MLS Week 30: What We Learned

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MLS_logo.svgAfter a busy week in Major League Soccer, some of the late-season races were wrapped up. The Supporters’ Shield has been won, and the Eastern Conference playoff spots are nearly complete. But out West, questions remain for the final few weeks of the season. 

Toronto Takes Top Spot

Toronto (19-5-8, 65 points) clinched the Supporters’ Shield with its win over the Red Bulls (12-12-7, 43) on Saturday night. Justin Morrow scored a hat trick for TFC, but it was not easy going. After a Daniel Royer penalty tied the match, Victor Vasquez scored from the spot at the other end to win the game and the Shield for Toronto. It’s the first time one of MLS’s Canadian clubs has won a major trophy also available to U.S. sides.

For the Red Bulls, the loss continues a lengthy skid of eight games without a win. They were minutes from victory on Wednesday night until an own goal by Fidel Escobar resulted in a 3-3 draw against D.C. (9-18-5, 32).

Up-and-Down Week for Seattle

Seattle (12-9-11, 47) overwhelmed its rival to the north, defeating Vancouver (15-10-6, 51), 3-0, in midweek. Nicolas Lodeiro had a goal and two assists. The Sounders outshot the Whitecaps, 21-8, with the visitors managing only one shot on target. But the game could have been a lot different if not for the incredible save made by Stefan Frei on that lone shot in the first half.

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But after their dominant midweek performance, the Sounders traveled across the country and had a disappointing game in losing to Philadelphia (10-13-9, 39). Marcus Epps and Roland Alberg scored for the Union, who kept their slim playoff hopes alive with the 2-0 win.

Vancouver Rebounds

After its loss in midweek, Vancouver bounced back by giving Kansas City (12-7-11, 47) its first home loss of the year. SKC controlled much of the run of play, but the game’s only goal was scored by Erik Hurtado. Both Graham Zusi and Christian Bolanos were sent off in stoppage time as the game grew heated in its final moments. The Whitecaps are the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff spot. One more win would ensure that they finish in the top two and avoid the knockout round.  

Teams Held Their Ground in the West

The tightly packed Western Conference playoff race maintained its status quo during the week. With teams playing multiple games, none were was able to take full advantage of the opportunity. Dallas (10-9-12, 42) grabbed four points, beating Colorado to snap its winless streak, and then taking a scoreless draw from Orlando. Houston (11-10-10, 43) matched that mark, drawing against Los Angeles and beating Minnesota. San Jose (12-14-6, 42) recovered from a heavy midweek loss with a narrow win over Portland. Salt Lake (12-14-6, 42) played just one game, and earned a single point with their draw in Los Angeles.  

Only two of these four teams will be able to make the playoffs.

Significant Draw in the East

New York City picked up an important result on the road in Chicago. The Pigeons finished the week with the same gap between themselves and the Fire thanks to a 1-1 draw Saturday night. Each team’s star striker netted a goal in the first half, with Nemanja Nikolic’s 20th-minute strike matched by David Villa’s just before the break. Maxi Moralez played a role in both; his giveaway resulted in the opening goal, but he assisted on Villa’s.