Marcelo Sarvas

MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 0-2 Colorado Rapids


The game in 100 words (or less): Oh boy. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Sporting Kansas City are in semi-real trouble at this point, with one game left in the regular season, a one-point lead for the sixth and final playoff place in the Western Conference, and the defending champions LA Galaxy coming to town on Sunday. Wednesday’s home date with the Colorado Rapids (tied for second-fewest points in the league – 30) was supposed to be the week’s “easy” clincher. Instead, Sporting KC let a bad Rapids side hang for far too long, pushed numbers forward, left themselves vulnerable on the counter and eventually conceded a pair of late goals. Heading into Sunday’s “Decision Day,” Sporting hold that one-point lead on the San Jose Earthquakes, who will face first-place FC Dallas in Texas, while Sporting and LA do battle in the heartland.

[ MORE: Decision Day scenarios — Study up ahead of MLS’s final day ]

Three moments that mattered

71′ — Zusi hits the crossbar one on one with MacMath — Paulo Nagamura slipped Graham Zusi into the right attacking channel, where the Sporting midfielder found himself all alone against Zac MacMath, but Zusi’s powerful shot clanged off the crossbar and into the crowd.

78′ — Powers finishes the counter — The counter attack had been there for the taking all night long, if you’re the Rapids. Finally, after 78 long minutes, they found their breakthrough. Dillon Powers evaded a pair of Sporting defenders and chipped Tim Melia to make it 1-0.

86′ — Sarvas makes it 2-0 on the counter — As I said, the counter was their all night for the Rapids. Juan Ramirez and Marcelo Sarvas ran one out against a single defender and Melia, and the result was a second goal and Sporting’s season very much in trouble (with the Rapids now down a man).

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Juan Ramirez

Goalscorers: Powers (78′), Sarvas (86′)

MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 6

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Week 6 of the 2015 MLS season is, somehow, already in the books — didn’t the season just start yesterday? — and it’s been a fun ride thus far, despite the severe uptick in 0-0 draws this season.

This past week provided the most shocking result of the young season, and for their hard work, the Colorado Rapids land a pair of players in my MLS Team of the Week for Week 6, a feat no other team can claim this week.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Week 6 MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Kei Kamara finally saw some of his extremely bad luck from Weeks 1-5 turn good in Week 6, as the Columbus Crew SC striker bagged a pair of goals in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps, while Darren Mattocks reminded everyone in the same game — as he periodically likes to before disappearing for another three months — why he was the No. 2 overall SuperDraft pick in 2011 and long thought to be the league’s best young striker.

Thoughts? Questions? Agreements? Disagreements? (Of course not.) Leave them in the comments section, as always. I’m not afraid to defend my picks.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS Team of the Week archive ]

MLS Team of the Week — Week 6

Goalkeeper: Jaime Penedo (LA Galaxy)


Defenders: Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes), Brek Shea (Orlando City SC)


Midfielders: Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids), Marcelo Sarvas (Colorado Rapids), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City)



Forwards: Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC), Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps)


Steven Gerrard to LA Galaxy — How will he fit in following rumored summer signing?


With the latest report by ESPN FC that legendary Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard will sign an 18-month, prorated $6-million-per-year contract with the LA Galaxy this summer, it’s time to ponder just a bit how Gerrard will actually fit into a Galaxy squad which has just won MLS Cup 2014, its third in four years, and already boasts one of the league’s best midfield units.

The Galaxy — and any other MLS team who’d have taken a run at him — aren’t signing Gerrard for his status on Merseyside, which is unquestionably legendary. They’re splashing roughly $9 million in total for what they think he can provide on the field in 2015 and 2016; not two, three, five or ten years ago. Gerrard can’t justify a contract of that size by simply showing up from day one — though he’ll have actually outdone Frank Lampard by doing so — but by performing as a player inside the league’s top-five percentile, which is exactly how he’ll be paid.

First things first, it’s hardly an ideal fit. Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas were arguably the best central midfield pairing in MLS 2014. Given all the attacking talent that blew the rest of the league away (69 goals in 34 games), the Brazilian duo were the unsung heroes of this particular MLS Cup-winning team.

