Mauro Rosales proved he is still very much a difference-maker, inconsistency continues to plague the Red Bulls and golazos and red cards headlined the Week 26 MLS slate:
1. Don't forget about Mauro. For the last two seasons, Mauro Rosales has in many ways controlled the Seattle Sounders' fortunes. As Mauro went, often times so did Seattle's attack. With 13 assists in each of his two seasons in MLS and a touch of class every time he stepped on the field, Rosales has been one of the premier playmakers in the league, when healthy.
With the likes of Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey brought in and Lamar Neagle emerging as a surefire starter, the 32-year-old Rosales has become something of a forgotten man for the evolving Sounders this season, at least by his lofty standards. Never mind the fact that Rosales' stat line this season essentially mirrors that of Sporting KC star Graham Zusi (Zusi has one more goal, both have six assists and Rosales has played 456 fewer minutes). His impact on the season has seemed considerably less pronounced than normal with injuries, form and player competition taking its toll on his playing time. For instance, he went two months without contributing to a goal this summer, his longest stretch of futility since joining MLS in 2011.
But there stood Rosales in front of more than 67,000 fans for the turning point of Sunday night's 1-0 victory over the rival Portland Timbers, after coming off the bench for the sixth time this season to replace the hobbled Shalrie Joseph. First, it was his vision that helped set up the play that culminated in a bad foul by Pa Modou Kah (who was asking to be red carded but somehow was not for his rash play). Then, it was Rosales' pinpoint dead-ball service that Eddie Johnson headed home for the game-winner.
In a week when one Argentine playmaker (Portland maestro Diego Valeri) threatened to steal the Cascadia Cup show with a virtuoso first half and another (Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales) helped his side to four vital points, Rosales contributed to his fourth goal in the last five games, managing to make sure his name was kept among the elite as well while showing that he can still very much have a say in Seattle's fortunes.
2. Inconsistency plagues New York. Many teams are faced with the annual question around this time of year: Are they contenders or pretenders? The New York Red Bulls are among the large group of confounding teams facing that soul-searching question.
On the hand, the Red Bulls are one of the handful of teams within reach of the Supporters' Shield, and they have at times played some of the best soccer in MLS. Then there is the Red Bulls team that leaves home and, as manager Mike Petke so eloquently put it for the local broadcast on MSG, "lost to one of the worst teams in the league" Sunday following a 3-2 defeat to lowly Chivas USA. Now 4-7-3 away from Red Bull Arena (contrasted with a 7-2-3 home mark), New York is one of the hardest sides to project on a weekly basis.
As for Sunday's debacle, Jamison Olave's absence in defense was glaring, and the club figures to have at least one more match without him while he recovers from a hamstring tear. Soccer does not have a sabermetrician statistics obsession like baseball, but Olave's WAR (wins above replacement) would figure to be among the tops in the league considering his importance and value in not only locking down the opposition as a dominant stopped but also helping a back line maintain its stability and shape -- two qualities that eluded the Red Bulls at the StubHub Center against Chivas.
As plenty of teams have exhibited in the past, just making the crap-shoot that can be the MLS playoffs is good enough of a regular season goal, and New York is still well positioned to do that. But with the potential exhibited at times by Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill & Co. making for such a high ceiling, the club's more-than-occasional follies have its already wary fan base unsure of exactly what lies ahead as the uneven quest to win Trophy No. 1 marches on.
3. New England's full youth arsenal on display. New England Revolution fans have waited for this for some time now. The club's commitment to youth has made for some bumpy roads and fruitless seasons in the last few years, but the hopes that came along with that commitment have come to fruition with the core of Diego Fagundez, Kelyn Rowe and midseason acquisition Juan Agudelo coming into their own and meshing to turn in some of the more electrifying soccer in the league.
That was the case Sunday night in a 5-1 rout of the Philadelphia Union. Rowe's long-range prowess and willingness, Agudelo's hold-up play, inventiveness and hunger and Fagundez's creativity, motor and ability to go at defenders makes for one serious multi-faceted headache for opposing sides. With all three players (whose respective ages are 21, 20 and 18) growing in confidence and consistency, New England may yet make its return to the postseason for the first time since 2009. The most recent result has the team firmly in the mix with its nine remaining games all coming against Eastern Conference competition.
Fans who have seen Revolution 2.0 emerge in front of their eyes better soak up the next couple of months, because Agudelo is set for a free transfer to Stoke City in January. For those who could not previously see a bright future ahead in the post-Steve Nicol era, though, those worries have been replaced by a young core (with midfielder Scott Caldwell and Rookie of the Year candidate and defender Andrew Farrell firmly included among that as well) that is more about productivity than potential at long last.
4. Costly late reds influence playoff chase. The red cards were flying this week, with seven players sent off and some (ahem, stomping San Jose center back Victor Bernardez) facing almost certain phone calls from the MLS Disciplinary Committee. A pair of those ejections were more costly than others, though.
Columbus Crew captain and maestro Federico Higuain and Philadelphia Union center back cog Amobi Okugo both picked up red cards in the waning moments of lopsided defeats, and their teams will be hamstrung for not just one game, but the next two games, as a result. Both players were sitting on four accumulated yellow cards entering the weekend, so when they picked up initial yellows earlier in their respective matches, that already meant a one-game suspension was coming. The reds tacked on another game for each, and with both of their teams in the thick of the playoff hunt, it makes for some extra hurdles to clear with the pressure already turned up.
Whether the reds were deserving or not are a different story altogether, but it is clear neither was worth it nor necessary considering the time and situation. Higuain appeared unsure of what exactly he did to deserve his sending off in the 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake (dissent is the reasoning given in the match report), and a frustrated Okugo unnecessarily stomped Dimitry Imbongo in stoppage time of a 5-1 loss to New England. Those late acts have forced their managers into some unwelcome lineup decisions ahead of some vital games and could have a huge say on the ever-evolving playoff race.
5. Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Jaime Penedo (LA Galaxy)
Defenders: Hunter Jumper (Chicago Fire), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders)
Midfielders: Justin Mapp (Montreal Impact), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution)
Forwards: Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact), Erick Torres (Chivas USA), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
|Week 25 MLS Power Rankings|