Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things to take away from Week 18:
Henry's classy cross toward
The precision will arrive along with the increased fitness and comfort with his teammates. And he'll surely be more active; having played only two 45-minute shifts so far, and those in friendlies, Henry clearly paced himself Saturday in a typically oppressive Houston summer evening. But his intelligence, his ability to beat defenders one-on-one, his ability to select the right runs and his instant connection with Angel -- Saturday was their first time on the field together -- will give MLS defenses fits over the last 12 rounds of the regular season. Count on it.
Chicago's pair of newly signed DPs weren't even needed against the Los Angeles Galaxy, which has suddenly fallen apart.
"I'm sick of giving up goals and I'm sick of not winning at home,"
Indeed. Back to those DPs:
The Sounders' second DP,
Finally, D.C. United midfield DP
But a good holding midfielder is the glue that binds it all -- even if the guys screening the defense don't collect as many accolades.
Seattle has been better lately, and this oddball Ljungberg matter is great kindling for an "addition by subtraction" debate. But let's toss this into the mix, too: the Sounders little surge is also coinciding with the recent return of
A three-game unbeaten streak has positioned Kansas City to be a playoff contender in the East.
New England has been better lately, and it's no secret that
Along the same lines, but looking at this thing from the other side of the win-loss ledger: Houston is suffering for several reasons in 2010, with playoff ambitions adrift, already at the point where Dominic Kinnear's team needs to assemble a pretty salty run over the last 12 weeks to reignite postseason plans.
Wins against high-profile clubs (or even playing well against them) do provide some long-term value in adding to league and club credibility. But it comes at a price.
Kansas City reaped a handsome reward for playing its best 11 last week against Manchester United. The Wizards 2-1 win made them the toast of the town. With a new stadium opening in less than a year, the team just moved the needle of respect for the club and MLS soccer, and that could boost ticket sales and sponsorship interest going into an important year.
In terms of MLS competition, a win against the storied likes of Manchester United -- even if the EPL side was far less than full strength in personnel and level of interest -- can send confidence soaring. Sure enough, Kansas City followed last week's big night with a league win over Toronto.
This week, European Champions League winners Inter Milan play at FC Dallas. A few nights later, Real Madrid visits the L.A. Galaxy. Both are marquee matches in those markets and coaches will surely want their sides to show well, a la Kansas City. On the other hand, teams get tired at this time of year. We saw that last week as Los Angeles wilted in the CONCACAF Champions League against a Puerto Rico Islanders team that played with more commitment. And the Galaxy looked downright inept in the first 30 minutes Sunday night in conceding three at home to Chicago. Player fatigue must be playing a role here.
For the Galaxy, Arena's choices are complicated by Tuesday's match in the CONCACAF Champions League. The Galaxy's only hope in that one, trailing 4-1 by aggregate after last week's Home Depot Center disaster, is to play the best 11 available. Even then, it might be a lost cause.
Tough choices, indeed.
Juan Pablo Angel and Thierry Henry aren't just the best tandem strike force this year, they probably form the best ever in MLS. Then again, there are a few other potent tandems. Here, then, are the Top 10 attack duos in MLS at the moment: