Another week in the world of MLS and more uncertainty in terms of getting any closer to knowing which teams are truly elite. Just when you're prepared to hand the crown to Real Salt Lake or the Seattle Sounders, they lay eggs. Just when you might have started to question the L.A. Galaxy, they drop five goals on a rival. But that's what we all love about our little league ... right?
Camilo Sanvezzo as savior of Canadian soccer: Did you see Camilo Sanvezzo's goal against the Portland Timbers? If not, here's a link. Go watch it. ... You back? Pretty impressive right? If someone does that in Europe, it's being replayed on every sports network in the world.
But here's the thing: Camilo does stuff like this, all the time. With Fredy Montero now tearing apart the Portuguese Primeira Liga, Camilo is the go-to guy for "Did he just do that?" goals in MLS. Earlier in the game he scored on a free kick from 30 yards out. He has 18 goals this year, most of them with a relatively high degree of difficulty. Sure, he's a bit lackadaisical when it comes to parts of the game that don't involve putting balls in the back of the net, but who cares? The guy puts the ball in the back of the net a lot and he does it with some flare. We need more of that.
You know who else needs more of that? Canada. Their national team is absolutely a joke right now, in no small part because they can't find anyone to score consistently. Camilo is in no danger of being called into his native Brazil and he has expressed interest in joining the Red, White and totally not Blue. He's now been playing in Vancouver for three years. That has to good for something, right? Camilo won't single handedly turn around Canada's fortunes, but he sure couldn't hurt them. Get him a passport, now!
Gyasi Zardes' arrival: He would have been the No. 1 pick in the draft, they said. He would be the best rookie in MLS, they contended. He was an All-Star in the waiting, they agreed.
A lot was expected of Gyasi Zardes this season, but while the talent was evident, his lack of polish was even more startling in the first half of the season as critics began to wonder whether the Galaxy really got the future star everyone predicted or just another superb athlete who would have a long career, but always be plagued by questions of "What if?"
Zardes' future is still to be determined, but after a series of starts and stops early in the season, it appears as if he has started to find his feet in MLS. That was never more evident than on Sunday against Chivas USA -- and yes, it was just Chivas USA -- where he was a terror on the left wing. Two gorgeous crosses set up L.A.'s first two goals and then he scored one of his own to make it 3-0. But it wasn't just the results that impressed, it was how Zardes made his impact. He used both feet, he went to the endline and he cut in. By golly, he looked like a real soccer player.
With Bruce Arena seemingly set on playing Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane up front, Zardes has been pushed out to the wing, and maybe that proves to be exactly what he needed. It has forced him to do more than simply run fast and the results are startling. He would not be the first striker who needed a spell on the wing to develop and it is still early so Zardes may not be bound for glory, but he is still the über-talented player that had people drooling six months ago and things are looking brighter now than ever before.
- Ryan Rosenblatt
Diego Fagundez's transfer opportunities: Diego Fagundez isn't just one of Major League Soccer's best young players. He's one of the best 5-10 attacking players in the league, period. The 18-year-old scored his 12th of the year on Saturday, netting what looked like the winner before some odd officiating and a nice header by Tim Cahill led to a 97th minute equalizer for New York. Like most of his goals, it wasn't the tiniest bit lucky or a poacher's effort. It was the kind of goal that only he and a handful of other MLS players can score on a regular basis: He used his pace to beat a defender that didn't make a serious error, took the shot early, placed it perfectly, with a good amount of power, from a fairly narrow angle.
Get a chance to watch Fagundez while you can, because he's not likely to be in MLS for long. Unlike some more raw talents that needed a few years in the league before making a jump to Europe, like Andy Najar or Luis Gil, Fagundez is the total package at just 18. He doesn't need to toughen up or learn how to make decisions more quickly. He's already playing at a level higher than most of his peers.
- Kevin McCauley
RSL's treble dreams: The trouble with trebles is that they never seem to pan out how we hoped, at least in the United States. Real Salt Lake was absolutely gifted a chance to make a run at history, hosting one of the worst teams in MLS history in the U.S. Open Cup final. They blew it, falling 1-0.
Keep in mind that D.C. United came into this match having won just three of their first 30 matches. As of today, they are sporting a points-per-game of .48. That puts them on pace to break Chivas USA's record low of .56 that they set back in the expansion season of 2005. United has not won a league game on the road all season, going 0-13-3.
Shockingly, this is actually the second time that RSL has lost to DC this year. DC's first win of the season also came against RSL back on March 9, when most of thought United was going to have a decent season.
What's crazy is that RSL can still win the double, as unlikely as that now seems. They can win their final two games, get to 58 points and with a little help could foreseeably win the Supporters' Shield. At that point, you'd have to consider them one of the favorites to win the MLS Cup.
But even if they pull that off, there's going to be a tinge of disappointment. No MLS team has won a treble and the Open Cup was supposed to be the easiest part for them. Instead, this has to go down in history as one of the biggest upsets in MLS history.
Sounders confidence: Who saw this coming? The Colorado Rapids dismantled the Sounders by a score of 5-1 on Saturday. The first goal came just 14 seconds after kickoff. By the 10th minute, the Rapids were up 2-0. Before halftime, the score was 4-0.
Especially for a team that had gotten itself into pole position for the Supporters' Shield by playing solid defense, this was a shocking result. The Sounders had come into the game having allowed just three goals in their past seven games. They allowed more than that in the first 41 minutes.
Rookie of the Year candidate DeAndre Yedlin looked totally overmatched; usually solid veteran center back Zach Scott suddenly looked very old; and Michael Gspurning looked completely shell-shocked. Even Osvaldo Alonso, who some had been talking about as an MVP contender, looked way off his game.
The Sounders said all the right things about not allowing this game to define them moving forward. But nothing short of a convincing win over the Vancouver Whitecaps and a solid performance against the Portland Timbers on Sunday is going to quiet the critics. And the reality is that questions about this team's leadership and makeup will persist until they can prove that games like this won't happen in the playoffs for a third straight year.
Chivas' first-division status: The L.A. Galaxy beat Chivas USA, 5-0, in a game we're still expected to call the SuperClasico and consider a rivalry. It hasn't been an actual rivalry for years, mostly because Chivas ownership has completely alienated the fans they once had.
There aren't any public plans in the pipeline for Chivas USA to be disbanded or relocated, but it seems highly unlikely that they'll continue in their current state for very long. Jorge Vergara has waffled back and forth about selling Chivas for a while, and even if he wants to hang on to the organization, he might be tempted to sell off the MLS piece in order to keep the vultures away from his crowned jewel. There are more cities that want MLS than expansion teams available (assuming the league wants to stop at 24 for a while), so this failed branding experiment probably won't persist past 2014. For that, we can all be thankful.
- Kevin McCauley
Promotion/Relegation is a weekly column about North American soccer with contributions by Jeremiah Oshan, Ryan Rosenblatt and Kevin McCauley. It is not literally about promotion and relegation.