Galaxy slump as race for top record heats up; Montero an MVP favorite
Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things to take away from Week 22:
First, the facts: Since a July 4 win at Seattle,
If there was any doubt that things have unraveled, Kansas City removed it with a 2-0 road victory Saturday. It was no fluke, either; K.C. was simply better. The Galaxy yielded an early lead yet again and then offered the feeblest of responses. Even at home, all the Galaxy could muster was a couple of half chances inside the game's first 30 minutes, and only a little better from there.
Start with the defense, where the side clearly misses its top traffic cop,
Reduced production of late from Donovan and striker
There's too much age in the reserves. Keeping
Overall, the team still lacks speed. That hasn't changed since last year. It's just that a lot of other things were going right then -- and earlier this year, too. The Galaxy were pressing in the right spots and catching teams repeatedly on the counter. Now teams just sit back a look to counter the Galaxy. And it's clearly working.
Some of that can be corrected. But perhaps more alarming is the effort; the intensity and desire to compete seems to be missing.
"I think that we got outcompeted tonight," Arena said late Saturday. "All this was about tonight was fighting and scrapping and we lost that fight. I think that was the difference in the game; they played harder."
(Quick crowd reaction report: cheers for Ljungberg upon his introduction and departure, boos whenever he touched the ball in between. Seems fair and balanced. Well done, folks!)
Montero has 10 goals and nine assists, among the league's top four in both categories. The Union's
Here's something else to know should Montero hear his name called in late November at the MVP announcement: Yes, he'll be one of the youngest -- but not the youngest. He turned 23 about a month ago. If he won, he would do so at about 23 years and four months.
Still, Montero's winning at such an impressionable age would be quite an achievement. First, MLS is a better league than it was in 2002. We're talking about HD quality today versus 13-channel, black-and-white TV of yore. Plus, most MVPs earn the award closer to the sweet spot of their careers, around 28 or 29 or just north of there. There have been some exceptions, but even those skew older than Montero is now.
It seems OK now to go ahead and add Houston and New England to that list of also-rans after painful weekend losses. They were painful in different ways -- but also painful in a similar way.
First, the similarities: If these are the final-straw hope-killers for the two teams, then it's unfortunate that red cards played such central roles in both. In New England,
On the other hand -- warning: the tiresome and repetitive issue of MLS referee consistency is about to be revisited; imagine that -- Gibbs' indiscretion was no worse that what Philly's
Either way, the Revs would need to turn up about 20 points over their final nine matches for a shot at the postseason. Considering that Nicol's men have collected just 21 points from 21 matches, well, their postseason streak is probably kaput. The Revs haven't missed the playoffs since 2001.
Here's how the losses weren't the same: New England was in control when Gibbs' expulsion altered the night; Houston was outmatched from the outset, already down a goal when Palmer broke bad. Houston has been outmatched frequently this year. Draw a line through its streak, too: The men of orange have been part of the playoffs each season since moving to Houston in 2006.
Champions League surely has its merits. But it also gives Columbus and Real Salt Lake six extra matches, none of which are pushovers. That includes some grueling road trips.
That's not only six extra matches of wear and tear on starters, but it's also six additional opportunities for injury. RSL has some depth to cope with it, but Columbus is already a bit bitten on the injury front. The additional contests could say something about the MLS Cup winner before it's over.
(Toronto has the extra lifting ahead, too, as part of the Champions League mix.