It was a rough and rowdy week in Major League Soccer. We saw plenty of goals over the weekend -- 24 to be exact -- and also plenty of red cards that caused quite a stir.
Week 7 saw the end of an impressive run by Sporting Kansas City while on the opposite end of the spectrum, another streak continued in Toronto as the Reds dropped yet another game.
For the most part, this week showed us exactly how tightly wound the Western Conference really is. The distance between first and last place in the West is only nine points. In the East -- the conference is tight in the middle with second place through ninth only separated by seven points -- but the difference top to bottom is Great Lake-sized 21 points separating Sporting KC and Toronto FC.
Quakes are MLS Surprise Team
Going into the 2012 season it looked as though San Jose Earthquakes manager Frank Yallop may be on the hot seat. His club only won eight games in 2011 and now through seven weeks Yallop's side has already bagged five wins, including two big ones against conference rivals Seattle and Real Salt Lake.
Yallop has got his defense going at a higher gear this season. Third-year center back Ike Opara came back into the fold this weekend thanks to some injuries in the back. On Saturday, Opara shutdown RSL's Alvaro Saborio and nearly helped his side to a clean sheet.
In the midfield things have looked miles better than they did in 2011. The additions of Marvin Chavez and Shea Salinas have added speed and skill to the wide positions and their replacements this week stepped their game up as well. Khari Stephenson started up top against RSL on Saturday with Chris Wondolowski but toward the end of the game he went into a holding midfield position, a spot that he absolutely owned.
Tressor Moreno also finally got back onto the pitch for Yallop. In his second game he showed how dangerous he can be by spraying balls into good spots for Wondolowski and guys like Stephen Lenhart.
San Jose isn't the sexiest team in MLS by any stretch but they could possibly be the toughest team to deal with based on the collection of players that Yallop has brought in this year.
Oh Toronto. The Reds looked for about 30 seconds to get their first win of the season against the Chicago Fire on a chilly Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. Reggie Lambe's two goals sparked Toronto in the first half after an early goal by Dominic Oduro.
All looked right with Aron Winter's side after Lambe put them up 2-1 with a couple minutes left in the first half. But soccer is a cruel sport and possible an even crueler one to Toronto fans. Moments after the second Lambe goal Chicago took advantage of a set piece as Gonzalo Segares found himself on the end of a nice Pavel Pardo ball to tie things up just before the half.
From there it was all Chicago. The speed of Oduro and Patrick Nyarko was too much to handle as the two linked up for the game winner by Nyarko.
Winter's club now moves to 0-6-0 on the season -- a dreadful way to begin what was expected to be a promising campaign. Toronto has good talent in the right places but it's possible that Winter just isn't the man for the coaching spot anymore. Either it was playing too conservative from the start with Torsten Frings playing in the center of a three-man defense or it was just bad luck all around. Something has to give with this Toronto side and it won't get any easier this weekend when they travel to Rio Tinto Stadium for a game with Salt Lake.
United State of Mind
The race for second place in the Eastern Conference now sits with D.C. United. The Black-and-Red took full advantage of a weakened New York Red Bull defense on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Chris Pontius easily grabbed the week's Player of the Week honors with a hat trick, while Rookie of the Year candidate Nick DeLeon found the back of the net as well.
United now sit second in the East with 12 points and really haven't got a great game this season out of their main star Dwayne De Rosario. Manager Ben Olsen probably would have likely DeRo or Designated Player Hamdi Salili to get a goal in this one as neither star have really made a dent into this season.
D.C. just absolutely took advantage of a New York defense that was missing two key players in Rafael Marquez and Wilman Conde. Without those two in the center of the park, the Red Bulls have no answer for anyone with a quick attack like United has. Pontius was able to run at defenders all afternoon and his third goal was a thing of beauty as he took on Markus Holgersson with ease before he slit a shot by rookie keeper Ryan Meara.
Streaks Over, Streaks Begun
Week 7 saw some streaks end. Sporting Kansas City saw their perfect start come to and end on the road against the Portland Timbers. John Spencer's group saw a nasty streak of their own come to an end as well with the win, the four-game losing streak is now over and the Timbers can look forward to climbing up the Western Conference standings.
Staying out West, Chivas USA continues to have issues at home with yet another loss at the Home Depot Center. This time it was to the Philadelphia Union in a 1-0 slug fest that saw two red cards for the Union. Some how a Freddy Adu goal was enough to give the Union a two-game winning streak of their own.
Speaking of a two-game winning streak, how about the LA Galaxy? David Beckham and company headed out to the Rocky Mountains for a clash with the Colorado Rapids and found a gritty 2-1, thanks to a late PK save on Omar Cummings by Josh Saunders. The Galaxy now have a little momentum heading into a home game this weekend with FC Dallas.
Each week I've started playing a little game on Monday. With the MLS Discipline Committee handing down retroactive suspension these days, it seems anyone can be in the firing line. So who will it be this week? Could it be Toronto's Adrian Cann and his WWE-style close line of Chicago's Dominic Oduro?
What about Philadelphia Union midfielder Gabriel Farfan and his studs up tackle against Chivas USA defender James Riley? That one was rough and did receive a red card during the game, which caused Philadelphia manager Peter Nowak to get ejected as well for leaving the bench and running out onto the field in protest.
If that one doesn't get any additional games, then possible Real Salt Lake's Fabian Espindola? His two-footed studs up tackle on San Jose midfielder Sam Cronin earned him an early bath and may be one of the roughest challenges of the weekend.
You just know somewhere in this weekend is an extra suspension and some fines.