Steven Gerrard needs to save LA Galaxy amid MLS misery
This was one of those weekends in MLS when the soccer gods chose to smile down upon us. In their infinite wisdom and charity, those unseen forces pulled their strings to bless us with a veritable buffet of fine goals. Some of those tallies came from rather unexpected sources.
Take, for example, Chad Barrett's double for the Sounders against the Whitecaps when the MLS journeyman found himself thrust into the lineup due to an Obafemi Martins injury. Did Seattle miss a beat when the Dempsey-Martins partnership was broken up? Not in the slightest.
Barrett was among a number of scorers across the league who artfully lobbed goalkeepers this weekend. Not only did the soccer gods choose to give us many good games and many good goals, they conspired to create a theme of chipped scoring that defies real logic. Why were there so many lobbed goals this week? Why did none of them come from the foremost purveyor of chips in MLS, Federico Higuain of Columbus? These are questions with no answers, questions we are better off not asking.
The built-in excuses are all there: no Robbie Keane, no Omar Gonzalez, Baggio Husidic at left-back and a front line that averages 21 years of age. Still, the Galaxy's 4-0 destruction at the hands of Orlando City on Sunday can't be anything but another warning sign that all is not right in Bruce Arena's world. Makeshift lineup or not, questionable penalty call or not, poor performances and big losses in May can quickly morph into a difficult summer.
At some point, the Galaxy will stop being the Galaxy. We're already asking those questions about Real Salt Lake, another team that took a beating on the road this weekend. Marcelo Sarvas is not walking through that door, yet almost every discussion about what ails LA focuses on the loss of the Brazilian midfielder. Steven Gerrard is walking through that door eventually but he won't be the same player he once was, and he won't do things exactly the same as Sarvas. It's also a long, long two months until he arrives.
Is it too early to really worry about the Galaxy? Probably. But Sunday's loss isn't exactly an aberration for the defending champs in 2015, meaning that the question is starting to form in more and more mouths around Major League Soccer.
Two intriguing draws went down in MLS this weekend.
In Frisco, Texas, two of the best teams in the league met when FC Dallas hosted the New York Red Bulls. Though the game contained just a few moments of real excitement, the midfield battle between two teams strong in that area revealed just what can happen when smart, disciplined lineups go up against one another. New York will feel better about the goalless result than FC Dallas, especially since it was clear from the outset that Jesse Marsch set his team out with a mind to slow down the lightning-quick attack of the Texas team.
A day later, New England and Toronto FC played out a 1-1 stalemate that looks better for the visiting Reds despite their need for wins. Coming off last Sunday's home opening disappointment against Houston, TFC showed the fight head coach Greg Vanney called for in his postgame comments a week ago. With no offense intended toward the rest of the Toronto side, that fight mostly came in the form of Michael Bradley.
Bradley's hard-charging, determined run to score and pull TFC level is the type of moment that good runs of form can be launched from. Bradley put his team on his back in that moment, displaying all of the skill and stubborn refusal to be stopped that makes him the heart and key to success of the Toronto effort in 2015. If his teammates don't find Bradley's goal inspiring and use it to jump-start their season, they were never capable of being inspired in the first place.
Chad Barrett? Chad Barrett!
When asked to point to the two biggest reasons the Seattle Sounders are one of the best teams in MLS, most people would naturally identify Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. Together, the pair is a one-two punch of creative, attacking, thrill-a-minute soccer. Split them up, and the Sounders move from "super scary" to "mildly dangerous." Or so we thought.
With Martins sidelined Saturday, journeyman MLS forward Chad Barrett -- he of stops in Chicago, Toronto, LA, New England, and now Seattle in a 10-year career -- stepped into the lineup against Vancouver. Working with Dempsey, Barrett took his opportunity and scored twice in a shutout win over the Whitecaps. Chad Barrett. Scored twice.
As surprising as Barrett's big day was, it's important to remember that he did score nine goals, mostly off the bench, in 2014. In a team with as much talent as the Sounders, even a part-timer like Barrett can get close to double digits if he puts away enough of the many chances he's bound to get when slotted into the lineup. The Sounders will need that production again.
The lights are on at PPL Park
Just when you thought the Philadelphia Union were tapped out of heart and desire, they throw up a win against the first-place team in the Eastern Conference. Yes, D.C. United arrived in Chester dragging after three games in a week, but the Union's effort shows that all is not lost in the land of Rocky, even if one last-minute victory won't change anyone's minds about the likely fortunes of the club this season.
In other words, Philadelphia still isn't good enough to threaten for a playoff spot, even in the less-deep East. Jim Curtin can hang his hat on the fight his team showed Sunday afternoon, but it will take quite a miracle to turn it into something approaching a good run of form. Philly's next three league matches are trips to Red Bulls and United before Columbus at home. That stretch, at least on paper, looks like a momentum-killer.
Never mind that, though. The Union won a game -- and homegrown youngster Zach Pfeffer scored the winner. Supporters held a protest against the club's management, specifically president Nick Sakiewicz, expressing their disgust with the direction of the team with banners and a metaphorical coffin.
But the Union won a game!
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.