MLS Goal of the Week Nominees: Kicking off the Season In Style

The first week of the 2013 MLS season is in the books, and it was a lively round indeed.

There was a shocker in Seattle, a wild one in Portland, and a slow-motion trainwreck the emerging saga of Chivas USA in Southern California.

The nine games yielded 24 goals, many of which were terrific, including the following five:

The week was filthy rich with great goals; there were also fine strikes from Mike Magee and Sebastien Le Toux. But of the five nominees, we have to go with Davy Arnaud’s excellent finish, teed up by Felipe’s superb scoop over the top. Finishing a close second for us was Diego Valeri‘s slick slalom and finish against New York, followed, again, very closely, by Vancouver’s beautiful team goal.

Keep an eye on Whitecaps midfielder Daigo Kobayashi, the man who laid that ball off for Gershon Khoffie to finish. Kobayashi’s teammate Jun Marques Davidson said the Japanese import (who’s only 30) would be the most technical player in the league when he joined in preseason. After seeing him for one game, we see what Davidson means: Kobayashi is superclean on the ball. He—and Vancouver—are going to be fun to watch.

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Vancouver Shouldn’t Get Too Carried Away Over Last Night’s Rout of Chivas USA

Yes, their offense finally woke up, and yes, the 4-0 result moved them five points clear of FC Dallas (who have a game in hand) for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference (while eliminating Chivas, Portland, and Colorado from postseason contention).

But the Whitecaps should not lose sight of the fact that the win came against the increasingly woeful, last-place Chivas USA, a team with a 7-17-7 record and a -32 goal difference who are clearly playing out the string. (Also on the down side of the ledger for Vancouver: Kenny Miller left the game early, joining fellow striker Darren Mattocks on the injured list.)

First the highlights, then a few Very Sad Facts about the 2012 Goats:

The postgame talk in the Vancouver locker room was all about this being “the performance we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” but let’s curb that enthusiasm with a few nuggets on Chivas USA v. 2012:

Juan Pablo Angel, 36, is leading the team in scoring—with four goals.

Juan Agudelo, who joined the team in midseason, is tied with Miller Bolanos and Ryan Smith for the team lead in assists—with three.

• San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski has 22 goals this season. Chivas USA has 21.

• This was Chivas USA’s seventh consecutive loss, and second straight 4-0 defeat.

• FC Dallas, Vancouver’s rival for the fifth playoff berth in the West, shouldn’t have too much trouble keeping pace: they play Chivas on Sunday.

The Scottification of the Vancouver Whitecaps

 

 

 

 

The Vancouver Whitecaps set what seemed like a new standard last season as the most-attractive-to-watch yet least successful expansion franchise in Major League Soccer history.

They played a skillful, free-flowing style that created lots of chances—unfortunately, too many of those chances were in front of their own net. They conceded 55 goals and finished dead last in the Western Conference. But they were fun to watch.

During the offseason, center back Jay DeMerit returned to health, and the club acquired veteran South Korean wingback Y.P. Lee and Argentine center back Martin Bonjour, along with French attacker Sebastian Le Toux, who led Philadelphia in scoring last season.

With their defense shored up, and more skill in the attacking third, they got off to a great start this season.

But Whitecaps brass, which includes Scottish head coach Martin Rennie, were curiously unsatisfied, and have kept on tinkering with their roster.

Soon after the arrival of Scottish midfielder Barry Robson in mid-June (on a free transfer arranged in January), the team jettisoned Swiss playmaker Davide Chiumiento, arguably the most skillful player on the roster, Le Toux, and the big (but skillful) French striker Eric Hassli—all within one week.

Around the same time Vancouver brought in Scottish striker (and national team captain) Kenny Miller, Jamaican winger Dane Richards, and Irish defender Andy O’Brien.

O’Brien is not Scottish, but Ireland is close enough, ethnically and in their soccer, to Scotland to justify the following tweet from MLSSoccer.com’s Matt Doyle after a recent Vancouver loss:

“The Whitecaps may have lost, but I still think they’re favorites for the Scottish Premier League title this season.”

