MLS Week 18 recap, highlights: Late winners for Seattle, Portland

Image, SoundersFC.com

by RYAN BRISTER
MLS Writer

Teams had to make do without some of their best players in week 18 of the Major League Soccer Season. With the Gold Cup about to begin, depths were tested, and some teams handled the challenge better than others.

LA Galaxy 4-0 Toronto FC

Robbie Keane had a hat trick as a shorthanded Galaxy side overwhelmed a shorthanded TFC.

It was always going to be a tough task for Toronto to win without Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore in LA, but it became even more difficult when the Galaxy were awarded a penalty for what appeared to be a Sebastian Lletget dive in the 9th minute. Robbie Keane dispatched the penalty without a problem.

Just before halftime, Keane scored his second, finishing off a well-worked attack and a cross from Baggio Husidic with a simple tap-in. His third was even easier; he stole a lazy backpass from Warren Creavalle, dribbled past the keeper, and scored on the open net. Keane’s hat trick is the first of the MLS season.

Lletget added a goal of his own in stoppage time.

In their last three home games, the Galaxy have now outscored opponents 14-1. But it wasn’t all celebration for LA; Stefan Ishizaki announced that he is leaving the club to be closer to his family in Sweden, as his wife is expecting twins. In 54 MLS games, Ishizaki provided the Galaxy with 6 goals and 13 assists, including one on Saturday night.

Seattle Sounders 1-0 DC United

A valiant effort by 10-man DC was washed out by a thunderbolt of a goal from Tyrone Mears.

There were ominous signs for DC United from the very beginning. Bill Hamid didn’t make the cross-country trip due to a finger injury. Luis Silva had to be subbed off in the 4th minute with a groin injury. And bad became worse when Fabian Espindola was sent off for throwing an elbow in the 27th minute.

But DC knows how to compress a game and stymie their opponents. Ben Olsen’s team has done an excellent job dating back to last season of limiting their opponents chances. It’s why they’ve allowed the fewest goals per game this season. For an hour, DC frustrated the Sounders, preventing them from getting the go-ahead goal they needed. The absence of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins did not help Seattle’s cause.

But there was nothing anyone could do to stop Mears’ goal in the 88th minute. A cross from the left wing came through for Tyrone Mears alone in the corner of the box. The right back hammered the ball cleanly into the top corner of the net. It will surely win goal of the week, and is all the more impressive considering that Mears hadn’t scored a goal since he was playing for Burnley in 2010.

With the victory, Seattle ends a three-game losing skid, but it’s clear that the Sounders cannot wait for Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins to get back. They are a significantly weaker team without the dynamic duo in front.

Columbus Crew SC 2-1 New York Red Bulls

Columbus reversed the result from earlier this season, defeating the Red Bulls 2-1.

The visitors struck first in the eighth minute. Bradley Wright-Phillips weighted a perfect ball in behind the Columbus back line for Anatole Abang to race on to. Abang was able to find the far corner of the net despite a difficult angle. The 19-year old now has four goals in all competitions this year for the Red Bulls. BWP is off his scoring pace from last year, but now has five assists, compared to just two in 2014.

But this opening stretch, during which they had a chance to double their lead, would be the high point for New York. The Crew took increasing control of the match as the first half wore on, and got their reward in the 33rd minute. It was a simple goal: Steve Clark booted the ball downfield, Kei Kamara was given the space to flick a header on for Ethan Finlay, and the winger cut insider to finish things off.

Columbus’ momentum carried into the second half, and eventually they found their second goal. Higuain put in a good cross for Kamara at the back post, and he headed into Finlay’s path for the winger’s second goal of the night. Finlay leads MLS in assists, and Kamara leads the goals, but on Saturday they reversed those roles to great effect.

Both keepers came up with big saves in the closing minutes. First, Luis Robles get down to his left to deny Kamara what would have been a backbreaking goal. But less than a minute later, Steve Clark returned the favor, making a diving stop to prevent Wright-Phillips’ header from leveling the match.

