
Last season, it appeared as if almost every reckless challenge from behind or scissor-kick tackle came with a delayed one-game suspension. This season, not so much. Through seven weeks, the Disciplinary Committee has issued just two suspensions for incidents that have happened in the regular season (and one for a Dwayne De Rosario headbutt that happened in the preseason), but that does not mean that the hard challenges have been any less frequent.
Just in Week 6, for example, Nigel Reo Coker's sliding takedown of Sam Cronin, Sheanon Williams' challenge from behind on Ben Speas and Claudio Bieler's clothesline to Brandon McDonald resulted in absolute silence. Every one of those plays would have been met with much more retroactive scrutiny last season. Is it a byproduct of the league wanting to put more faith in its referees' real-time decisions? Or has the rubric for a retroactive punishment been altered? Either way, consistency is key in protecting players and the integrity of the Disciplinary Committee, and that has not been prevalent through the opening chunk of the 2013 campaign.
3. Houston's home mark. Move over Real Salt Lake, there's a new record holder.
The Dynamo's 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday gave the club sole possession of the league's all-time home unbeaten streak mark, now 35 matches across all competitions -- a span of almost 22 months.
It was quite fitting for Brad Davis, who scored the first goal in the new BBVA Compass Stadium and has been a part of so many major Dynamo moments over the years, to play such a vital role in the record-setting victory. His trademark space-creating run down the left and ensuing pinpoint cross was him at his best. The goal he wound up scoring off a set piece may be considered a bit fluky, he put the ball in a perfect place to create indecision across the Chicago defenders and goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Considering the way the club's players have downplayed focusing on the mark and the lack of fanfare surrounding the record-setter, don't expect Houston to have any sort of emotional letdown the next time the club takes to the field at home, April 28 against Colorado, when it attempts to take the baton from RSL even further and stretch that mark to 36.
4. More McInerney magic. It is super early, and the MVP debate will likely encompass a good dozen or two more players before the season is up, but one of the premature candidates has to be Philadelphia Union striker Jack McInerney.
The 20-year-old forward was scored in four of his last five games with the Union going 2-0-2 in that time. Philadelphia's only two losses came in games the two games he hasn't scored. Three of his four tallies have come in the last 15 minutes of games, and two have been game-winning strikes. Over the weekend, like Montreal's Marco Di Vaio was against Columbus, McInerney was denied what appeared to be a good goal prior to coming through with his point-saving finish, showing the ability to shrug off frustration and come back with production.
"The American Chicharito" nickname that some have batted around for McInerney is a bit much (or extremely hyperbolic, your choice), but the fact remains that McInerney is developing into quite a poacher and timely finisher and is on pace to thrash his career high of eight goals from last season. Training with U.S. veteran Conor Casey every day can only help accelerate the development of one of the league's rising stars. He appears to have no problem taking the weight of his team on his shoulders and is making a push for a place on this summer's U.S. Gold Cup roster.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Joe Bendik (Toronto FC)
Defenders: Jamison Olave (New York Red Bulls), Jose Goncalves (New England Revolution), George John (FC Dallas), Futty Danso (Portland Timbers)
Midfielders: Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders), Will Johnson (Portland Timbers), Camilo Sanvezzo (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Forwards: Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact)
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