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The Big Picture: LAG gags, the Great Wall of Kansas City and Villa does Villa

Massive Report’s Josh Mlot & Nathaniel Marhefka discuss Week 7 in MLS

MLS: Sporting KC at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Technically, Week 8 has already begun in MLS. But first we take a breather to review what stood out — and what you may have missed — in Week 7.

Massive Report’s Josh Mlot and Nathaniel Marhefka discuss...

(Let us know what you thought about last weekend’s action and what you’re looking forward to)

JOSH

What I watched: San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas (1-1), Orlando City SC vs. LA Galaxy (2-1), Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution (3-0), Houston Dynamo vs. Minnesota United (2-2) and Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City (0-1). I also watched the highlights of the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United (2-0) game. Oh, and I also watched a bunch of NWSL opening weekend.

Why I watched: While the weekend was busy for many people, I, Ironically, watched more live games than I have in a while. Still, free time dictated what I watched, for the most part. I did seek out Orlando and LA though, simply because it's interesting to try to gauge where this OCSC team is. And Houston and Minnesota offered the potential for some back-and-forth open play, and we got it to a certain extent. Portland and Kansas City are two teams that have had very different influences on games, but both appear to be factors this season and both have traditionally been strong clubs in the past few years.

What I learned: San Jose has had some late goals, but that's not something you can count on week in and week out. I think they're going to have some issues, and as much history as Dominic Kinnear has in the league, I think they need some fresh ideas at this point.

I wouldn't call Orlando fun to watch right now, but that stadium looks fun ... and like a fortress. I think the Galaxy are likely to at least steady themselves over the long run, but we always knew Bruce could do that. Can Curt Onalfo? Giovanni dos Santos is not Robbie Keane and there are other issues there. And SKC's defense is the real deal. Shutting out Portland?

Things aren't perfect in Kansas City, but there's a lot to like there, and you have to believe in the stability and continuity there.

I also learned that I think the 4-2-3-1 is back for good in Harrison, New Jersey, and that I'm committing myself to paying much more attention to the NWSL this year. I'm officially on the bandwagon.

NATE

What I watched: Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution (3-0), Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake (1-2), and extended highlights of Houston Dynamo vs. Minnesota United (2-2), and Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City (0-1).

Why I watched: With Easter this past weekend my time to view matches was fairly limited. I did, of course, watch Columbus Crew SC and was anxious to watch both Chicago and RSL to see how they could do this week -- see if they could keep their form on the rise. I also wanted to catch highlights of Houston and SKC. Houston, because I was curious to see how Manotas would do once I saw he got the start. And SKC, because I still have yet to see much of them this season.

What I learned: Chicago is a good team. New England still can't out it together offensively, and managed not a goal against a wavering Fire defense. Despite watching them a few times this season, I still cannot figure out the issue in Foxborough. My only real guess is a clash of egos... Is it a coincidence that they are having issues with Kamara on the team? I digress.

In Colorado, the team seems unsure about their future. They seem nervous, and the coaching staff seems at a loss. RSL seems to be picking up with Mike Petke. Two wins in as many matches. Only now they need to take that vigor to some objectively better teams.

Houston, we have a selection dilemma: As I mentioned two weeks ago, I was really impressed with Mauro Manotas early in the season and touted him for the starting role. Since he has been there (two games running) the team has a loss and a woeful draw. Coincidence? He has looked impressive in these matches but maybe there is something else that is not clicking just right.

Meanwhile in Kansas City, their defense is seriously impressive (even with Graham Zusi playing right back).


Discuss...

Josh: I think we should start with your hateful bashing of Kei Kamara. Also, because my goal is to get him to subtweet us with a “haters gonna hate” tweet.

Nate: I’m glad we are on the same page, because that was exactly my thought to. I remember your playful bashing of him so I thought, let’s keep it going.

J: Enough with the emojis.

Kei definitely seems a little bit off, but I think it’s too simple, obviously, to point the finger at one person. Also, this game I almost feel like you need to throw it out the window because NER played 60 minutes with 10 men. Also, three of Chicago’s 11 men were Dax McCarty, Juninho and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

I’m still not sold on this Fire team as being anything more than improved, but kudos to the organization for going out and bringing in two midfielders who have never gotten their due for how good they are, and they’ve totally changed the complexion of the team with them (and some German guy).

Let’s turn to the Houston-Minnesota game. What did you see that led to the Dynamo collapse?

