By Justin Mapp's Posse || October 19, 2006 @ 11:46 pm
It is tempting to approach the final entry of the 2006 All-America XI column as we have most of the previous 28: wittily with a side of insight (at least, that’s how we see ourselves!). But after thinking about the final regular season weekend, we decided that a better approach would be to comment on the terrific slate of games that a viewer with MLS DirectKick or MLSLIVEtv had access to. Well, DirectKick or MLSLIVEtv and HDNet. And ESPN2. Or Fox Soccer Channel.
But wait; that discussion about viewing options threatened to dip into witty and/or insightful range. The point is, lots of good games were broadcast last weekend. The two games with playoff implications really lived up to the hype, with a total of eleven goals scored in the two games and several near misses as exciting as most of the goals. A pair of misses by Dwayne DeRosario - both on breakaway opportunities - drove RSL fans crazy as the 3-3 tie between Houston and Colorado knocked them out of the playoff race. But for the neutral fan, seeing the Rapids come back from a goal down three times in the same game was well worth the investment of time. Luckily, refereeing decisions had nothing to do with that outcome, so RSL fans weren’t left to rue a game changing call, but Kansas City fans weren’t so fortunate. Needing only a tie, KC gave up two penalty kicks and ended up losing the game and the final playoff spot to New York - and gave Wizards players and fans reason to rue the calls.
Terrific goals abounded in the Galaxy-FC Dallas game, with all seven worthy of repeated viewing. A tense defensive affair featuring New England and Columbus was the weekend’s anomaly, though the 1-1 draw between RSL and Chivas generated only slightly more attacking soccer. But the Chicago-DC United match provided the best single moment of the weekend: the scintillating series of passes strung together by the Fire that led to Andy Herron’s emphatic game winner.
In short, it was a terrific weekend to be a fan of Major League Soccer, even if your team didn’t get the result it needed to keep the season going. It is to be savored as we prepare for the playoffs and off season, and await the return of MLS in the Spring.
The final AAXI for the season features the unlikely return of the 6-2-2 formation, with a few caveats. First, we all know that Jonathan Bornstein will be a key contributor in the Chivas attack regardless of whether he officially lines up at defense, midfield, or forward. Second, Todd Dunivant played in the defensive mold of Bixente Lizarazu or Roberto Carlos (in other words, hardly defensively). Third, Craig Waibel became a scoring machine, meaning that only half of the defenders on the list focused on, well, defense. It’s as close to a 3-5-2 as a 6-2-2 can get.
Matt Pickens – (2)
is one of two starting goalkeepers in the Eastern Conference who are keeping their more famous teammates on the bench (Jon Conway being the other). In this case, Zach Thornton continues to ride the bench as he has since returning from injury. On the last weekend of the season, Pickens was good enough to stop everyone (he had 8 saves) except Christian Gomez in the win over DC.
Eddie Pope – (6)
played almost flawlessly for RSL in the season ending draw with Chivas USA. He kept the defense organized when the team switched from four to three in the back, made incisive passes out of the back, cleared several dangerous balls, and popped up in the box on offensive forays when necessary. Pope quietly played as well as any defender in the league over the last two months of the season in what remained a very patchwork group.
Jonathan Bornstein – (9)
lined up as a defender if the line up is to be believed. But why not? He appeared on the AAXI in all three field positions over the course of the year, and seemed to pop up on the offensive end whenever Chivas needed him. The runaway rookie of the year, Bornstein was part of a draft that made the difference in Chivas being a playoff team and being on the outside looking in.
Todd Dunivant – (1)
whose brilliantly weighted chip pass to Henderson was largely responsible for earning the Red Bulls first penalty kick, also makes the list. Dunivant came within inches of the goal of the week when his first half blast nearly broke the Meadowlands crossbar. Dunivant played like a left back who knew his team needed a win, critically. Might have come in handy against, oh, let’s say, Ghana, just to pick a game out of a hat.
Tim Regan – (6)
gains the nomination for playing the role of the savvy veteran on the Chivas backline. It was amazing that they didn’t give up more goals - and the goal posts deserve part of the credit - but Regan kept things sane and showed that he’s actually learned a few points from the veteranisimos, Claudio Suarez and Carlos Llamosa.
Craig Waibel – (5)
almost single handedly kept RSL in the playoff picture by willing Houston to the victory over Colorado. His pair of goals and generally solid defense kept the Rapids at bay for much of the game, highlighting what the HDNet broadcasters kept refering to as the Comeback Player of the Year performance.
Pablo Mastroeni – (5)
was at fault on none of the trio of Dynamo goals. In fact, without a great game from Mastroeni, the Dynamo total would have been higher. On a night when Mike Petke was out with on a red card, Aitor Karanka was uncharateristically weak on defense, and Dan Gargan and Matt Crawford were subpar, Mastroeni had to go it almost totally alone as his team did just enough to earn the draw and eke into the playoffs.
Cobi Jones – (2)
has spent eleven memorable seasons with the Galaxy. And in those eleven years he had few nights to match the offensive output he contributed against FC Dallas. His fourth goal of the year and assists 2-4 meant that he had a hand in four of the five Galaxy goals. Not bad for an old man like him.
Chris Armas – (2)
controlled the midfield for Chicago in the team’s victory over DC United. Even the ESPN2 announcing crew of Rob Stone and Eric Wynalda - normally blind to any contributor not on the score sheet - named Armas player of the game.
Landon Donovan – (6)
only had two goals and an assist. We say “only,” because he rampaged through the Dallas team so thoroughly that he seemed as likely to end with a half dozen goals as two. Some fans might’ve expected the disinterested Donovan to show up, since the game didn’t matter, but show up he did. He finishes with 12 goals in what is generally considered a lackluster year.
Herculez Gomez – (1)
might have only gotten the start because recent first eleven choice Alan Gordon injured himself in practice this week. But for the first time this season, he looked like the player who had some USNT fans thinking call-up last year. With two assists and a goal on a night he made Chris Gbandi look foolish, Gomez played very well.
- Header by ismitje.
- List compiled and edited by ismitje.
- All typos and errors should be blamed on Don Garber.