Tuesday, May 12, 2015

MLS Divine Comedy: Week 10: Losers Looking More Clear

Some weekends, a man just can't get in enough games to feel fully up-to-date and informed. And sometimes it's MLS Live that thwarts the effort, courtesy of the perhaps overly-expansive black-out on the national broadcast games (C'mon, guys; 48 hours? Srsly?) Some weekends, it's Mother's Day. There's probably an overlap somewhere in there...

In editorial notes, I'm going to goose this post's content going forward. The main shift will be to dub three results the most important of the week just passed. (Also going against past practice, I'll resist over-elaborating what I mean by that.) The other piece to that will be saying less about each club as I explain how I sorted each between Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. I'm tweaking with a good formula mentally, so that'll probably start next week. Hell, this could shift to straight-up power rankings by then...calling 'em "power rankings" means one less thing to explain.

With the busy weekend schedule seriously limiting the time I could ignore everyone to stare at TV/computer screens, I took in only two full games over Week 10:
Montreal Impact v. Portland Timbers
DC United v. Sporting Kansas City
I was gonna watch the shit out of the New York...derby? Soccerwarz? (Just drop me a line when everyone agrees on a name.) All I know is MLSLive has a crappy, frustrating interface...and, again, the stupid national broadcast thing, with the attendant deviant sex acts for the stupid, parasitic cable companies, plays its twisted, market-averse role in all this. That said, that game looked awesome!! Just intense as hell on the field and all Sound and Fury in the stands. The early (probably justified) sending off of the Red Bulls' Matt Miazga didn't hurt (and all the glorious pro wrestling theatrics that went along with), nor did the did-he-or-didn't-he offside moment for New York City FC. The whole thing ended with the righteous win for O.G. New York. (That's New York Red Bulls, to the odd new visitor; this site has lingo.)

Every MLS team is organized below between states of their post-season after-life: Heaven (clearly post-season-bound); Purgatory (neither they, nor I, know what the fuck they're doing); and, obviously, Hell (long-term prospects point toward lakes of fire and ice and/or eternal suffering). And...let's go.

FC Dallas (3)
One real story in Dallas' win over LA was the B-/young make-up of the defensive quartet (e.g. Walker Zimmerman, Kelyn Acosta, Victor Ulloa and Je-Vaughn Watson). And, yes, the real story is Fabian Castillo's continuing to terrorize of MLS, the Entire League. Kid is good. As in destroying three defenses in 2015 good. He’s on track for an MVP nod, easy.

Vancouver Whitecaps (5)
When your 'keeper can pull a save from so far up his ass that he's tickling his duodenum (see: Ousted, David), you're in just about every game with a shout. Add Pedro Morales and his talent for the gorgeously cheeky and, suddenly, shit gets fun. Think it's time to start watching this club again...it's been a while.

Columbus Crew SC (4)
For me, Columbus is as good, man-to-man, as any club in MLS. They key is making it work. Kei Kamara heading a goal past Chad Fucking Marshall draws a pretty goddamn good diagram for making it work, y'know? The rest of Columbus' goals wouldn't look out of place on a Goal of the Week list. On a deeper level, Columbus lit up Seattle. SEATTLE.

Seattle Sounders (4)
There’s no shame in losing to Columbus; there’s even less shame when you pull two back. Damn. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Seattle’s defense is championship-caliber; good teams get through them. I mean, sure, maybe they can survive another season relying on the Deuce/Oba duo and a random collection of second bananas  to try to win it all…but do they want to?

New England Revolution (3)
Between the (MLS approximation of the) tika taka and Charlie Davies (not "Davis," UDN crew), the Revs community has plenty to keep it happy. No, coughing up two to let Orlando back in can't make a team with (real) championship aspirations feel good, but you're not gonna win 'em all. Not in MLS.

Red Bull New York (4)
O.G. New York looks back on track after a couple iffy results. Weak as NYCFC has been, getting a good, short-handed result in that environment with a man down, and more shots in your favor (hold on...yep), reads pretty well. Bradley Wright-Phillips looks ready to don the mantle, which figures largely. As does the promising partnership between Miazga and Damien Perrinelle.

DC United (3)I've argued a couple times that DC will go next-level if/when Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon re-arrive. Well, one half of the equation adds up (Pontius), while the other half doesn't (DeLeon). Getting Jairo Arrieta on a score-sheet, any score-sheet is savory gravy, baby; Pontius did that. The draw was a little tough, because DC did very little wrong in defending the equalizer.