[ RELATED: Where would Gerrard’s signing rank in history of MLS mega-deal? ]

Juninho and Sarvas are tireless workers who cover every blade of grass from one endline to the other. They’re both equally capable pushing forward into the final third to play the final through ball to Robbie Keane or Gyasi Zardes, as they are dropping a bit deeper in midfield and soaking up pressure.

With all due respect to Gerrard, the player who’ll be 35 years old before he begins his MLS adventure isn’t capable of replicating what either one of Juninho or Sarvas provided in 2014. That means a change of formation will need to be made to accommodate the handful of things Gerrard still does well — mid-season, on a championship-winning team.

The most obvious option would be to switch from 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1. And right off the bat we run into problem No. 1: Zardes is pushed back out wide where he struggled as a rookie in 2013, and more importantly, away from the center of the field where he starred (as much as a 23-year-old could in a team alongside Keane and Landon Donovan), bagging 16 goals in his sophomore season. Zardes will never replicate the service and dynamic runs that made Donovan a second-half-of-the-season MVP in 2014 (10 goals and 17 assists in his final 24 regular-season appearances, post-World Cup snub), meaning to get the most out of an undoubtedly bright, American player, he needs to play with a forward operating just underneath him.

[ RELATED: Gerrard’s legacy in England secure, despite early exit, absence of PL title ]

The next problem in a 4-2-3-1 is this: Which of the three central midfield spots would Gerrard play? He’s a great long passer of the ball, but when it comes to the tight spaces in which he’ll likely be working as somewhat of a No. 10, does anyone really think he thrives in that situation? I don’t. Conversely, does he do enough defensive work (translation: have the legs left) to play deeper alongside one of the Brazilians? Stefan Ishizaki would be fine slotting in as the No. 10 (Keane could probably also do the job to keep Zardes central), but then you’re dropping half the midfield duo that won you an MLS Cup, based on nothing more than “We signed this expensive guy, so we have to play him.”

Basically, to fit Gerrard into the starting 11, Bruce Arena will have to either, 1) change the tactical formula with which he’s had more success than any other manager in MLS history, 2) move or drop a number of his best performers from the 2014 MLS Cup-winning team, or 3) all of the above.

Signing Gerrard is certainly a case of the Galaxy saying, “We’ll sign as many great players as we can, regardless of fit, and find a way to make it work.” And take solace in this, Galaxy fans: if there’s a coach in MLS who’s the right man to make this thing work, we all know it’s Bruce Arena.

Inside Look: How the LA Galaxy won MLS Cup 2014 and cemented their legacy

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First things first, the soccer played in Sunday’s 2014 MLS Cup final was not a perfect advertisement of “the beautiful game.” Let’s remember, though, that cup finals rarely are, no matter what part of the world we’re talking about.

They’re almost always cagey affairs with tons of adrenaline and anxiety beforehand, both sides unwilling to be the ones who “lost” the game, and stretches of “good soccer” being few and far between.

The fine folks over at probably described Sunday’s final, and all cup finals for that matter, as well as can be done.

That said, here’s how the LA Galaxy won MLS Cup 2014, their third title in four years, willing their way past the New England Revolution in Sunday’s final.

“We own the left” – LA Galaxy  On the Revs’ left side of defense, you’ll find Chris Tierney and Jose Goncalves — two veteran defenders ranking among the top five or 10 at their respective position within MLS. On the right, there’s A.J. Soares and Andrew Farrell — a pair of young, promising, up-and-down performers opponents frequently target.

Here’s everything the Galaxy tried to during the first half on Sunday. And — shocker — which side did they target most frequently?


The number of attacking-half touches by left back Robbie Rogers (14) tells you everything you need to know about Bruce Arena‘s attacking gameplan. The game’s opening goal also came — albeit, secondarily — from targeting Farrell who was nowhere near up to the challenge of marking Gyasi Zardes one-on-one.

[ RELATED: Recap: Galaxy top Revs in extra time, send Donovan out on top ]

Sarvas locked in on Nguyen — I thought Juninho might draw the assignment of following MVP finalist and Revs attack catalyst Lee Nguyen all over the field, but it was Marcelo Sarvas, instead, which makes plenty of sense considering the two switch roles over and over through the course of 90 minutes with great situational awareness.

