MLS Monday

On Saturday, MLS goals were scored by guys we all know: Freddie Ljungberg, Kenny Cooper, Steve Ralston and Luciano Emilio. On Sunday, MLS goals were scored by guys nobody ever heard of: Eduardo Lillingston, Marco Pappa, Andy Iro and Aaron Hohlbein.

Chicago got a sendoff in the 14th minute and went on to win, while Columbus got a sendoff and not only lost but are now down to about six guys who are both a) healthy and b) available.

Kansas City got their first win, leaving Dallas as the sole 0-3 team, but four other teams have only a goose egg in the W column, and three of those only have one point.

The Fire is on top of the East, tied with New England which doesn't surprise anybody. Seattle is on top of the West tied with Chivas which surprises everybody.

New York and Columbus, who played for the MLS Championship a little over four months ago, are both winless, with a mere 3 points between them, and sit at the very bottom of the Eastern division.

FC Dallas, the only original team to have never been in an MLS Championship, is at the bottom of the Western division, a remarkable achievement considering how badly LA and Houston (winless, 2 points between them) are stinking up the place.

The weather has been wretched, with three teams kicking off over the weekend in temperatures under 40 degrees F, only partly explaining why attendance has been, at best, disappointing.

And the officiating ranged from barely adequate to confusing to downright bizarre.

All in all, a pretty typical MLS weekend. Well, except for me getting sandbagged by Curly, Moe and Larry. And I didn't even get a donut.

Now that we're past the totally random "10% of the season mark" let's take a look at who's hot, who's not and who needs to be scouring Central America for some help, starting with:


An interesting factoid about MLS coaches is that there is a very distinct divide between the 11 guys who are in their 30's and 40's, all of whom have professional playing experience, and the three other guys, who are in their late 50's and came out of college coaching with no professional experience at all: Sigi Schmid, Bruce Arena and Dallas' Schellas Hyndman.

The first guy is about a month away from being declared The Greatest Coach in American Soccer History, a title he'll be taking away from the second guy. Meanwhile, the last guy looks like he's about a month away from being fired.

Of course since he works for Hunt Sports Group he'll be around a while. HSG has the slowest trigger in the West. Some people say that it's because they're too cheap to let themselves get stuck paying out a contract for a guy who's sitting at home watching Oprah, but on the other hand they said the same thing a year ago when the coach in question was that Schmid guy.

And therein lies the dilemma. Sigi changed the rules. He finished last or next to it, and out of the playoffs, in his first two years in Columbus. The third year he won the Shield, the Cup and a huge contract in Seattle. He's the new poster boy for "give the guy some time".

While it's very early in the season, still it must be noted that aside from 2 Kenny Cooper goals and one Dave van den Burgh assist, this team is as ugly as an exit wound.

The shocking thing about Houston is that, like New England, everybody just naturally assumes that they're going to contend. High expectations are what you get after winning a bunch of Cups (albeit in two different towns).

Of course Houston has recently made a habit of starting slowly, but that tends to become a trap. What's more concerning is that they are 1-4-5 in their last 10 competitive matches, including the regular season finale a year ago, the MLS Cup Playoffs and the CONCACAF Champions League.

Sure they lost DeRo, but it's not like they're without talent. On the other hand if you're waiting for Kei Kamara to come back from his suspension and make everything better you're in for a long season. At best he's a piece of the puzzle, but nobody has ever mistaken him for a guy who can carry a team for a month or two.

Maybe the new guy, Akinbiye, can make a difference here. It's not like they're that far off: if Boswell doesn't stumble yesterday tracking down that ball from Namoff, they would have taken a road point from DC. Still, it's worth noting that in their previous five matches, the Dynamo outscored United 7-1, winning four and drawing one.

Everybody knows that winning a championship takes some luck along the way, and one of the big pieces to that is avoiding injuries. Just ask Preki.

So it was last year with Columbus; a season-ending injury to Adam Moffat early on was just about the only significant bump in the road. Fast forward to 2009 and it's hard to find a healthy body anywhere. Even the indestructible Frankie Hejduk is out.

Maybe you can lay the blame on new coach Robert Warzycha's preseason conditioning program; many people commented on the lack of games and the lack of quality opponents in the games they did have, but everyone - on the team and elsewhere - figured that for a championship team that only lost one guy (and he, after all, had been Moffat's backup) the important point was getting to the regular season healthy and muscle memory or something would take over.

Unfortunately for them neither one has happened. They have looked disconnected, confused and, frankly, almost listless at times. And as the list of available players has shrunk - the latest casualty was Chad Marshall, who went out with a nasty hit to the face yesterday - this team that, as the champions, everyone was shooting for anyway looks ripe for the picking.

Nobody is blaming Warzycha - yet. But this is an outfit that's in serious trouble and it is indeed his job to find some answers. If he can't, then this team, which seems to be circling the drain just four games into the season, is going to find itself back in a familiar position: looking up.

How the hell can we be this far into the season and LA has a) only played two games, fewest in the league and yet b) is being given up for dead going into that rarest of creatures, a Tuesday night game?

Anyway, since we haven't seen that much of this outfit it's hard to pin anything down, but on the other hand they're a Landon Donovan miracle from being 0-2 and, considering that the opposition has consisted of the Rapids and DC, it's not exactly comforting.

Did Arena really think Dema Kovalenko was going to become less red card prone as he got older and lost a step? Did he really believe he could field a team of has-beens (take a bow Tony Sanneh) and never-were's (Stefani Migioranzi? Are you serious?) and, through sheer coaching brilliance, turn them into winners?

That guy who I mentioned earlier, the one who's about to be anointed TBCIASH, took over a really bad team in 2006 and simply blew it up. He kept roughly four guys, conducted a fire sale for the others and built a team that could win in the future. Arena's goal seems to have been to cobble together a lineup that wouldn't be too embarrassing.

And he may not have even accomplished that.

I have a confession to make: I have always liked Juan Carlos Osorio and I've thought for some time that the New York RedBulls were a better team than they had shown.

I was therefore quite pleased with my prescience and good judgment when they made a stirring run through the playoffs which culminated in their first MLS Cup appearance where, to no one's shame, they lost to a Columbus team that was simply unconscious.

I honestly thought - please don't laugh - that the team we saw in October and November was the real RedBulls.

Which shows exactly why you should stop reading this post, as I am clearly delirious.

Yesterday's loss to the Fire was a real shocker and, unfortunately, symbolic of some deep problems.

Chicago, who were already missing Blanco, went down a man on 14 minutes when John Thorrington got a look at Tim Weyland's red card. And yet it was the Fire that went the rest of the way looking like they were up a man; they pressed and pushed and swarmed the ball and it was NYRB that looked defensive and unorganized.

In short, the Bulls were handed a golden opportunity to take some points from a tough divisional rival and said "No thanks".

The last thing - the very, very last thing - that this team needs is a coaching change. They've had, what, around 50 different HC's in their 14 years of existence? They really do get the fact that nothing is possible without at least a little continuity.

At the same time, you get the feeling that JCO - and as a result NYRB - are just spinning their wheels. Maybe it really is time to start thinking the unthinkable.

The problem is: who, exactly, do you replace him with?