Our weekly dose of Major League Soccer quick takes, plotlines to watch and Power Rankings.
During the 2008 MLS season, the average age of the top 11 goal-scorers was 28.6. This year, the number checks in at a remarkably similar 29.2. The goalkeepers, however, tell a different story. While MLS' top five netminders in '08 were an average 31.4 years old, the average age this season jumps to 35.8. None of the top five (Kasey Keller, Pat Onstad, Zach Thornton, DonovanRicketts and Kevin Hartman) was born after 1977. When Will Hesmer returns from injury (and, presumably, to his '08 form), he'll help bring down the mean a bit, but MLS' best goalies are a quickly aging population.
The floodgates on the stream of yellow and red cards continue to open wider. Referees handed out 48 cautions last week (an average of 5.3 per game) and ejected four players. The match between Chivas USA and Chicago featured 10 yellows and one red. (In the two previous weeks, a total of six players were sent off and more than 3.5 cautions were issued per game.) The season-long problem is a quick trigger finger from the men in control. Amazingly, in the Fire's second game of the week, the team picked up three yellows and a red despite committing only seven fouls against FC Dallas. Clearly, MLS refs need to let the players play a bit more.
The Fire once again play in the biggest game of the week. Chicago, which went 11 matches without losing before falling to Dallas last Sunday, looks to regroup against a white-hot Houston group that annihilated Toronto FC last weekend. Elsewhere, Chivas USA hosts a Seattle squad that has lost some of its early-season momentum but is still dangerous, and Colorado travels to Utah to play Real Salt Lake in the second leg of the '09 Rocky Mountain Cup. Matches take place Thursday through Sunday, so MLS action will come fast and furious.