They say that character is what defines a true champion and the Crew showed it in abundance as they came from behind to pick up a win that sees them jump to the top of the Power Rankings. Steven Lenhart and Jason Garey again impressed up front to prove that Columbus has more depth than we have given them credit for. It was never going to be easy for Robert Warzycha to take over the reins, but after getting over a sticky start he has helped his side go from strength to strength. This Crew side may be better than the team that won it all last year.
Key Man: Eddie Gaven’s return to form over the last few weeks has played a big part in the Crew’s climb to the top of the rankings.
The Sounders couldn’t find a way past Jon Busch as they had to settle for a point in their clash with the Fire last at Qwest field. Seattle certainly created enough opportunities to win the game but yet again their finishing let them down. Sigi Schmid claims that his strike duo of Fredy Montero and Nate Jaqua is as good as any in the league, but Jaqua has to find the net on a more consistent basis for Schmid’s statement to hold any credence. Freddie Ljungberg continues to struggle with his overall play and it is a credit to the coaching staff that this team is doing so well despite their Designated Player’s struggles.
Key Man: Osvaldo Alonso has struggled for form at times this year but I believe Seattle is a better side when he is in the lineup.
The Fire picked up a useful point at Seattle last Saturday on the back of a super performance form reigning goalkeeper of the year Jon Busch. Busch hasn’t been at his best this year but is starting to return to form thanks largely to the improved play of the back four in front of him. It now looks like the Fire’s defensive struggles are behind them, but they have to figure out a way to replace Brian McBride if they are to keep pace with the Crew at the top of the Eastern Conference. Can Chris Rolfe be that man? I’m not so sure …
Key Man: CJ Brown’s dogged defensive work has helped the Fire shore up at the back recently, just don’t expect to see him control a ball anytime soon.
The Galaxy dominated possession but in the end had to settle for a point from their trip to Kansas City last weekend. L.A.’s second string forward line of Mike Magee and Alan Gordon struggled to break through the Wizards’ back line and the Galaxy again had to rely on Landon Donovan to rescue a point after Claudio Lopez’s wonder goal. The Galaxy will be stronger when Edson Buddle and Alecko Eskandarian return, although I still feel they need to add another striker to really compete for an MLS Cup.
The Rapids made their one-man advantage count as they produced a super second half performance to trounce New York and reignite their playoff hopes. Pat Noonan produced his best MLS performance in years while Ugo Ihemelu marshaled the Rapids back line superbly to leave Colorado just two points out of second place in the conference heading in to the All-Star break. I’m sure Gary Smith would have accepted that if you had offered it to him at the start of the season.
Key Man: Nick LaBrocca played well in the victory over New York last week and Gary Smith will be hoping the midfielder can build on that performance over the next few weeks.
The Dynamo’s recent struggles continued last weekend as they fell to a shock defeat at the hands of the New England Revolution. Houston struggled to cope with a much sharper New England side and never really came to terms with the pace of Kheli Dube and Kenny Mansally. The Dynamo’s return home after a long road trip was supposed to provide the spark for this team to return to form, but instead they again showed how much they struggle when their key players are on international duty.
Key Man: Houston fans better hope that Brian Ching is not suffering from a Gold Cup hangover as he returns to MLS action this week.
They say that a two-goal lead is the most dangerous in football and D.C. proved that last weekend as they threw away two points from their trip to San Jose. The Earthquakes exposed the defensive problems that have plagued D.C. on the road this season and if they don’t improve quickly, then they could easily miss out on a playoff place again. It would help if some of D.C.’s so-called flair players rolled up their sleeves and did their share of the defensive work, too.
Key Man: Fred is a very talented player but he has got to stop disappearing when his team goes through a difficult spell.
Real Salt Lake’s season was 35 minutes away from being over before a superb four-goal onslaught gave them a much-needed three points over Dallas. Jason Kreis claimed that this is the type of game that can change his side’s season after an emotional half time team talk sparked a superb turnaround in the second half. RSL has now shown how good they can be, and if they can reproduce this form and build on the momentum of this win, then they are more than capable of matching up with anyone in the west. It is a big ‘if’ though.
Key Man: Will Johnson has had a good season so far but he must elevate his performances even more if RSL is to make the playoffs.
The Revs have scraped their way to some positive results recently but last weekend was different, as they fully deserved to pick up all three points from their trip to Houston. The Revs looked good going forward and created plenty of chances while they also showed a dogged defensive spirit that we have come to expect from a Steve Nicol coached team. The youngsters in this team have now gained valuable experience and look ready to fight their way back into playoff contention. Toronto and co. beware!
Key Man: Chris Tierney has played very well recently and helped the Revs return to the kind of form we expect from them.
Chivas USA may still be only two points out of second place in the Western Conference, but unless they solve their goal-scoring problem quickly, they are in real danger of dropping out of the playoff race. Preki’s side started the season off so well but in reality they overachieved with a side that is void of any attacking flair in the final third. Hopefully Preki is using his side’s break from MLS play to work on this and help Sacha Kljestan rediscover his form.
Toronto wasted a wonderful opportunity to end the Crew’s unbeaten streak at home after a late collapse saw them fall to defeat on the road again. A win at Crew Stadium would have sent a statement out to the rest of the Eastern Conference that this Toronto side really meant business, but they now find themselves sitting in fourth position in the conference, only three points ahead of a surging New England side. Can Toronto regroup after this morale-sapping loss? I don’t think so.
Key Man: Ali Gerba got off the mark against the Crew and Toronto’s success may depend on how many times he can find the back of the net from now until the end of the season.
The Wizards looked like the away side as they tried to sit back and catch the Galaxy on the counterattack last Saturday at Community America ballpark. It worked for the most part as K.C. managed to pick up a point they scarcely deserved, although a result like this doesn’t exactly help this side re-enter the playoff race. At least Claudio Lopez finally showed some quality with a goal that is a certainty for goal of the season. Unfortunately that is the only award Kansas City will win this year.
Key Man: Matt Besler played very well against the Galaxy last weekend and if he can continue this kind of form he will have a very bright future in MLS.
The Earthquakes showed tremendous team spirit as they fought back from two goals down to snatch a point against D.C. last Saturday in San Jose. The manner of the comeback at least shows that Frank Yallop has not lost the dressing room, although the former Galaxy coach might be wondering why his team couldn’t perform like this earlier in the season. This result does provide some hope for the rest of the season, but the Earthquakes only realistic goal now is to avoid finishing dead last in the Western Conference.
Key Man: Bobby Convey has to play better for this team to be a success in this league.
Dallas played some very good football as they raced into a two-goal lead at RSL, but their horrid second half showing saw them drop to yet another defeat that surely ends any lingering playoff hopes they still had. Schellas Hyndman admitted that his side sat too deep in the second half allowing RSL to get back into this game — and this Dallas team is simply not good enough defensively to sit on a lead. Dallas is now in a fight with San Jose to stay out of the Western Conference cellar and on this form they may very well lose that battle.
Key Man: Dave Van Den Bergh continues to perform at a consistent level despite his side’s struggle for form.
The Red Bulls hit yet another low as they fell to yet another crushing defeat in Colorado last Saturday. Juan Carlos Osorio claimed that the ejection of Sinisa Ubiparipovic changed the complexion of this game, but in truth his side was already well on their way to another defeat. New York’s foreign imports are not good enough and by all accounts their foreign coach has been an absolute disaster. This team may very well be the worst to ever play in MLS.
Key Man: No game this week.
Fox Soccer Channel’s Keith Costiganwrites about American soccer for FOXSoccer.com, and contributes his blogto interact with his fans.