A week ago, just after making his return to MLS with a brief and uneventful shift Landon Donovan said this: “I need to get myself ready to compete in a real way. Bruce and the coaching staff need to know that when they put me in, it can mean something. So tonight worked out well, but I need to be able to contribute.”
So, how did that go?
1) Donovan Salvages Point for Galaxy with 1st Goal since Return
Pretty well. Just two minutes after checking into Sunday’s match at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas Donovan was as good as his word, competing in a very “real way” with a tasty left footed finish from a fine set up by Robbie Rogers.
Donovan has played just 23 of a possible 90 minutes so far but if the Galaxy can beat Seattle this Sunday at home L.A. will clinch a playoff berth, giving Bruce Arena more latitude on when to use his comebacking legend.
But win, lose, or draw, versus the Sounders the Donovan Experiment is already paying dividends.
2) Lampard: from Pariah to Essential at NYCFC
The Frank Lampard saga has been well documented; from his signing with New York City FC to his decision to delay his arrival while extending his stay at Manchester City, to his injury woes that further delayed his start with NYC, to revelations of contract shenanigans, to his eventual introduction into the New York City FC team.
Lampard had been called the worst DP signing in MLS history but goals and wins followed before the same calf that had cost Lampard so much time on the sideline already, reared its ugly head once more, sending Super Frank to the trainer’s room 42’ minutes into NYC’s 2-2 home draw with DC United on Saturday night.
The calf looks like costing NYC the services of the 38-year-old for the final four games of the MLS regular season, games NYCFC need results from as they scramble to finish in a top two position in the Eastern Conference and avoid the always tricky first playoff round.
Lampard’s 12 goals will be very difficult for NYC to replace and needless to say coach Patrick Vieira does not have a player of Lampard’s quality stashed on the bench. Steven Mendoza replaced Lampard versus DC but here is a more of a forward than a midfielder. Lampard’s central advanced midfield role could go to Tommy Mc Namara or Jack Harrison with Mendoza or the revived Khiry Shelton manning the wing.
NYCFC supporters will see who Vieira turns to when Chicago comes to town on Friday night. Meanwhile, New York will be keeping fingers crossed that Lampard’s recovery goes better, this time, around , but then these are the risks a team takes when building around a 38-year-old.
3) 20/20 for Bradley Wright-Phillips
In an achievement that is both impressive and surprising, New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips has become the first player in MLS history to record multiple 20 goal seasons.
Impressive, because scoring a lot of goals always catches the eye and surprising because one would think that it had been done before. And let’s be honest, it is a bit of a surprise that Bradley Wright-Phillips is the one to have finally done it.
Wright-Phillips was something of a curiosity when he joined the league in 2013, known mostly for his family ties. His father Ian Wright was a star Crystal Palace, Arsenal, and England while his big brother Shaun, now a rarely used sub with the Red Bulls, had made his mark with Manchester City and England.
Bradley showed early promise, representing England at the U20 level but having most of his success at the lower levels of the English soccer pyramid. But BWP has certainly made his mark in MLS.
When Wright-Phillips equaled an MLS record with 27 goals in 2014 a lot of the credit went to Arsenal legend Thierry Henry for setting up BWP. With Henry retired Wright-Phillips still managed 17 goals while improving his assist tally from two to seven.
With 20 goals and five assists so far this season Wright-Phillips, Bradley Wright-Phillips that is, has not only made a name for himself, he has put that name firmly into the conversation for the 2016 MLS MVP.
4) MLS Loses Zach Scott and Jack Jewsbury
Our previous three items on this Big – 5 have featured bold name players. Players that have set goal scoring records and represented their nations at the World Cup and while the players here have not had that type of career, teams and leagues can’t survive without players like Zach Scott and Jack Jewsbury, both of whom recently announced their retirements.
Jewsbury has played 14 years in MLS with just two clubs, signing with the Kansas City Wizards out of St Louis University in 2003 where he played until moving on to captain expansion Portland in MLS year one, 2011.
Scott went Jewsbury one better, graduating from the USL Seattle Sounders to the MLS version of the club making the Scott a one-club man, a rarity in modern sports and earning him the sobriquet Mr. Sounder.
Neither man ever scored much or racked up a ton of silverware but both Jewsbury, 35 and Scott, 36 played their part in making MLS a viable league, a league that will be poorer without them.
5) Captain Kitchen!
Well, that didn’t take long. After playing in just 16 games for the Jam Tarts- great name by the way- since signing with Hearts of Midlothian in March, former DC United midfielder Perry Kitchen has been handed the captain’s armband for the Scottish Premiership side.
Hearts are second in the Scottish top flight behind Celtic and a good season could help Kitchen in his case to move up the U.S. MNT defensive midfield pecking order. A former U.S. Youth international stalwart, Kitchen has four full national team caps and if he can impress Jurgen Klinsmann as much as he clearly has impressed Hearts management then good things are ahead for the for MLS man.