MLS Matchweek 35 Recap, Highlights: Seattle Takes the Shield, Whitecaps Make the Playoffs

IMAGE, SOUNDERSFC.COM

by RYAN BRISTER
Staff Writer

The final week of Major League Soccer’s regular season was kind to two teams in Cascadia, and cruel to the third. Seattle won the Supporters’ Shield for the first time, and Vancouver reached the playoffs — at the expense of Portland. In the East, Bradley Wright-Phillips made history by tying the league’s scoring record.

As the calendar enters November, the focus shifts now to the 10 teams in the playoffs.

Eastern Conference

Bernardo Anor’s 90th-minute goal gave the Columbus Crew a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union in their final regular season game. Jairo Arrieta opened the scoring in the 13th minute by getting in behind the back line and beating Zac MacMath one-on-one. That lead held up until the 85th minute, when 19-year-old Zach Pfeffer equalized for Philly.  With the win, the Crew finish third in the Eastern Conference, and will play New England in the conference semis.

The Crew’s win meant that the Red Bulls would have to play in the play-in game. For their part, New York ensured that they would host it.

The Red Bulls beat Sporting Kansas City 2-0 on Sunday night, and the two sides will meet again at Red Bull Arena on Thursday. Bradley Wright-Phillips had both goals for New York, bringing him into a tie for the league’s single-season scoring record. His record-tying 27th goal came at the end of a great individual effort to win the ball off of Aurelien Colin. His goals gave the Red Bulls their first road win in eight games, but the struggles at home have become increasingly common for Kansas City. SKC might not host another game this year.

A controversial Lee Nguyen goal provided the difference as the New England Revolution beat Toronto FC in front of  32,766 fans at Gillette Stadium. The assistant referee’s offside flag went up and then went down, and Nguyen and New England kept playing while TFC’s defense assumed the play was dead. Perhaps fortunately, the result mattered little for either side. The Revs finished the regular season 9-1-1 in their final 11 games, the best form in MLS over that stretch. They’ll be hoping that success can continue when they play Columbus in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

It was a mismatch on paper, but DC United only managed a draw against Montreal in their final game of the regular season. Fabian Espindola equalized late for United, but the dropped points mean that they would go to LA if they faced the Galaxy in the MLS Cup. That’s a small thing now, but it may prove large next month. Marco Di Vaio scored for the Impact in his final game for the club, and very nearly scored a winner just before being taken off in stoppage time.

For the second straight week, the Houston Dynamo gave up two second-half goals in a 2-1 loss. Dominic Kinnear’s reign as Dynamo head coach ended with disappointment in Chicago, despite Omar Cummings’ 18th minute goal. For the Fire, the win capped a draw-filled season, as they said goodbye to Logan Pause. The defender is retiring after a 12-year career spent entirely with Chicago.

Western Conference

The Seattle Sounders claimed the Supporters’ Shield after a hard-fought 2-0 victory over the LA Galaxy. The first half wasn’t the spectacle many expected, with far more fouls than chances. LA seemed like the most threatening side for the opening hour of the match, as they needed a goal and the win to take home the Shield. For the second straight week, however, Marco Pappa came off the bench in the second half and changed things in Seattle’s favor.

Pappa’s 85th minute goal all but clinched the Supporters Shield for the Sounders. Obafemi Martins provided the assist to find Pappa one-on-one with Jaime Penedo, and the Guatemalan did the rest. It was Martins’ 13th assist of the season, and one final boost to his case for MLS MVP. Fellow MVP candidate Robbie Keane did not play for LA, as he tries to stay healthy for the playoffs. Pappa added an exclamation point after a sloppy sequence in stoppage time, causing 57,673 fans to erupt.

The Timbers needed at least a draw in Dallas to keep their playoff hopes alive; they got a 2-0 win. Darlington Nagbe scored his first goal of the season on a deflected shot in the first half to give the Timbers the lead. Referee Jair Maruffo waved off two possible equalizers for Dallas early in the second half. Fabian Castillo made like Maradona and palmed in the first of those, while the second was called back because the ball crossed the end line in the build-up. With the win, the Timbers gave themselves a chance of staying in Dallas for the Western Conference play-in game.

Portland put pressure on, but the Whitecaps were eventually able to get the job done against Colorado. Kendall Waston scored the game’s only goal off a corner kick in the 70th minute to secure a playoff spot for Vancouver. It’s the second time in three years that the Whitecaps have finished fifth in the West, and they’ll go on the road to Dallas for the play-in game on Wednesday night. The Rapids end the season with just two points from their final 14 matches.

While the rest of the league prepares either for the playoffs or the offseason, Chivas USA isn’t sure what to prepare for. MLS hasn’t acknowledged the rumors and reports, but it’s expected that the club will go dark for a season or two as new owners look to rebrand and reboot Los Angeles’ second club. Chivas USA began their final week with a 2-0 loss at Real Salt Lake. For RSL, the win ultimately meant third place in the Western Conference. They’ll play LA in the conference semifinals, just as they did last year.

Chivas USA’s funeral (if it was a funeral) was attended by 5,571 on Sunday afternoon at the StubHub Center. The home side gave the mourners reason to cheer with a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes. Felix Borja scored the final goal, knocking in a rebound after Erick Torres hit the post in the first half. Chivas USA earned their first point with a draw against San Jose in 2005, and their final points may have come in a win against the Earthquakes in 2014.