I am starting to wonder if the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) and/or their officials for Major League Soccer were told over the offseason to be stronger with their calls. What I mean is I've noticed the referees seem to be more steadfast in their calls this season, whether for the good or bad.
Every red card I've witnessed the officials have been strong in calling, standing firm in their call even when questioned by players. There is a certain confidence officials should have to make their decisions in the immediate aftermath of a situation which unfolds in a very quick two to three second span, and usually not in the direct view of the official. They need to assess the situation in their mind, without the help of any form of replay, to determine whether an offence occurred and what the situation surrounding the offence dictates as reasonable and fair punishment.
This season we've seen multiple instances of very soft red cards and ejections take place, even when the situation leading up to such would more generally call for a warning in the form of a yellow card. Offences warranting red cards are never cut and dry as what takes place earlier in a match can also weigh heavily upon the chosen punishment. Still, I have to wonder if the officials continue to impact the outcome of games what MLS can do to counter fans' calls for better officiating.
Houston Dynamo Golden Boy?
No, I'm not talking about Oscar de la Hoya. I am talking about Mark Sherrod, pronounced Share-uhd apparently. The Houston Dynamo selected Mark Sherrod in the second round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft at number thirty-three overall. Comparisons by pundits and the big-heads placed Sherrod under the label of a Brian Ching-type player.
Back then, it seemed all hype, even though Sherrod had shown to be prolific in college. As we know, prolific in college does not always translate to the professional level, but in Sherrod's case it certainly seems to be holding true.
What everyone loves about Will Bruin, a poacher who usually finds himself in the right position at the right time to bang home a goal, can also be said for Mark Sherrod. The evidence is clear in the match against Real Salt Lake, where Sherrod found himself in the right place at the right time not just for his two goals, but also two to three other times in the match, nearly netting a hat trick.
The extra to it is Sherrod also brings an aerial game when the Dynamo begin to send balls long, which allows him to link up with the midfield and create opportunities for guys to run free into open space. What does that do? It draws defenders to Sherrod and off the midfielders, which inevitably allows for more open crosses from the wings.
If you need more evidence of Sherrod's skills after this match, something tells me he may get a second start in order to give Will Bruin an extra match of rest. Bruin deserves it having put in solid shifts since the open of the season.
Hat Trick Wonders
This weekend was filled with hat trick wonders, and this season has had its share of them already. Between Clint Dempsey, Harrison Shipp and twice in two weeks Bradley Wright-Phillips, it is a wonder if MLS teams even play defense anymore. The landscape of MLS has changed dramatically, and we're seeing the skill and creativity of forwards and midfielders who cause absolute chaos along the opposition back line.
You can't fault the goalkeepers in any of those hat trick matches, as all of them came back strong to make fantastic saves later in the matches, but it is still eye-opening. Chicago and New York put on a heck of a show, which only just barely outshone the Seattle and Portland match from March. What else lies ahead for Major League Soccer matches, and can officials let the games play?
Tactical shifts and changes
On Sunday night head coach Dominic Kinnear took a calculated risk, and while it didn't pay off on the score sheet, it definitely paid off in chances. The Dynamo, down 3-1 and down a man, shifted to a 3-4-2 formation, which at times resembled a 3-5-1. From the formation, they managed to apply heavy, consistent pressure to Real Salt Lake who seemed perfectly content to absorb it.
Chances were aplenty, even if they couldn't secure more than a single additional goal. What they did do, however, was keep the crowd into the match up until the 70th minute when the humidity and high pressure from the wings led to multiple counters by RSL.
Sure, RSL managed to capitalize two additional times, but I was enthused to see Dom pull out all the stops. He went for the win even in the face of extreme adversity, even after a third match in 8 days. He showed the chutzpah we all like to see from a coach, and he should be applauded for going for it.
The Houston Dynamo face LA Galaxy in the friendly confines of BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday, May 17th. This allows for five full days of rest, which the team desperately needs. LA Galaxy come in at the very bottom of the Western Conference, and will be looking to get out early if possible.
There is a decent possibility we could lose Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia prior to the match, and LA Galaxy could lose Omar Gonzalez as well. This match could come down to whichever team can find a spark from their bench, as both teams look to be fairly evenly matched without their big starters.
What are you looking forward to from the week ahead? There's a Houston Dash match on Wednesday, and plenty of other stuff going on with the MLS Broadcast Rights Deal set to be announced today at 1PM Eastern/Noon Central, and also the 30-man United States Men's National Team 2014 FIFA World Cup preparatory camp roster set to be announced today as well.
Feel free to share your thoughts on any of the above, or anything in general. This is your chance to inspire a post or two in the week ahead!