Monday Postgame: Looking back on a scrappy Week Four

Many talking points after latest round of action

Four weeks into the 2011 season, we’re starting to detect a pattern: For every week of sparkling soccer, we get an equal and opposite round of chippy, backyard-brawl action.

While Week Three set a season high for goals, this week delivered a whopping 60 cards - eight of them red - in nine games.

MLS Review Show: Week Four - Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five

There was also, not surprisingly, plenty of controversy, along with flaring tempers, and at least two heads split open (FC DallasMarvin Chavez and Houston Dynamo’s Andre Hainault).

It wasn’t all rugged and rough, though: Seattle Sounders FC and Chicago Fire played a fast-paced, attacking game at Qwest Field, and both Texas teams broke out, each scoring three goals and claiming three points.

Let’s take off the ice packs and walk it back, gingerly.

MLS Cup Revisited

Did anyone think that defending champs Colorado Rapids were as good as their roaring 3-0 start suggested, or that 2010 runners-up FC Dallas were as poor as their tepid 0W-2L-1D kickoff implied?

Both teams indicated otherwise in their meeting this past Friday night - a rematch of MLS Cup 2010.

According to Fox Soccer’s Brian Dunseth, the Rapids came into the game averaging a goal every 34 minutes in 2011. They did a 180 on that trend in Dallas, giving up three through 46 minutes - including two by 2010 MVP David Ferreira - as FCD cruised to a 3-0 win.

Colorado, sadly, were missing stalwarts Conor Casey and Pablo Mastroeni, but Dallas looked like a team getting back on track, with Ferreira hitting his stride and new signing Fabian Castillo adding another dangerous element to the Hoops’ attack.

Dallas dominated the first 45 so thoroughly that Rapids coach Gary Smith called the 2-0 halftime score “flattering” to his side. Ouch.

HIGHLIGHTS: Dallas 3, Colorado 0

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Power Vacuum

While their first loss of the season could drop the Rapids in this week’s power rankings, it’s hard to say who would take their place.

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It’s certainly not going to be New York Red Bulls, who received underwhelming performances from both Thierry Henry and Dwayne De Rosario during a 1-0 loss at Philadelphia Union this past Saturday.

The Union, despite being three points clear at the top of the MLS Eastern Conference, are hardly worthy of a boost in the Power Rankings, either. They did produce a scrappy, pack-it-in-and-counter result, but they were clearly outplayed by the visiting Red Bulls.

Philly only got the game-winner - by 19-year-old Roger Torres, the first of his MLS career - after a fatal giveaway by New York defender Tim Ream

MLS Royalty

The top team in MLS remains indisputable. Real Salt Lake ran their record to 3W-0L-0D after dropping the Revolution, 2-0, in New England.

The win came just four days after RSL made history by becoming the first MLS team ever to reach the finals of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Because of their CCL schedule, and the upcoming Rocky Mountain Cup tilt with Colorado on Wednesday, RSL coach Jason Kreis fielded a team of mostly reserves against the Revolution.

Led by young Collen Warner, who had two assists, RSL endured an edgy affair (eight yellows and three reds) and, as Kreis put it, “made a statement.”

That statement? RSL’s “B” team could probably make the MLS Cup Playoffs. 

HIGHLIGHTS: New England 0, RSL 2

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Beltway Controversy

If RSL are at the top, and Colorado and New York don’t fit the bill for No. 2, you may as well slot the LA Galaxy into the runner-up position in your rankings this week.

They didn’t get a win in DC on Saturday night, but that was only because of a questionable 90th-minute penalty drawn by United forward Charlie Davies. Playing without Landon Donovan (knee), the Galaxy enjoyed the better of the play and were on the brink of claiming all three points when Davies went down like a sack of rocks under the slightest of touches from LA defender Omar Gonzalez. (WATCH: Charlie Davies earns a PK vs. LA.)

The 'Comeback Kid' converted the spot kick for his league-leading fourth goal of the season. (That’s right, Charlie Davies is leading the league in scoring right now).

Afterward, David Beckham said, “I felt we deserved the game. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be walking away from this stadium tonight with three points.”

Sound Effort

Thanks to goals by O'Brian White and Steve Zakuani, Seattle did take three points from their home encounter with Chicago. Zakuani’s near-post tally countered Diego Cháves’ third goal in three games, which had knotted things up in the eighth minute.

Kasey Keller preserved the win (and turned back the clock) with two excellent saves on the Fire’s dynamic duo of Cháves and Gastón Puerari.

Fit to Be Tied

While this week followed the alternating pattern of MLS 2011, it did have one thing in common with Week Three - plenty of ties.

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In addition to DC and LA, six other teams split the points. San Jose Earthquakes rallied from a goal down (for the second week in a row) to tie Toronto FC, 1-1. Simon Dawkins scored for the Quakes the second in two weeks for the on-loan Tottenham Hotspur FC player - cancelling Alan Gordon’s 27th-minute opener.

New England opened the week with a 1-1 draw at Vancouver. (See below.)

And Chivas USA and Columbus Crew battled to a snoozy scoreless affair at The Home Depot Center. Neither side generated many chances, and that’s being kind. 

Hassli’s Hassles

For all of its scrappiness, Week Four did begin and end with games involving Vancouver, which pretty much guarantees there was no shortage of thrills.

Whitecaps FC played Houston Dynamo on Sunday night at Robertson Stadium, but the game may as well have been staged on nearby 1-45, it was so direct. The teams took turns launching forays at their opponent’s goal, frequently bypassing the midfield altogether, and Houston came away with an entertaining 3-1 win.

In their 1-1 draw with New England last Wednesday, Vancouver Designated Player Eric Hassli scored a penalty and then received what one writer dubbed “one of the dumbest red cards in soccer history.”

While celebrating his penalty-kick goal, the Frenchman ran over to the stands, removed his long-sleeve jersey - revealing a short-sleeved Whitecaps shirt underneath - and tossed it into the crowd.

Hassli swears the celebration would fly in the Swiss league - where he spent the past four seasons - but in Canada, it drew a second yellow and Hassli’s second ejection of the young season.

Yes, however much the league fluctuates in 2011, one constant remains: Vancouver are incapable of playing a boring game.

HIGHLIGHTS: Houston 3, Vancouver 1

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