Another week, another slate of mid-week games. Here are some quick thoughts from those games:
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union: A 2-2 draw in Philadelphia was a good result for the LA Galaxy, and Bruce Arena acknowledged that:
"We’ll take the point," Bruce Arena says, but he acknowledges his team could have done better at both ends.— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) May 12, 2016
The Galaxy didn't create many opportunities offensively. But when they did, they looked very threatening, and were efficient in their finishing. For the most part, they were solid defensively, so this was certainly a good away result for LA against a talented opponent. It wasn't their best performance, but considering that they easily could have gotten the full three points if not for a Dan Kennedy error—and that it was a mid-week game—the Galaxy should be pleased with how things turned out.
As for the Union, they can be happy too. Nabbing a point against arguably the best team in MLS is always a good result, and they should be pleased that they were able to hold LA's gifted attack in check. Keegan Rosenberry played the game of his young career at full-back, not only scoring a goal but dominating down the right side. He is making a viable case for Rookie of the Year.
FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers: Thanks to two defender goals early in the second half for FC Dallas, the hosts won 2-1, helping them get back on track in the tight Supporters' Shield standings.
The Timbers will come away disappointed. This about sums it up:
Live look at Caleb Porter right now pic.twitter.com/ezbHv54FBe— Big D Soccer (@BigDSoccer) May 12, 2016
Houston Dynamo vs. San Jose Earthquakes: The Dynamo lost 3-1 in San Jose, losing for the sixth time this season. The Quakes played well and dominated the game, although they failed to beat Dynamo right-back Jalil Anibaba when he was forced to come into goal after a Tyler Deric red card.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids: Sporting KC continued their free fall down the MLS standings, losing 1-0 to the red-hot Rapids. Things aren't great for Kansas City soccer right now:
The last Kansas City team to win a match was SKC on April 9.— The Blue Testament (@BlueTestamentKC) May 12, 2016
SPR last won on April 2.
FCKC last won the NWSL Championship in 2015.
It's just about the opposite for Colorado. Here's some more on them:
The Rapids mystery
The Colorado Rapids are in first place right now, and it isn't week one. Or week two. It's week 11, and I don't think anybody could have seen this coming.
We are in a part of the season where we're just starting to see teams take shape, and separate the pretenders from the contenders. It's still early, but we can definitely point out who are genuine contenders for trophies and who aren't; for example, I think we can be certain that the Houston Dynamo aren't winning anything, while it's clear that Toronto FC will be in contention for something. The Rapids can be put in the category of, "nobody's figured them out yet, so they'll be good for at least a little while longer."
For a reference point, other teams in that boat include the Philadelphia Union and the Montreal Impact. Basically, it means they got off to a good start to the season and haven't suffered a huge loss or gone on an extended losing streak. This type of group consistently shifts throughout the season, as some teams are promoted to "wow, they're actually really good" and some clubs are demoted to "see, I told you they weren't for real."
It remains to be seen where Colorado will be by the time the Copa America comes and goes, but you can be guaranteed that it will be in one of those above categories.
Disregarding the imaginary tiers we grouped them in—because they won't be moving between any other tiers, to make a lame attempt at a pro/rel joke—the Rapids are good right now, and people are wondering why. That's a good question, and I'm not sure I can pinpoint a specific reason.
I'll take a crack at it: They are good because, put in the simplest terms possible, they have a hodgepodge of players—good, bad and average—thrown together in a way that frustrates other teams. They don't have any big-time standouts or any weaknesses that have proven catastrophic (although they are not without problems), and they do an adequate job of scoring goals while doing an above average job of preventing them.
It works. Is it sustainable? Who knows? The point is, they're doing pretty well at taking points from other teams.
They are doing it with a very interesting group of players. There's Zac MacMath, the young and mistake-prone yet talented goalkeeper just about a month from losing his job to Tim Howard; there's Axel Sjoberg, a big and tall center-back who has played in Sweden's third-tier and for a team called the Thunder Bay Chill; and there's Bobby Burling, previously an unwanted center-back who bounced around MLS for seven years before arriving in Colorado, his fourth pro team.
There's Mekeil Williams, the speedy full-back from the Caribbean who last played for a club in Guatemala; there's Michael Azira, who's from Uganda; there's the two Dillons (Serna and Powers), both promising young American talents; and there's Kevin Doyle, a 32-year old Irish striker who has become a favored part of Pablo Mastroeni's lineup.
Nationalities on this team include Senegalese, Ugandan, Guatemalan, Albanian, Irish, Costa Rican, Argentine, Swedish, and Trinidadian. It's a mixing pot, and it's a team most would not expect to win a lot of games. But they do.
