MLS Week 26 Recap, Highlights: Red Bulls romp, Seattle survives, more

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by RYAN BRISTER

With eight weeks remaining in the Major League Soccer season, a manager was fired for the first time. Rivalry week didn’t produce any classic matches, but some very valuable points were won and lost across the league. The teams chasing the Supporters’ Shield all seemed to slip up in a week that complicated rather than cleared up the race.

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Portland Timbers

The Sounders were a little lucky, but they won’t care. They beat their Cascadia rivals and claimed a much-needed three points.

Portland was the better team in the first half, but Seattle punished their mistakes, and referee Alan Kelly was unkind to their cause. Obafemi Martins opened the scoring in the sixth minute with George Fochive and Alvas Powell on the ground wondering when the whistle would come. Martins earned a penalty near the end of the half by putting the ball through Adam Kwararsey’s legs and barreling through him. Evans took and scored the spot kick.

In between their goals, Stefan Frei was huge for the Sounders. He made five saves in the first half, including a test of his reflexes  on a corner kick. He also stopped Luis Melano from equalizing the match one-on-one. The Timbers’ newest Argentinean really should have scored, having exposed Seattle’s shaky back line.

The Timbers looked particularly dangerous on set pieces, and that would come in handy in the second half. Jack Jewsbury got on the end of a corner kick in the 58th minute, and cleverly flicked it in with his right foot.

Ozzie Alonso returned from injury to make a substitute appearance, and his presence changed the game. At a time when Portland had all the momentum, Alonso helped to calm things down for the hosts. The Sounders held more possession with him on the field, and they were able to see out the result largely by limiting Portland’s chances.

With three points, the Sounders are just above the red playoff line on a tiebreaker. They have played one more game than San Jose, however. The Timbers sit just two points above that pair.

New York Red Bulls 3-0 DC United

The Red Bulls established themselves as the team to beat in the East with a complete and total victory over DC United.

Only by the grace of Bill Hamid did DC survive the game’s first thirty minutes. The Red Bulls diced DC, and on multiple occasions players were one-on-one with the United keeper. Hamid stood tall and denied them. For half an hour, he was the man of the match.

But New York would not let Hamid ruin their first half performance. After a sloppy giveaway by Bobby Boswell, Bradley Wright-Phillips played the ball off for Lloyd Sam, who slid it past Hamid for the opening goal.

1-0 wouldn’t have adequately described the match, and the Red Bulls scored a second nine minutes later. Mike Grella broke free down the right wing for a long ball from Felipe, and put in a cross towards Wright-Phillips. BWP hammered the ball out of the air, and only the net could stop it.

The second half followed a similar script. New York’s dominance continued, and they eventually found their third. It was BWP again, seemingly surprised that he was onside from a Sacha Kljestan pass. With no one around to hurry him, Wright-Phillips calmly put the ball beyond Hamid.

With two goals and an assist, BWP is up to 13 and seven on the year respectively. His 40 goals since the start of last season are the second-most in MLS history for a two-year span. Chris Wondolowski had 43 in 2011-12.

The Red Bulls haven’t yet surpassed DC for first place in the conference, but at their current paces that seems inevitable. They are two points back with three games in hand.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 LA Galaxy

San Jose’s winning ways continued with a defeat of LA in the California Clasico.

The goal came in the 18th minute, and started with a good cross from Marvell Wynne. Quincy Amerikwa headed it towards goal, but was denied by Donovan Ricketts. The rebound bounced up, and Shea Salinas was by far the quickest to it. His third goal of the year, a career high, gave the Earthquakes a vital lead.

LA’s task got harder when Leonardo was sent off in the 47th minute. Amerikwa got behind him on a quick counter, and the Brazilian pulled him down to prevent the threat. Though Omar Gonzalez was in the area, Leonardo was given a straight red for denying a goal-scoring opportunity.

Despite the disadvantage, the Galaxy posed a threat in the second half. The one-goal margin was a very nervous edge for San Jose, but with four saves from David Bingham, it would be enough.

The Earthquakes have won four straight games, all with clean sheets. They have come out of their toughest three-game stretch of the season with nine points and a real place in the playoff race. Six of their final eight games are at home.

New York City FC 1-2 Columbus Crew SC

The Crew went to Yankee Stadium and came away with all three points.

