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Major League Soccer Week in Review – Round 20

Jul 15, 2013, 6:30 AM EDT

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Best match: Portland needed a stoppage time goal to get past the LA Galaxy, 2-1, in a feisty match at Jeld-Wen Field that had a little bit of everything. It ended with a little huffy-puffy fit at the end from a clearly frustrated Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, who was surely upset that his team had just conceded another late goal and took it out on Portland manager Caleb Porter. (Arena calmed down just a bit, waved Porter over and made nice before they left the field.)

What Arena was really mad about: When Portland’s Andrew Jean-Baptiste struck late Saturday night in Stumptown, it was the eighth stoppage-time goal Los Angeles has conceded this season and the 15th they’ve allowed after the 75th minute.

League’s hottest scorer: No coincidence that Vancouver started winning about the team Brazilian forward Camilo went on a huge scoring tear. He added two more in the Round 20 capper late Sunday, a 3-1 win over Chicago, and now has 10 goals in his last nine matches. With 12 overall, Camilo is now alone atop the league scoring lead.

What happened to Montreal’s defense?: Thierry Henry had a goal and two assists in New York’s fashionable 4-0 win over Montreal. It was truly one of the top performances from Mike Petke’s team this year. On the other hand … What gives with the Montreal defense, which has allowed 12 goals in the last four matches? That’s not the way Marco Schallibaum’s team will stay near the top in the East.

An underrated man: Anybody remember how New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty stepped up his game and established himself as a midfield force in MLS last year? Well, Eric Alexander is starting to wear the look of Mr. Stepping It Up this year. When on his game, Alexander is providing extra helpings of offensive drive through the midfield. He still needs to add the element of consistency, but more matches like Saturday’s and the veteran American will be for New York what (the just released) Juninho could not be.

Houston finds the target again – but those forwards still aren’t scoring:  Houston finding goal has not traditionally a remarkable event. But the team nearly went 0-for-June, finding net just once in five matches (including one Open Cup contest). So scoring for a second consecutive match rates as a “talker” in this case as Dominic Kinnear’s team turned up a 2-1 victory at New England

On the other hand, it took two wonderful strikes from midfielder Adam Moffat to grab the three points. Once again, Houston’s strikers aren’t getting it done. Moffat and fellow midfielders Warren Creavalle and Brad Davis have all struck for goals lately … while the last time a Dynamo forward scored was way back on May 8.

Weekend’s best goal: No holding midfielder in MLS can thump in the long-range beauties the way Adam Moffat can. The Houston Dynamo veteran’s latest was struck with his left foot, which is his “weaker” foot.

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Real Salt Lake’s highly significant win: Real Salt Lake retained its pose as the league’s hottest team (extending its club-record unbeaten streak to 11 games across all competitions) with a 3-0 win over FC Dallas. It was the first time RSL had won in Texas, so manager Jason Kreis shed that weight from himself personally and from the club. And it was the organization’s 100th MLS win overall.  Neither team was at full strength, but the visitors had slightly more to deal with in absences of Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Alvaro Saborio.

Worst refereeing moment: When we say “worst,” that accounts for pretty much the entire season in this case. We talked more about it here. But long story short, referee Jorge Gonzalez made an absolutely baffling decision in Philadelphia, one that weighed heavily in turning a potential 1-1 draw into a Union win over Chivas USA.

The alarming injury at L.A.: Details are scarce (there may be a further diagnosis later today) but Galaxy striker Robbie Keane limped off late in Saturday’s loss to Portland. A Galaxy offense without Keane (whom we labeled last week as our mid-season choice for league MVP) would be a tame offense indeed. Anyone else getting the feeling this just isn’t the year for the two-time defending champs?

