Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things you should know about Week 7:
1. An odd night outside Dallas: David Beckham looked fresh as an English daisy as he ran the midfield for his Galaxy on Sunday, showing no slumped effect from his Atlantic crossing to see the Royal wedding.
But the list of things that went right for his side on an odd night at Pizza Hut Park pretty much stops there.
Beckham actually beat the Galaxy in reaching suburban Dallas, arriving ahead of his teammates Saturday. He said he had good sleep, was accustomed to big travel, felt great and that it wasn't a big deal. Afterward, he graciously answered all the silly questions about weddings, Royals, the Prince, etc., insisting he enjoyed talking about it all. "Royalty is something that us English are proud of," he said with a grinning satisfaction.
His thoughts on the game weren't so rosy. Nor would have Galaxy coach Bruce Arena spoken highly of a soggy and painfully unlucky night -- had he come out to talk about it. Frustrated by it all, he sent assistant Dave Sarachan out to address the media in his place.
No one was pleased with the one hour, six minute severe-weather delay. Arena brought Beckham and Juan Pablo Angel off rather than send them back out in cold, rain and wind for a final 10 minutes. Landon Donovan talked about the "dangerous" situation, sending athletes back out to play and the need to re-examine league policy here.
They felt referee Alex Prus and his crew missed a foul on Todd Dunivant before FC Dallas' first goal. They seemed put out that Dallas, badly missing do-all playmaker David Ferreira, largely sat back on the hunt for chances to counter. And finally, they didn't know what to say about a fortuitous Brek Shea cross that found its way into goal for the late game-winner in a 2-1 setback.
Donovan summed up the odd night: "We're all disappointed and upset, but we're not really sure what to be upset about," he said.
2. Two sides that rearranged their attack: Dallas was one of two teams facing a first test with a substantially reduced attack. The results were markedly different.
With Steve Zakuani stuck in a hospital, Sounders FC began to sort matters without their live wire left winger. They'll meet stiffer resistance, but early results were promising in a 3-0 win.
Dallas began life without the league MVP, Ferreira, a significantly bigger weapon in the arsenal than Zakuani. And it showed. Yes, the home team won, but Dallas never appeared to have a discernible offensive plan.
To be fair, the teams' opposition was apples and oranges. The Sounders first opponent was quite possibly the league's most feeble team, rebuilding Toronto FC. And the Canadians were having a bad night, to boot.
FC Dallas faced a mightier obstacle in a motivated L.A. Galaxy -- one surely still aware that it was Dallas that dumped them from last year's playoffs. Ferreira was the orchestrator of it as things went so wrong for L.A. that night last November.
Sunday's Galaxy-FC Dallas match devolved into weather-related chaos as miserable conditions ruined any chance at proper attacking by halftime. But 45 minutes was enough to see what Dallas is up against.
Coach Schellas Hyndman tweaked his formation, but young Eric Avila essentially replaced Ferreira. The problem is that Avila can't even approach Ferreira in knowledge and positional awareness. Avila has proved he can impact games as a sub, but that's usually through dribbling burst and shooting audacity. Asked to pull the offensive strings against a well-structured bunch like the Galaxy, he was simply overmatched.
Seattle was much better equipped to deal with Zakuani's absence. After all, they had a DP waiting for his chance in Alvaro Fernandez. The Uruguayan international manned Zakuani's spot differently but effectively, tucking inside more often. A couple of other midfield tweaks helped and Seattle was off and flying, with Fernandez even notching the opener.
3. Le Toux finally strikes for Philly: Hard to say what's more surprising about watching the East race so far: that Philadelphia keeps kicking at the favored Red Bulls heels, or that it's happening without much production from Sebastien Le Toux?
Le Toux's stagnant start had been one of the simmering mysteries of 2011. It took an opportunity from the penalty spot on Saturday to finally break into the scoring column. He has one goal and one assist now, still well behind pace on last year's stunning 14-goal, 11-assist campaign.
It wasn't just the numbers. Something just seemed off on the Frenchman's game. Perhaps there was a little undisclosed injury? Or maybe he was pressing, trying too hard to match last year's unexpected output? Or maybe the on-field connections with striker Carlos Ruiz were more difficult than they were with Alejandro Moreno (who is now at Chivas USA)?
Regardless, something seemed to happen in the second half Saturday, as 10-man Philadelphia needed a lift and a steely resolve to see out the result. Le Toux had that old look of intent and confidence -- which can't be good news for the rest of the East.
4. The "effort" proxy: It's only late April and yet the cries of "more effort" are already cascading around MLS parks. Usually this is more of a late-summer thing, as desperation begins peaking around corners.
Last week, we heard it from San Jose, as coach Frank Yallop ran up the flag of flagging effort.
This week we heard something similar coming out of D.C. United's locker room after a 4-1 loss to Houston, this time more from the players. And Toronto FC coach Aron Winter had less than flattering thoughts about his team's commitment to the plan and ability to follow orders in the 3-0 setback in Seattle.
Yes, unbending effort and outrageous commitment can sometimes trump a talent disparity or temporarily overcome injury woe. But all too often, the cry of "We need more effort!" is just a proxy for more serious, more difficult-to-diagnose diseases. Maybe the roster is fatally flawed. Perhaps the players aren't bad, but the system doesn't summon from the best from them. Maybe the locker room chemistry stinks. Or maybe the players aren't responding to the coach's message anymore.
Several D.C. United players, including captain Dax McCarty, said his side's effort and desire didn't reach necessary proportions in Houston. Maybe so. Maybe not. But no amount of effort is going to square a back line that simply isn't good enough.
San Jose? Well, Yallop can bang the drum for being more "stuck in" and such all he wants, but that's not going to correct everything going wrong right now around Buck Shaw. And there's really too much to go into here.
Same for Toronto -- but we all suspected Winter's reconstruction effort was more "months" than "weeks" -- and probably even more about "years."
A slightly better reaction came from New England coach Steve Nicol, whose team looked atypically sloppy against a Chivas USA. Nicol said, in so many words, that they'll have to look at everything in examining the three-goal loss, from individual effort to formations, from team preparation to proper defending. That's a little more encompassing, and surely closer to the truth.
5. Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Jon Conway (Chicago)
Defenders: George John (Dallas), Julius James (Columbus), Danny Califf (Philadelphia).
Midfielders: Brad Evans (Seattle), Dwayne De Rosario (New York), Dejan Rusmir (Columbus), Marco Pappa (Chicago).
Forward: Alejandro Moreno (Chivas USA), Kenny Cooper (Portland), Will Bruin (Houston).