A promising start by NYCFC was spoiled when Frederico Higuain scored the game’s opening goal. Andrea Pirlo fell asleep marking him on a corner kick, and he had the space to head the ball down and into the net.

City knew that this was a big game for their playoff hopes, and they fought hard to level the match. David Villa had multiple chances that he couldn’t seem to put on target, but ultimately a less-expected source produced the equalizer. In the 29th minute, Andrew Jacobson took a chance on a shot from 25 yards out and hit a laser past Steve Clark.

The drive to score seemed to disappear from NYCFC after halftime, and particularly so after Frank Lampard was subbed out. The Crew increasingly held control of the match in the final half hour, and the go-ahead eventually came. With seven minutes left in the 90, Justin Meram was given the space to enter the box, and he punished the hosts with a shot that sneaked inside the far post.

Jason Kreis had some harsh words regarding his team’s effort in his postgame comments. With a loss by Montreal, NYCFC had a chance to gain ground in the playoff race, but their second-half performance simply was not good enough to do so.

Chicago Fire 3-2 New York Red Bulls

The Fire overcame the Red Bulls and some questionable refereeing to grab three points in midweek.

New York got off to a strong start, and took the lead on an early penalty. Jeff Laurentowicz was whistled for bringing Matt Miazga down in the box on a corner kick, and Sacha Kljestan stepped up to score the penalty. This would be the high point of the night for the Red Bulls.

Chicago responded to the goal with pressure and an immediate push for an equalizer. Despite Luis Robles’ best efforts, the Fire would get what they wanted. Kennedy Igboananike tied the game after being played in behind by Gilberto in the 22nd minute. The sequence started with Matt Polster winning the ball off of Mike Grella in midfield.

The Fire took advantage of sloppy defending to grab the lead before halftime. Mikey Stephens had the space to chest down a cross in the box, and Patrick Nyarko did well to turn and fire the ball into the net in one motion.

The Red Bulls leveled the match after halftime, but before the game was even over, the league admitted that they should have. Lloyd Sam and Kljestan combined to play a trick corner kick, with Sam putting the ball in play and Kljestan advancing it on an unsuspecting defense. His cross was flicked into the net by Ronald Zubar. Replays showed that Sam touched the ball twice in setting it up for Kljestan, which should have resulted in a free kick the other way.

But the Fire played like a team that needed three points, and they would be rewarded for their efforts. A ball over the top by Stephens left New York’s back line in shambles, and David Accam’s cross was finished calmly by Igboananike for the winning goal in the 73rd minute.

Toronto FC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Frank Klopas’ time in charge of the Montreal Impact came to an end with a loss to their rivals in Toronto.

Montreal had chances to take the lead early in the first half, most notably when Dominic Oduro dribbled past Chris Konopka. But Oduro couldn’t hit the empty net, and Toronto would end up with the opening goal in minute 35. Jonathan Osorio won the ball in Montreal’s half and eventually got it back so he could slide the ball to Michael Bradley for a good finish.

Worryingly for TFC, Sebastian Giovinco had to leave the match with an injury early in the second half. In his absence, Bradley played the role of creator with a storming run, and while Osorio hit the bar after the ensuing cross, Jozy Altidore was there to clean up the rebound. Altidore again didn’t start, but came on when Benoit Cheyrou had to be subbed out in the first half.

After many missed opportunities, Oduro got his goal to pull the Impact close in the 73rd minute. Andres Romero got to the end line and cut the ball back for Oduro, who hit it powerfully into the corner of the net.

Montreal’s comeback hopes hit a speed bump when Laurent Ciman was sent off for a second yellow card. Ciman will spend next week with Belgium, but will now miss two further games after that due to suspension. His first yellow card was already enough to earn him a suspension for accumulation. That’s a big loss for a struggling Montreal side.

Houston Dynamo 2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

An evenly-matched opening half hour gave way to a goal for the Dynamo in the 34th minute. Sheanon Williams fired in a cross from the right, and Cubo Torres was unable to flick it towards goal as he wanted. But the ball dropped for Ricardo Clark, who got to it before David Ousted and put it in.

