Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things you should know about Week 14:
1. Diving D.C. United striker Charlie Davies. D.C. United striker Charlie Davies, who certainly has a knack for making news, good and bad, could get the benefit of the doubt earlier this year when he seemed to go down easily on a controversial penalty kick against Los Angeles. There was some contact on that one, at least, but the red flags of "simulation" were being gathered.
Davies has hardly been an angel since then, sometimes going to ground and attempting to flimflam the men in the middle. Word began getting around that he's a diver, a reputation no one wants.
Well, case closed now. And how.
The D.C. United striker really should be hanging his head in shame after the stunt he pulled Saturday in Utah. Never mind about an early PK decision that fell RSL's way, nor other fouls for the home side that needed harsher punishment. Referee Terry Vaughn may have botched some of those, too -- but that's not the point. That's just weak officiating, and we've beaten the dog out of that piñata.
We're talking about blatant playacting, the kind of deceitful simulation that gives the game a bad name.
When Davies flung himself theatrically late (in a game his team trailed by a goal), he never really even tried to get by RSL defender Chris Wingert. Davies wanted to put one over on Vaughn, which is cheating, plain and simple.
"He just kicked it away and jumped over," Wingert told the Salt Lake Tribune. "It's almost laughable."
Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis took the high road. Rather than hammer Vaughn or take his place in the complaint line about MLS refereeing, Kreis mentioned how 1-0 leads aren't good enough at home, and how his team broke down on the critical play, allowing a United counter attack to reach the penalty area.
"We can talk all we want about the penalty, but I'd rather talk about how it gets there," Kreis said. "Because you don't want to open yourself up to a counter attack when you have a 1-0 lead when you have a dead ball that's yours."
Fair enough. Let's just hope referees talk about it. Because Davies sure is making fools of them at the moment. As they say: he should "just play the game."
2. David Beckham and injury reports. Fact: MLS has a policy on injury reports.
Fact: League officials expect coaches to be truthful.
Well-known, dirty little secret: Too many coaches play fast and loose with the injury reports.
Generally speaking, it's not that big a deal. On one hand, most fans won't get in a twist if, say, Columbus midfielder Eddie Gaven doesn't take the field as expected.
On the other hand, why even have injury reports if truthfulness is just a suggestion, and if no one is accountable for shenanigans? Along those lines, some questions need to be asked about David Beckham and his surprise absence from the Galaxy-Colorado Rapids match Saturday.
Beckham had back spasms earlier in the week, according to the team. That sounded a little fishy when he took off for London for a couple of days of preening and politicking, once again demonstrating very little regard for his team, selfishly choosing what's best for David Beckham over what's best for the club and the league that pays him so handsomely. Some "ambassador" -- but that's another issue.
The 18,277 who showed up at DSG Park (well above Colorado's average) certainly expected to see Beckham. So what a disappointment it must have been to discover that an opponent already missing its other big draw, Landon Donovan, never put Beckham on the injury report, never mentioning that the league's biggest attraction might not show up. Some fans even received e-mails on Saturday inviting them to come see Beckham and the Galaxy.
Never mind that Beckham missed training Thursday and Friday after returning from England; Galaxy officials kept his name off the injury report.
Beckham has missed other trips to Colorado. But in truth, that's not his problem. If he's hurt, he's hurt, and he's under no obligation to risk further injury so fans in Colorado can take their turn at the viewing window. That said, clubs need to come clean about injuries so fans can make informed choices about where to spend their money.
Tsk, tsk, MLS. Your fans are everything. They deserve better.
3. Raise your hand if you've heard of Bernardo Anor. Every once and a while, a player rises from absolutely nowhere to heroically deliver the goods. Great example from last year: Kansas City's Birahim Diop, plucked from the amateur ranks, scored twice last year in his first MLS start since 2002 in a win over New England. Where did that come from?
Columbus midfielder Bernardo Anor had a night like that Saturday in a 2-0 win in Houston. Yes, that Bernardo Anor.
A native of Venezuela who played college soccer at South Florida, he was a Crew third round draft pick last January. Coach Robert Warzycha gave Anor his first start Saturday, and the young midfielder rewarded his coach in spades.
It wasn't just the goal and the assist, nor even that Anor and his dribbling drew the second yellow card foul on Lovel Palmer, leaving the Dynamo a man down for almost a half. Generally, he looked composed, his movement was good along the left and his set pieces caused trouble.
Columbus may not be the most stylish team to watch this year, but credit Warzycha for keeping his team in the thick of things with a couple of B-list stars, a big stack of youngsters and few spare parts.
4. Red Bulls rage in the "Wild West." The Red Bulls' 3-3 draw in Portland provided a mighty exclamation point Sunday night on Round 14. It was easily the best match on another weekend of fairly pedestrian affairs; eight matches elsewhere averaged exactly two goals.
But these two sides sure did their part in the Rose City. While suspended Portland coach John Spencer sat in the suites -- banned from the bench for saying all the unpleasant things the rest of us are saying about the referees -- the teams combined for six goals, six cautions, an own goal, Thierry Henry's ejection, one saved penalty kick and one PK that was converted deep into stoppage time for the tie. It all happened against the fabulous backdrop of that ongoing, teeming scene in the downtown Portland.
Dwayne De Rosario created the telling PK and then converted it to cap his return from Canada's failed Gold Cup effort. (Aside: New York was one of the sides that got players back from Gold Cup action in Round 14 -- but it didn't work out as well elsewhere. Will Johnson couldn't help Real Salt Lake do any better than a draw at home. Andrew Hainault was back in the lineup for Houston, which struggled in a loss at home. Julian de Guzman didn't even get on the field in Toronto's loss at home. On the plus side, Terry Dunfield put in a strong midfield shift during Vancouver's home triumph.)
Back to JELD-WEN Field, or the "Wild West" as Backe called it in good humor after Sunday's madcap affair. It wasn't immediately clear why Henry was shown red for something off the ball. But Henry has in the past put his hands too aggressively on players' faces and heads, disguising naughty little slaps as one of those handsy European gestures of affection. It really is a habit he needs to drop -- and maybe he will now.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Jimmy Nielsen (Kansas City)
Defenders: Yamith Cuesta (Chicago), Aurelien Collin (Kansas City), Jay DeMerit (Vancouver), Todd Dunivant (Los Angeles).
Midfielders: Sainey Nyassi (New England), Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle), Jack Jewsbury (Portland), Bernardo Anor (Columbus).
Forward: Dwayne De Rosario (New York), Dominic Oduro (Chicago).