By Kyle McCarthy
The persistent loss of good and above-average
defenders to Europe and the expansion of recent years may have caught
up with MLS if week one is any indication of a burgeoning trend.
A rash of poor defensive play littered the opening week of the MLS campaign.
comedy of errors meant fans were treated to a series of highlight-reel goals
– Kenny Cooper's midfield blast, Davy Arnaud's two long-distance lasers
and Amado Guevara's turn and fire were among the prominent highlights –
and significant periods of end-to-end play. For those who appreciate
some semblance of defensive order, there wasn't much to take home aside
from the shutouts posted by New England (who could thank a cohesive
defensive performance and some profligate San Jose finishing) and
Seattle (who could thank the Red Bulls for failing to show up). Shape
and structure were apparently optional for many defenses around the
league this weekend.
In my quest to encapsulate
the exceedingly poor defense played this week, I have concocted a
statistic. Actually, I'm not sure I'd even call it a statistic because
it relies solely on my judgment. Maybe category is a better word for
The name of this category? Goals Allowed or
Facilitated by Flagrant Error (GAFFE). Let's just say GAFFE debuted in
style (or infamy) this week.
The GAFFE total for week one? Eighteen. The GAFFE percentage (GAFFE/total goals)? Eighty-two percent (18 GAFFE/22 total goals).
us break down the total GAFFE game-by-game for a more detailed
assessment. Those players involved receive a one-time break. All names
have been withheld to protect the not-so-innocent and the not-so-ready
for the start of the season.
New York – Seattle:
Dropped mark by the generally dependable left back having a horrific
night allows Fredy Montero space for the shot on his first goal. Brad
Evans completely untracked through the penalty area to score a goal
through the goalkeeper's legs that led ESPN analyst John Harkes to
describe the strike in the following manner: “Sometimes, you win a
lottery ticket.” Newly acquired central defender coughs up ball to
Montero for breakaway leading to his second goal. (3)
Columbus – Houston: Unchallenged header directed to an unmarked Guillermo Barros Schelotto for his volleying pleasure. (1)
– FC Dallas: Veteran goalkeeper falls asleep at the wheel and Cooper
chips him from inside his own half. Newly signed central defender
stumbles and fails to clear a not-so-threatening ball, right back drops
mark on Justin Mapp and Mapp fires home. Penalty kick called after a
needless handball by FC Dallas defender. Unseemly bundling of John
Thorrington sets up Cuauhtemoc Blanco's stunning free kick. (4)
FC – Kansas City: Rookie midfielder coughs up the ball at midfield,
right back apparently overlapping in another state and Jim Brennan
proceeds to lash home at the near post. Former Designated Player coughs
up pass inside his own half and right back apparently remains in other
state while failing to clear Carl Robinson's chip and allowing Amado
Guevara to turn and fire home. On Davy Arnaud's first screamer, a step
to the ball so late that the phrase “step ball” was picked up on the
boom mic. Right back remains firmly in other state as a hopeful long
ball bests him, Dwayne De Rosario steps around him and Guevara taps
home the accommodating rebound. (4)
Chivas USA: Veteran keeper bumbles a weak shot into Omar Cummings' path
and not even the Jamaican can conspire to miss from that close.
Recently re-signed defender (there are a few of those in Colorado)
heads clearance directly into Paulo Nagamura's path and Nagamura slots
home second goal in five minutes. (2)
– San Jose: Central defender has ball skim off his head and directly
into the path of Kheli Dube, who can't believe his luck and volleys
home the Revolution's only shot on goal in the entire game. (1)
Angeles – D.C. United: Notoriously combative defensive midfielder hauls
down Christian Gomez to concede a penalty then scored by Gomez. Chris
Pontius notches his first MLS goal with a nice cut inside and a sweet
finish to the far post and then says the following after the match: “I
was actually pretty surprised. I thought someone was going to close me
down, but I was able to pick up my head and pick out the spot I wanted
to put it in.” Landon Donovan, currently reigning as the best American
goalscorer who actually plays for America, left disgustingly unmarked
eight yards from goal to head home as United defenders stood still and
questioned whether he was offside instead of actually tracking his run.
(3* - If a non-defensive error could count in GAFFE, the third goal in
this game would be described in the following way: Referee sees ball
hit thigh, points to his hand and calls penalty anyway.)
Week One – Questions, Thoughts, and Answers
Goal.com Player of the Week – Fredy Montero, FW, Seattle
to America, Fredy. Two goals and an assist announced Montero's arrival
in MLS with some panache. Not every defense will be as charitable as
New York's was on Thursday night, but Montero showed the type of
quality that should lead to substantial production in 2009.
What was he thinking? Jon Busch, GK, Chicago
reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year didn't look like it after nine
minutes of the Fire's 3-1 victory in Dallas. Kenny Cooper collected
just inside his own half, spotted Busch off his line and fired home as
Busch tried to mimic what Will Hesmer did more successfully in Houston.
In a weekend pocked by defensive mistakes, Busch's gaffe may have been
the most embarrassing. A well-deserved honorable mention to Jonathan
Leathers, the often-promising right back in Kansas City who certainly
didn't look very promising in Kansas City's 3-2 loss to Toronto FC on
Eleven observations to start the week
Columbus didn't look like it skipped a beat, did it? The Crew looked
fluid for most of its 1-1 draw in Houston and probably deserved all
2. “I don't know what Sigi would do,” Crew coach
Robert Warzycha told The Columbus Dispatch after Warzycha raised a few
eyebrows when he sent on rookie Alex Grendi for the injured Robbie
Rogers at halftime. “We still seem to bring his name up all the time.
We have to think about what we would do. It seems like the
substitutions worked today.”
3. FC Dallas signed midfielder
Alvaro Sanchez on loan from Costa Rican side AD San Carlos over the
weekend. Sanchez, who has three caps for the Costa Rican national team,
should help bolster a rather threadbare Hoops midfield.
Though Sanchez appears to be a nice addition, Chicago's performance on
Saturday night suggested that central defense is a more pressing issue.
5. Toronto FC head coach John Carver isn't going to look kindly
on Chad Barrett if he scuffs many more of those two-on-none chances
like he did in the 12th minute of Saturday's 3-2 victory in Kansas
City. Barrett was industrious and effective on the night, but needed to
muster a better finish in that instance.
6. Ignore Davy Arnaud
at your peril. His game has developed to the point where he is a
consistent threat from anywhere inside 30 yards. Two long distance
bombs on Saturday night just reinforced what everyone around the league
should have already known.
7. Time for that upgrade in between
the sticks, Chivas USA. In quasi-related news, Stefan Frei started for
Toronto FC and wasn't at fault on either of the Arnaud goals.
Chivas USA tied Seattle with a league-high eight players listed on its
injury report heading into the opener. Some things just don't change
from year-to-year for the Goats.
9. Wonder if San Jose is
rethinking its goalscorer-by-committee plan after a less than stellar
night of finishing allowed New England to convert its one chance and
steal a 1-0 win.
10. If Ben Olsen can consistently give D.C.
United 72 minutes like he did on Sunday, United might just find a way
to sneak into the playoffs.
11. What a diabolical call by Jair
Marrufo to give Los Angeles and Landon Donovan a chance to pilfer a
point in the late stages. My question for Marrufo: does Rodney Wallace
have a hand coming out of his legs? Because that's the only way he
handled that cross.
Kyle McCarthy writes the
Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the
week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the
Boston Herald and MLSnet.com. Contact him with your questions or
comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.