Jermaine Jones scored in his long-awaited Colorado Rapids debut, while Jordan Morris scored his long-awaited first MLS goal. Alexander Abnos breaks it all down in his MLS Power Rankings.
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When Colorado’s lineup appeared on Saturday, it was no surprise that midfielder Jermaine Jones was in the starting XI. How could he not be? The 34-year-old U.S. international brings a depth of experience and professionalism that the Rapids could use, and finally eligible off a six-game suspension, coach Pablo Mastroeni wasted no time in turning to him.
What was surprising is where Mastroeni wanted Jones to play: At the top of a three-man central midfield, behind striker Luis Solignac. Jones, who usually occupies a more defensive or box-to-box role with the U.S. and previous teams, would be a “No. 10.”
The unexpected placement worked brilliantly, as Jones was involved in everything positive Colorado did in a 2-1 win over New York Red Bulls. Jones scored the opener, provided a slick assist through the snow for the second, and showed once again that his presence may be enough to bring an MLS team up a level (and once again that he thrives in snow).
“I’m really happy. I’m thankful, too. [Colorado] gave me an opportunity to prove people wrong,” Jones told MLSSoccer.com after the game. “That’s what you saw today on the field, I tried to give back to them and give them that trust back.”
Jones’s belated debut comes after serving his ban for an altercation with Mark Geiger in last year’s playoffs–a sanction that affected Jones’ ability to find a new club after turning down a contract offer from the New England Revolution.
How influential can Jones be? New England won seven of its last nine games after he joined the team in 2014, before going on a surprising run to the MLS Cup final (which it then lost to the LA Galaxy). Much like that Revs team, Colorado has an interesting mix of talent and a young, unproven head coach. The Rapids will hope Jones can have a similar impact, albeit in a different position, evidently.
More MLS firsts
Jones wasn’t the only one with a notable first this weekend. The Seattle Sounders’ Jordan Morris and Montreal Impact’s Didier Drogba each scored their first goals of the campaign, with each carrying its own special significance.
For Morris, the goal is his first as a professional, though that distinction seems to mean slightly less when you’ve already been scoring goals at the international level as often as he has in the last year-plus (his goal, oddly enough, came almost a year to the day of his goal for the USA vs. Mexico in San Antonio). Still, it’s a proud moment for the 21-year-old, who is a Sounders Homegrown Player and grew up in the area.
Morris hasn’t adjusted quite as seamlessly from Stanford University to MLS as he did to the U.S. national team, but Saturday’s performance showed that he’s starting to learn the ropes. He was active throughout his time on the field on Saturday, before finally breaking through with a nice flicked finish:
The Sounders will be counting on Morris to score more of those...at least until they lock down another DP attacking player (or Chad Marshall stops scoring).
For Didier Drogba, getting a first goal of the season means something a bit different than it does for others in MLS. Drogba has sat out four of Montreal’s opening six game due to them being played on turf, which doesn’t agree with his left knee. So even though we are at Week 7 of MLS, Drogba is playing in just his second game. That could explain why he didn’t start for Montreal against the Chicago Fire in Chicago, though his Impact would be felt within minutes of coming on.
As for the goal itself, well, Drogba may not score an easier one all year. After a bad giveaway by Chicago goalkeeper Matt Lampson, Drogba found so much space in the box that he could have finished Dominic Oduro’s service however he liked. He elected for a nifty backheel.
Offensive player of the week: Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes
Wondolowski added two more goals to his league-leading total of six in his first seven games. Though one of them this week came on a penalty kick vs. Portland, it was the more notable one because of its historical impact. With the goal, his 115th in MLS, Wondolowski passed Ante Razov for fourth on MLS’ all-time scoring list. He still has another 18 to go to get to Jaime Moreno in third. At this rate, I wouldn’t rule it out.
Defensive player of the week: Chad Marshall, Seattle Sounders
Obafemi Martins' departure meant that someone on the Sounders would have to step up to shoulder the scoring load. It’s not likely that anyone thought it would be Marshall to do it. Besides scoring for the second straight week, Marshall was at his imperious best on Saturday, shutting down the Union’s cross-heavy attack save for one goal by former Sounder Sebastien Le Toux.