Monday, March 4, 2013

Western Conference Weekly

Article by Leanne Elston

The LA Galaxy lead the Western Conference in goals this week, but Vancouver, Dallas, and RSL also posted wins, while Chivas and Seattle fell to Eastern opposition. Portland played to the only draw in the conference, though it was probably the most exciting match in all of the league on opening weekend.

MLS is back. Now let’s see how it went down (at least in the West). If you missed the Eastern Conference Weekly, check it out here.

The Games

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 Toronto FC

Our first all-Canadian match up of the season resulted in three points for the Whitecaps courtesy of Gershon Koffie, whose 60th minute goal was a bright spot in an otherwise rather low-key match. After some great build-up play from Vancouver, including a first MLS assist for newcomer Daigo Kobayashi, Koffie fired home a right-footed strike that Toronto couldn’t answer. The Caps’ win will be marred by the injury to captain Jay DeMerit, however, who had to leave the game early after landing awkwardly. New signing Nigel Reo-Coker showed well coming on at the half, while Y.P. Lee put in a solid shift in defense, manning the backline after DeMerit’s exit. Not a flashy win for Vancouver, but a win all the same.

FC Dallas 1-0 Colorado Rapids

Dallas welcomed a gaffe from Colorado goalkeeper Steward Ceus that gave the home side an easy goal and eventual win to open the season. In the 11th minute, Ceus came off his line and out of his box but failed to reach David Ferreira’s long ball and left the net wide open for Jackson to put Dallas ahead. The Rapids did their best to reclaim the game, and indeed were the better side over 90 minutes, but Dallas held on to keep the three points. For Colorado, rookies Dillon Powers and DeShorn Brown both showed well, and the Rapids will be disappointed to have dominated possession for naught. Dallas, meanwhile, will be pleased that their defense managed to survive to the end without conceding.

Seattle Sounders 0-1 Montreal Impact

A season opener the Sounders will want to forget. At home against Montreal, Seattle dominated possession and did not lack for chances, but Davy Arnaud’s superb finish after a counterattack proved enough to grab the points. The Sounders created opportunities, but battled bouts of bad luck as the crossbar and post denied shots, while Eddie Johnson struggled to finish. One positive was homegrown player DeAndre Yedlin, who put in an excellent showing in his debut and looked every bit the professional. Otherwise, Seattle missed Osvaldo Alonso in midfield and lacked sharpness and urgency in responding to Montreal’s goal.

Chivas USA 0-3 Columbus Crew

All eyes have been on Chivas in the offseason as new coach Chelís has been ushering in change, but this 3-0 loss didn’t get the new era off to the best start. An announced 7,121 fans (though it may have been even fewer) made it to the Home Depot Center for this match, highlighting one of the club biggest off-field problems, and those fans weren’t to be rewarded. As has become the norm for Dan Kennedy, he could do little to stop the goals that went in and did plenty to keep others from finding the back of the net. The game wasn’t totally dominated by Columbus, though, despite the scoreline. Chivas did have opportunities to score before the Crew really ran away with the match, but ultimately the Goats fell flat. Also of note: seven of Chivas’ starters made their MLS debut in this one.

LA Galaxy 4-0 Chicago Fire

A Mike Magee hat trick was the highlight of the Galaxy’s afternoon as they thumped Chicago 4-0 and made it clear they don’t need David Beckham or Landon Donovan to succeed. LA controlled the midfield all game largely thanks to Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas, whose work clearly paid off. Robbie Keane played a part in all three of Magee’s goals while grabbing one himself, and Carlo Cudicini, making his MLS debut, did well to parry a Maicon Santos free kick in the 60th minute despite almost allowing Chicago to score earlier in the game. Overall, an excellent performance from the Galaxy -- the reigning champions haven’t lost it in the offseason.

Portland Timbers 3-3 New York Red Bulls

The Timbers came back from 3-1 down to tie at home against New York and give the fans at Jeld-Wen a wild show. New DP signing Diego Valeri got the Timbers’ first goal of the evening, showing off some fancy footwork that fans will hope to see much more of this season. Aside from his goal, though, Portland’s first half consisted mostly of seriously suspect defending, particularly from Mikael Silvestre. But new coach Caleb Porter must have given a great halftime speech, because his side came out in the second half raring to go. They outplayed the Red Bulls from then on and managed another two goals because of it. Darlington Nagbe and an own goal from Jamison Olave completed the battle from behind for the Timbers.

San Jose Earthquakes 0-2 Real Salt Lake

RSL started off their season with a good win against San Jose, silencing the home fans and avoiding any last minute Goonie antics from the Quakes. Álvaro Saborío was easily the man of the match. His two goals broke the deadlock in the second half, demonstrated why he’s so important for RSL, and helped earn his team three tough points. For San Jose, Chris Wondolowski, now making that DP money, missed a slew of chances throughout the game that, obviously, could have made all the difference. While the Quakes looked to be the better side in the first half, their inability to finish meant that RSL were able to take advantage and break them down. These are two very good teams, but RSL get to go home happy.

The Stories

Two coaches made their MLS debuts in the Western Conference this weekend. Chelís’ start with Chivas left much to be desired, while Porter’s start with Portland looked like it might go the same way before it turned around. Porter clearly gets the better grade this week.

The Seattle Sounders released DP Christian Tiffert ahead of their opening match, making their pursuit of Levante striker Obafemi Martins an even more pressing story. Will Martins be suiting up for the Sounders come March 16th?

This week’s strongest showings came from LA and RSL. While LA had their rout against Chicago, RSL got a result on the road against a difficult team to beat. It’s not surprising that these teams played well, but it will be important to watch how they keep it up (or don’t) in the coming weeks.

The Table

  1. LA Galaxy
  2. Real Salt Lake
  3. FC Dallas
  4. Vancouver Whitecaps
  5. Portland Timbers
  6. Seattle Sounders
  7. Colorado Rapids
  8. San Jose Earthquakes
  9. Chivas USA

The Look Ahead

Colorado travel to Philadelphia to try and get a result this time after playing generally well against Dallas, while Real Salt Lake will take on DC United at RFK Stadium. Vancouver will face tougher opposition at BC Place as Columbus come to visit; the Caps will want to build on their positives and shore up their defense in the absence of Jay DeMerit. Meanwhile, Portland are also at home again, this time against Montreal, who will want to make it two away Cascadia wins in two weeks; if the Timbers keep up the attacking play they showed in the second half against New York, though, they’ll be a force. Chivas meet Dallas in the only all-West match up of the weekend, and finally San Jose welcome New York to Buck Shaw to try to right what went wrong against RSL.

The Player of the Week

Mike Magee. It’s hard to top a guy who scores a hat trick. Magee continues to be an underrated but fantastic player in MLS, consistently putting in solid shift after solid shift. His first goal against Chicago was a beaut.

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