PURGATORY (Souls transitioning in both directions)
Los Angeles Galaxy (3 1/2)
Eternally on the bubble between the redeemed and the...whatever the fuck you are in Purgatory. I guess the question is, what are the Galaxy waiting for? Will Steve Gerrard really be that redemptive, in just half a season? In the meantime, they are where they belong: among the indifferent.

Real Salt Lake (2)
The Utah outfit exit Hell on the theory that I judged them a little harshly/prematurely after Week 9. Four points from six will do that. They also answered my biggest gripe, because the youngsters stepped up – Jordan Allen and Devon Sandoval, and in both games. Add a great second banana like Luke Mulholland to the mix and Week 9 shrinks to a bad day at the office.

Sporting Kansas City (4)
Not to be unkind to Jacob Peterson, but there's something between the size of a car and a house that he can't hit the broad side of. But Dom Dwyer's slow return to form makes for the real news about KC. They're a little like Portland right now: defending well enough that, if their offense gets rolling, they'll climb the table automatically.

Portland Timbers (10)
2 convincing wins from 10 games doesn't read so great, but something really appealed to me in Portland's win over Montreal. The Timbers seemed to sort out Montreal as they played. Such little miracles sustain faith. Extended commentary went up on Saturday.

Orlando City FC (2 1/2)
Read fairly, Orlando scored three goals in this one; that back-pass that let in Kelyn Rowe is as close to an assist as one gets without trying. (And you know Rowe said something beyond shitty as he trotted past the Orlando defender left hanging in the net.) On the bright side, when you're not scoring, two goals look like 10. And good to see Cyle "Can’t Get Used to that Spelling" Larin get another goal. Seriously, the fight back matters. Orlando has shown more of that than New York.

Toronto FC (3)
The original Canadian club has become the dark comedy of MLS. Unlike with the Fire, the DPs seem to be performing; Sebastian Giovinco looks good as any player in the league; Jozy Altidore was so hungry that he shrugged off every foul: and, yet, Michael Bradley's an exception, but not a big one. Houston just looked smarter yesterday. What does that say about institutional knowledge with TFC?

San Jose Earthquakes (0)
I remember Chris Wondolowski's cool-as-you-like finish, but not a whole lot stood out in their draw against Colorado. Again, anything I say about San Jose needs to be taken with a full-on fucking salt lick (that's good advice, generally, even if I think I get enough things right to be...no, you choose the adjective), but I think this club tops out at gadfly in 2015.

Houston Dynamo (1)
Count me more shocked than most, but Houston pulled some serious wily veteran shit on Toronto FC. For one, they have another MVP nod in Giles Barnes. But the deeper lesson of the win over TFC goes back to a knock I've seen them hit with in the past week – i.e. Houston can either attack or defend. Well, guess what happens when they go up 1-0?

Chicago Fire (2 1/2)
Guly do Prado ain't cuttin' it. Neither is Kennedy Igboananike. His numbers don't show it (yet?), but Shaun Maloney's starting to credibly pull the strings. David Accam looked other-worldly for a couple games, but a tougher team showed his level. I can't remember who among the above are actual DPs; I only know that hints of lipstick-smeared pigs stick to Chicago's roster make-over.

Colorado Rapids (3)
Look, this isn't complicated: a team can play well all over the field and often as they like, but all that goes straight out the window until you actually win games. All those promising parts and moments are decidedly sidewalk-bound in 2015.

Montreal Impact (3)
It's possible I kept a little too much faith in Montreal, inflated their capabilities to urge them through the CCL (and ultimately slaughter on the world stage). The Impact barely threatened Portland in their return to MLS play, and it was more a lack of ideas than heavy legs that held them back.

New York City FC (2 1/2)
Several instances of flat-out disgraceful defending starts the tale; a roster of pretty goddamn average MLS-level players tells the rest. This club is, top-to-bottom, just not good enough for MLS. And that says one helluva a lot in the largest context. They held up well in a very, very difficult environment, but that's the best thing I can say about them.

Philadelphia Union (2)
Whether cursed, or just outright bad, the Union's like the freakin' "3-Points Fairy" for the rest of MLS. If this keeps up, Philly fans automatically win Supporters of the Year for tolerating all the flaming bags this club leaves on their collective doorsteps. I've seen Cristian Maidana sold as a solution, but he looks as clueless as everyone else out there.

And that's Part I of this week's analysis in the books....

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