Edson Buddle scored and the LA Galaxy are ... oh, forget it. We know the deal in Lalaland right now. Buddle is on pace to score 52.5 goals this season, and the undefeated Galaxy are atop the standings.
I’d rather look at the opposite end of things.
Two teams in MLS remain without a win this season. One “feels like a team on the cusp of something very, very good,” as one blogger wrote. The other one has supporters who see a business trip as respite from the pain.
The former is FC Dallas, who fell to New York, 2-1, thanks to a late penalty from Juan Pablo Ángel. From kickoff to final whistle, Dallas were the better side on the night, and after the match, head coach Schellas Hyndman was in lockstep with the FCD fans in questioning the referee’s sanity, er, decision-making. After all, no one who watched the game could argue that FCD didn’t deserve at least a point, probably three. They were dynamic in attack, solid at the back, and, as that blogger, Jay Brownlee on 3rdDegree.net, said, poised to make a move.
The latter winless side is, of course, D.C. United. What looked merely ugly a week ago has officially become a “train wreck.” That’s not my phrase; it’s just one of the choice descriptions found on the United fan message boards these days. And, as mentioned, one guy went so far as to say he was glad to be leaving town on business so he didn’t have to endure the sight of the carnage any longer.
Slipshod goalkeeping from a goalkeeper who, to be fair, is much, much better than he’s showing. Poor defense, highlighted by a lack of cohesion and toothless marking. And an attack so anemic that one desperate fan actually suggested the club bring back Rod Dyachenko. Oh boy.
So, two winless sides, two very different feelings. I call that progress.
This is a results-oriented business, as we all know. And yet, although Dallas have not gotten the results required to escape the cellar of the Western Conference, their fans feel optimistic. Because the performance matters.
Same holds for D.C. The fantastic fans in the Screaming Eagles and Barra Brava supporter groups—who showed up and did their best to urge their boys on Saturday—are not frustrated merely by the four straight losses. It’s the performance that has them gutted. United fans can find no silver linings in the side’s gray performances and no colorful hints that things will get better anytime soon.
In fact, the United players themselves, for all the usual sports-cliché buoyancy, are at a loss.
“I don't have an answer,” captain Jaime Moreno said. “I’ve never felt this way, I've never been in this situation. I don't think anybody has. It's very hard to describe.”
That about says it all.
Pundits love to find causal relationships. To wit, there’s this argument: Bobby Convey’s being yanked at halftime of San Jose’s season-opening loss at home to Real Salt Lake has inspired his solid play in the Earthquakes’ two subsequent wins. Whatever.
Here’s my causal argument. The key to San Jose’s success—and Convey’s better play—is the consistency and cohesion of the defensive setup. Frank Yallop has employed the same back four—including steady newcomer Steve Beitashour—and holding midfielder Brandon McDonald for the two games. Their organization—this might be the best Quakes back line since the club’s rebirth—frees up a guy like Convey to focus on attack.
Which he’s done. And, no coincidence, San Jose have come out on top twice in a row.
When three Houston Dynamo players—Brad Davis, Brian Ching, and Geoff Cameron—were called into the U.S. camp this winter, I asked coach Dominic Kinnear how that affected their preseason training.
He told me he wasn’t worried about Davis or Ching, because as veterans they knew what was what. But Cameron?
“He’s playing a new position, and he needs as much time as possible to figure it out,” he said.
Well, if this past weekend’s performance is any indication, he’s finally made up that time. Cameron, who looked a little out of sorts in the Dynamo’s first three games, seemed to glide around in the 3-0 win over Chivas USA. He made some of us think the loss of Stuart Holden may not be the blow we imagined.
Granted, Houston’s opponents didn’t exactly put up an Alamo-style stand. But regardless, Cameron covered a lot of ground, showed his fighting spirit and did well to provide an option to the backs in the transition to the attack. He may not be making many highlight reels, but he’s making his teammates better. He just needed a little time.