Lots of red cards were handed out in Week 7. Four, to be exact, two each for two teams, RSL and Philadelphia Union. Two of the incidents were quite similar, with the offending players leaving their feet and challenging with both feet, studs up. The referees delivered a consistent message -- there will be none of that.
Though fans everywhere will always be unsatisfied with officiating, MLS referees had managed mostly to stay out of headlines so far. It's looked as though the increased presence of the league's disciplinary committee might help stay the hand of the officials on the field to some extent. Yes, they've been on the wrong side of a few close calls affecting Portland players, but they hadn't made the kinds of game changing mistakes that so often determined outcomes last year.
And then last week happened. Cards and penalty kicks abounded, and all of a sudden the MLS officials have jumped back into the game changing business -- with both feet, studs up.
Yes, all but one of the red cards were warranted this week (although yellows might have sufficed in a couple of those cases), but the PKs in Colorado and Dallas were just terrible calls. I hope last week was a statistical anomaly, because if it wasn't we're in for another frustrating season.
Oh well. Setting aside the ongoing referee issues, another full docket of soccer was played in Week 7. The Western Conference Weekly follows the jump.
Last week: 3-1 win vs Salt Lake
The Earthquakes are solidly in first place after knocking the previous first place team out of their spot. They accomplished the feat in Steven Lenhart's return from injury with -- you guessed it -- a foul involving Steven Lenhart, resulting in a straight red for Jamison Olave, reducing RSL to nine men. True, San Jose created lots of chances in both halves, and they played the excellent defense that has been such a surprise this season. But the game winner was scored at least partially as a result of Lenhart's antics, and that throws into question whether the Quakes can keep this up in the event that the MLS referees decide to put Lenhart under proper scrutiny.
Week 8 projection: 2-0 at Philadelphia Union; 2-2 vs DC United
Last week: 1-3 loss at San Jose; 1-1 draw at Dallas
Jason Kreis has been complaining about a lot this year, and finally he really does have something to complain about. He lost Jamison Olave to a very questionable call on Saturday. Then on Wednesday his team gave up a penalty kick on an even more questionable handball. Kreis should have finished his team's second two-game week of the season with four points; instead he'll go back home with just one.
Fortunately their next match is against Toronto.
Week 8 projection: 2-0 vs Toronto FC
Last week: 1-0 win vs Dallas
Well, well. Vancouver wants to keep winning games, do they? Camilo Sanvezzo played his best game of the young season on Saturday, and the team climbed on his back to a 1-0 victory against Dallas. Their success continues to be built around solid defense, anchored by Jay Demerit, but clearly augmented by 35-year-old South Korean fullback Young-Pyo Lee.
Their winning ways look almost certain to continue for the near future, as they play the hapless Columbus Crew on Saturday, followed by FC Edmonton on Wednesday.
Week 8 projection: 1-0 win at Columbus
Last week: 0-1 loss at Vancouver; 1-1 draw vs RSL
There's no question that Dallas has the pieces to succeed on defense, with George John, Ugo Ihemelu, and Zach Loyd holding down the back line. Yet somehow they are tied for the highest number of goals allowed in the Western Conference (with the Portland Timbers). Meanwhile, aside from Brek Shea's occasional dominance, their offense this season has been based around winning set pieces in dangerous areas with well placed dives. Well, mostly well placed dives. Watch the highlights of Carlos Rodriguez's elbow dislocation, and you can see that his intention was to dive on the ball after a light challenge from Kyle Beckerman. I certainly don't celebrate any injuries, but there is a certain irony about a player injuring himself in the act of faking an injury.
Week 8 projection: 1-3 loss at Los Angeles
Last week: bye
The biggest news in Seattle was all Portland-related. And they claim they don't obsess about us.
Week 8 projection: 2-1 win at Chicago; 1-1 draw vs Los Angeles
Last week: 2-1 win at Colorado
The Galaxy defense has seen an immense improvement since the acquisition of David Junior Lopes from Chivas. That's a fact that was somewhat overlooked when they beat Portland two weeks ago, but it's absolutely the case.
Having said that, Los Angeles got away with a fairly weak performance against the Rapids on Saturday, thanks to some of the most ridiculously poor finishing I've seen in a single 90 minute period. They still have a long way to go before they prove they are as dangerous a team as they were last year.
Week 8 projection: 3-1 win vs Dallas; 1-1 draw at Seattle
Last week: 0-1 loss vs Philadelphia
How do you win an away match 1-0 with only nine men? Make sure Chivas is your opponent. Chivas is the only team in the Western Conference that has still yet to win -- or even score -- at home, and they're failing to score in spectacular fashion. They pounded 21 shots in the general direction of the Union goal on Saturday, while only putting five on target. They continue to be one of the league's strongest defenses, but they can't win unless they start scoring.
Week 8 projection: 0-1 loss at Colorado
Last week: 1-2 loss vs Los Angeles
I hope Oscar Pareja lets his players accept tips, because they bent over backwards to serve a win to the Galaxy on Saturday. From a Marvell Wynne own-goal, to several sure-fire chances squandered by rookie Tony Cascio, to a Kenny Cooper-like PK attempt taken by Omar Cummings, Colorado should have won this one easily. Saturday's laugher was certainly not indicative of their ability as a team, but there's little question that the finishing up front is in dire need of improvement.
Week 8 projection: 1-0 win vs Chivas; 1-2 loss at New England