MLS Week 16 recap, highlights: NYCFC, San Jose grab big away wins

image, SJEarthquakes.com

We’re almost halfway through the Major League Soccer season, and it’s still hard to know what to make of things. DC United has established themselves as the clear best team in the East after beating New England, but nearly everything else is up in the air. Seattle lost this week, and Vancouver sits level on points with them out West.

DC United 2-1 New England Revolution

DC United affirmed their place atop the Eastern Conference with a comeback win over New England.

Lee Nguyen had perhaps his best performance of the season, and played a role in the opening goal. He made a smart run and was played in behind on the right wing by a one-touch pass from Teal Bunbury. Nguyen slid a ball across the box that Charlie Davies deftly redirected into the far corner of the net. New England was up 1-0 after 10 minutes, and deserved to be ahead through halftime.

In the second half, DC came out and took control of the match. An equalizer felt like it was coming, but still took until the 70th minute. Fabian Espindola did the hard work of creating it. He got to the endline and put in a perfect cross, which Chris Rolfe volleyed in from six yards.

Rolfe completed the comeback from the penalty spot. Steve Neumann cut down Miguel Aguilar near the corner of the box, even though the United sub was heading away from goal. Rolfe didn’t miss.

United have now won five games after allowing the first goal. They are 5-4-1 in these games, a frankly absurd record.

Toronto FC 0-2 New York City FC

David Villa scored twice and NYCFC continued their winning ways in front of a large crowd in Toronto.

A frustrating day for TFC started early, when Benoit Cheyrou played a bouncing ball off his arm in the box for a penalty. Villa scored the penalty, and the visitors were in front. Josh Saunders came up big on multiple occasions to keep things that way in the first half, and had four saves in all.

NYCFC doubled their lead from open play. A bad giveaway to Diskerud was played to Tommy McNamara down the right wing. McNamara found Medhi Ballouchy in space in the box, but as Chris Konopka slid to deny the opportunity, Ballouchy slid the ball across to Villa for his second goal of the night.

No one in MLS has found a surefire way to stop Sebastian Giovinco, but NYCFC made his day unpleasant. The Italian was fouled five times, more than any other player in the match. As such, he was limited to just one shot on goal, and one key pass, both from well outside the box. Five NYCFC players earned yellow cards over the course of the match.

With Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard on the way, the current NYCFC squad has momentum. This was their third win in a row after spending so long without one, and a victory in Toronto is perhaps their most impressive so far.

New York Red Bulls 1 -2 Vancouver Whitecaps

It was a disastrous night for the Red Bulls as they fell to Vancouver for their fourth straight loss.

15 minutes into the game, the Red Bulls were down a man and a goal. Before either of those events, they had a chance at a great start when Steven Beitashour cut down Sal Zizzo in the box. After a lengthy wait, Bradley Wright-Phillips’ shot was in the perfect spot for David Ousted to save it. That was a bad omen.

Sacha Kljestan was sent off in the tenth minute. Amid the typical pre-corner jostling, Kljestan jabbed at Kendall Waston with his elbow. Waston didn’t react to this, but when Kljestan swung out a foot, the Whitecaps’ defender fell to the ground and the referee reached for a red card.

The terrible trifecta was capped off with a Whitecaps goal. Cristian Techera played a great turning pass to free Beitashour down the right wing, and the cross was put away by Kekuta Manneh from six yards out.

The Red Bulls were handed a lifeline in the 64th minute for…something. It wasn’t really clear, but the legitimacy of the penalty ultimately didn’t matter. BWP’s second attempt managed to be more stoppable than his first. Wright-Phillips is the first MLS player to miss two penalties in one match.

Whatever momentum the Red Bulls may have had early in the second half evaporated with Ousted’s save. The attack lost its steam, and the Whitecaps looked to put in the dagger. Kianz Froese did the job in the 77th minute, finishing off a good pass from Octavio Rivero.

Against all odds, the Red Bulls fought back at this point. Anatole Abang scored in the 82nd minute to tighten the gap. David Ousted was forced two make two good saves—both better than his penalty stops—in the next two minutes just to preserve the lead. But the Red Bulls’ gusto was short-lived, and the whistle blew without any further threats at the scoreline.

The Red Bulls have lost four games in a row. A week away from visiting Yankee Stadium, they are level on points with NYCFC.

Seattle Sounders 0-2 San Jose Earthquakes

For the second time this season, San Jose won in Seattle.

Seattle was on the front foot in the first half hour, but without any of their designated players on the field, they were unable to turn that edge into a goal. David Bingham was busy, but a well-played counter put the Earthquakes in front. Matias Perez Garcia displayed good vision to find Sanna Nyassi racing in on the right, and the Gambian winger put a bullet of a shot past Stefan Frei.

Seattle pressed for an equalizer after the break, but instead San Jose got their second. This time, MPG did it on his own. He received the ball forty yards from goal, weaved his way through defenders to the top of the box, and found the top corner of the net.

San Jose is the only visiting team to win this year at CenturyLink Field, and now they’ve done it twice. They have five goals against the Sounders, who have allowed just eight to the rest of the league.

LA Galaxy 5-1 Philadelphia Union

The Union looked an awful lot like the team with the fewest points in MLS on Saturday. They went to LA and left battered, 5-1.