After a decent first half performance, the Whitecaps fell apart after halftime. Kendall Waston picked up his first yellow card in the 51st minute, and his second just five minutes later for scything down Giles Barnes. Matias Laba earned his second yellow for clipping Williams in the 64th minute, and Vancouver were in deep at that point. Due to the red cards, Waston and Laba will miss Vancouver’s next game, at home against the suddenly resurgent Rapids.

Houston would eventually double their lead on a late corner. Brad Davis’ cross was flicked in by the head of Raul Rodriguez to make the scoreline a little more lopsided.

With the win, the Dynamo climb up to 35 points, still three out of the playoff spots in the West. Vancouver misses a good opportunity to leapfrog LA at the top of the league, but they have a Canadian Championship from last week to console themselves. They are winless in their nine MLS games in Texas.

Colorado Rapids 2-1 Sporting Kansas City

Two unlikely trends—a winning streak for Colorado and a losing streak for Kansas City—continued on Saturday when the Rapids beat SKC.

All the scoring would come in the second half. Colorado got off to a quick start, but SKC held them off and would eventually take the lead just after halftime. Krisztian Nemeth put in a great run to get into the box, and was just able to get the ball to Dom Dwyer, who hammered it into the net.

Colorado showed fight and equalized things seven minutes later. Vicente Sanchez spun his way into the box, and his cross made it all the way through to Maynor Figueroa. From a tight angle, Figueroa’s shot took a slight deflection and somehow found the far side of the net.

Sanchez would tally the assist on the go-ahead goal as well. His cross from the endline floated perfectly for Kevin Doyle, who headed it into the bottom corner of the net. You haven’t been able to say this too often in 2015, but the Rapids were the better team on the night.

With three wins in a row, Colorado has just the slightest sniff of the playoffs. They are now in ninth place, five back of San Jose and Seattle in sixth. Sporting, meanwhile, has lost three in a row and wake up Monday morning in fourth.

FC Dallas 2-0 Real Salt Lake

Dallas put a stop to their skid at home against Salt Lake.

After being held scoreless in the first half, Dallas got the breakthrough early in the second. Tesho Akindele was brought down in the box by Demar Phillips, and stepped up to take the penalty he earned. Akindele scored, and Dallas had a lead befitting their control of the match.

RSL didn’t go quietly, though, and in the 78th minute they had an opportunity to level the match from the spot. Kellyn Acosta was called for a penalty when he knocked down the debutante Burrito Martinez in the box. But Javier Morales could not replicate Akindele’s feat, and instead hit the post. The rebound was sent sailing over the bar.

With that miss, RSL’s hopes quickly evaporated. Just a minute later, Fabian Castillo scored from outside the box to double Dallas’ lead and put the game out of reach.

Three points for Dallas brings them to 41 on the season, which is middle of the pack in the crowded Western Conference playoff picture. They also showed that they can score and win without playmaker Mauro Diaz, who missed another game due to injury. As things stand, they have to be considered a threat for the Supporters’ Shield.

Philadelphia Union 0-1 New England Revolution

New England took three points home from a desperate Philadelphia side.

Both teams had chances in an entertaining first half. But the game remained scoreless until after the break, when the Revs took the lead. The Union were seemingly caught off-guard by a quick throw-in from midfield, and Diego Fagundez was patient in waiting for a shooting angle to open up. With the goal, he becomes the youngest player in MLS history to score 25 in his career. Fagundez turned 20 in February.

With stumbles by New York, Montreal, and Orlando, Philly could have ended the weekend in sixth place, in a playoff position. But the attack and the ability to score the goals they needed just wasn’t there on Saturday night. They managed just two shots on target, while Andre Blake had to make five saves at the other end to keep his team in it.

The Union’s disappointment turned ugly late. Cristian Maidana was sent off for spitting in the direction of Lee Nguyen after a challenge in stoppage time. The league leader in assists may miss multiple games at a time when his team is desperate for goals and points.

Orlando City 1-1 Chicago Fire

After the rain and lightning, Orlando and Chicago played to a 1-1 draw.

A lengthy delay interrupted the first half, and after returning to the field in front of a sparse purple crowd, the Fire took the lead. David Accam got to the end line, cut inside on his left foot, and beat Tally Hall to the near post from a tight angle. Chicago’s designated players have historically struggled, but Accam has a very respectable seven goals in 17 matches.