  1. frankswild - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    I suspect people don’t really understand the “backpass” rule. Here is USSF’s position on it: http://www.ussoccer.com/news/coaching-education/2008/05/position-paper-pass-back-violation.aspx

    They read the word “deliberate” in law 12 and they think it means that that means there is only an infraction if the pass is judged as being intended be picked up by the goalkeeper. That is incorrect; the word “deliberate” in the law refers to the kick being on purpose rather than just an accidental deflection. In the situation from Friday, Kennedy should have kicked it out instead of picking it up. If people don’t like that then they should lobby FIFA or USSF to change or clarify the rule but I feel like it is pretty clear as is and all it means is the goalkeeper should not handle a ball off of the foot of a member of his own team.

    • Steve Davis - Jul 15, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      You may be correct from a technical standpoint (and thanks for the law clarification). But isn’t there a “fairness” standard to be observed here. I mean, to make a call that is so rarely whistled, and in such questionable circumstance (because you could certainly argue this was nothing more than a tackle attempt and not a “pass” at all) and at this point of the match just seems plainly unfair to me. Just my opinion.

      • frankswild - Jul 15, 2013 at 12:58 PM

        I understand why people are upset about it because it seems so unfair but you have to ask yourself what you think the laws should be and how that would play out. I don’t know how one could codify when to apply it when to ignore it that would ignore this situation but punish others.

        It is really difficult to try to judge intent which is why rules are usually spelled out as ways in which you can violate the rules by the mechanics of your actions. I think it is reasonable to assume that the Chivas player was trying to kick the ball; there is no other reason that he would do the things that he did. The ball was in a dangerous position and he was trying to make sure Casey could not get to it and he succeeded in doing so. At this point the goalkeeper can’t pick it up; Kennedy should have kicked it away. I don’t know how you can change the rules to make that a legal thing to do. The defender could swear up and down that he didn’t want Kennedy to pick it up and he didn’t intend for him to do so but that doesn’t really matter because that is what happened.

      • phredicles - Jul 15, 2013 at 7:22 PM

        I generally feel that, if somebody is going to be jobbed, it might as well be Chivas.

        That said, does anyone remember from the ’94 World Cup final at the Rose Bowl, in I think overtime where there was a scramble right in front of the Italy goal that ended with an Italian player tapping the ball with his foot in the direction of the keeper, who then pounced on it? The referee chose not to regard that as a back pass. And it probably would have been harsh to say it was (not least because it was about three yards off the goal line – how do you set up an indirect free kick from that?) it might have been justified. It would probably have been justified by the standards of Friday’s game.

        It’s the only comparable sequence I can think of, and it resulted in the opposite ruling. However, Deal with it, goats.

    • talgrath - Jul 15, 2013 at 1:45 PM

      Personally, I think there was no intent to backpass to the keeper, that was just a desperate defender trying to get a foot on the ball to keep it away from enemy feet in slippery conditions. If you watch the clip, both a Union player and a Chivas player slide tackle to get at the ball, and if anything it looked like the Chivas player was trying to get the ball out for a corner in a risky situation; in an ultra-slick field the ball happened to slip towards the keeper rather than head out, that sounds like a deflection to me. I don’t mind the rule at all, I just think this was the wrong call in this situation.

    • nussdorferac - Jul 16, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      You are correct that clarification would be helpful, but it may not be needed.

      Custom has shown that officials in MLS have called it when the pass is intentionally kicked back to the goalkeeper, and not if any ball intentionally hit by a defender, but to the goalkeeper, and then eventually picked up by the goalkeeper. That is why Chivas felt unjustly treated.

      It is unfortunate that US Soccer has misinterpreted the law. Fifa laws of game state something entirely different than what the position paper states Under Law 12 that:

      An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper, inside his
      own penalty area, commits any of the following four offences: … touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him
      by a team-mate

      (See http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/footballdevelopment/refereeing/81/42/36/log2013en_neutral.pdf; page 37).

      Fifa clearly states the ball has to be deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper; not just deliberately kicked. Once again US Soccer has changed the law and confused the issue. This has also happened with handball calls. A full discussion is here:

      http://www.rslsoapbox.com/2012/4/26/2977239/just-for-fun-what-is-a-hand-ball-what-does-fifa-say-what-does-ussf-say

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