MLS Week 18: What We Learned

DDtQJ7LUIAAiH_S

By RYAN BRISTER

MLS logoIndependence Day is Tuesday and over the holiday weekend Major League Soccer attracted healthy crowds, aided by the promise of postgame displays of fireworks. Before the stuff in the sky there were some pyrotechnics on the field. Here are some of the best featurestorylines from the weekend:

Cali Clásico Provides Late Drama

When San Jose and Los Angeles play at Stanford Stadium, it often ends in dramatic fashion. That was the case again on Saturday night, as the Earthquakes (7-6-5, 26 points) scored in second-half stoppage time to steal a win from their California rivals in the coaching debut of Chris Leitch. The Galaxy (6-7-4, 22) led most of the match after an early goal by Jelle Van DammeChris Wondolowski tied the match in the 75th minute, setting the stage for the winner by Shea Salinas winner in second-half stoppage time. Those were the only two shots on target for San Jose.

The Fire Rise to the Top

The Chicago Fire (11-4-3, 37) have a 10-game unbeaten streak and the best record in MLS after a dominant 4-0 win over Vancouver (6-7-3, 21). The Fire were without Dax McCarty (U.S.) and David Accam (Ghana), and Bastian Schweinsteiger left in the first half with a hip injury. None of that slowed them down. Nemanja Nikolic continued his league-leading pace (16) with two goals four minutes apart, which sent Chicago on its way to a romp. It is the first time since July 2005 that the Fire have been atop the standings this late into a season.

NYCFC Keeps Winning

Just four points behind Chicago, New York City FC (10-5-3, 33) has now won four in a row. The most recent win came on Thursday night, after falling behind at home to Minnesota (5-10-3, 18). Christian Ramirez put the Loons in front in the ninth minute, but the hosts dominated after that. NYCFC had 20 shots to United’s five. The ones that counted were scored by Alexander Callens before halftime, and then Jack Harrison and David Villa after the break.

Dallas Handles Toronto With Ease

Toronto (10-3-5, 35) suffered only its third defeat of the season on Saturday night in Dallas (7-3-7, 28). Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges missed the game on international duty with the U.S., but Roland Lamah made sure their absences weren’t felt. Lamah scored twice in the opening 21 minutes to give Dallas a healthy cushion. Toronto had far more shots than the hosts, but but Jesse Gonzalez made saves to protect the result.

Portland Still Searching for a Win

Portland (7-7-5, 26) had every chance to win against a depleted Kansas City (8-4-7, 31) side, but couldn’t pull it off. Diego Valeri put the Timbers in front with a long-range goal in the first half. SKC was shorthanded, without U.S. national team players Dom Dwyer, Matt Besler, and Graham Zusi. But SKC found an unlikely goalscorer in Daniel Salloi, who came off the bench when Gerso Fernandes left the match. The Timbers were given a soft penalty and the opportunity to retake the lead, but Valeri’s attempt went right at the goalkeeper.

In their last five matches, the Timbers have dropped points after allowing a second-half goal. They’ve won just two of their last 11.