The Fire’s lead would last just seven minutes before Orlando responded. Lewis Neal lofted a ball into the box that bounced off of someone’s head and into the net. The goal was initially credited to Cyle Larin, but ultimately deemed an own goal for Eric Gehrig. Had it been given to Larin, he would have set a new scoring record for MLS rookies with 12 goals.

The draw lifts Orlando into the sixth and final playoff spot, but given Montreal’s games in hand, and their opponent, the Lions will wish they had gotten three points.

Colorado Rapids 2-1 Houston Dynamo

Colorado and Houston traded penalties, but the Rapids came away with the win in midweek.

Handballs gave each team a goal in the first half. First, it was Houston’s Alex who was deemed to have used his arm in the box, which led to Sanchez’s penalty. Bobby Burling was next in line, and Brad Davis scored the Dynamo’s equalizer.

The game remained 1-1 until the 78th minute. As against Kansas City, Colorado’s winner came off the head of Doyle. He had to dive for this one, but did well to get on the low cross.

 

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  • Smith

    Great NY Soccer weekend.

    Red Bulls beat DC.

    Cosmos win.

    NYCFC loses on an embarrassing late goal and we don’t hear a peep from their fans.

    I’m sure one of their hipster fans will point out their great attendance, but that will erode as bad soccer in a baseball stadium continues and the newness of the product wears away while Jesus Kreis Superstar loses control of the clubhouse.

    Somewhere someone is eating a raw chicken and crying.

    • Rip

      Was their something in particular you wanted to hear from NYCFC fans? Boy I sure hope the interest in the team fades away too….wouldn’t that be awesome for soccer in general?! Sweet. I wish every team could perform great on the field for a diminishing fan base like the Red Bulls….cause that’s what true fans of the game hope for.

  • REAL OpenCupFans know nasl teams are bad

    stop brining up the cosmos in the usual discussions with the MLS teams, they are minor league and very few follow them out in long island.

    If you bring them up then you should also add in the Rochester Rhinos to the discussion who have a greater pedigree over the last 20 years and same attendance numbers in a smaller demographic area, therefore they have just as much of a “worldwide” following evidently.

    • Smith

      I just mentioned the Cosmos because they are local & knocked MC3 out of the open Cup. Personally, I think having a good, 2nd division independent of MLS is a good idea. At no point did I say anything about a “worldwide following.” That’s Open Cup’s Schtick.

      And none of that changes the fact that NYCFC sucks.

  • Smith

    Yes, I would like the NYCFC supporters to issue statement saying, ” We are all hipster transplants who have limited knowledge of both NY and soccer. We apologize for being front running morons. We are truly sorry.”

    Hey, Rip, did you know that RBNY is enjoying its best pet game average attendance since 2001?

    Did you also know that DC, your real team, has terrible attendance & plays in a raccoon infested dump?

    • Rip

      On behalf of NYCFC fans I apologize for playing and loving soccer my whole life, never having been a hipster, never having any idea where your retard notion that NYCFC fans are hipsters came from, and supporting a new professional soccer team in NYC. I know…..I feel terrible shame for just jumping on the bandwagon of this team and not supporting them since they never existed before. They have sucked….and we all know true fans only support there team if they do well, so I apologize for that as well. The Red Bull are not having their best average attendance….because they are down from last year….that would be with your only sellouts coming against us.

      Here’s a link for you:
      http://mlsattendance.blogspot.com/

      Yeah DC is having terrible attendance and plays in a dump. They have great fans there, but the team and the area has failed to address their stadium issue for years. Hopefully, they’ll get it sorted out since they have been such a vanguard of MLS. Not sure why they are my “real” team. I certainly still support them and root for them when they don’t play NYCFC, but I don’t think I’m required to travel eight hours round trip to see their games just because I grew up in the area.

      Hopefully, that satisfied you. I’m truly sorry that you feel like some douchebag that you came into contact with that was an NYCFC fan means that you have to be an ******* for life as well. I’ll never like your team….I’ll never root for your team….and I will take so much pleasure when we are finally able to beat you guys. But I’m also not such a retard that I don’t hope that you actually get more fans. Enjoy your day.

      • Smith

        And I want you to have a nice day too. Please enjoy your hipster apt in a hipster transplant neighborhood watching hipster transplant players like Pirlo & Lampard. Be hip!

        In all seriousness, your response was appropriately snarky & venomous! Well done & welcome to New York.