MLS Weekend Review
Late Dramas, Referees Dominated MLS Weekend
June 28, 2016
WHILE MOST OF THE WORLD watched the conclusion of Copa America Centenario and knockout rounds of the European Championships, Major League Soccer put up some decent attendance numbers this weekend with an average announced crowd of 26,016 over nine games.
The officiating was typically bad but the entertainment value was pretty good despite that some key players were still missing. Here are my thoughts on the weekend.
Late Drama, and the Refs
Four games featured goals in the dying minutes, with points shifting in each. Bad calls played a part in these dramas but that is the norm these days in MLS.
The San Jose Earthquakes rallied to a 1-1 draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy in front of 50,000-plus people at Stanford Stadium thanks to a 90th-minute goal from Chad Barrett. As always, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena was in fine form at the postgame press conference—especially as Ashley Cole received two yellows on a single play to get sent off.
"I think if the officials look at the last 15 minutes of that game they’d be very disappointed in the performance,” Arena said. That was a poor display in the last 15 minutes.”
Orlando and Toronto had not just one score change in stoppage time, but two. Nearly 10 minutes of injury time were awarded due to a leg injury to Toronto keeper Clint Irwin. During that window Toronto scored an equalizer on a Justin Morrow tap-in on a pass from Sebastian Giovinco. Moments later Kaka found a winner after a very soft penalty on Drew Moor for pulling down Julio Baptista—who went down very, very easily. The former FIFA World Player of the year easily converted and Toronto’s Josh Williams was given a red card for dissent.
MLS refs might be horrible but at least they are erring on the side of delivering late-game entertainment.
On Sunday, Portland Timbers staged a dramatic comeback win after trailing 2-0 at the half. Lucas Melano scored in the 64th minute to cut the deficit to 2-1. Then the referees got involved again. Portland equalized on a Diego Valeri penalty kick in the 82nd minute after David Horst was called for a handball.
The referees actually go this one correct but in the 88th minute, Houston keeper Joe Willis was called for another penalty for bringing down Melano in the box on a play where Willis touched the ball before making contact with Melano. Houston protested but to no avail and Valeri converted the winner.
In Columbus, the refereeing did not affect the Crew’s stoppage-time equalizer in its 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls (although the Red Bulls are still fuming at the league with its very congested schedule at the moment). On the play, Ethan Finlay sung the ball Whylon Frances who the sent a perfect cross to Ola Kamara who beat Ronald Zubar for a tap in.
Alarming trend for the Red Bulls
On the topic of the Red Bulls, this was the second late equalizer the team has given up inside of a week. The team should have had six points since Wednesday but instead has a paltry two. Yes, the team is going to get a much-needed boost when Damien Perrinelle returns (the French central defender is now with the Red Bulls II while in the final stages of returning from an ACL tear) but some of this is on Jesse Marsch.
Recently, whenever the Red Bulls have had a lead late in games, Marsch has bunkered and gone with five defenders in the back. It would be one thing if the Red Bulls were bad, but this is one of the best teams in the league with speedy wingers, talented central midfielders, and a very good center forward. This conservative approach deeply needs to be rethought.
Designated players Deliver for NYCFC
So far this season New York City FC is known for just one thing: losing at home 7-0 to the Red Bulls. As bad as that was, the team has picked up seven out of 12 possible points since then. On Saturday it defeated a reeling Seattle Sounders team, 2-0, for its second win in a row. In the five goals it has scored over the two games, four have come from its high-priced designated player trio of David Villa, Frank Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo.
It's fair to question how much these players will have in the tank but this team is in second place right now and now will get a chance next weekend to avenge the 7-0 loss when it hosts the Red Bulls.
Mauro Diaz’s bicycle kick assist
FC Dallas is probably the most talented team in the league and when Oscar Pareja’s squad is in form, it is very, very tough to beat. On Saturday, Dallas cruised past Real Salt Lake 2-0 and Mauro Diaz had an assist that was just beautiful to watch.