With the win, Crew SC moves up to second in the crowded Eastern Conference, though they are just a point above the Red Bulls in sixth place.

Montreal Impact 1-2 New York City FC

NYCFC survived an onslaught in Montreal and came out with three points thanks to heroic performances from David Villa and Josh Saunders.

The Impact outshot NYCFC 25-5, and they had 26 crosses to City’s eight. On multiple occasions, Josh Saunders had to rescue his defense with a big defense after Montreal picked its locks. But the Impact were unable to score from open play, and New York in fact scored first. Against the run of play, Villa scored from a very tight angle in the 34th minute, giving the visitors a surprising lead.

Saunders did all he could to keep the Impact off the board, making nine saves. When Montreal did get their equalizer, it was on a bit of a gift. Tommy McNamara foolishly left his arm extended, and when it blocked Ignacio Piatti’s header, the referee had no choice but to award a penalty to the Impact. Piatti took care of the PK he earned, and Montreal were level at long last.

But instead of pushing on for the winner, Montreal let NYCFC retake the lead five minutes later. A foul outside the box gave the visitors a free kick in a dangerous position, and Villa made the most of it. His low, powerful shot beat Evan Bush to the corner of the net and claimed the three points for City.

FC Dallas 3-0 New England Revolution

Mauro Diaz and Dallas proved too much for a New England side that can’t seem to figure anything out at the moment.

The problems for New England started early. In the ninth minute, they allowed a free kick just outside the box, or, well within Mauro Diaz territory. The wall jumped to prevent him from getting the ball over and down, so he kept his free kick low, under the wall for the opening goal.

The Revs were able to hang in and keep the match within reach into the second half. But in the 64th minute, Diaz played creator on Dallas’ second goal. First, he blocked a lazy pass from Jose Goncalves, and chased it down into the corner. His cross was perfect for Fabian Castillo, whose shot was denied by Bobby Shuttleworth. The rebound pinballed back to Castillo, who didn’t waste his second chance.

Diaz didn’t get an assist on Castillo’s goal, but he was credited for his through ball that played Michael Barrios in for the third. After Saturday night’s performance, Diaz has three goals and six assists on the season.

While Dallas has fought and scrapped just to be fourth in the Western Conference, New England has fallen to that same spot in the east with a second-straight summer swoon. They have just one win in 11 matches, and have now lost five in a row in all competitions. Something is rotten in New England.

Portland Timbers 1-0 San Jose Earthquakes

Portland grabbed the three points late in a game most notable for the controversial calls made by referees.

The first half was pockmarked by curious refereeing. In the 24th minute, Alvas Powell was on the line to block a Fatai Alashe header, but replays showed he did so with his arm. Ricardo Salazar didn’t notice. In the 40th minute, Diego Valeri looked across at a linesman whose flag was down, and proceeded to score only to have it called back as offside, incredibly late (but correctly). Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi had the ball glance his arm in the box just before halftime, but again, no penalty.

The second half seemed like it was going to be controversy free, albeit dull. But with less than ten minutes remaining, Liam Ridgewell brought down Tommy Thompson in the box, and many were surprised that a penalty wasn’t awarded. A few minutes later, Gaston Fernandez headed in what looked like a late winner, and was through celebrating with his teammates before learning that the offside flag was up (correctly again).

But just as it seemed like a late draw was on the cards, the Timbers produced another late winner. A driven free kick from Valeri bounced up, and Jack Jewsbury flicked his foot just cleverly enough to put the ball over David Bingham and into the net. Portland leads MLS in goals in the final fifteen minutes of matches, and on three occasions they’ve grabbed a winner in the last five minutes.

There have been times in Caleb Porter’s reign when his Timbers wouldn’t be rewarded for a performance like that. But of late, they have found ways to get three points when they need to, especially at home. Portland jumps to third place, a point behind Seattle and Vancouver, with the win.