In the first half particularly, Sarvas was all over Nguyen, allowing him fewer than 20 touches in the Revs’ attacking half, including a whopping zero inside 25 yards from goal. In the rare instance found the ball at his feet, he had little time — and even fewer options — to pick out a forward pass of carry the ball forward, something he did so devastatingly well in the regular season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS Cup coverage | PST on Twitter ]

Second-half adjustments — Donovan moves more centrally and Zardes goes wide. This one didn’t seem to make a ton of sense from Arena. For starters, both players are far bigger contributors in the positions in which the started the game. Beyond that, it lets Farrell off the hook by killing the overlapping moves of Donovan and Rogers.

Patrick Mullins took Charlie Davies‘ place after 72 minutes and immediately had an impact on the game. It took him seven minutes to set up the Revs’ equalizer, but the biggest difference between the two forwards’ shifts was evident in sheer work rate. Mullins made the left-channel run that Davies had failed to all game long, and in doing so set up an overlapping Chris Tierney for a goal. Very simple stuff, really.

[ RELATED: VIDEO: Robbie Keane scores the MLS Cup-winning goal ]

The brightest star steps up in the biggest moment — As I said after Robbie Keane scored the game-winning goal, you’d expect nothing less of the 2014 MLS MVP. He’d struggled up until that point, selfishly trying to create shots of his own when he had better options elsewhere, But when he got behind the backline of the Revs, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind he would find the back of the net.

In the end, experience and the been there, done that factor was just enough to nudge the Galaxy over the line.

Recap: LA Galaxy grab 1-0 lead over Seattle Sounders in Western Conference Championship

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The LA Galaxy‘s quest to become the first MLS club with five MLS Cup championships, including three in the last four years, is alive and well following Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship.

On a day billed as a “meeting of the stars,” the likes of Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins were rendered mostly ineffective for much of the game.

The Sounders’ star duo combined for what would have been the new Goal of the Playoffs thus far just four minutes into the second half. Martins, holding the ball up all on his own, forced Omar Gonzalez into a 30-yard backpedal as the Nigerian forward beared down on him. Dempsey’s late run from midfield was rewarded with a clever backheel that left him 1-on-1 with Jaime Penedo, but the Panamanian got a hand to Dempsey’s soft chipped effort and held the rebound.

[ RELATED: Revs take 2-1 lead, two away goals back home against Red Bulls ]

The Galaxy were inches from taking the lead in the 52 minute when Gyasi Zardes redirected a cross from close range that took a serious deflection off Sounders midfielder Gonzalo Pineda and forced Stefan Frei into a point-blank save off the goal line.

Mere seconds later, the Galaxy got their goal (below video). Marcelo Sarvas was the recipient of a rebound at the top of the 18-yard box. The Brazilian took a touch to settle, another to set himself and rifled a shot goalward. The ball took a wicked deflection off Sounders defender Chad Marshall and with Frei already leaning heavily to his right, found its way into the back of the net. It was Sarvas’s second goal of the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Bruce Arena‘s looked to really take control and slow the game’s pace following the opening goal, and without the injured Osvaldo Alonso in the Sounders’ midfield, the Galaxy had little trouble doing so. Until Sarvas went down with a thigh contusion 20 minutes before the end of time, that is.

[ RELATED: Thierry Henry will make his Gillette Stadium debut next week, artificial turf and all ]

Without the midfield dup of Sarvas and Juninho, who combined started 56 of a possible 68 total games, Dempsey and Martins found a bit more space and time through the center, and more importantly, the chance to open up and run on the counter-attack.

The two nearly combined on a pair of chances in the last 15 minutes of the game, but Tommy Meyer and Omar Gonzalez were quick on the scene to clean up and put the Galaxy in the driver’s seat after 90 of 180 minutes.

The series’ second leg will be played next Sunday (9 pm ET) at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.


LA Galaxy: Penedo, DeLaGarza (Gargan 61′), Gonzalez, Meyer, Rogers, Ishizaki (Gordon 80′), Sarvas (Husidic 69′), Juninho, Donovan, Keane, Zardes

Goals: Sarvas (52′)

Seattle Sounders: Frei, Yedlin, Marshall, Scott, Gonzalez, Evans (Anibaba 89′), Pineda, Azira (Rose 80′), Pappa (Barrett 62′), Dempsey, Martins