MLS Week 23: What We Learned

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MLS logoA busy Saturday in Major League Soccer resulted in a change atop the tightly-packed Western Conference, while Toronto continued their dominance in the East. Here’s what happened:

Houston surged to the top

Houston (10-7-7, 37 points) sits first in the West at the end of the weekend, thanks to their win over San Jose (9-10-5, 32). The game finished 3-0, but was much closer than that scoreline would suggest. Alberth Elis scored in the 21st minute, and that slim lead remained until very late in the game. Andrew Tarbell saved a penalty from Cubo Torres to keep the Earthquakes close. But Vicente Sanchez and Mauro Manotas both scored late to stretch out the result. Houston’s competitiveness, particularly at home, has been one of the biggest surprises so far this season. 

Seattle toppled SKC

Two teams are alongside the Dynamo at 37 points in the Western Conference. Seattle (10-7-7) is one of them, having beaten Kansas City (9-5-10), the other. Clint Dempsey was the difference maker for the Sounders, scoring his 50th goal for the club and the only goal of the game. The win extends Seattle’s unbeaten streak to eight games, while ending a 13-game streak for SKC.

Columbus claimed a big win

Columbus (11-12-2, 35) put out a statement win in defeating Chicago (12-6-5, 41). The Fire had an early lead in the game, thanks to a goal from Michael De Leeuw. Kekuta Manneh issued a quick response for the Crew. The game was tied for much of the evening, but Justin Meram scored in the 73rd minute to put Columbus on top. In addition to being the game winner, Meram’s goal is the 1000th in Crew history. 

Toronto thrashed the Timbers

Toronto (13-3-8, 47)  steamrolled Portland (9-9-7, 34) 4-1, extending their lead in the Supporters’ Shield race. The game was level into the second half, but the Reds scored four times in thirty minutes to run away with the win. Justin Morrow had half of the goals. There’s no shame in losing big at Toronto this year, but it’s part of a larger, more troubling trend for the Timbers. They have spent the past few months taking two steps back for every step forward, with a 4-7-6 since late April. TFC now leads the league by four points over NYCFC (13-7-4, 43), with Chicago dropping to third.

Gap widened in the East

There is now a five point gap between sixth and seventh in the East. Columbus and Atlanta (10-7-5) sit on 35 points, with the Crew having played three more games. Orlando (8-10-6, 30) and Philadelphia (8-11-5, 29) were leading the pack behind them, but both lost this weekend. Orlando suffered a 3-1 defeat at Red Bull Arena, while the Union lost 3-0 at home to Montreal (8-8-6, 30). Those results may have established the Impact as the team with the best shot at chasing down a playoff spot.