While the U.S. men's national team stole the spotlight over the weekend, the New England Revolution made some noise with a landmark showing to highlight MLS Week 14:
1. Revolution are on the rise. If watching the U.S. men's national team score four goals on Germany came as a surprise, then surely seeing the upstart New England Revolution drop a five spot on the two-time defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy had to make American soccer fans wonder if Sunday was just an outrageous Tony Soprano-like dream sequence or, in fact, reality.
As it turns out, both performances happened, and the Revs, following their improbable 5-0 victory over the Galaxy, are very much for real. Suddenly, a team that struggled to find the back of the net has nine goals in its last three games -- all wins, with two coming against the MLS Cup final participants in each of the last two years -- and is playing with the one-touch flair of a Spanish side. The addition of Juan Agudelo has made a significant difference to Jay Heaps' squad; the chemistry Agudelo is forming with burgeoning 18-year-old homegrown attacker Diego Fagundez and second-year midfielder Kelyn Rowe gives the Revs three of the league's exciting young players -- all of whom teamed up to create the third goal of the day.
Having a healthy Saer Sene, whose 11 goals last season led the team by a wide margin, return to the starting lineup is just another boon for Heaps and his newfound juggernaut of a roster. Now, New England has to be taken seriously in Eastern Conference, particularly considering the defensive balance the club has managed to accrue as well.
Meanwhile, the loss won't derail the travel-weary Galaxy in any way, but one would have expected a bit more discipline. Los Angeles unraveled in the aftermath of a controversial foul call. More pressing, though, is the play of goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini. The former Chelsea and Tottenham man was brought in to be an upgrade over two-time MLS Cup-winning goalkeeper Josh Saunders, but he has not produced consistently enough to justify the expense of importing him from the Premier League.
2. Impact ascend to the top. The Revs may have turned in the performance of the week, but the Montreal Impact remain the story of the MLS Eastern Conference. Following a 2-1 road win in Kansas City in which they finished with 10 men, the Impact leapfrogged the New York Red Bulls to sit atop the conference standings. They have anywhere between two and four games in hand on their four closest competitors.
Averaging an MLS-best 2.17 points per game despite the loss of captain Davy Arnaud to concussion woes for the last five games, Montreal has had players step up at different times to accelerate the overall progress of the club. With Sanna Nyassi and Collen Warner scoring on Saturday to join the group of complementary players who have augmented the efforts of stars Marco Di Vaio, Felipe and Patrice Bernier, Montreal maintains the ability to come at teams from multiple angles.
The Impact may not be making many friends along the way, with heated exchanges again emerging from a clash against Sporting Kansas City. Manager Marco Schallibaum was sent off for a second time this season at Sporting Park. But the Impact continue to find ways to get it done. On top of all that, the club captured the Canadian championship in riveting fashion to clinch a place in this summer's CONCACAF Champions League, ending Toronto FC's four-year reign as king of the Great White North. In a very short time, Montreal has risen from expansion upstart to legitimate contender.
3. Dom Dwyer exemplifies the loan conundrum. Sporting Kansas City loaned forward Dom Dwyer to USL PRO power Orlando City SC in hopes of getting him meaningful minutes and repetitions to advance his development. That certainly has happened, as he leads U.S. Soccer's third division in scoring and tallied two goals in an impressive third-round U.S. Open Cup victory over the Colorado Rapids. With Orlando City advancing to the next round, it'd seem Dwyer would have another opportunity to play important minutes, thereby increasing his value to Sporting KC while accelerating his personal growth.
Except for one thing: Sporting KC is Orlando City's next opponent and won't let Dwyer play in the game. And one can't blame Sporting KC for exercising its option to remove its upcoming opponent's top threat. The club values the Open Cup, is defending its title and will do whatever is necessary to win again and cement another berth in the CONCACAF Champions League.
That said, the perils of loaning players include potentially upsetting them and denying them opportunities against top competition. (Not in every case, as D.C. United, for example, allowed a pair of loaned players to suit up for USL PRO affiliate Richmond.) Unfortunately for Dwyer, a heralded product out of the University of South Florida who has been stuck behind a myriad of talented strikers in Kansas City, business is business. He has no choice but to accept his fate and hope Orlando City can manufacture an upset without him to give him another opportunity on a prominent stage.
4. Gold Cup roster is full of snubs and surprises. All it took was one glance over the provisional USA Gold Cup roster that CONCACAF revealed over the weekend to notice this summer won't be as fruitful on the international level as many may have expected for some of MLS' top talent. The likes of Agudelo, Amobi Okugo, Chris Pontius, George John, Dax McCarty, Mike Magee and Justin Morrow were among those MLS players who figured to get a shot at cracking Jurgen Klinsmann's secondary summer roster, but they were nowhere to be found. The omission of Agudelo is especially confounding considering that he has -- on occasion -- earned full national team call-ups when out of form. Now that he is in form and healthy, the Gold Cup figured to be a stage for him to get acclimated on the international stage again. Yet that won't be the case.
There is just cause for so many omissions. With so many first-team-caliber players and veterans -- like Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Stuart Holden, Brek Shea, Eddie Johnson, DaMarcus Beasley, Jose Torres and Herculez Gomez -- occupying places on the 35-man list (which will be cut down to 23), the probability that some of the lesser-heralded MLS players would get the call in decreased. For those expecting the Gold Cup to be a second version of the U.S. January camp and a forum for tryouts, guess again. Still, there remains plenty of intrigue on the roster. Between Donovan's pending return to the national team set-up, Holden's chance to play a vital role and the red-hot Jack McInerney's potential first full call-up, the tournament will provide a glimpse at some players working their way toward the top. Just not as many as might have been anticipated.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo)
Defenders: Djimi Traore (Seattle Sounders), Jose Goncalves (New England Revolution), Matteo Ferrari (Montreal Impact)
Midfielders: Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution), Felipe (Montreal Impact)
Forwards: Blas Perez (FC Dallas), Atiba Harris (Colorado Rapids), Mike Magee (Chicago Fire)