Once A Metro's MLS Team of the Week isn't supposed to be a Trojan horse for unbridled RBNY love, but...yeah, it's kind of where things ended up this week.
They're lined up as a 4-4-2, and they are mostly wearing red and white
GK Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls): The new-look Red Bulls are making Robles work as hard as ever for his clean sheets. In a match DC coach Ben Olsen conceded RBNY had dominated for at least the first half, the team still owed a large amount of its 2-0 home win to the 'keeper. Especially late in the game, when positioning and reflexes gave him just enough to block Chris Rolfe's best chance. If that shot had gone in, the late penalty Chris Pontius skied might have meant more than mere consolation for a frustrating game for DC.
LB Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls): Put in a performance that begged the question - what took you so long MLS? The 22-year-old Jamaican international had a trial with D.C. United last year that didn't work out, and was only signed by RBNY last week, getting his first start for the Red Bulls for no better reason than Roy Miller was unavailable. He covered a lot of ground, spent a lot of time in the final third, but also pulled his weight in defense. If on-the-field issues caused DC to pass on him last summer and RBNY to wait until the third week of the regular season to sign him up after a lengthy look in preseason, they weren't evident in his first run out in MLS.
CB Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes): The Quakes didn't play a great game, but San Jose fans probably don't care too much. The team has been playing in a shoebox it outgrew almost as soon as it moved in: in six out of seven seasons at Buck Shaw Stadium, average attendance for the Quakes exceeded the venue's official capacity (because the club scheduled its big-ticket games for larger arenas). This week the team finally got to show off a new, bigger home - and it christened the occasion with a win. Happy day in San Jose. In his first appearance since July, Goodson was significant: a menace on set pieces, he contributed to both his team's goals; at the back, he helped the Quakes defend a lead Chicago appeared destined to catch, sending the home fans happy from their first trip to San Jose's new stadium.
CB Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers): Sporting Kansas City should have beaten Portland this week - the home team had more and better chances than the visiting Timbers. But KC couldn't land many shots on target: Portland 'keeper Adam Kwarasey made two saves, despite watching 16 shots launched at him. Half of those shots were blocked by the Timbers' scrambling defense, and Ridgewell stopped three himself - all in the box - making his shot-stopping more significant to Portland's clean sheet than that of his goalkeeper.
RB Victor Cabrera (Montreal Impact): Followed a goal in L'Impact's mid-week CONCACAF Champions League victory over Alajuelense with a stint at center back for Montreal in New England. Against the Revs, the Montreal back line lost Hassoun Camara to a red card in the 61st minute, forcing further reshuffling of the defense and bringing further pressure from New England. But Montreal held firm, and Cabrera's contribution included 11 clearances, as last year's worst team in MLS posted its second clean sheet of the week.
LW Fabian Castillo (FC Dallas): He was FCD's most potent attacking threat even during the early part of this week's win in Philly when Dallas didn't seem to have much going for it. FCD mustered 11 shots: Castillo has six of them. He tortured the Union's back line with pace and control. His accuracy wasn't great, so it was apt that his assist on his team's second goal was actually a wayward pass, tidied up by Ryan Hollingshead and passed into the corner of Philly's goal.
CM Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas): FCD's playmaker turned the game in Philadelphia for his team late in the first half. Chasing a bouncing ball and pursued by the Union's Zach Pfeffer, Diaz flicked a leg out to drag the ball back and lose his man. Pfeffer was bamboozled, clouting Diaz with an elbow to the head as he hurtled toward a ball that had abruptly changed direction and into an opponent who had stopped suddenly and unexpectedly. Diaz wasn't planning on getting hit in the head, any more than Pfeffer was planning on getting sent off, but both those things happened. And 10-man Philly was not able to handle Dallas nearly as effectively as 11-man Philly.
CM Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes): The rookie scored San Jose's first ever goal at Avaya Stadium, the team's shiny new home. It was a tap-in off a set piece in the fifth minute, and set the foundation for a first ever victory at the new venue. Alashe might not be in the Quakes' lineup, he might not be with the Quakes for any great length of time, but whatever he does with his career, he has ensured he won't be forgotten in San Jose.
RW Lloyd Sam (New York Red Bulls): He is tasked with scoring more goals this season, and his second goal in two games suggests he's enjoying the challenge. Beat Bill Hamid at his near post with a shot that wasn't as spectacular as Sam's first goal of the season, but was arguably more important since it sealed RBNY's first win of MLS 2015.
FWD Octavio Rivero (Vancouver Whitecaps): This is supposed to be a team of the week, but Rivero is here more for his consistency. He bagged a goal, and three points for Vancouver on the road, in the last minute of an unusually long stoppage time in Orlando this week. A little like he did last week, when he scored in the 86th minute in Chicago. Two games, Two goals: two 1-0 road wins for Vancouver. And Rivero also scored in the 'Caps' opening match of the season - though on that occasion Toronto roared back in the second half to take the points. Three goals makes him one of the MLS's joint-top scorers at the moment, and he also is among the league leaders in shots (14), shots on goal (eight), and game-winning-goals (two).
FWD Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls): His first goal of the season was a beauty. Dax McCarty launched a long ball over the top into space between D.C. United's center backs, BWP didn't quite get to the pass when it landed, but he hooked the bouncing ball away from Steve Birnbaum and let it bounce again before sending it past the 'keeper to the far side of goal. Of perhaps greater significance, he also bagged an assist - and he would have had a couple more if his teammates were inclined to take the opportunities he provided. The first couple of games played by RBNY suggest coach Jesse Marsch wants BWP to create chances almost as often as he finds positions to score, and this week we saw clear evidence that the striker who flourished last year in a system that asked him to focus on scoring may also be successful this year, in a system that wants him to do a lot of set-up work too.
COACH Jesse Marsch (New York Red Bulls): It's hard to overlook FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja's claim, since he guided his team to its third consecutive win of the season. But Pareja has been working on his squad for more than a year now, and he will have tougher tests than 10-man Philadelphia. Marsch will have more difficult days this season as well, but this week was important for him for several reasons. His predecessor was more popular and successful than any coach has ever been at RBNY, and while Marsch bears no responsibility for Mike Petke's firing, he does have the task of filling the largest pair of coaching shoes ever left behind in Harrison. To fill those shoes, he must find adequate success to validate his tactical vision and convince those fans who spent the first 12 minutes of this week's match honoring the departed Petke with chants and banners that the successes of the past two seasons will not be squandered. A home win at the first time of asking is an encouraging start. More encouraging: the win was achieved with an injury-disrupted lineup drawn from a squad still getting used to the new system and each other. Marsch will have worse days than this, but he should also expect to have better. His team is improving - quickly, it would appear.