Despite missing its stars, RSL rises to the top of the Power Rankings
Real Salt Lake continued to live up to its club motto, Camilo stayed hot and more from a highlight-packed MLS Week 20:
1. Real Salt Lake walks the walk. The team really is proving to be the star.
Real Salt Lake loves to boast its team motto, but it has shown on the field that it is more true than ever in 2013. Consider who was missing for Real Salt Lake on Saturday when the club notched its first-ever victory in the state of Texas. Without captain Kyle Beckerman, star forward Alvaro Saborio, standout fullback Tony Beltran and stalwart goalkeeper Nick Rimando, and with backup goalkeeper Josh Saunders going down with an LCL sprain, Real Salt Lake managed to live up to its credo, emphatically topping FC Dallas 3-0 to remain in pole position for the Supporters' Shield.
RSL prides itself on its diamond midfield formation, but Jason Kreis deserves plenty of credit for not being afraid to alter his tactics based on the personnel afforded to him in order to achieve the maximum results. Using the versatile Ned Grabavoy and Yordany Alvarez in the spot that Beckerman typically holds down on his own, Kreis gave FCD a different look while extracting the most from his players. The glue in the middle of all of the personnel alterations has been Javier Morales, with the Argentine playmaker holding things together in the midfield and acting as a constant amid a number of changes. Consider that since he returned to full fitness and started for the first time on April 13, RSL is 9-2-3. During the club's current eight-game unbeaten streak, Morales has three goals and seven assists.
RSL went through a number of major offseason changes and made underwhelming player signings (in the sense that they were not headline-grabbing moves) that caused some to lower expectations in 2013. So much for that. If it was not already made abundantly clear, it is officially time to put a halt on calling 2013 a rebuilding year for RSL and accept the club as a legitimate contender.
2. Camilo continues his charge. There could not have been a more appropriate opponent for the Vancouver Whitecaps Sunday night, because Camilo, in every way, is on fire.
The Brazilian forward's brace against the Chicago Fire brought him to a league-leading 12 goals on the season, matching his career best that he set in his debut season in MLS in 2011. In 2013, though, he has done so on 15 fewer shots and in 14 fewer games, acting as the catalyst for Vancouver's charge up the Western Conference table.
His goals Sunday were the mark of a man playing with supreme confidence. The way in which Camilo welcomed Chicago's new left back Shaun Francis back to MLS was about as rude as it comes, forcing the Jamaican to twist and turn while helplessly watching him blow by to put a shot past Paolo Tornaghi. On his second, he was thwarted by Tornaghi on a breakaway as he attempted to round the goalkeeper, but he persisted. Instead of forcing a shot or deferring to a teammate, Camilo calmly took his time, noted the spacing Chicago's defenders were giving him, and slyly tucked his second goal home.
With three multi-goal games in his last seven appearances and nine goals in that span, Camilo is the player of the moment and a sure bet to be added to Peter Vermes' hand-picked All-Stars to help fill out the MLS squad that will take on AS Roma at the end of the month. More importantly, manager Martin Rennie has found the best way to utilize his supremely skilled attacker, and it is paying major dividends for a third-year club looking to return to the postseason.
3. Red Bulls, Impact head in different directions. How well were things going for the New York Red Bulls Saturday night? So well to the point that Thierry Henry was able to happily hand over penalty kick duties to Peguy Luyindula and afford his fellow Frenchman the chance to break his agonizing scoring drought to cap a 4-0 rout of the suddenly slumping Montreal Impact.
The unselfish act capped a perfect night for the Red Bulls, who have endured their share of ups (a four-game winning streak in April and May, two wins over Montreal, wins over MLS Cup finalists Houston and LA) and downs (the failed Juninho experiment, Roy Miller's early-season follies, an embarrassing 3-0 loss to regional foe Philadelphia) over the course of a rocky season. There is reason to believe that the pieces are falling into place, though, so long as Designated Players Henry and Tim Cahill and center back rock Jamison Olave avoid the injury bug.
On the other end of the spectrum is Montreal, whose fall from relative invincibility has been stunning. The club's current defensive form is cause for all sorts of concern, as the Impact have conceded 12 goals in the last four games after conceding just 17 in the 14 games before that and have completely lost their way. It should be noted that Montreal is still in the driver's seat in the Eastern Conference, trailing Sporting KC by two points and being level on points with New York with two games in hand on both teams. Recent matches have exposed Montreal, though, giving opponents a blueprint for success -- on his halftime interview with MSG, Red Bulls coach Mike Petke openly said the club made a point to get fullback Jeb Brovsky in 1-on-1 situations -- and forcing Marco Schallibaum to consider making some changes to light a spark.
4. Wondo's confidence is back. Chris Wondolowski's run of form for the U.S. men's national team has the masses talking up his eventual place on the World Cup squad (should the USA qualify), and while he has certainly helped his case with his six goals against Guatemala, Belize and Cuba, there is too much time and too many games to be played to punch his ticket to Brazil as of now. The greater impact of Wondolowski's streak should be on the San Jose Earthquakes' future opponents once the Gold Cup comes to an end.
There is nothing like a bump in confidence to get a striker -- especially a true poacher and finisher like Wondolowski -- going, and with the reigning league MVP locked in and looking like his best self, MLS defenses should be put on notice once the Gold Cup has come to an end.
Even though Wondolowski has as many goals (five) in 17 league games as he does in two games in the Gold Cup, it is not as if he has not been getting his chances in MLS. He has just happened to miss an inordinate amount by his lofty standards. Wondolowski is sixth in the league with 59 shots and fourth with 23 on goal and with him set to return at the end of the month riding his first taste of international success, the Wondolowski who has led the league in goals for the last three seasons could find himself making his charge up the Golden Boot standings yet again.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Donovan Ricketts (Portland Timbers)
Defenders: Jamison Olave (N.Y. Red Bulls), Andrew Jean-Baptiste (Portland Timbers), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders: Eric Alexander (N.Y. Red Bulls), Adam Moffat (Houston Dynamo), Ned Grabavoy (Real Salt Lake), Marcelo Sarvas (LA Galaxy)
Forwards: Thierry Henry (N.Y. Red Bulls), Soony Saad (Sporting Kansas City), Camilo (Vancouver Whitecaps)
|Week 20 MLS Power Rankings|