MLS Matchweek 34 Recap: DC take East as Sounders, LA fight for West, Shield

www.soundersfc.com

by RYAN BRISTER
Staff Writer

The headlines were made in LA this weekend, as the Galaxy and Sounders met with the Supporters’ Shield on the line. However, eight other games were played in Major League Soccer, and each one held some significance on the upcoming playoffs.

As the Eastern Conference settled into shape, Western Conference results leave much to be determined in the final week.

Eastern Conference

Lee Nguyen netted his 16th and 17th goals of the season as New England reversed a halftime deficit to win 2-1 against the Dynamo. Jermaine Jones, who had played 90 minutes for the national team on Tuesday night, came off the bench and made an immediate impact in the build-up to Nguyen’s first goal. The winner came in the 87th minute after a couple of unsuccessful Dynamo clearances. With the three points and help from results elsewhere, New England claimed second place in the East. Dominic Kinnear’s final home match in Houston wasn’t the send-off he would have wanted, but he was thanked by the fans during and after the match.

The home fans weren’t nearly as appreciative in Toronto. Playing without Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC’s playoff dream came to an end with a 1-1 draw against Montreal. TFC was a longshot entering the weekend, but Warren Creavalle’s 20th minute volley gave the fans reason to cheer. Felipe equalized before half-time, and in the second half Montreal often looked like the side that needed a win. Referee Baldomero Toledo lost control of the match late, sending off three players in the final 15 minutes. The crowd, angsty all afternoon, booed when Toledo blew the final whistle on TFC’s season.

TFC’s draw confirmed a spot in the playoffs for the Columbus Crew. They celebrated with a commanding 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls. Aaron Schoenfeld scored twice for the Crew as they reversed the result from their last trip to Red Bull Arena. His second goal came in the 80th minute and deflated a crowd that had life after Lloyd Sam’s goal cut the Crew’s lead to 2-1. The Red Bulls fall into fifth with the loss, their first at home since before the World Cup. New York can still finish as high as third with a win over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.

SKC will enter that match on the back of a 2-1 loss against Philadelphia. Anti-front office banners were raised (and confiscated) in the River End on Saturday night, but goals from Brian Brown and Pedro Ribeiro provided the home fans with something to celebrate. While the Union have been eliminated from the playoffs, the loss leaves Sporting level on points with the Crew, in danger of finishing as low as fifth. Neither Matt Besler nor Graham Zusi played for SKC after playing for the USMNT earlier in the week. SKC led the Eastern Conference on August 16th; they are just 2-6-1 since they began play in the CONCACAF Champions League. Their final group stage match is Thursday in Costa Rica.

Eddie Johnson had a goal and an assist as DC United beat Chicago 2-1 on Saturday night. DC’s DP delivered a beautiful cross in towards Chris Pontius for the opening goal, and doubled the lead after a loose backpass from Patrick Ianni in the second half. The victory locked up first place in the East for DC, ensuring that they will go to the CONCACAF Champions League for the second straight season. Fire rookie Harrison Shipp scored the only goal for the visitors to cut the deficit in half, but his deflected shot in the 74th minute trickled off the post instead of leveling the match at two.

Western Conference

The final game of the MLS weekend was the biggest. The Stubhub Center was filled beyond capacity for the first match of two between the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders to determine the Supporters’ Shield. In Landon Donovan’s final home game, the visitors spoiled the party. Needing a win to take the Shield, the Sounders found themselves very happy with a come-from-behind 2-2 draw.

On a night filled with stars, LA’s sidekicks staked them to a two-goal lead. Baggio Husidic pounced on a poor clearance from Brad Evans to give the Galaxy the advantage at the end of an even first half. When Marcelo Sarvas’ curler doubled the lead early in the second half, it seemed a given that LA would be able to see the result out. The game appeared to have settled in the scoreline until Seattle’s big names showed up. DeAndre Yedlin’s cross was touched on by Obafemi Martins to set up Clint Dempsey for the Sounders’ first, and Martins assisted on Lamar Neagle’s goal just three minutes later.

With the draw, Seattle will need just a point to win the Shield when they host the Galaxy on Saturday afternoon. LA won 3-0 earlier this season at CenturyLink Field, but they will have to go north this time without Omar Gonzalez. Six yellow cards were issued during the first match, and Gonzalez earned his second late in the second half.

Nick Rimando and Donovan Ricketts were both kept busy, but neither conceded in a 0-0 draw between Portland and Salt Lake. RSL should the happier of the two sides with the away draw, despite it dropping them to fourth in the west. The Timbers could have gone above Vancouver with three points, but instead they only drew level for about 24 hours. In addition to their playoff uncertainty, the Timbers haven’t yet secured a place in the knockout stage of the CCL. They’ll need a draw or a one-goal loss Tuesday in Honduras to advance; their playoff destiny is out of their hands.

Portland’s draw gave Vancouver an extra edge in the playoff race, but the Whitecaps also played to a scoreless draw. That means they will enter the final week just a single point ahead of the Timbers. Due to TFC’s draw, the Whitecaps clinched a place in next year’s CCL, which is the first time they’ll take part in continental play. Under interim coach Ian Russell, the Earthquakes were unable to get a victory in their final game at Buck Shaw Stadium. They have now failed to win in 14 straight MLS matches.

Vancouver’s final game will be against the Colorado Rapids, who, after losing 1-0 to Dallas on Saturday, are winless in their last 13 games. Blas Perez scored the only goal on a penalty as Dallas snapped a four-game losing streak away from home. With the win, Dallas leapfrogged RSL for third place in the West. Dallas will end their season by hosting Portland, while RSL will finish up against Chivas.