Power Rankings: Donovan on fire; Davies returning
Landon Donovan added three more goals to his resume, Clint Dempsey debuted and the transfer wheels were churning up to the close of the summer window in MLS' Week 24:
1. It's the summer of Landon. Not even 15 months ago, we got our first glimpse into the Landon Donovan we have gotten to know on a more extensive level than ever before. The one who wouldn't be playing forever after all, the one who was headed toward certain burnout and the one whose international career may have been coming to an abrupt halt. We questioned whether we had seen the last of the American soccer icon's best days and genuinely wondered if he was on his final playing legs.
Fast forward to the present, and that all just seems ludicrous, does it not? Say what you'd like about Donovan's decision to step away from the game for a few months this past winter, but it served its purpose and order has been restored on the field for the 31-year-old LA Galaxy star. Playing in a contract year, Donovan is enjoying a summer for the ages for both club and country, with his hat trick in Sunday night's controversial, yet wildly entertaining, 3-3 draw with FC Dallas the latest piece of evidence that there remains plenty in Donovan's tank as another World Cup approaches.
Donovan's three goals give him 130 for his MLS career, catapulting him to within four of Jeff Cunningham's all-time league record. Add that to him eclipsing the 50-50 goal-assist barrier for the U.S. national team, along with his five-goal, seven-assist outing in the Gold Cup and three assists in two league games prior to the competition, and Donovan has been a one-man show for nearly two months. Just as the watch intensified as Chris Wondolowski approached Roy Lassiter's single-season goal mark last season, Donovan Watch can now take full effect for the remainder of the year, with five goals in the final 11 games of the campaign all that is necessary for Donovan to become the unquestioned MLS scoring king.
Clint Dempsey, who made his anticipated Seattle Sounders debut Saturday night, may have taken the baton, or at least put one hand on it, as the face of U.S. Soccer and the premiere mainstream American in the game today, but Donovan has gone to great lengths to remind us all that he remains every bit the player he has always been despite his personal obstacles. Given Dempsey's massive new contract and a reinvigorated Donovan looking like he'll play to another deal of his own, this winter is shaping up to be quite an interesting one for Donovan, the Galaxy and MLS.
2. The writing is on the wall for Cudicini. The close of the MLS summer transfer window was a bit of a bizarro world. Heavy hitters like New York and Los Angeles stayed away from the big Designated Player signings, while Chicago, Montreal and Colorado (yes, that Colorado), all bought in on high-priced talent like Juan Luis Anangono, Hernan Bernardello and Gabriel Torres, respectively. Houston turned to the Honduran marketplace again to land young DP Alexander Lopez.
While months ago many anticipated the Galaxy to be a part of that group and make a DP splash along the lines of a Giovani Dos Santos or Kaka, the club stayed quiet for the most part. It did make one notable signing, though, in bringing aboard Panamanian goalkeeper Jaime Penedo in a move that has to be off-putting for veteran shotstopper Carlo Cudicini.
Backup goalkeepers who make $150,000 while taking up an international roster slot are not long for this league, and the writing surely seems on the wall for Cudicini after the Penedo acquisition, especially after yet another head-scratching showing against FC Dallas. Cudicini has been far from the sure thing that Bruce Arena had hoped for when he ushered two-time MLS Cup-winning goalkeeper Josh Saunders out the door to make way for the almost 40-year-old Italian, with his tendency to remain rooted to the ground and unsure of himself in the area becoming more of a trend than a minor blip on the radar.
Penedo is an instinctual goalkeeper who starred in the Gold Cup, helping guide Panama to two wins over Mexico en route to the final, and he has been a fixture in CONCACAF for years. Following Cudicini's first league showing after the signing, it only seems like it is a matter of time before Penedo is given his shot to clean up the inconsistent puzzle that has been the Galaxy defense, at which point Cudicini's time in MLS may very well reach its abrupt end.
3. What's up with Jack Mac? It has sure been some time since Jack McInerney found the back of the net.
After a 10-goal outburst led to a U.S. national team call-up for the Gold Cup and an (eventual) All-Star nod, McInerney has not scored in his last seven games for the Philadelphia Union, a streak stretching back to June 1.
McInerney, who is still tied for the league lead in game-winning goals, looks like a player over-thinking things instead of acting like a decisive forward with a killer instinct. On multiple occasions against D.C. United Saturday night, for example, McInerney was in some great positions but either too hesitant to pull the trigger or took one too many touches to take himself out of those advantageous goal-scoring positions, instead giving defenders or goalkeeper Bill Hamid the time to recover and gain the upper hand.
The frustration for McInerney is evident, as he hung his head low after the final whistle sealed a 2-0 win moments after he came up empty-handed on his final chance of the night. Perhaps his inactivity over the Gold Cup as a practice player and game bystander was a hindrance to his league form, but fortunately for the Union, Conor Casey has been able to pick up where McInerney left off and help the club maintain its point-collecting ways. Slumps happen, and McInerney is too talented of a finisher for this streak to last much longer. Chalk it up to the growing pains of a 20-year-old who has raised the bar for himself so high that when he fails to meet those lofty expectations it makes for a noteworthy development.
4. Davies returns to MLS, home. Lost in the Dempsey transfer madness is that his first club, the New England Revolution, is playing the high-profile American forward shuffle.
With the news that Juan Agudelo will be bolting MLS at the end of the season to link up with Geoff Cameron, Maurice Edu and Brek Shea at Stoke City on a free transfer, the Revs have brought Charlie Davies back to MLS, where he will play on loan for the rest of the season after a less-than-fruitful stop at Randers in the Danish Superliga.
Davies is almost four years removed from the car accident that nearly took his life and claimed the life of another passenger, and his career has not resumed as he would have hoped -- an 11-goal campaign on loan with D.C. United in 2011 notwithstanding. A move close to home for the New Hampshire native could be just the thing to spark Davies to greater levels, though, while providing the Revs with a new component to assess over the next few months before deciding if he's a suitable long-term replacement.
Assuming Stoke does not come through with a transfer bid to poach Agudelo prior to the close of the European transfer window at the end of the month, the Revs will maintain Agudelo's MLS rights when he leaves for free, an asset that has proven to be a wildcard in MLS trade negotiations. And if Agudelo recovers from his current knee injury to suit up for the Revs alongside Davies and young sparkplug Diego Fagundez, then New England will boast one of the more intriguing, if not potential-over-production, attacking corps in all of MLS. Comeback stories make for great theater, and Davies getting the chance to do so in front of family and friends down the road from where he starred in college is one that should not go overlooked.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
Defenders: Young-Pyo Lee (Vancouver Whitecaps), Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia Union), Chris Klute (Colorado Rapids)
Midfielders: Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Nigel Reo Coker (Vancouver Whitecaps), Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia Union), Mauro Rosales (Seattle Sounders)
Forwards: Federico Higuain (Columbus Crew), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Conor Casey (Philadelphia Union)
|Week 24 MLS Power Rankings|