Andrea Pirlo debuts, LA are stunned in Houston, FC Dallas keep winning
A high-scoring weekend in Major League Soccer helped ease the pain of the U.S. failing to reach the Gold Cup final. Jason Davis reviews the action.
Not So Easy for Gerrard, LA
MLS has a way of humbling teams that think everything is going just the way they want it to, teams that may think they have it all figured out. It doesn't matter who you are or what kind of talent you have; all it takes is one match to remind you that the gap between any two teams in this league isn't all that big.
This week's victim of that tried-and-true reminder is the LA Galaxy. Fresh off a resounding win over the Earthquakes in Steven Gerrard's MLS debut, Bruce Arena's side received a lesson at the hands of the Houston Dynamo, losing 3-0.
LA's road form has been a mystery all year and Saturday proved no different. If Arena thought he had a solution for where to play his new midfield addition, it will be back to the drawing board after the drubbing in Houston. What worked perfectly against the Quakes -- namely playing Gerrard high up the field in an attacking midfield role -- did not work at all against the Dynamo. Instead, they limited Gerrard's influence and the Liverpool legend did not get nearly enough of the ball to be effective.
LA's next league match is on the road in Colorado. Arena will again try to figure out the right balance with Gerrard, while also knowing that he'll be reshuffling things again the following week when another new signing, Mexican attacker Giovani Dos Santos, could make his debut for the defending MLS Cup champions.
Pirlo Party breaks out in New York
There may be other players in the world who could arrive in New York on Thursday, train twice, do some community outreach, then step into a game on Sunday in the last 35 minutes and play an immediate role in a big win. None of would do with nearly as much style as Andrea Pirlo.
In the end, the Italian legend's debut was just one part of what turned out to be a wild second half at Yankee Stadium as NYC defeated Orlando City 5-3. He did play a role in a pair of City goals and looked generally comfortable despite the small confines and physical play, but the game itself turned into a wide-open, back-and-forth affair that produced seven second stanza goals. You read that right: Seven. Defense wasn't much a priority for either side after the break.
Orlando's Cyle Larin scored a hat trick in a losing effort. David Villa put in a pair of goals. Mix Diskerud came on as a substitute and looked energized, leading several City counters and ultimately scoring the capper for the home side in the big win. Kwadwo Poku, a player who might eventually see his playing time dip when NYCFC gets all of its pieces together, collected three assists and looked imperious on the ball with his solid frame and impressive speed.
Big momentum swings sting Columbus, Philly
Two different teams took multiple goal leads in the first half on the weekend, only to see those leads evaporate is distressing fashion.
Columbus scored three unanswered goals, including two before halftime, and looked like they were going to cruise to a home win over Toronto FC on Saturday. But the Reds were again keyed by the wonderful Sebastian Giovinco, storming all the way back to earn a point. Jozy Altidore won a penalty in the final minutes, then converted the kick to save TFC a point on the road.
As distressing as the first 50 minutes were, the response from the visitors is a positive they can take with them with 15 games left in the regular season. Toronto may not have an obvious and ready fix for their leaky defense, but as long as they have the firepower, they'll be in the mix for a playoff spot.
Meanwhile, Columbus just has to shake off the collapse. Crew SC is a good team still in the thick of the playoff race themselves; they can't afford the dropped points to cause a longer dip.
Philadelphia will find shaking off their own collapse a little more difficult. The Union scored twice in the opening five minutes on the road at D.C. United, only to see the East's first-place team overcome the deficit with three goals of their own.
It was United's first match with Alvaro Saborio in the fold, and the Costa Rican's reunion with former RSL teammate Fabian Espindola did not disappoint. Saborio scored his first United goal and Espindola got the game-winner. Forgetting the defensive woes to start the match, D.C. got just the boost they were looking for when the made the deal for Saborio.
United's lead in the East is seven points. If Sunday is any indication of what they'll be getting from Saborio and Espindola moving forward, that lead will only grow.
Texan heat boosts Dallas, Houston
We should note the strong performances of both Texan teams on the weekend. The Dynamo took apart the Galaxy in Houston, and did so with some style (and without Giles Barnes, who was still on Gold Cup duty). Owen Coyle's team is a maddening outfit that can play some of the most dreary soccer in the league, only to turn around the next week and blitz their next opponent. There's a hill to climb for the men in orange out West, but they certainly have the talent to climb it.
Up north, FC Dallas is the hottest team in the league. A 4-1 destruction of Portland on Saturday was their fifth win in a row, a run that gives them the longest winning streak in MLS in 2015. While the influx of big name talent this summer is stealing all of the headlines, FC Dallas is quietly going about the business of taking control of the Supporters Shield race on a budget.
Oscar Pareja's team is a reminder that for all the spending that is marking the new era of MLS, there is still plenty of room for more parsimonious teams with a solid plan and a good academy to compete for trophies.
Team of the week
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.