MLS Week 32 Recap, Highlights: Red Bulls top East, more

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by Ryan Brister

The penultimate week of the Major League Soccer season did not alck for surprises and plot twists. Most of the drama has been taken out of the final game for teams in the Eastern Conference, but a lot was left to play for out West.

New York Red Bulls 3-2 Columbus Crew SC

The Red Bulls claimed the top spot in the East with a nervy win over Columbus. Brad Stuver made his first MLS start in goal for the Crew, and had an eventful day. He conceded an early penalty after being pressured by Alex Muyl, but saved Sacha Kljestan’s attempt. 

That was the Red Bulls’ best chance of the opening half, but they kept up the pressure after the break. Mike Grella broke the deadlock, then Bradley Wright-Phillips scored twice. BWP now has 23 on the season, and his second of the day seemed to ensure a comfortable win for RBNY.

Comfortable lead’s don’t seem to exist for New York, however. Adam Jahn scored in the 73rd, and 10 minutes later Harrison Afful made things really interesting. Luis Robles was frustrated by his defense, and had to make a couple saves to preserve the lead.

In the end, they hung on, and in doing so they clinched the best record in the Eastern Conference. They’ve done so two years in a row.

DC United 3-1 New York City FC

DC dominated NYCFC, clinching a playoff spot in the process. United took a big lead in the first half thanks to some players who used to play in New York. Patrick Mullins punished his former team in the 27th minute, then ex-Red Bull Lloyd Sam put in a good corner kick for Bobby Boswell to head in. Mullins added an assist on Rob Vincent’s goal at the end of the half.

David Villa’s penalty was nowhere near enough for the Pigeons, though it kept him close in the golden boot race. 30,943 were at the game, the largest crowd for United in years. As things stand, they will have a home playoff game.

Colorado Rapids 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes

Colorado knocked San Jose out of contention, and temporarily put themselves in front of the Supporters’ Shield race with a midweek win. Kevin Doyle put the Rapids in front  with a diving header late in the first half.

After the break, Chris Wondolowski earned and then scored a penalty, equalizing the game for the Earthquakes. But Colorado would not be denied. A penalty at the other end restored their lead. Doyle scored from the spot for his second of the night.

FC Dallas 2-1 Seattle Sounders

A late goal by Carlos Ruiz put Dallas back atop the standings. The game took a while to spring into life. The opening goal was scored late in the first half, on a brilliant free kick by Nicolas Lodeiro. As things stood, the Sounders had secured a playoff spot.

Their security would not last. Maxi Urruti scored off a rebound to level the match for Dallas. Ruiz came off the bench, making his first appearance since rejoining the club, and scored the winning goal.

Dallas now needs just a draw in their final match, away to LA, in order to win the Supporters’ Shield. Seattle will need a win to ensure their place in the playoffs.

Portland Timbers 1-0 Colorado Rapids

Portland kept themselves very much in the playoff picture with a narrow win over Colorado. A set piece proved the difference on a rainy day in Cascadia. In the chaos following a free kick, Bobby Burling was whistled for a late tackle on Vytas in the box. Fanendo Adi scored the penalty, the game’s only goal. 

Had the Timbers scored another goal, they would be ahead of SKC on goals scored. Instead, they head into the last week just below the red playoff line.

Montreal Impact 2-2 Toronto FC

Toronto fought back twice to earn a draw in Montreal. Ignacio Piatti put the Impact in front with a 19th minute goal, and they held that lead into the second half. Jozy Altidore tied it up for Toronto, only to have a penalty restore Montreal’s lead just a few minutes later.

The Reds faced defeat, but salvaged a draw late. Tosaint Ricketts played the hero, scoring in the 86th minute.

The Impact are officially heading to the playoffs with this result. TFC still has a shot at second place in the East, but they will need a win and some help in the final week.

Chicago Fire 2-1 New England Revolution

New England’s playoff hopes went dark following a loss in Chicago. The Revs’ back line let them down early, allowing Michael De Leeuw to slip in and score the opening goal. Diego Fagundez scored a vital goal to bring New England back into things.

The second half was wild. Luis Solignac was sent off in the 54th minute, giving the visitors further hope. But the Fire back on level terms after Brad Knighton earned a red card. With both teams down to 10 men, David Accam found some space and buried the Revolution’s dreams.

Philadelphia Union 0-2 Orlando City SC

Philadelphia has effectively wrapped up a playoff spot, but they did nothing to earn that on Sunday. Orlando, already eliminated, played much better than their hosts and took a 2-0 win. The Union were lifeless, and neither team had a shot on target in the first half. 

Orlando was able to make the difference in the second half. Carlos Rivas put the Lions in front just before the hour mark. Philly, in truth, never looked like fighting back. Julio Baptiste’s stoppage time goal made sure of that.

Real Salt Lake 0-0 Sporting Kansas City

With playoff security on the line, neither Salt Lake nor Kansas City could manage a goal. Each keeper made five saves on the day in keeping the clean sheet. 

RSL and SKC sit a point apart, in fifth and sixth in the Western Conference. They face the prospect of going on the road in the knockout round.

Chicago Fire 2-2 Columbus Crew SC

With a midweek draw in Chicago, Columbus’ playoff hopes officially disappeared. Adam Jahn put Crew SC in front early, but things fell apart after halftime. An own goal by Michael Parkhurst and a goal for De Leeuw came within four minutes of one another. Jahn would score again, but a draw was not enough.

Seattle Sounders 0-0 Houston Dynamo

Seattle’s poor week got off to a frustrating start with a scoreless draw against Houston. A win would have locked up a playoff spot for the Sounders, but they couldn’t break through a tough Dynamo defense. Their problems got worse when Osvaldo Alonso was sent off in the second half.

San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

Vancouver and San Jose had nothing to play for, and produced nothing of note.