Jermaine Jones, a long-time USMNTer who has played basically every position for Jurgen Klinsmann on the international level, is a big reason for that. The new no. 10, who maintains some parts of the box-to-box destroyer role he played in New England, has been a surprising success at the position, scoring three times and assisting on two goals in five games.
Shkelzen Gashi, the Albanian-international who previously starred in the Swiss league, has yet to find his footing in MLS, but it is likely to happen at some point. Marco Pappa, currently injured, got off to a productive start to the season, and when he comes back he will complement Jones well from his wing position.
All in all this is a very intriguing team. They're like that dumb kid in class who doesn't ever pay attention and doesn't do his homework but then goes and aces the test. Colorado's a mystery, and nobody's figured them out yet. Eventually, it'll happen, because they're the Rapids and this is MLS and that's just how things go. I've said it before and I'll say it again.
But for now, we can enjoy an interesting group of players beating teams no one thought they would beat. Everyone loves that.
Their next foes are Columbus Crew SC, a team on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the Rapids. It's a safe bet they won't be the team to figure them out.
On the Kamara trade
So I'm sure you've all heard about the blockbuster trade made this week. I'll give you the details anyway: Kei Kamara was traded from the Crew to the New England Revolution for General Allocation Money, Targeted Allocation Money, a first-round SuperDraft pick in 2017, a second-round pick in 2018, and an international roster spot. Kamara was involved in recent controversies involving Federico Higuain, and that was likely the reason for the trade.
The Crew will receive a lot of money:
#CrewSC will receive around $500,000 in TAM/GAM allocation money in Kamara deal. A huge amount in league with $3.67 million soft cap.— Shawn Mitchell (@smitchcd) May 12, 2016
They can do a lot with that cash, and they definitely will once the summer window arrives. Columbus will probably sign a high-priced number-nine the second they get the chance to replace Kamara's 79 career goals, 27 in the last two seasons.
For now, the Crew lose a crucial piece in their attack. Their cross-heavy style will have to change without Kamara's aerial dominance, and Ola Kamara won't be able to come close to replicating that in the seven games they have scheduled before the summer window. Things will have to change for the defending Eastern Conference champions.
On the other end of that trade were the Revs, who had to give up a lot to get this Sierra Leonean forward. They will be happy with this deal, though, because they add a component to their attack that could push it into elite territory. Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury also become viable trade chips after this deal; New England could fill a need in defense by trading one of their multitude of leftover attackers.
Chris Tierney's crossing ability could benefit Kamara greatly, as could Lee Nguyen's ability to push balls out wide from central areas. He will be going somewhere that's similar to Columbus, and fits his abilities very well.
Gregg Berhalter must have seen something with Kamara that made him decide that their prized DP had to be flipped. Anthony Precourt, the Crew's owner, confirmed as much on Twitter:
Need this to be crystal clear, not about the PK or Pipa drama this week. One chapter in the book. #CrewSC— Anthony Precourt (@APrecourt) May 12, 2016
Apparently, there were multiple incidents that preceded the trade, as suggested by the "one chapter in the book" quote.
It became a mad race for Kamara after the PK incident, indicated by the amount of rumors floating around. Multiple other teams likely had a shot as well. That's not surprising, considering the value of the forward and the opportunity at hand to acquire him.
But to be in contention, clubs had to have had a Designated Player slot open; unless, of course, they were planning a straight swap, like the Whitecaps possibly were looking at doing with Octavio Rivero. Here's a look at the teams who were able to acquire a new DP—for the sake of simplicity, we'll be sticking with only them—and whether they missed out on Kamara:
D.C. United: Struggling early on to produce goals, United would have gladly welcomed the arrival of a scorer like Kamara. They would likely have to shift away from their favored 4-4-2, but he would have fit well in D.C., particularly with Luciano Acosta and Fabian Espindola surrounding him in attack.
Seattle Sounders: They've felt the loss of Obafemi Martins, and Kamara playing in the same lineup as Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris would be a scary thought for opposing defenses. But they need to use their final DP slot on a chance-creating midfielder. That will come in the summer.
Houston Dynamo: They would have likely had to part with Erick Torres, but I'm sure Owen Coyle would've been just fine with that. The Dynamo could have definitely used Kamara.
New York Red Bulls: Yeah, no.
Philadelphia Union: C.J. Sapong is really good.
Sporting Kansas City: Nope.
The Revs were the only other team, and they were the ones who won the battle.