N: Houston had a great first half and then had two big errors in the second that led to two goals and an eventual draw. Minnesota United had two shots the entire match. That was all they needed. Individually, despite and assist and five tackles in the match, the two goals by Minnesota were largely due to poor defensive errors by Oscar Boniek Garcia. A shame, because otherwise he had a great match.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Colorado Rapids
Nate says it’s all Boniek’s fault.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

J: I think that first Minnesota goal was more systemic than Boniek’s fault — he had no business defending Christian Ramirez in the box on a set piece. The second was his — Boniek over runs rather than defending the passing lane. But this was a game between two flawed teams and I think it showed. But it was fun.

I didn’t watch the Rocky Mountain Cup. What stood out to you there?

N: Well, Brooks Lennon’s goal. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

Overall, it was also a game between two flawed teams. RSL certainly looked the better team throughout the match, but still had some issues connecting up top. Kevin Doyle scored early for the Rapids and RSL didn’t get on the board until Jared Watts’ send off via a hand ball in the box.

Colorado needs work creating chances and RSL needs better conversion in front of the net.

Moving on, how did the LA Galaxy look? Did you see anything that they need to work on to turn this early slump around?

J: LA didn’t look ready out of the gates and Orlando was all over them. Honestly, if the posts weren’t on LAG’s side in that game, OC would have had two more goals.

I”m not sold on Joao Pedro right now, the defense misses A.J. DeLaGarza and, offensively, they’re not connecting a lot in the attacking third. Romain Allesandrini has been very good, but he also didn’t connect on a lot of passes high up the field. Emmanuel Boateng didn’t put the ball into the box. Giovanni Dos Santos did a lot of work in the midfield, but didn’t touch the ball a ton in truly dangerous areas. And the same goes for Gyasi Zardes.

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at Real Salt Lake
LA is missing Sebastian Lletget. And A.J. DeLaGarza. And Robbie Rogers. And Robbie Keane.
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of shots for LA happened from near the top of the box and outward. Orlando deserves some credit for that.

I think Sebastian Lletget would be some of that connective tissue and would also free up GDS for more off-the-ball movement, rather than having to constantly be getting really deep to get on the ball (even though that will always be a part of his game). Obviously that’s a moot point right now, but you can’t understate the effect of missing Lletget and Robbie Rogers and no longer having Keane.

What about the SKC-Portland match? Were you as impressed with SKC as I was?

N: Kansas City looked really good. Shutting down a strong Portland attack and nabbing a solid goal of their own, they have conceded a mere two goals in six matches, both in the 90th minute of matches; one was a penalty. Peter Vermes has put together a marvel of a defense and I’m rather excited to catch them in action against FC Dallas on Saturday.

You had a chance to watch the San Jose-FCD match. FCD is one spot below SKC in the standings. Statistically they are the top two defensive teams in the league. Do you expect another 0-0 draw like we saw in the tie a month ago?

J: That is a juicy matchup. I don’t think it will be scoreless again, but it will be low scoring. Unless, of course ... MLS. So we’re pretty much guaranteed a 4-3 result.

But I think both clubs show the value of having a quality coach installed and a system and identity. There might be some down moments, but things usually stabilize and rise. I think that’s what Columbus Crew SC fans are counting on, and the potential for the Gregg Berhalter era in Columbus (assuming the improved defense this year is here to stay, and proof that GB’s system doesn’t HAVE to leak goals).


THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU MISSED

N: Brooks Lennon's first goal in MLS (on loan from Liverpool FC):

J: David Villa’s strike (I missed it too, so I went back and watched it.)

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

N: Sporting Kansas City's defense shutting out the Portland Timbers in Oregon.

J: How can I argue with that? Or this?:

Fingertips, baby!

HYPE TRAIN

N: Cubo Torres has remembered, slightly, how to play soccer but it looks like FC Barcelona have rescinded their offer anyways. ... Defense wins championships and SKC is going to win it big. ... Mike Petke with two wins -- choo choo. ... Philadelphia Union may even be worse than Minnesota United. DC is not much better. ... Brooks Lennon is the next Christian Pulisic.

J: Danilo Acosta will win a World Cup playing outside back for the USMNT. ... NYRB will win 10 straight (after this weekend, of course). ... The Revs will score fewer goals than the Rapids. ... The Galaxy will never win another game on the East coast ... An investigative journalist will uncover a match-fixing scandal, finding that NYCFC paid off the posts (and it still wasn’t enough) ...

and

BASED ON WHAT YOU SAW THIS WEEK, PROJECT CREW SC’S FINAL STANDING

N: Top 3 / Promotion to the NASL

J: USL runner-up, just behind FC Cincinnati