Peter Nowak doesn’t like talking about Sebastien Le Toux. It’s a sore point. But in preparation for this weekend, he’s had to. And the answers haven’t done much to calm the build-up to Saturday’s clash at PPL Park.
Instead of facing questions about Le Toux head-on and expressing his gratitude for the service the attacker gave to Philly, Nowak has greeted every inquiry about Le Toux with suspicion. One gets the impression that the Union coach is sick of how he and Philly have been painted ever since the trade.
That instead of being complimented for their bravery and belief in younger players to step up and deliver, critics have lined up to question why the franchise would get rid of their best player. Le Toux discussed the circumstances behind the move shortly after it had been completed.
According to him, it was all about money for Philly – hence why they forced him to trial at Bolton when he was unfit and hadn’t had a competitive game in over a month. Perhaps there wouldn’t be so much emphasis on Le Toux’s return if Philly had begun the season encouragingly.
Instead, they’re pointless after three games. Vancouver have already won on the road against Chivas but their scoreless draw at home to DC was disappointing and lacked both verve and energy.
In fact, during the final 15 minutes, it was the visitors who looked more like breaking the deadlock. Martin Rennie might be persuaded to change things, especially with Atiba Harris and John Thorrington taking part if full-training this week – both midfielders missed the majority of last season due to injury.
With Eric Hassli ruled out due to an ankle injury, don’t bet against Le Toux returning to haunt his former employers. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Peter Nowak take note.
Last season, Dallas began slowly – racking up 1 point from their first three games. But from late-April to early-June, they were imperious – unbeaten in nine straight. The collapse came with the finish line in sight – just two victories from their final 12 games of the season in all competitions.
Many suggested, quite rightly, that the Champions League involvement had taken its toll and the squad were weary and badly in need of a rest. The issue of depth will be raised once again this weekend as Schellas Hyndman’s side struggle with injuries ahead of their trip to DC.
Fabian Castillo is still out due to that knock to his knee, George John, who started at centre-back against Kansas City, has a hamstring strain while Ricardo Villar is nursing a sore rib. Amongst all this was the news that David Ferreira still seems quite a way off full-fitness. But, both the USA and Panama’s elimination from the Olympic Qualifying tournament means Brek Shea and Carlos Rodriguez are back though they may still be feeling some fatigue after such a busy schedule. Despite the chopping and changing, Dallas haven’t done too badly so far.
Taking the lead away to KC only to see them equalize, have a penalty saved and then conjure an 88th-minute winner was pretty galling for the visitors and the result essentially came down to a drop in discipline and losing concentration in midfield. The main concern for Hyndman is Dallas dropping off having taken the lead.
New York pulled one back in Week One with over 10 minutes left – a game that should’ve been closed out. Portland came back to equalize in Week Two while Dallas also scored first last weekend before being beaten 2-1 at Livestrong.
DC impressed late on away to Vancouver with Dwayne De Rosario almost conjuring a victory for his side on a couple of occasions. Should Dallas lose focus in key midfield areas again and allow DC space in the final third, DeRo will hurt them.
It’s typical to heap praise on the goal-scorers, isn’t it? Kei Kamara and CJ Sapong have both scored twice in three MLS games so far. Their club, Kansas City, have a 100% record and sit top overall. But the main reason for the side’s success is midfielder Graham Zusi.
Last season, the 25 year-old made the step up to regular first-team football and repaid Peter Vermes’ faith in him by racking up 5 goals and 3 assists though his form tailed off towards the end of the campaign. Against Dallas, he whipped in a glorious free-kick that required the merest of glances from Aurelien Collin to put KC level.
Late on, it was Zusi’s perfectly-weighted pass that set Chance Myers racing clear of Hernan Bertuz before he crossed for Kamara to slide home the winning goal. Back in the first game of the season, there was another perfect set-piece delivery – this time from a corner – that allowed Sapong power a header to the net against DC for another game-winner.
Oh, and he’s got on the score-sheet too – popping up with the opening goal in the 3-0 victory over the Revs. That goal seemed messy to the naked eye – a bundled finish while on the ground – but it was the result of 30 seconds attempting to find space and making intelligent runs.
That work-rate and desire to create openings leads to chances and as a result, that goal was no fluke. Kansas head to Chivas on Sunday, a side buoyed by that win at the Rio Tinto. They’ve conceded twice in their three games so far and with such a tight defensive unit, perhaps Zusi’s set-pieces will once again play a crucial role.
A step in the right direction. A 4-1 thumping of a rather hapless Colorado got the Red Bull’s season back on track last weekend and home fans will want more blood when Montreal pay a visit to NYC on Saturday. There was a ruthlessness to New York’s culling of the Rapids – typified by the first goal.
An awful mistake from Ross LaBauex but Henry’s finish was sublime – Matt Pickens surely thinking the shot is going to arrow across him – the Frenchman passes it inside the near post instead. He was involved in the second goal too – not just the pass to Cooper – but in pressing Wells Thompson into giving the ball away. Three passes later and it’s 2-0. And game over.
Inside 6 minutes. At the back, apart from the Marquez error that resulted in Omar Cummings grabbing a consolation, things seemed quite solid with Wilman Conde coming in for Stephen Keel at centre-back. The post-game comments all suggested that the energy and urgency of the opening fifteen minutes set up New York to impress.
They took the game to the Rapids, pressurized them into mistakes and then took advantage. Montreal were a tad unlucky against Columbus – a man down so early, away from home – it was always going to be a major challenge. They need to stand firm and operate as a unit at Red Bull Arena – runs need to be checked and space between the lines needs to be covered.
If not, and Henry is allowed dictate proceedings in this roaming role, it could be a weekend to forget for the Impact.
Both Seattle and San Jose have a few things in common. Firstly, they both enter the weekend on six points. Secondly, they’ve both racked up three goals against Toronto FC this season and thirdly, they both have strikers who enjoy scoring.
One is well-known, the other is…getting there. In just two games, David Estrada has four MLS goals already for the Sounders – though his last one against Houston took a very kind deflection off Geoff Cameron on its way. But, as Sigi Schmid alluded to after the game, it’s a sure sign of a striker in form – having a go from anywhere.
Wondo scored twice at BMO Field last week and though Estrada has a hub of well-known midfielders who know how to create, Shea Salinas has begun this campaign quite well for the Quakes – setting up Wondo with a great through-ball in the first game of the season against the Revs and arriving late in the area to drive home San Jose’s second against TFC.
The Sounders will fancy this at home (their third straight game at CenturyLink) though with Wondo around, the visitors always have a chance.
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