New York Red Bulls defeat NYCFC
and Columbus, Seattle put on a show
New York might have been the center of the MLS universe this weekend, and for good reason, but events in Columbus showed the best of what the league can offer.
Crew SC downed the Seattle Sounders 3-2 in an explosion of attacking prowess put on by two of the most exciting teams in MLS. Clint Dempsey wowed with a goal from distance and tacked on another, Kei Kamara continued to prove his worth as an offseason signing with a pair of goals, and Federico Higuain danced through the Sounders defense to score a fantastic strike of his own.
The game was open and fun and, defensive failings aside, top-level entertainment. In a season with so much dour soccer taking center stage, the Sounders visit to Ohio showed that MLS is more than capable of delivering excitement. The game also proved notable for the result itself. Crew SC already counts three losses on its record this season, and yet the talent is there for Gregg Berhalter's team to be a major factor all the way down to the final game of the season.
New York (and New Jersey) is Red
Is it a rivalry? Can a matchup that has never happened before be called a "rivalry"? Does it count as a "derby"? How is that pronounced, exactly? Do Red Bulls fans care about taking down the new kids on the block? Are NYCFC fans just happy to be here? Do we call them "New York" and "City" or "Red Bull" and "City" or "New York Red Bulls" and "New York City," or something else entirely?
All of those questions, and several others even more mundane, dribbled into the lead-up to the first match between the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC, which took place Sunday in Harrison, New Jersey. No one agreed on many of the answers, least of all the status of any "rivalry" between the two clubs. Rivalry typically comes from familiarity, and this being NYCFC's first season, no such familiarity existed.
And yet the game delivered in almost every way possible. The Mother's Day crowd at Red Bull Arena poured a heavy fog of noise onto the field and against that backdrop the Red Bulls asserted their dominance, with Bradley Wright-Phillips scoring two good goals. The second was especially nice, a perfectly executed counterattack tally that took advantage of NYCFC's desperate push forward.
There was grit. There was physical play. Matt Miazga lost himself in the moment and took to the showers early with a red card, and still the Red Bulls held on. A small controversy emerged when Jason Kreis removed Mix Diskerud and David Villa early. The coach earned some vindication when Villa's replacement, Patrick Mullins, scored and gave NYCFC a faint bit of hope.
Home sour home
The oversized magnifying glass that is trained squarely on Toronto FC won't be going anywhere. Despite a decent finish to their long season-opening road trip while BMO Field received upgrades, TFC slipped up in their first home match of the season on Sunday afternoon. Houston did the spoiling, via a 2-1 win in front of 30,000+ at the newly expanded home of soccer in Canada's largest city. It would be a pity if the renovations to BMO Field only ensured that bigger crowds now get to watch Toronto FC disappoint.
Houston scored on a penalty save rebound and a counterattack executed to perfection by Giles Barnes, neither of which would indicate a truly poor day at the park for the Reds. And yet Michael Bradley make mistakes on both Houston goals, the TFC attack struggled to challenge Tyler Deric consistently and the defense looked below grade. Greg Vanney might have one of the league's most unbalanced teams front-to-back; Giovinco and Altidore can only do so much, even when one or both of the pair score (as Altidore did on Sunday). In short, TFC too often manages to ship more goals than than they score.
The Philadelphia experiment
Only in Philadelphia can a goalkeeping controversy overshadow the sad fact that the real problem for the Union is the rest of the team is simply not good.
The return of Rais M'Bohli to training made headlines in the buildup to the Union's trek to Vancouver, only it wasn't the Algerian who manned the goal on Saturday in a 3-0, but loanee Brian Sylvestre. Whatever the reasons for M'Bohli's return from exile, they weren't enough to push him back into the starting lineup. One gets the sense that it might not have mattered who was backstopping Philadelphia against the 'Caps; either way, it was going to be ugly.
In that sense, Sylvestre was the sacrificial lamb. The barrage unleashed by Vancouver revealed what we already knew about the Union. The problems run deep, well beyond the goalkeeper. Even poor Maurice Edu, one of Philadelphia's more consistent and committed players, found himself embarrassed when Darren Mattocks left him twisting in the win on the final goal of the match.
It's so bad at PPL Park that the solutions are difficult to conjure. It's easy to call for the heads of Jim Curtin and Nick Sakiewicz but without ready and willing replacements, the result would be just more of the same.
Charlie Davies' long road back from his 2009 accident never promised he'd arrive back at the top of his game. Just getting healthy and being able to play professional soccer was a gargantuan achievement for a player who was once one of America's brightest forward prospects. Discussions about a return to the national team always seemed to be more about sentiment than his recovered abilities.
But Davies is scoring for fun these days and the U.S. national team sure could use a player with speed and guile. In New England's 2-2 draw at Orlando on Friday night, Davies opened the scoring with his fourth tally in four games. Form isn't everything, and the level of the international game would stretch Davies beyond anything he's faced since returning to the field, but Klinsmann could do worse than having the Revolution forward on the bench.
If nothing else, it's amazing that Davies is getting any sort of heat for a national team call-up, especially the kind of heat that comes from how he's playing and not what an amazing story a USMNT return would be.
MLS Team of the Week
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.