Maybe "The Quad" isn't such an outlandish goal for Real Salt Lake, after all. Granted, it's just two weeks into the 2011 season, and we are talking about something that no team has ever even come close to accomplishing. But after the way RSL demolished the Los Angeles Galaxy this week, putting any kind of limitations on this team seems premature.
RSL needed less than two minutes to score their first goal, and were up 3-0 before halftime. Even though the Galaxy had a couple of near goals, this 4-1 final scoreline was fair. RSL looked like a team perfectly capable of dominating any other in MLS on any given night.
Just consider the fact that one of their best players on the night, Paulo Jr., played just three MLS matches last season and is clearly a backup on this team. Against the Galaxy, like most of his other limited appearances, he was almost unstoppable. He assisted on the first goal, drew the penalty that resulted in the second and finished off the Galaxy by scoring the fourth goal. When he wasn't scoring, he was dazzling Galaxy defenders with his footwork and generally making life miserable for anyone not in Claret and Cobalt.
The real player of the game (officially the MLS Player of the Week), though, was Javier Morales. I was one of the many people that pegged him as the early favorite for MVP, and his play on Saturday was the kind of thing we can probably expect to see plenty of. Playing without Alvaro Saborio, Morales more than made up for the absence, scoring two goals and assisting on another. He was dangerous all night, both shooting and setting up others.
In addition to missing Saborio, RSL was also without normal starter Will Johnson and backup Arturo Alvarez, both of whom were called away for national team duty. RSL's depth, in fact, is what really bodes well for them as they attempt to become the first real "super team" in MLS history, which is what they will undeniably be if they manage to win the CONCACAF Champions League, U.S. Open, Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup. Obviously, we are still a long ways off from being able to realistically talk about them accomplishing any of those individual feats, but performances like Saturday's make it at least seem like something worth discussing.
This Chris Wondolowski Guy Might Be For Real
It seems like a ridiculous thing to say about the reigning Golden Boot winner, but Chris Wondolowski still has a lot of doubters out there. You can chalk that up mostly to the fact that he never really showed much of a scoring touch prior to pounding in 18 goals last year. Performances like Saturday's against FC Dallas, though, are quickly quieting his doubters. The first goal, especially, was something to behold, as he chested down a pass, pivoted and struck a half-volley inside the far post. He has now scored a MLS record 12 straight regular-season goals for the Earthquakes, dating back to last season.
As for the Earthquakes being able to repeat their success of a year ago, that's still more of an open question. Give them credit for nearly pulling out a draw with RSL in Week 1, but that 2-0 scoreline against FC Dallas was a bit misleading. Not to take anything away from a team that can go on the road and pick up three points under any circumstances, but the Toros created plenty of chances to at least earn a point. The Earthquakes will face another significant test this week when they host the Seattle Sounders.
What Is Going On In Seattle?
Speaking of the Sounders, rarely has one MLS team so thoroughly dominated another and had so little to show for it. If not for a somewhat fluky goal in the 80th minute, the Sounders would be looking down the barrel of a 0-3-0 start and potentially going into full-on panic mode. As it is, they got off the schneid when Steve Zakuani found himself all alone at the far post only needing to tap the ball into the net for the tying score after a ugly corner kick deflected off a Houston Dynamo defender.
Up to that point, the Sounders had dominated in just about every phase of the game, but had precious little to show for it. By the end of the night, the Sounders had fired off a team record 26 shots, tied a team record with 12 corners and forced Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall into eight saves. In three matches, the Sounders have taken 47 shots, put 18 of them on frame and have scored just once.
The poster child for these struggles is Fredy Montero, who by every measurement other than goals scored is having a strong season. He's finding space, taking shots from good angles and helping create for teammates, but has now gone 12 straight regular-season matches without a goal. No one around the Sounders seems to be freaking out over this development, but this obviously needs to change if Seattle is going to make good on their promise.
Flying High In Philly
Last year it took the Philadelphia Union until their 21st match of the season to win their first road game and until Match 8 to win notch their second win. It hasn't necessarily been pretty, but two games into 2011, they have now accomplished both of those things.
The second victory came at the expense of the Vancouver Whitecaps, who themselves were coming off an impressive win in Week 1. Neither side looked exactly dominate, but the Union did enough to deserve the win that ultimately came after new acquisition Carlos Ruiz scored his first goal for his new team.
Two more new players, defender Carlos Valdes and goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, played equally significant roles on defense. Valdes has already formed a solid partnership with Danny Califf and Mondragon has displayed a competency in goal that was lacking for much of the 2010 season. We'll probably learn a lot more about the Union when they visit the Galaxy on Saturday.
Attendance Takes A Hit
It was probably too be expected, but MLS attendance took a significant dip in Week 2. Numbers were solid in Seattle (36,204), Real Salt Lake (20,507), Toronto (20,086) and Philadelphia (18,591), but were disappointing elsewhere. Numbers were particularly worrisome in Columbus (10,306) and Chicago (12,157) where both teams were making their home debuts and played in front of significantly smaller crowds than they averaged a year ago. The average attendance for the nine matches was 15,131, which is almost 6,000 less than in Week 1.
One contributing factor was undoubtedly the fact that Saturday was an international fixture date, and many people who would otherwise watch games live stayed at home to see teams like the United States and Mexico or Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Goal Of The Week
TFC coach Aron Winter brought in a lot of relatively unknown players this offseason, few of them as obscure as Javier Martina. Although a product of the Ajax youth system, he has hardly made a senior team appearance anywhere.
On Saturday, we learned why Winter brought him over. The 24-year-old scored a pair of goals, including one that TFC blogger Duane Rollins called the "best in team history." What made the goal so impressive was not just Martina's finish, which came off a first-touch half-volley, but the pass from goalkeeper Stefan Frei that made it possible. Rather than describe, I'll just show you.