MLS Week 21: A Rivalry Rises in the South

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

By RYAN BRISTER

MLS logoThe slogan for the recently completed CONCACAF Gold Cup was “Live in a State of Goal” — whatever that means. That said, Major League Soccer seems to have bought into it. With the exception of a scoreless draw at Los Angeles, it was another high-scoring week. Four games finished 4-0. But first, a look at heated a 1-1 affair.

A Southern-Fried Rivalry

For the second week in a row, Atlanta (10-7-4, 34 points) and Orlando (8-8-6, 30) went toe-to-toe. For the second week in a row, it was Hector Villalba with a late goal for Atlanta. His stoppage time tally earned a draw for the hosts at the end of a heated game. Kaká had given the Lions a lead against the run of play with a fantastic strike from distance at the end of the first half. Orlando seemed like it had taken all Atlanta had to give before Villalba slipped through to score in the 93rd minute. It may be premature to call this a rivalry, but the first two games between Atlanta and Orlando have lived up to the hype.

A Shocking Result for Vancouver

From the don’t be surprised in MLS department: Vancouver (9-8-3, 30) went on the road and handed Dallas (9-4-7, 34) a 4-0 beatdown. The Whitecaps’ road win couldn’t have come in more impressive fashion. Bernie Ibini scored his first MLS goal to give the visitors a lead through the first half. Fredy Montero scored from the penalty spot, and then later from open play. A red card given to Carlos Gruezo sealed Dallas’ fate.

Red Bulls Are Red Hot

No team in MLS is as hot as the New York Red Bulls (11-8-2, 35). They won their fourth game in a row, 4-0 over Montreal (6-8-6, 24) on Saturday night. Daniel Royer scored twice, giving him six goals during the winning streak. Sacha Kljestan picked up an assist, his 10th on the year, and is now tied for the league lead. The Impact were languid, and it’s not a stretch to say that the Red Bulls could have had more. RBNY has feasted on struggling opposition, their derby next week against NYCFC will put this newfound momentum to the test.

Toronto Creates Space Atop the East

New York City (11-7-4, 37), for its part, will be coming off the opposite scoreline. A shorthanded City went to Toronto (12-3-7, 43) and was dismantled. Sebastian Giovinco stole the show with the first two goals, both from outside the box. A game that was 1-0 at halftime ballooned to 4-0 in the end, thanks in part to a soft penalty for Jozy Altidore. With the win, TFC is five points ahead of Chicago in the Supporters’ Shield race.

SKC Had No Trouble Scoring

That gap atop the East was opened because Chicago (11-5-5, 38) lost on the road in Kansas City (9-4-9, 36). Sporting was without its two leading scorers on the year, but found three goals on the night, from Daniel Salloi, Benny Feilhaber, and Letif Blessing. David Accam, who has been the subject of transfer rumors, came off the bench and scored a goal that helped the Fire get back into the game, but they couldn’t complete the comeback. After going 11 games without a loss, Chicago has now lost its last two, both tough away matches.