By Casey Ward
1. The Los Angeles Galaxy has perhaps the best defense in league history
One quickly exhausts superlatives in the presence of such a defense. Stalwart, compact, dominant, no one descriptive term defines the collective performance of Los Angeles’ backs. While I had written off Greg Berhalter two years ago as a washed-up player left only with a modest positional sense and a trace of reputability from the 2002 World Cup, Bruce Arena had not. Thanks to Arena’s coaching acumen, Galaxy (and MLS) fans can see how Berhalter complements the quicker, more efficient, but still slightly less disciplined Omar Gonzales. Sean Franklin and A.J. Delagarza provide speed up and down the flanks to stop any offensive threat and stimulate the counter-offensive. Nothing gets by them on the ground and that which finds its way in the air is hastily cleared away by the towering centerbacks. The Crew earned 15 corner kicks, while the Galazy earned exactly none in Saturday’s contest. Sure I don’t like them, but damn if I don’t respect ‘em.
2. Passion does not necessarily result in goals
You can almost feel sorry for Steven Lenhart. He works as hard as or harder than anyone in the league, chasing lost causes, mixing it up with gullible defenders, recklessly throwing his body at whatever Schelotto serves up in the hope of scoring a goal. Yet for all his enthusiasm, for all his commitment, for all his gorgeous curls, his statistics reveal a stilted season. He has only one goal and one assist to his name. Knowing that Warzycha is more likely to sit Lenhart than change his formation to accommodate a second striker, such as Jason Garey, perhaps it would be best to bring him in as a super-sub, a role he is most comfortable and most productive in. To all the aggrieved fans: his golden afro will still inspire from the bench.
3. Schelotto outshines even the Galaxy’s stars
At his age and with his delicate frame, Guillermo Barros Schelotto should not be nearly as brilliant as he has been for Columbus the past three years. Although he took home the MVP trophy in 2008 (a year that saw him snubbed for the MLS all-star match), his performances for the Crew, like the one witnessed on Saturday against LA, have arguably gotten better. Crew forwards may spray shots everywhere but on frame, midfielders may be charitable with the ball, and our defenders may lose their footing at the wrong moment, but Schelotto seems never to falter, never to wear steel-toed boots, never to miss a shot that he should make. He is the reason for a Designated Player Rule in the MLS because he not only scores goals, but he also wills a team to win. And despite that moppet hairstyle favored by Argentine forwards (Messi, Milito, etc.), his game is pretty easy on the eyes.
Casey Ward is an unabashed fan of Major League Soccer. He has a BA from Michigan State University and an MFA from Ohio State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org