It took 22 minutes for the Galaxy to find the net. Baggio Husidic won a long ball at the top of the box, and tapped it to Gyasi Zardes. Zardes’ shot bounced off the post, but Husidic was able to control the rebound and put it in the net before a scrambling Brian Sylvestre could recover. It would be a long night for Sylvestre.

Zardes got credit for his cross on the second goal. Given space on the left wing, he cut back a cross to Juninho at the top of the box. The Brazilian lost his footing, but got enough power on the shot regardless.

Zardes got his goal in the second half. He played a great long pass to Keane down the left, and made a 60-yard run to put in the return cross off the bounce. CJ Sapong cut into the lead two minutes later, only to be immediately neutralized by a Stefan Ishizaki volley. Sebastian Lletget made it 5-1 in the 65th minute (Zardes’ second assist), but the Galaxy mercifully stopped there.

The five LA goals are the most any team has scored in one game this season. Bruce Arena after the game said that he felt his team has another gear still, which is either funny or scary for the rest of the league.

Real Salt Lake 2-1 Sporting Kansas City

Matt Besler earned a yellow card for cutting down Javier Morales on a potential counter in the 14th minute. Moralse made Besler and SKC pay personally. His free kick found Sebastian Jaime in space six yards from goal. Jaime, who was a late addition to the lineup when Alvaro Saborio was scratched, headed his chance off the underside of the bar and in. It’s Jaime’s first goal in MLS.

RSL headers caused a lot of danger in the first half. Tim Melia had to dive to his right to prevent Justen Glad from opening the scoring. Devon Sandoval hit the post with a header in the 25th minute. For an RSL side that has regularly struggled to score, there were plenty of chances. Joao Plata just missed the post in the 29th minute.

Having dodged bullets, Sporting equalized. Benny Feilhaber played Dom Dwyer in behind the defense to level the score. Dwyer appeared to be offside, but the flag stayed down. With the goal, SKC ruined an otherwise excellent first half for the hosts. This was not a game that deserved to be 1-1 after 45 minutes.

The game was testy from the beginning, and passions threatened to boil over on occasion. Mostly they bubbled up, like when a Javier Morales foul (which really should have been his second yellow card) resulted in some pushing and shoving early in the second half.

It looked like RSL’s energy would be for just a draw, but in the end they finally grabbed a winner. Salt Lake took 16 corner kicks, but it was a bit of open play in stoppage time that ended in the back of the net. Morales fought for the ball at the top of the box, and squeezed it out wide to Olmes Garcia. His shot was deflected by Kevin Ellis up and over Melia for a dramatic winning goal.

Portland Timbers 2-0 Houston Dynamo

Portland claimed their fourth straight victory Saturday against Houston, albeit with a hint of controversy.

Raul Rodriguez had a would-be opening goal whistled off in the 15th minute. He volleyed in a corner kick from Lionel Miranda, but the ref judged that Ricardo Clark had set a pick to free up space for Rodriguez. It didn’t appear intentional, but Clark certainly got in the way of Jorge Villafana to prevent the latter from marking his man.

As with the week before, Portland got on the board via a set piece. Again it was Villafana’s cross, but this time Maxi Urruti got his head on it to flick it into the far side of the net. Urruti didn’t require any picks to find space; he stood mostly still as the Dynamo defenders moved past him.

David Horst was called for a penalty in the 59th minute. He dragged Norberto Paparatto to the ground on a corner kick, and was unable to play it off as a dive. Gaston Fernandez stepped up to the spot and scored his penalty. The two goals were Portland’s only two shots on target of the night.

Montreal Impact 2-0 Orlando City SC

Montreal held off Orlando and handed them their first loss in six matches.

Cyle Larin missed a couple chances, but Montreal created most of the danger in the first half. Tally Hall made an excellent diving save to deny Ignacio Piatti in the 33rd minute. But he couldn’t stop Donnie Toia’s header on a corner kick just three minutes later, and the Impact took the lead.

In stoppage time, the Impact killed the game off. It was Dominic Oduro who scored the second goal, but he had a bit of good fortune. He attempted to pass off the chance to Nigel Reo-Coker, but instead the blocked pass came back towards him. Oduro was quickest to react, and finished off the opportunity.

With 17 points through just 12 matches, the Montreal Impact are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They are also, it should be noted, level on points with eighth place. Things are crowded in the East.

Colorado Rapids 1-1 FC Dallas

A pair of second-half goals stood out like sore thumbs in a largely dull game between Colorado and Dallas.

Dallas took the lead in the 71st minute. Fabian Castillo got the ball at the corner of the box, and with defenders backing off of him, he took a shot. Clint Irwin got two hands on the shot, but couldn’t keep it out. Castillo now has five goals to go with five assists on the year.

As in their previous meeting, the Rapids equalized late. It was the 88th minute when Dillon Serna volleyed a Drew Moor cross into the back of the net. Serna was making only his second start of the year, but rewarded Pablo Mastroeni’s selection.

Castillo made an effort to win the game all by himself after the equalizer. Just a minute later, Castillo dribbled his way into the box and whipped a shot that could have won the match off the post.