No matter how well a team starts the season, six weeks is typically enough time for a club to encounter a speed bump or two. Usually this comes in the form of a bad break or a key contributor's dip in form. Yet in defeating the Philadelphia Union 3-1 on Saturday, the unbeaten Los Angeles Galaxy are showing no signs of slowing down.
The same is true for forward Edson Buddle, who scored two more goals to take his league-leading total to nine while adding an assist. In the process, his performance only increased the calls for Buddle to be invited to the U.S. national team's pre-World Cup camp, a development that didn't seem possible before the match.
Clearly, the rest of MLS is hoping that Buddle gets the call. The Galaxy's rivals had figured to be catching a big enough break as it was, given that Landon Donovan will be occupied by World Cup commitments for at least six weeks after L.A.'s home tilt against Toronto FC on May 15. If Buddle follows his teammate to the national team gathering in Princeton, N.J., and beyond, he will miss at least five games -- and that just might be the kryptonite that can bring L.A. back to the pack.
The bad news for the rest of the league is that the other big reason for L.A.'s early-season success -- namely its ironclad defense -- will remain intact. True, without Donovan and Buddle around, the pressure on L.A.'s back line likely will increase, but with the likes of Chris Birchall and Juninho hunting the ball in midfield and with central defender Gregg Berhalter having returned to the lineup, L.A. figures to remain plenty stingy in the back.
Galaxy manager Bruce Arena also seems poised to get some players back from injury. Clint Mathis made his first appearance of the season Saturday night, and he'll be counted on to help compensate for Donovan's absence.
A tale of two teams: What could be better for New York Red Bulls fans than seeing their side atop the Eastern Conference standings? How about the sight of D.C. United occupying last place? With Week 6 now in the books, that is precisely the case, thanks to the Red Bulls' 2-0 victory over their longtime nemesis, one that drove United deeper into despair.
Once again, New York made hard work of its victory, as United created the better chances in the first half. But a rejuvenated Red Bulls side, spearheaded by Dane Richards, helped turn the game around in the second half. Ibrahim Salou and Juan Pablo Angel scored the goals.
In the bigger picture, the result brings into focus the respective performances of each team's front office. In New York, general manager Erik Soler and coach Hans Backe have proved to be quick studies in getting up to speed on the inner workings of MLS, with longtime assistant Richie Williams no doubt lending some considerable expertise in this area. The team not only drafted well in selecting defender Tim Ream but also made astute pickups in midfielders Carl Robinson and Joel Lindpere.
In D.C., an 0-5-0 start -- the worst in team history -- no doubt has new coach Curt Onalfo coming under some intense scrutiny. But with the team already appearing poised to miss the playoffs for a third consecutive year, more of the blame should be placed on CEO Kevin Payne and general manager Dave Kasper. The duo certainly did plenty right in leading DCU to four MLS Cups in eight years, but given this current barren spell and the overall lack of quality on the roster, it's clear the front office has given Onalfo precious little to work with.
Real's homecoming gift: Real Salt Lake is a club that always has loved home cooking. Last season the team lost just once at Rio Tinto Stadium, and even as RSL stumbled to a 1-3-1 start through April, the fact that eight of the team's next 10 games would be at home gave manager Jason Kreis some comfort.
Of course, Kreis no doubt received an even bigger boost from looking at Toronto FC's starting lineup Saturday. Earlier in the week, TFC had spent plenty of capital, both physical and emotional, in dispatching the Montreal Impact 2-0 in the Nutrilite Canadian Championships, a tournament that decides Canada's representative in the CONCACAF Champions League. For that reason, head coach Preki opted to field a defensive lineup -- one without Dwayne De Rosario, Julian de Guzman and O'Brian White -- in the match against Real.
Kreis' charges duly took advantage. Not only did RSL prevail 2-1, but it also dominated possession for almost the entire game, even as Preki introduced his attacking triumvirate at halftime.
Depression in Big D: That FC Dallas again left points on the table, this time in a 1-1 tie with New England this past weekend, isn't news. FCD has made a habit all season of dominating opponents while squandering chance after chance. Yet the manner of this latest disappointment was certainly noteworthy, as Dallas completely outdid itself. Not only did goalkeeper Dario Sala gift the Revs a goal by failing to cut out a simple long ball over the top, but the Revs then neatly set the table for FCD by getting two players sent off.
Incredibly, not even this act of charity was enough to lift Dallas. A combination of woeful finishing and sharp goalkeeping from New England's Preston Burpo kept FCD at bay. It leaves one to wonder just how long the team's self-belief can be maintained before it completely disintegrates.
Red cards rising? It was a weekend in which the red mist turned into a red tide. MLS referees handed out five ejections in eight games, bringing the season total to 14. So is this a sign that the men in the middle are cracking down on the rough stuff that has long been a league staple?
Not necessarily. So far there have been 0.31 red cards per game. That mark tends toward the high side, historically: It has been met or exceeded just three times in the league's 14-year history. But it also falls well short of the record that was set last year, when referees sent players off at a rate of 0.36 ejections per game.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPNsoccernet. He is the author of "Soccer's Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves and Fantastic Free-Kicks." He also writes for Centerlinesoccer.com and can be reached at email@example.com.