MLS Week 29 Recap, Highlights: NY teams clinch playoff spots, more

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by RYAN BRISTER

Week 29 in Major League Soccer was filled with important matches. As a sign of just how late in the season we are, three teams were able to clinch playoff spots this week. But many others are still fighting for their spots, including the Seattle Sounders.

LA Galaxy 2-4 Seattle Sounders

Seattle clawed back into the playoff picture, handing LA their first home loss of the season in the process. Robbie Keane headed in a perfect ball from Giovani Dos Santos to give the hosts the lead in the 20th minute. The Galaxy controlled much of the play in the first half, and could have had a bigger lead if not for Stefan Frei. But at the other end, a corner kick came off of Jelle Van Damme’s head and went as an own goal. 

If the Sounders were lucky to be level at halftime, they were the outright better side in the second half. Jordan Morris scored twice, and Osvaldo Alonzo added a fourth. Keane’s late goal didn’t spur any greater comeback for the stunned Galaxy.

Seattle ends the week just three points behind rival Portland for the final playoff spot in the West. The Sounders have two games in hand on the Timbers.

Vancouver Whitecaps 3-3 Colorado Rapids

Vancouver and Colorado played to an unexpectedly wild draw. Marlon Hairston set up Dominique Badji as the Rapids took an early lead. Typically, the Rapids’ leads have been safe this year, but that was not the case on Saturday.

The real fun didn’t start until after halftime. Kendall Waston headed in a corner kick to tie the match. The Costa Rican defender then conceded a penalty and earned a red card for bringing Badji down in the box. Shkelzen Gashi buried the spot kick.

Ten-man Vancouver fought valiantly. Pedro Morales turned in a cross from Giles Barnes to tie the match once more. But the Rapids must have thought they buried the Whitecaps when Gashi hit a rocket-powered free kick into the top corner.

In the third and final minute of stoppage time, Erik Hurtado’s header bounced in off the crossbar to deny Colorado the three points.

For the Rapids, this marks only the second time this season they’ve scored three goals. It is also only the second time this season they’ve allowed three goals.

DC United 4-1 Orlando City SC

In a vital game for both sides, only DC showed up. United trounced Orlando, pulling themselves closer to the red playoff line. Patrick Mullins got on the end of a well-worked attacking move to give DC the lead late in the first half. He would score again after the break. Mullins now has seven goals in 11 games since joining the club.

Lloyd Sam also scored for DC, as they took a 3-0 lead early in the second half. Julio Baptiste pulled one back for Orlando, but it was never going to be enough. Julien Buescher had to come off the bench early, and got his first MLS goal late.

DC ends the week in a playoff spot, because…

Columbus Crew SC 2-0 New England Revolution

Columbus made things even more interesting with a convincing win over New England. The Crew dominated from the start of the match, but didn’t score until the 42nd minute. Ola Kamara gave them the lead with a shot that beat Bobby Shuttleworth to the near post.

Crew SC had plenty of chances to get a second goal from open play, but it would eventually come in the form of a penalty. It was a soft penalty awarded by Chris Penso, as London Woodberry kept Kamara from reaching a cross into the box. He scored from the spot.

Columbus has been near the bottom of the East for so long that it seems outrageous to consider they might still have a chance at the playoffs. But they are just five points back now, with a game against DC coming up, and a game in hand.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-2 Sporting Kansas City

Kansas City dented any playoff hopes San Jose had with an away win. Dom Dwyer put SKC in front early, with a goal in the 7th minute. The Earthquakes equalized just before the break, thanks to sloppy defending and a clever backheel by Henok Goitom.

The Earthquakes had 16 shots to SKC’s six, but the visitors would end up grabbing the winning goal. On their only corner of the match, Kevin Ellis knocked the ball into the net, almost accidentally. That gave Sporting the lead with just nine minutes to go, and they would not relinquish it.

SKC’s first away win since April opens up a bit of space between themselves and the teams chasing them for a playoff spot. San Jose, meanwhile, has won just two of their last 18 games, and they are likely on their way to missing the playoffs.

New York Red Bulls 1-0 Montreal Impact

The Red Bulls clinched a playoff spot with a narrow win over Montreal. The Impact frustrated the hosts for the first hour of the match, but the Red Bulls always looked likely to find a breakthrough. It came when Daniel Royer headed in a cross from Chris Duvall, scoring his first goal for the club. That would be enough for RBNY, who needed to show that they were capable of hanging on to a lead.

Montreal is slipping fast. The playoff spot that seemed fairly secure just a month ago is now in serious doubt, as DC and have caught up to them.

New York City FC 4-1 Chicago Fire

NYCFC is heading to the playoffs for the first time, having destroyed Chicago on Friday night. City scored twice in quick succession as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Jefferson Mena finished off a clever corner kick routine in the eighth minute, then David Villa made it two in the very next minute.

The Fire pulled one back on Luis Solignac’s header in the 35th. But Steven Mendoza’s curler just before halftime really broke the visitors’ backs. Villa would score his second, and the Pigeons’ fourth, late in the match, capping off a dominant win.

After early season struggles at home, Yankee Stadium has become very comfortable for NYCFC. City is 6-0-1 in their last seven home matches. So it’s good news that they’ve all but assured a home game in the first round of the playoffs.

Toronto FC 1-1 Philadelphia Union

Toronto booked their playoff place, but Philadelphia earned a point on the road. The Union struck first, taking the lead on an audacious chip by Alejandro Bedoya. It’s his first goal in MLS.

Philly’s lead held up for a good chunk of the match, but TFC tied things up in the 70th minute. Jonathan Osorio made a good run, and laid the ball off for Justin Morrow, who scored from a tight angle.

The Reds could very well have gone on to take all three points. Jozy Altidore hit the post in the 86th minute, and had a late penalty shout go unanswered. Toronto had to settle for a draw instead, creating a logjam atop the Eastern Conference. Three teams sit on 48 points, but TFC has a game in hand on the sides from New York.

Houston Dynamo 3-1 Portland Timbers

Mauro Manotas had a hat trick as Houston beat Portland. He scored his first late in the first half from the penalty spot, after Liam Ridgewell was called for a handball. The Timbers were able to tie the game again after halftime, with a goal by Diego Valeri.

But the Dynamo, who have embraced their role as the spoiler, pulled away late in the match. Manotas scored his second on a a hard-hit shot from about 12 yards out. He finished his hat trick all alone on a counter attack, beating Jake Gleeson one-on-one.

The Timbers remain the only team in MLS without a win on the road this season. That’s part of the reason why their playoff footing is now so precarious.

Real Salt Lake 0-0 FC Dallas

 

Salt Lake and Dallas failed to score on Saturday night. RSL had the majority of possession and chances, but Chris Seitz made four saves in keeping a clean sheet.

For the second week in a row, Dallas was held to a draw on the road, but the teams chasing them in the Supporters’ Shield race were unable to gain ground. They remain 5 points clear of LA and Colorado. Two of their final three matches are against the Galaxy.