MLS Week 14 Recap: NYCFC wins, TFC makes a statement, more

NYC2

by RYAN BRISTER
MLS Writer

Several notable streaks came to an end over the weekend. Yes there was that whole Triple Crown business, but in Major League soccer, some long winless and unbeaten streaks were finally done away with. Most of Week 14’s games were entertaining, but the two on national television on Sunday were not.

Philadelphia Union 1-2 New York City FC

For the first time in twelve matches, and the first time ever on the road, New York City FC got a win.

Less than a minute into the second half, CJ Sapong put the Union in front. Sapong chested down a corner kick in the box, and despite being off balance, managed to slide the ball past Josh Saunders for the opening goal. That could have been a demoralizing blow for NYCFC after a solid first half, but they bounced back with aplomb.

Tommy McNamara, making his first start of the year, certainly made his case for more playing time. In the 53rd minute, he found a spot of space thirty-yards out and finessed a shot into the top corner of the net. The equalizer is the 24-year-old’s second MLS goal, and his first since suffering an ACL injury while playing for Chivas USA last year.

Late in the match, Patrick Mullins, who had come off the bench for Adam Nemec, received a throw-in, got into the box, and took a shot that was deflected and beat Sylvestre at the near post. Mullins now has three goals on the year, which is three more than Nemec.

For NYCFC, it’s a long-awaited victory that might help to ease the tension. They still have the worst record in MLS, but hopefully for them the worst of the expansion blues are behind them.

DC United 1-2 Toronto FC

Michael Bradley was in Europe, and Jozy Altidore began on the bench, but Sebastian Giovinco led Toronto to a statement victory at RFK Stadium.

It didn’t start well for the Reds on the road. Poor set piece marking allowed Steve Birnbaum to get a free volley in the six-yard box on a corner kick, which the defender handled calmly. Entering the match, DC had gone 20 games without a loss at RFK.

But Giovinco had other plans. He had five shots on target, and forced big saves from Andrew Dykstra in the 24th minute and 31st minute. Dykstra couldn’t do anything about Giovinco three minutes later. The Italian cut inside on Sean Franklin and rocketed his shot into the net for an equalizer.

DC thought they had a go-ahead goal from Kofi Opare in the 60th minute, but the offside flag was up.

Jozy Altidore came on in the 82nd minute, his first appearance since suffering a hamstring injury a few weeks ago in New England. His first contribution was a dummy, letting a pass roll on to Giocinco. It didn’t seem to fool any defenders, but Giovinco hit a 30-yard shot that curled away from Dykstra and into the net.

Sporting Kansas City 1-0 Seattle Sounders

A controversial penalty lifted SKC over the top team in the Western Conference.

The Sounders and Sporting played to a scoreless draw in Seattle, and for a while it felt like they might repeat the feat. Each team had good chances, but the game continued on without a goal. Marco Pappa found the net in the 66th minute, but was ruled (questionably) offside.

Without Clint Dempsey (whose wife was giving birth) or Obafemi Martins (who has been bothered by a hamstring injury), the Sounders relied on Lamar Neagle up top. Neagle had two shots on target, but perhaps there’s a question of whether someone else would have scored.

Things were still 0-0 in the 82nd minute, when Stefan Frei went through Dom Dwyer in trying to punch a ball clear from his box. Ismail Elfath didn’t hesitate to call a penalty. Benny Feilhaber stood up, and buried the shot.

It’s the first time in six tries that SKC has been able to beat the Sounders at Sporting Park.

Houston Dynamo 4-2 New York Red Bulls

The first moment of controversy came late in the first half. A well-worked Red Bulls corner kick routine ended with the ball in the net, but it was spoiled by the referee’s whistle. On replays, it was hard to determine where exactly the foul had occurred.

But the Red Bulls didn’t let that get them down. Mike Grella opened the scoring in minute 42, just before the half. It was no less than the visitors deserved for a first half in which they produced the best chances.

But for the second week in a row, the Red Bulls couldn’t hang on to that halftime lead. The Dynamo upped their game in the second half, but got a bit lucky on the equalizer. Boniek Garcia’s shot was deflected high up into the air, ballooning over Luis Robles before falling into the net.

Houston put their set piece superiority on display. Ricardo Clark headed in a corner for an apparent go-ahead goal, only for it to be ruled off for a rather soft push-off. Just three minutes later, Clark was at the back post again, and volleyed the ball in legally to make the game 2-1.

Another deflected shot, this one from Will Bruin, increased the Dynamo’s lead in the 80th minute. Anatole Abang brought the Red Bulls within one in the 90th minute, but instead of an equalizer, Bruin scored his second to seal the victory in stoppage time.

