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Wednesday 5 September 2012

Canadian MLS Contingent – Weekend Review

A brief look at the recent form of the nine MLS players called into the Canadian National team.

Patrice Bernier – Montreal Impact

    Bernier played the full ninety in a 2-1 losing effort in Columbus, but had a relatively quiet night by the high standards he has set for himself this season – nine goals and eight assists in twenty-two appearances.

    He was held off the score-sheet, despite being in scintillating form coming into the match – three goals and two assists in the previous two matches – including a three-point performance at home against DC, scoring two goals and assisting on a third.

    Following a brief adjustment period that saw him flitting in and out of the lineup through the first twelve games, Bernier has adapted admirably to MLS and become a real talisman for his hometown side.

    Relieved of some defensive duties by coach Jesse Marsch’s change to a five-man structure in the middle, placing him alongside Collen Warner at the base of the midfield, Bernier has been allowed to mop up defensively, while contributing forward, linking up particularly well with Felipe and picking out the runs of Marco Di Vaio.

Terry Dunfield – Toronto FC

    Dunfield played the entire match for Toronto in another last-minute loss, 2-1 to Sporting KC.

    Flourishing under Paul Mariner’s tenacious 4-4-2, Dunfield has started in all but one of the seventeen matches under the new gaffer, twice scoring late headers to salvage a result for the beleaguered side.

    He completed roughly eighty-six percent of his passes in Kansas City and was more involved in the forward progress than one would think. He has a tendency to give away fouls, conceding free kicks in dangerous areas of the pitch; he was booked for one such tackle, tripping up Graham Zusi after struggling to control an awkward pass a few yards outside his own box.

Ashtone Morgan – Toronto FC

    Morgan was left out of the side with illness, later indicated to be a bout of the flu.

    In only his second season as a professional, the young left-back has been one of the few bright spots in another dismal season for TFC. While eating up minutes in a poor side, bettering his ability to get involved in the attack, and perfecting his crossing accuracy, Morgan has also focused on improving his defensive capabilities.

    He has taken to wearing some slick Tuxedo Black kicks, and is slowly building a reputation as a nasty left back.

Will Johnson – Real Salt Lake

    Johnson was his usual tenacious self in Salt Lake’s 1-0 win over DC United on Saturday night.

    He bravely got on the end of a deflected left-sided cross from Paulo Jr to score the game’s lone goal after a nifty back-heel from Ned Grabavoy played his teammate towards the end-line. Johnson beat the punch of Bill Hamid to the ball at the edge of the six-yard box and headed it into the unguarded goal to score his third goal of the season.

    A regular contributor, either on the left or right of RSL’s midfield diamond, Johnson has added two assists to his goal haul and is having his most productive season for Jason Kreis in his fifth year in MLS.

Dwayne De Rosario – DC United

    De Rosario’s DC United fell 1-0 to Salt Lake in Utah on Saturday night.

    De Rosario has a tendency to try and force the issue with high-risk passes, resulting in his barely sixty-percent pass completion rate against RSL.  He also turns over possession at an alarmingly high rate – nineteen times on Saturday.

    The nature of his game is that by pushing the envelope and looking for that threaded pass or holding the ball to long, it either works and is spectacular – as it was in dominating performances against New York and Chicago in recent matches – or is slightly off and doesn’t – as against Salt Lake.

     His goal production may have dropped slightly from his MVP campaign last season – seven in 2012 vs. sixteen in 2011, but he has increased the number of assists to this point in the season – twelve in twenty-six matches this year vs. the same number in thirty-three matches last.

Dejan Jakovic – DC United

    Like De Rosario, Jakovic played the entire match in Salt Lake.

    Struggling for fitness and battling two other centre-backs – Brandon McDonald and Emilio Dudar - for a starting role, Jakovic has found minutes difficult to come by this season, appearing in only sixteen matches.

    A busy stretch in August has seen him featured in five of DC’s seven matches; he wins tackles, intercepts passes, and recovers loose balls, but has a tendency to get caught in possession a little too often for comfort.

    Jakovic scored his lone goal of the season back in May against New England, getting his right-boot on a loose ball a few yards from the goal-line following a corner kick scramble in the box.

Andre Hainault – Houston Dynamo
    Hainault lasted only forty-five minutes in Houston’s 3-1 loss at Chicago on Sunday.

    He was in part responsible for Patrick Nyarko’s opening goal in the first minute of play. It was his errant pass into the middle of the park that Nyarko latched onto prior to surging in alone on goal.

    To blame Hainault entirely would be inaccurate, Jermaine Taylor, the intended recipient of the ball was caught sleeping, letting the ball run across him - rather than cutting it out – straight into the path of Nyarko, while being caught flat-footed and facing the wrong direction as play transitioned.

    To state he was removed for a poor performance would be an overstatement, his replacement, Kofi Sarkodie, is a more attack-minded option, and both put in a full shift on Thursday night in Honduras against Olimpia in the Champions League. Perhaps playing half the match was the game-plan all along.

