In this week’s Like/Don’t Like, we highlight the opposing form in the Gold Cup for the US and Canada, goalkeepers stepping off the bench in a pinch, and a blown call in Philadelphia.
Wondo’s USMNT scoring tear: We all know it’s been rough sledding for Chris Wondolowski this season, and prior to last week with the US national team. But now that he’s off the mark, he’s on a roll, with six goals in four games, including five in two Gold Cup matches. Is it significant that he’s been scoring so much on the likes of Guatemala, Belize, and Cuba? C’mon, we’re not talking about giving the guy the Ballon d’Or here, and he can only score against the competition in front of him. Still, I’m pleased to see him not only break his duck, but go on a bit of a scoring tear.
The week of the reliever ‘keepers: Goalkeepers are generally a hardy bunch, and it’s rare that they are substituted out of games due to injury. Although Michael Gspurning and Josh Saunders were unlucky to go down last week, we did see two players come off the bench to help out their injured colleagues, in Seattle Sounders’ Andrew Weber and Real Salt Lake’s Jeff Attinella. Although Weber couldn’t preserve the clean sheet for the Sounders, he made two saves and kept his team in the game throughout the second half. Meanwhile, Attinella made three saves to keep FC Dallas off the board and help RSL to an historic win in Texas. If goalkeeper is the most stressful position in soccer, then the backup goalkeeper probably has the hardest job in the game, and Weber and Attinella acquitted themselves well.
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 3, TFC 0
Saad’s emergence: Soony Saad joined Sporting Kansas City midway through 2011, and has mostly seen spot duty until this season. After seeing limited minutes for much of this year as well, Saad has started in three of SKC’s last four games, scoring a brace against Toronto FC and chipping in an assist in that stretch. It’s a testament to Kansas City’s depth that Saad can pick up the slack when C.J. Sapong goes on a loan stint, or with Teal Bunbury still getting into the swing of things with his injury. Kei Kamara and Claudio Bieler still look set to be regular starters, but Saad could be finally making his mark on MLS this year.
HIGHLIGHTS: PHI 3, CHV 1
“Back pass” gaffe in Philly: If you didn’t watch the Philadelphia Union’s 3-1 win over Chivas USA last week, it was wet, physical, and aesthetically something less than beautiful. But if you stuck it out, there were certainly talking points at the end of the match. In particular, referee Jorge Gonzalez’s call of an intentional back pass against Chivas not only arguably turned a 1-1 game, it wasn’t even the correct call. For the novelty of seeing an indirect free kick in an MLS game, the call was overly harsh on Chivas, who saw a win slip away just a week earlier against Montreal, when Sanna Nyassi’s dive convinced the referee to award a penalty. Although Chivas will have to take their punishment in their reaction to the call, the fact that a team going through a midseason makeover is also dealing with harsh and/or incorrect calls might halt a revival before it really begins.
FC Dallas’ slide: Not too long ago, it was the Houston Dynamo with the under-the-radar winless streak. Now, they’ve passed the torch to their Texas counterparts, FC Dallas, who have now gone their last seven games without a win, picking up just three points in that span. Does that mean they weren’t as good as they have looked most of the season? They have faced some tough competition in that stretch, including Western Conference rivals Portland Timbers, LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake. But it does look like the brief era of invincibility for FCD may be gone.
Canada’s hard lessons: In hindsight, Canada was always going to have a tough time at the Gold Cup, what with Mexico and a pretty good Panama team in their group. But while Cinderellas can emerge in the Gold Cup, and Martinique took advantage of their opportunity to get a win over the Canadians, it shows that Canada’s got plenty of work to do in getting the national team to their first World Cup since 1986. Will we look back at Canada’s 2013 Gold Cup team and see it as the first step of the program’s turnaround? For the sake of Canada’s fans, I sure hope so.
What do you like? What do you, er, Don’t Like? Let us know in the comments below.