Portland Timbers 2-0 New England Revolution

The Timbers broke through late to win their third game in a row.

A 0-0 scoreline after 45 minutes mislead those who missed an entertaining first half. Both keepers had to make good saves on long-range efforts in a half that also featured four yellow cards. Portland had a slight edge on the run of play, which would become a massive advantage in the second half.

Portland piled on the pressure after the break, and New England’s openness was significantly diminished. But the Timbers couldn’t seem to find the net until very late. It was the 85th minute when Fanendo Adi headed a Jorge Villafana free kick into the net to give Portland a much-deserved lead.

Adi, who came on as a substitute, wasn’t done. He iced the game in the 89th minute by finishing off a cross from Alvas Powell. Adi has a knack for braces; in 39 regular season games with the Timbers, he has scored twice in six of them.

It’s the first time in five MLS seasons that the Timbers have won three regular-season matches in a row. For New England, the result extends their winless streak to six games.

Philadelphia Union 3-0 Columbus Crew SC

The Union got revenge in a big way over the Columbus Crew on Wednesday.

Brian Sylvestre had to make a great diving save on Aaron Schoenfeld to keep things scoreless in the 27th minute, but the Union had a slight edge on the play in the first half. That paid off in the 41st minute. Cristian Maidana played a great through ball for Sebastien Le Toux in the box, and the Frenchman was able to squeeze his low cross through traffic for a CJ Sapong tap-in.

Things got worse for Columbus after the halftime break. Steve Clark seemed to have second thoughts in the middle of rolling the ball out to a teammate, and instead it just trickled from his hands. Maidana beat him to ball, knocking it back to Vincent Nogueira, whose thirty-yard chip landed in the empty net.

The Union blew a two-goal lead last year against Columbus, but made sure it wouldn’t happen again. In the 58th minute, Sheadon Williams made a great run down the right wing, beating Emanuel Pogatetz. Williams’ cross was tapped in by Le Toux. The three-goal margin reversed what happened when these teams met in April.

Montreal Impact 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Montreal suffered a late equalizer but bounced back to grab the win on Wednesday against Vancouver.

A rocket from Laurent Ciman hit the crossbar flush in the 14th minute. Luckily for Montreal, the rebound landed at Jack McInerney’s feet. After a touch to control it, Jack Mac blasted the ball past a helpless David Ousted.

Vancouver nearly equalized before the break. Mauro Rosales played Kekuta Manneh in on goal with a perfect chipped pass, but before Manneh finished the chance the offside flag was up. It was a very tight decision.

So the Whitecaps trailed 1-0 until the 79th minute, when Andres Romero tripped up Jordan Harvey in the box. Pedro Morales scored the penalty to level the match. The new scoreline wouldn’t last.

In the 83rd minute, Romero made up for his mistake by finding Ignacio Piatti on a darting run into the box. Piatti was able to get off his shot just before getting closed down, beating Ousted.

LA Galaxy 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

The Whitecaps put an end to LA’s 23-game unbeaten streak at the Stubhub Center.

The lone goal—and the lone shot on goal—came in the 32nd minute. Kekuta Manneh intercepted a pass in his own half, and charged forward towards the LA goal. His pass to Octavio Rivero was returned, and LA’s defense kept dropping back until Manneh was at the top of the box and unleashing a shot that beat Brian Rowe to the near post.

The Galaxy never really threatened to equalize. Instead, Vancouver had two excellent chances to double their edge. First, on a counter in the 72nd minute, Rivero slid a perfect ball past Omar Gonzalez to Pedro Morales, who smashed it off the post. On a very similar break ten minutes later, Rivero’s past was too fast for even Darren Mattocks to reach; he would have been one-on-one with the keeper.

With the win, Vancouver is level on points with their neighbors to the south for the top spot in the Western Conference. They have, however, played two more games.

Columbus Crew SC 1-2 Montreal Impact

This is Frank Klopas’ second year in charge of the Impact, but on Saturday he earned his first road win with the club.

Columbus outshot their guests 20-9, but the Impact had more shots on target. Kei Kamara had half of his team’s shots, but was not his normal, clinical self.

Poor defensive work cost the Crew in the second half. Andres Romero’s attempted chip pass was blocked but not cleared. McInerney’s shot on the loose ball was saved, but the rebound fell to Maxim Tissot, who lifted it over Clark to give Montreal the lead. That was the first goal Montreal had scored on the road this MLS season.