    Hainault has had another strong season in Houston, picking up where he left off in last season’s playoffs. Twenty-two appearances, usually at right-back, but at times in the centre, Hainault has two goals and three assists – his best offensive output in his fourth season in the league.

Julian de Guzman – FC Dallas

    Julian played the entire match for Dallas against Seattle – a 1-1 draw – and helped regain possession in the buildup that led to Dallas’ tying goal. de Guzman clattered into Steve Zakuani – after conceding possession to him with a loose touch it must be said - stripping him of the ball and began the passing that eventually led to Jackson tapping in a Blas Perez pass at the left-post.

    His heat-map from the match was impressive, covering nearly ever blade of grass from box to box; he completed forty-seven of fifty-nine passes, spraying the ball from the middle to either flank. His efforts in being direct were often fruitless however, and he was caught in possession a little too frequently.

    Since leaving Toronto – a disastrous homecoming that was likely destined to fail from the off – de Guzman has found a home in the Dallas midfield. Replacing the tired legs of Daniel Hernandez as the primary defensive shield and initiating the attack by playing a simple game; the fresh start has renewed his passion for the game, a facet that was lost in Toronto.

    Having joined the club in mid July, de Guzman has made eight appearances – six starts – and been an important part of Dallas’ resurgence into playoff relevancy over the past weeks.

    His offensive output – two assists, both versus Colorado – in limited action is a marked improvement over his lack thereof for TFC – two goals and eight assists in sixty-five league matches. Though of course, his contributions are not of the type that are easily calculated using simple stats.

    One theory, though without much hard evidence, is that the more structured, fluid play in Dallas – with the likes of David Ferreira and Brek Shea never far away – and the tireless running of Jackson, Zach Loyd, and Jair Benitez on the flanks, has left de Guzman with more options to move the ball quickly.

    The oppressive heat in Dallas, slowing the matches down, could be a factor as well.

Ante Jazic – Chivas USA   

    The thirty-six year old Jazic has been for Chivas exactly what Men’s National Team Coach, Stephen Hart wants from him: reliable and consistent.

    Chivas has struggled to find goals this season and have been conceding by the barrel full of late, but, aside from a tough own-goal at the end of a 2-6 drubbing by Seattle, that has hardly been Jazic’s fault.

    He put in another full shift on Sunday, appearing in his twentieth complete match of the season – having twice been subbed off in twenty-two starts.

    He too has been caught in possession a little more than one would like, but hopefully, with more outlet options as part of Canada that can be rectified.

Honourable mention to Vancouver’s Russell Teibert, who lasted eighty-seven minutes in his first start of the season, a 2-0 losing effort away to Los Angeles late on Saturday night. Though not called into the squad for the two matches against Panama, Teibert was part of the group brought in for the friendly against Trinidad and Tobago, and by all accounts did well in his debut for the full national side.

All statistics are courtesy of MLSsoccer.com’s Chalkboard feature, powered by Opta Stats.

Bonus coverage – Panamanians in MLS

Blas Perez – FC Dallas

    A teammate of Julian de Guzman’s, the thirty-one year old Perez returned to the pitch having missed some thirteen matches following a foot injury with Panama in the last round of qualifying.

    Prior to that injury he was one of the leading scorers in the league with five goals and three assists; he made an immediate impact upon his return, helping to create Jackson’s tying goal when he sent a shot from the right into a dangerous area, collecting his sixth helper.
    Perez has a tendency to operate through the middle third of the pitch, but can drift into wider positions to find space. Good in the air and a solid finisher, he will be a concern to the Canadians.

Carlos Rodriguez – FC Dallas

    Another FC Dallas player, the twenty-two year old Rodriguez has found playing time limited and were it not for an unending run of injuries, he would likely have seen less.

    He came on for the final four minutes of regulation against Seattle for Brek Shea and did his best to get involved.

    Playing either at left-back or on the left-side of midfield, Rodriguez has found the back of the net once this season, against Colorado in a 1-2 winning road effort – a back-post header from a Fabian Castillo cross.

    Rodriguez can be a tricky wide player and is fond of embellishment, as he did when Ryan Johnson caught him back when TFC visited Frisco.

Gabriel Gomez – Philadelphia Union

    The twenty-eight year old Gomez was an unused substitute in Philadelphia 0-0 draw at New England on Saturday.

    A left-footed deep-lying midfielder, functioning as both part of a defensive shield and an attacking threat from deep, Gomez has found consistent time on the pitch under new Philly coach John Hackworth difficult to come by.

    He scored his most recent – and fifth of the season – goal against Toronto, opening the scoring in a 3-0 rout that could have been much worse.

    Possessed of a dangerous left-boot, particularly from free kicks, should he play a role in either of the upcoming matches Canada must keep an eye on that danger, as well as his ability to arrive late to the top of the box.


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