Power Rankings: Eddie Johnson stars, distracts for Sounders
Eddie Johnson asked for more, Robert Warzycha reached the end of the road in Columbus and a pair of bicycle kicks highlighted MLS Week 27:
1. Wrong time, wrong place for Eddie Johnson. Most instances when forwards are being accused of not knowing the time and situation, it is at a point late in a game when dribbling to the corner to kill off the clock would be the preferred course of action instead of having a go at goal. For Eddie Johnson, it's a little more complex than that.
Johnson let his play do the talking Saturday night with his second game-winning goal in as many games. Then he let the actual chatter get out of control. There is a time and a place to try and accomplish what Johnson did with his now infamous "Pay me" goal celebration. Saturday night at Crew Stadium -- where he could very well be starting for the USA against Mexico in a little more than a week considering Jozy Altidore's hamstring injury -- was not the appropriate forum.
On one hand, it's hard to blame Johnson for wanting more in his bank account. He has sat back and watched Americans get paid at an unprecedented level in MLS over the last few weeks, and he is likely not alone in believing that his two-season resurgence is worthy of a raise. His modest 2013 guaranteed compensation of $156,333.33 (according to MLS Players' Union documents) is considerably less than what teammate Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan are making through their new deals, and after proving himself with 21 goals since his return to MLS, he wants a bigger piece of the pie.
Fair enough. But when a team with championship aspirations like Seattle is on a roll, commanding the spotlight for selfish reasons and creating a noteworthy distraction is the least palatable way to go about demanding more money. Seattle gave the 29-year-old Johnson's floundering career a lifeline, and a public set of demands -- during a game, no less -- is not exactly a just reward for the franchise. Practically speaking, Seattle has its full complement of Designated Players and is not exactly flush with salary cap space. For Johnson to get paid all that much more in the near future, it is very likely that he will either have to go elsewhere or see one of his high-profile teammates get shipped out or take a pay cut.
The new deals procured by Dempsey, Donovan and Omar Gonzalez have become the new barometer by which American players can, and undoubtedly will, compare themselves going forward. The MLS marketplace has shifted dramatically for American players, and those who are national team regulars will want to be compensated accordingly. Johnson, whose USA Q Score is high but not as grand as that of Dempsey or Donovan, wants in, but his celebration, which was augmented by an elongated Twitter interaction, gave off a really poor impression. There is a time and place for Johnson to express his contract concerns. A meeting with general manager Adrian Hanauer and owner Joe Roth certainly would have been more appropriate.
2. Warzycha pays the price. While Johnson's post-scoring actions stole the headlines from Saturday, it was his goal that ultimately signaled the end of the road for Columbus manager Robert Warzycha. The 2009 Supporters' Shield-winning coach was fired Monday after watching his team fall for the eighth time in 11 games -- despite having a man advantage for 83 minutes -- and slip further out of playoff contention.
Warzycha's place on the sideline had been a tenuous one for much of the season, and it was clear that he had outworn his welcome with the club's fans earlier in the campaign. Fans chanted for his demise, while another set created and signed an online petition asking club president and general manager Mark McCullers to make a change. That day has come with technical director and U.S. Under-20 assistant coach Brian Bliss taking the reins for the remainder of the season and perhaps beyond if he proves his worth in the final eight games of the campaign.
It all amounts to an era of transition in Columbus -- two of Warzycha's assistants were axed as well -- with new owner Anthony Precourt evaluating the status quo while looking to make an imprint on the once-proud franchise that has fallen on mediocre times.
3. Can D.C. avoid historic futility? D.C. United could not have hoped for the situation to be any different Saturday night. The final stages of a game against its hated rival, down a goal, with Dwayne De Rosario set to take a penalty kick to even the score. Alas, with the way the season is going for D.C., it could never be that easy. De Rosario's penalty was subsequently saved by Luis Robles, New York held on for the win, and D.C. tumbled to yet another humbling defeat.
It is that defeat that has the league record books on notice, as D.C. is not yet clear of some of the worst seasons in MLS history. With eight games remaining in the season, D.C. is 3-18-5, has scored just 16 goals and still has the following dubious distinctions in play:
Most losses (25 - 1999 New York/New Jersey MetroStars)
Fewest wins (4 - 2001 Tampa Bay Mutiny and 2005 Chivas USA)
Fewest points (14 - 2001 Tampa Bay)
Fewest goals scored (21 - 2010 D.C. United)
Fewest road wins (0 - 2003 LA Galaxy, 2005 Real Salt Lake, 2009 New York Red Bulls, 2011 Vancouver Whitecaps)
Staggeringly enough, D.C. could still be a competitor in next season's CONCACAF Champions League if it can find a way to overcome RSL in the U.S. Open Cup final. But it is just downright baffling that a team that came so close to reaching the MLS Cup one season could be so historically poor the next.
4. MVP candidacies heat up. The MLS MVP race is about as wide open as can be, with rampant parity in the standings making for more legitimate candidates than usual as the regular season enters its penultimate month. There is no runaway winner a la 27-goal scorer Chris Wondolowski last season, meaning that every game and standings-altering result has an impact on the race. Montreal's league-leading scorer Marco Di Vaio and Chicago Fire forward Mike Magee maintain strong cases, but a pair of Western Conference standouts staked their claim to the top individual honor over the weekend.
Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales continues to look like the playmaker that helped spark RSL's change from league doormat to perennial contender, with his bicycle kick setting the tone for RSL's triumph over Portland. The goal was Morales' seventh of the season, which tied a personal best, and it helped maintain RSL's place at the front of the pack gunning for the Supporters' Shield. The confidence, inventiveness and class that Morales has consistently brought to the RSL midfield has been a key part of the club's ability to overcome roster turnover and a number of international/injury absences while being able to perform at a high level.
LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane, meanwhile, continued piling up the statistics with two goals and an assist in a 3-0 win over San Jose, giving him 12 goals and 10 assists in just 16 games. Let those numbers sink in for a moment because the rate at which he is involved with goals is simply confounding. Given the Galaxy's plethora of star power and young attacking options, perhaps it seems as if Keane's presence up top would not be as vital to the Galaxy's fortunes. When the Irishman does not play, though, the club is just 3-6-1, and his runs, vision and passing have been unsolvable commodities to opposing defenses since his signing with the league two years ago.
Just as the races for the playoff places will inevitably go down to the wire, so too will the MVP battle, with individual performances being intertwined with teams' playoff fates.
5. Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo)
Defenders: Fabinho (Philadelphia Union), Doneil Henry (Toronto FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders: Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Joao Plata (Real Salt Lake), Erick Torres (Chivas USA)
|Week 27 MLS Power Rankings|