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5 Things We Learned in MLS: Weeks 4 and 5

Our first taste of MLS's delightfully off-kilter schedule. Red cards! Sportsmanship! Brek Shea!

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

1. Back at It Again with the Red Cards

The numbers don't lie here, folks. Over forty games played so far in this season of MLS, we've already seen sixteen players red-carded. The latest victim of red-happy refs was Matias Laba, going into a challenge on Mike Magee during Vancouver's scoreless draw with Los Angeles.

Is that a red card? Maybe, but count me among the people who definitely thought a straight red for that challenge was harsh. His studs were showing, and he definitely caught Magee, but he intentionally slows his momentum in the challenge by planting his left knee down instead of putting both feet into the actual challenge. Regardless of what I think (solid yellow card and a warning, for the record), the message should be loud and clear to the players at this point: if you show the studs, you put your life in the ref's hands. Good for the league, or a hindrance to the game?

2. Sportsmanship Award

Locked in a tight, scoreless affair, the New England Revolution broke down the pitch with a long, diagonal ball collected by Juan Agudelo and slotted across the Red Bull defense for Diego Fagundez to finish into the open net. The problem? Agudelo was played onside by Kemar Lawrence, who had fallen down injured and was still curled up on the pitch far behind the rest of his teammates. So, should the Revs had played the ball out of bounds, or were they in the right to keep on playing?

To their credit, the Revs claimed they didn't realize Kemar Lawrence was hurt, just that he had fallen down, but this seems pretty dubious considering A) Agudelo was on the right wing and could see the entire field, and B) he was looking right at Lawrence so he could use him to stay onside, far behind the rest of the Red Bulls defense. It's technically the job of the referee (full disclosue: it was Mark Geiger. Again) to halt the game for serious injury, but he adjudged that Lawrence was not seriously injured, despite the fact that yes, he totally was, and had to be subbed out immediately. Normally I'm a fan of teams playing on when someone falls to the turf (especially since it's normally for time-wasting more than anything else), but using a hurt player to sneak your way past the backline and stay onside feels pretty slimey.

3. Brek Shea?

Brek Shea.

4. No More Perfect Teams, Part 1

Sporting KC's defensive stinginess and the home juju they've used on other MLS teams came to a screeching halt on Saturday, as Real Salt Lake came away with a 2-1 victory in Kansas City. Despite SKC holding a 62% possession advantage, Real Salt Lake proved once again to be scrappy and adept at creating chances from dead ball situations. While Sporting looked fairly strong coming out of the gates this season, by the time we get to October Real Salt Lake could be the real story here. This time the goals came from Justen Glad and Luke Mulholland, but when you have Joao Plata and Javier Morales at your disposal for free kicks and Yura Movsisyan hounding the back line, as long as they can keep the scoring low (and keep their own players out of the referee's book), they'll be in it with a chance to win every match they play.

5. No More Perfect Teams, Part 2

Surprisingly the last team to pick up points in 2016, the Seattle Sounders came out 1-0 winners against Montreal Impact, courtesy of a Clint Dempsey header. Sigi Schmid continued to use a 4-3-3, but this time dropped Jordan Morris out of the equation, put Aaron Kovar and Andreas Ivanschitz on the wings, left Nelson Valdez in the middle as the one true striker on the field, and dropped Dempsey back into an attacking midfield role. The move paid immediate dividends for Seattle's attack, because the wings were played by people who actually play the wings, and Dempsey got on the ball more than I've seen him this entire season so far. Don't be surprised to see Schmid go back to this formation and keep Morris in reserve for late game bursts of energy up top.

Of course, one of Dempsey's most important (and maybe underrated, or at least by the American soccer public that wants to see flashy, skilled players constantly on the ball) attributes is his ability to win the ball in the box and put it on goal. He's not the biggest or tallest player on the field, but he wants to head the ball more than you, and he doesn't care if he gets kicked in the face doing it. Seattle will take all the tricks Deuce has in his bag, but they won't be sorry if he keeps scoring goals like this for the rest of the season, either.