Colorado Rapids 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

The Colorado Rapids have won three games in almost a year now. Two of them have come against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

MLS’s most feeble attack produced a goal just two minutes into the match. Luis Solignac got to the end line and put in a cross from the left wing. It somehow got through a crowd of players to Vicente Sanchez, who had a relatively easy shot for the goal. Despite their scoring struggles, this is the second time this year that Colorado has scored within two minutes of kickoff.

David Ousted needed catlike reflexes to prevent Solignac from doubling the Rapids lead. His acrobatic save sent a jet-propelled shot off the bar, keeping Vancouver within one. Just a few minutes later, the Whitecaps erased their deficit. Mauro Rosales sent a high, looping cross to the back post, and Kekuta Manneh beat Clint Irwin to the ball and the goal. Manneh has four goals this season, on pace for his best year yet in MLS.

The game remained level until the 56th minute. That’s when Kevin Doyle produced a powerful header on Lucas Pittinari’s cross, heading the ball off the post and into the net. It’s Doyle’s first goal since joining the Rapids as a designated player.

This was a much-needed victory for the lowly Rapids, but they’re still nine points out of the playoff spots in the Western Conference. Eventually, they’re going to have to beat teams that aren’t the Whitecaps.

Real Salt Lake 1-1 Orlando City SC

Kaka scored a goal and was sent off as Orlando City’s first trip to Salt Lake ended in a draw.

It didn’t take long for Kaka to score on his first trip to Utah. He was played in by Pedro Ribeiro, and did not miss one-on-one with Jeff Attinella. It’s the ninth goal of the season for Kaka, and the second time he’s been assisted by Ribeiro.

RSL answered back through a DP of their own. Sebastian Jaime scored on a powerful headed in the 28th minute. After a slow start for Salt Lake, Jaime now has goals in three straight matches, including the Open Cup.

Orlando’s goal-scorer was sent off just before halftime. Clearly frustrated as they fought for the ball, Kaka barged through the back of Javier Morales. He then stepped on Morales’ leg, which the assistant referee viewed as an intentional stomp. It’s only the third red card of Kaka’s professional career, and the first time he’s ever been given a straight red. Orlando will not appeal the decision.

The man advantage shifted the match in the RSL’s favor, but the home side couldn’t find the net in the second half. Salt Lake outshot Orlando 23-9 on the night, but Tally Hall made six saves to preserve a point for the Lions. The best save of the match was Hall’s diving effort to force a long-range shot from Sebastian Saucedo off the post in the 84th minute.

It’s a second straight home draw for RSL, and they will feel that both matches were winnable. It’s been a season full of those sorts of frustrations in Salt Lake.

Houston Dynamo 1-1 Chicago Fire

Two teams that need to start winning could only muster a draw on Friday night in Houston.

Razvan Cocis hit the bar with a header in the 4th minute, and the ball came down either right on, or just behind the goal line before spinning out. MLS doesn’t yet have goal line technology, and the referee said it didn’t cross the line, so Chicago was denied a possible early lead. That would be one of the only moments of intrigue in a dull first half. Will Bruin skewed a good opportunity wide about ten minutes later, but mostly the keepers didn’t have much to do.

Both keepers, however, were to blame for the goals scored after halftime. The Dynamo produced the game’s first bit of quality with good combination play down the left side in the 56th minute. Brad Davis sent in the final ball towards Will Bruin, who was beaten to it by Sean Johnson. But the ball escaped Johnson’s grasp and trickled to Alex for an easy tap-in. The Brazilian was traded from Chicago to Houston earlier this year, and had just come on as a substitute a few minutes before scoring.

The Fire equalized 16 minutes later. Harry Shipp played a superb ball for Mike Magee at the edge of the box. Magee withstood a hard challenge from Alex and was able to get the ball through to Greg Cochrane, who played a good low cross to Patrick Nyarko coming in from the right wing. Joe Willisplaying for an ill Tyler Dericstuffed the initial shot, but couldn’t hang on to the rebound, which Nyarko put into the net.

It was a game that deserved a pair of sloppy goals like that. Neither team did enough for the three points, which has become a theme in both of their seasons.