Major League Soccer, 2012 Week 5: What We Learned

Ap 7, 2012; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting KC midfielder Kei Kamara (23) reacts to a play against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the second half at Livestrong Sporting Park. Kansas City won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

Sporting KC won their fifth straight match, giving them the best start in MLS since 1998; Real Salt Lake and the Montreal Impact got big wins over their arch-rivals; and New York continued their offensive outburst.

If anything the last couple of weeks in Major League Soccer have taught us that most of the teams in the league aren't nearly what we thought they would be. A few surprises along the way so far like the San Jose Earthquakes or even on the downside of the surprise are teams like the the LA Galaxy.

Week 5 was no different from the last couple. A few East v. West pairings, a couple of big rivalry games and some dramatics at the end of a couple games. In all the holiday weekend brought us some quality talking points.

Five-for-five in KC

No club in MLS has been re-born the way Sporting Kansas City has been. Just think, two years ago this club was the Kansas City Wizards and they were playing in some minor league baseball park. If they were lucky they would get around 10,000 to a game there.

Fast forward to the present day and this club has a new name, new venue and new life. After a five-game winning streak to start the season - the best start in MLS since 1998 - fans in KC have reason to believe that this year the league will run through them and not their Week 5 opponent the LA Galaxy.

So far this season it has been simple what Peter Vermes has gotten his club to do. Play smarter than 2011, continue to use the pace of Kei Kamara, CJ Sapong and now Bobby Convey to control games. Have Graham Zusi put in a MVP-like effort in some matches and see their defense rise head and shoulders above the rest.

In 2011, this club had all the talent in the world but didn't have the brains to close games out. This season so far has shown that KC can fight to the death and win games - so far it has happened twice.

My favorite stat of all though on KC up to this point - they have gone 245 consecutive minutes without giving up a single shot on goal. Yes. In fact that is a new league record.

Galaxy now a bottom feeder?

Speaking of all the talent in the world. The LA Galaxy are now 1-3-0 and have been outscored 8-5 to start this new season. Think about that for a moment. Everyone, including myself, had this team pegged to easily run through the league yet again this season. But so far that isn't the case.

Defensively the Galaxy are weaker without Omar Gonzalez, that we know. But so far the likes of Tommy Meyer, Andrew Boyens and whoever else Bruce Arena tries to replace Gonzalez with just isn't cutting it.

But the real problem is in the midfield, a center of strength a season ago for the Galaxy.

David Beckham didn't make the trip to KC over the weekend and his service was easily missing for guys like Edson Buddle and Robbie Keane.

Early season injuries and extra games may have hurt this club so far but one cannot expect them to last too much longer at the bottom of the table with all of this talent. Landon Donovan returned from injury over the weekend and looked more like himself for the first time in a few weeks. And Mike Magee proved he can still be a handful from the wing.

The talent is there and sometimes in soccer, it is all about the timing.

Robin Fraser gets big road win

As weird as it sounds, Chivas USA has won in two of the toughest places in MLS by winning at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake and more recently this past weekend at JELD-WEN Field in Portland.

The first one seemed like mere luck at the time but giving the win over the Portland Timbers this past weekend a second watch, this team is starting to grow more and more each week. They still lack a big star (and don't give me Juan Pablo Angel folks, I think that ship has sailed), but what coach Robin Fraser has is a rag-tag bunch of guys that are starting to play his brand of soccer - tough, gritty and at times not at all attractive. But hey, it's damn effective if they are all on the same page.

Guys like Nick LaBrocca and Alejandro Moreno are still as underrated as ever but both found the back of the net against the Timbers on Saturday night.

The James Riley addition to the defense is starting to pay off for the Rojiblancos as well but the real key continues to be the play of keeper Dan Kennedy who is easily getting his name in the hat for Keeper of the Year.

Chivas isn't going to win a lot of style points here this season but wins in Portland and Salt Lake will prove one thing - you can take this team for granted at all.

Rivalries give, something

I know the schedule-makers have a tough go at it when making a 34-game schedule for 19 clubs. It is tough work and I have a ton of respect for them but I will say I was disappointed in how this weekend shaped up in MLS. Two big rivalries on the slate but neither were given the proper time to be hyped.

Both the Rocky Mountain Cup match and the Toronto FC-Montreal Impact (do we have a name for this game yet?) game had too little time that they deserved to get hyped. Three of the four clubs played in the midweek - though we can't fault the schedule makers for TFC's involvement in the CCL.

Still, I wanted more out of these two matches. Montreal raced out to their first ever MLS win over their bitter rivals. What is it with Toronto giving a fellow Canadian club their first MLS win here? They did that last year with Vancouver in the opening week.

There is so much wrong at the moment with Toronto. People like myself may be to blame for hyping them up so much going into the season. Or it just could be that this club is doomed forever to just be bad in league play.

The Rocky Mountain Cup match on Saturday night was a little more entertaining, as it always is. Salt Lake controlled the pace of this game and proved their ugly 1-0 win over Montreal in the midweek wouldn't bleed over into the rivalry match on the weekend.

New York goal show continues

No Luke Rodgers? Yeah, no problem for the New York Red Bulls. It turns out, the Red Bulls may not need him after all. So far Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry have proven over the last three weeks that they have it all covered. Both added in two more goals apiece on Saturday over the Columbus Crew, proving they can get it done on the road now too.

The Red Bulls have scored 13 goals in their last three matches and you have to begin to wonder, can this club be stopped? Henry and Cooper are a two-headed monster at the moment but you have to finally give some credit to Hans Backe's midfield and defense for pitching in. They have given up four goals in the last three matches but none of the last three opponents could match them offensively.

Henry - MLS's Player of the Month for March - has shown over the last couple of weeks that he means business. The rocky start to the season has given the Frenchman so much fight that the more he scored the more likely the Red Bulls have a chance at staying in contention.

The big question still remains, can they match up with the top clubs of the league? FC Dallas isn't exactly a top club but they lost there to start the season. Salt Lake pretty much dominated them in the following week. We should see a tougher test this coming weekend when they host the up-start San Jose Earthquakes, who have only given up two goals this season. Another big win over a team that has a strong defense like San Jose will easily answer these questions.

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