There were more ties and fewer goals than most fans would have liked, but what the much-anticipated Rivalry Week lacked in decisive outcomes and offensive fireworks, it made up for in tension, late drama and doses of controversy.
The Red Bulls may have had a late winning goal go unrecognized by the officials, while FC Dallas had a late winner brought down by Kenny Cooper’s arm allowed against Houston. After that tense Texas derby, Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear unexpectedly lashed out in the press at the FCD striker.
But the biggest surprise, and arguably the most unjust decision, came in the SuperClasico between the LA Galaxy and their roomies at the Home Depot Center, Chivas USA – a team that’s been a lightning-rod for controversy since late last year.
They’re still a controversial work in progress, but the Goats could be on their way to changing MLS hearts and minds. Which leads us to the first of five questions in the wake of Rivalry Week….
Are Chivas USA becoming likable?
On Sunday, the Goats were on the short end of a dubious red-card decision that reduced them to 10 men with 50 minutes to play against the defending champs.
Instead of folding, Chivas USA defended staunchly and rallied from a late 1-0 deficit to tie their archrivals, prompting coach José Luis Sánchez Solá to tell reporters, “We earned a point, but in respect we earned 100.”
Some fans were turned off by Chivas’s physical play, but many others were impressed by the way the Goats stayed in the game and then summoned an equalizer after the undeserved red.
(There was something else off about that red – in addition to the fact that it shouldn’t have been given: Referee Ricardo Salazar first showed yellow, then went for the red – yet the official report, and Salazar’s subsequent explanation, both say the card was a straight red.)
In any event, Chivas caught a bad break, and their game response had to earn some respect, if not admiration, from neutral fans.
Was Dominic Kinnear’s “cheaters” comment legitimate?
After FC Dallas striker Cooper bagged the controversial late winner to give his side a 3-2 win over Houston, Dynamo coach Kinnear took issue not with the winning goal, which came after the ball hit Cooper’s upper arm and he volleyed it in, but with an earlier incident in which Kinnear claimed Cooper took a dive to earn Dallas the free kick that led to George John’s opener.
“A big guy out in the field threw himself to the ground and gets a free kick,” Kinnear told reporters. “And they got a goal out of it.” The coach went on to lament what he called “a sickening epidemic” of diving in the league.
It was surprising to hear these comments coming from the usually even-keeled Kinnear about a play that, had Dallas not gotten a lucky bounce on the ensuing free kick, probably would have passed without comment.
MLS is a league in which overly physical play has been more of a problem than simulation, especially in recent years. Until this “epidemic” of diving draws more notice, we’re going to assume Kinnear was working the refs, or simply venting frustration after a tough loss.
Did New York’s stoppage-time header against D.C. cross the goal line?
United 'keeper Bill Hamid insisted “it did not go over,” but no one would expect him to admit it if it did, and the available TV replays were inconclusive.
But two things are for certain: goal-line technology would remove all doubt in such situations, and New York’s finishing in the 0-0 draw – in which they fired 24 shots – left a lot to be desired.
How excited should Seattle fans be about Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson partnering up top?
They’re already pretty cranked up about it, and Martins’ 20-minute, travel-weary cameo against Portland on Saturday night was a silver lining in the disappointing 1-1 tie with their Cascadia rivals.
Ten minutes after coming on, the Nigerian slipped a tantalizing cross through the six-yard box for his new American strike partner. They weren’t quite in synch, and Johnson couldn’t reach the ball, but that flash was enough to get CenturyLink fans dreaming about the prospect of having two powerful, skilled strikers – two players who are a handful for defenses and who are both still in their prime – playing up top this season.
Are the Impact the best team in the league?
The standings say so, and Montreal’s third consecutive assured performance, a 2-1 win over rivals Toronto, does too.
The solid victory comes on the heels of two wins in two of the toughest venues in the league – Seattle and Portland – and confirms that it is indeed good to be a Montreal fan right now.
Next week, the Impact will take on Thierry Henry and New York, a team that defeated Montreal two out of three times last season.
But given current form, it’s the rebuilt New York side that will be testing itself against the second-year Impact.