With Miller, Robson and O’Brien down the spine, the Whitecaps have become stodgier—and more physical: Their recent 2-0 loss to Dallas featured 41 fouls and nine yellow cards, six of them shown to Vancouver players.

Gone is the silky combination play between Chiumiento, Camilo, and Hassli that made them such an entertaining side.

Sure, Chiumiento was not exactly a defense-first kind of guy, and the team left itself too wide open last season, but the offseason acquisitions addressed that problem, to a T. Now, they’ve fallen off the other side of the horse.

And judging by the results, the problem is not limited to style: the Whitecaps are 2-5-2 in their last nine games.

MLS Goal of the Week Nominees: Who’ll Finish Second to Sanna Nyassi?

There were some great goals in MLS’s Week 23, from Dane Richards’ sly curl around a defender into the top corner, to Jair Benitez’s terrific free kick.

But they all took a backseat, in our humble opinion, to Montreal attacker Sanna Nyassi’s sensational 70-yard run and sizzling finish past New England keeper Matt Reis.

Take a look:

Note to MLS defenders: do not let Sanna Nyassi build up a head of steam. He becomes unstoppable.

Vancouver 2, Los Angeles 2: Galaxy’s 18-Year-Old American Jose Villareal Rips Dramatic Late Equalizer

The Whitecaps and the Galaxy staged a thriller last night in front of a sold-out crowd at BC Place in Vancouver. Galaxy Homegrown Player Jose Villareal struck a sweet goal in the 87th minute to lift his side into a 2-2 draw after they’d trailed 2-0 for 80 minutes.

David Beckham started the comeback in the 81st minute, taking a layoff from Landon Donovan and punching a shot that deflected past Vancouver keeper Joe Cannon to make it 2-1.

Vancouver’s 20-year-old Ghanian midfielder Gershon Koffie opened the scoring in the 18th minute, on a play that began with a Beckham turnover. Koffie finished the counterattack by sidestepping a defender and rolling a left-footer past Josh Saunders from 18 yards.

Scottish international Barry Robson made it 2-0 in the 27th minute, heading in Y.P. Lee’s cross for the first goal of his MLS career. He would come very close to scoring again on two other occasions as the teams went full tilt down the stretch.

Highlights right here:

The rally kept fifth-place LA within four points of fourth-place Vancouver in the Western Conference standings.

MLS Goal of the Week Candidates

Variety was the name of the MLS goal-scoring game this week, as the golazos came in several forms.

Are you a fan of slick, one-touch passing? Check out the build-up to Toronto rookie Luis Silva’s finish against New England (that’s Reggie Lambe and Danny Koevermans with the combination play there).

How about gravity-defying vertical leaps? Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks, also a rookie, has you covered with a Spud Webb–like leap to connect with Jordan Harvey’s cross against Toronto earlier in the week.

Or maybe you enjoy deadly, looping, long-range accuracy? The first of David Beckham’s two goals against Portland showcased those qualities—and we have a feeling the goal-of-the-week voters will appreciate them. (The “bend” in “bend it like Beckham,” by the way, is as much up-and-down as it is side-to-side.)

Here are all five:

For our recap of all the Week 19 action, click here.

MLS Goal of the Week Nominees

We suppose former Real Madrid and Benfica man Julio Cesar will get the nod this week, and his volley was pretty sweet—but man, was he left wide open.

Beyond that it was the passes—Gershon Koffie to Darren Mattocks; Davide Chiumiento to Sebastien Le Toux; and Patrice Bernier to Felipe—that stole the show in Week 15.

Take a look:

That Gershon Koffie, by the way, is only 20 years old. He’s put together a few good games this season and is definitely a player to keep an eye on.

It will be interesting to see how the arrival of Designated Player Barry Robson, who was voted Middlesbrough’s player of the year this past season, affects Koffie’s playing time and mentality.