Montreal pressed for another instead of resting on their lead. Two minutes after the goal, Clark was forced to make a great save on McInerney’s header to keep the score 1-0. Romero hit the post with a blast in the 65th. Finally, in the 78th minute, Romero calmly finished a counter to double the Impact’s lead.

Frederico Higuain scored in the 90th minute to add some drama to stoppage time, but the Impact were able to hang on for the three points.

Two wins in a week isn’t enough to lift Montreal above the red playoff line, but with multiple games in hand, and four wins from their last five games, they are in a good place right now.

DC United 3-1 Chicago Fire

A second half surge saw DC through an often nervous game against Chicago.

The fire had their first chance at a lead in the 26th minute, when Birnbaum was whistled for a handball in the box. Dykstra came up big to deny Jeff Laurentowicz from the spot. But just a minute later, David Accam was first to a Quincy Amerikwa cross to make it 1-0 despite Dykstra’s efforts.

The Fire kept their lead into the second half, but the introduction of Fabian Espindola at the break shifted the game in DC’s favor. Espindola’s curling corner was headed in by Jairo Arrieta in the 61st minute to level the match. Shortly after an Espindola chip hit the crossbar, Arrieta got his second. A pass intended for Nick DeLeon bounced back to the Costa Rican, who gave United the lead.

Dykstra made six saves on the night, none bigger than the sliding stop on Amerikwa’s attempt at an equalizer in the 71st minute. A game that could have been 2-2 quickly became 3-1 when Conor Doyle’s awkward finish looped into the net four minutes later. Espindola had the assist on Doyle’s first goal since 2013.

Chicago Fire 2-3 Orlando City SC

More than 20,000 fans showed up at Toyota Park on Saturday, but the Fire let most of them down.

A perfectly-worked set piece put the Fire up early. Accam’s short corner made it to Razvan Cocis at the top of the box, who played Accam in from the right wing. The Ghanaian slid his cross in to Kennedy Igboananike for a tap-in at the far post.

The Lions dominated possession, but were significantly outshot over the 90 minutes. But on another corner kick, they were able to level the match before the half. Jon Busch saved Sean St. Ledger’s header, but the rebound was knocked in by his own teammate, Adailton.

Chicago retook the lead in the 57th minute, and again Accam was key. Harry Shipp threaded the needle to find Accam at the top of the box, and he did not waste the opportunity.

Cyle Larin came off the bench for Orlando and made an impact. He won out in a struggle with Adailton just outside the box, and hit a powerful 25-yarder past Busch. That left ten minutes for the sides to find an winner.

Adailton’s bad night got worse in the 86th minute. Kaka played in Carlos Rivas down the left, and Rivas’ cross was deflected by Adailton into his own net. Had the Brazilian not touched it, the cross might have gone through to Larin for a tap-in, but Adailton is instead the first player in MLS history to have two own goals in one match.

The two teams began the match level on points. The result lifts Orlando to fourth in the East, while Chicago slumps to ninth after a two-loss week.

San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 FC Dallas

The referee overshadowed a game that wasn’t stellar in its own right.

The first half was scoreless, but not exactly boring. Whatever potential this match might have had was erased when Mark Sherrod was errantly sent off in the 54th minute. After Kennedy smothered a cross, Sherrod tried to skip over him, but the keeper attempted to get up, and boot and head collided. Baldomero Toledo interpreted the contact as intentional, and went to his back pocket.

The teams played 20 minutes like this, and Dallas did not make their man advantage apparent. In the 76th minute, Jevaughn Watson was sent off for what Toledo thought was a studs-up challenge. Cordell Cato slid in and won the ball, and Watson’s foot went over it, though he didn’t seem to make a great deal of contact.

Having handed out two soft red cards, Toledo then had to send off JJ Koval for a studs-up challenge in the 87th minute. This was probably the right call! Koval had just come on as San Jose’s substitute, forcing a 10 vs. nine finish to the match.

There was soccer interspersed in all of this, but none of it was particularly inspired. In the last seven meetings between San Jose and Dallas, eight red cards have been handed out.

Real Salt Lake 0-0 Colorado Rapids

In front of an unusually small crowd in Salt Lake, the first game of the Rocky Mountain Cup ended scoreless.

The less said about the first 87 minutes, the better. But the 88th minute provided some intrigue. Luis Solignac, going it alone up top for Colorado, earned a penalty off of Aaron Maund. Maund didn’t start, but came on for an injured Jamison Olave early. Dillon Powers stepped up to face Nick Rimando on the penalty, and the Rapids midfielder missed the net entirely.

In truth, that was the ending this bore of a game deserved. It is clear why RSL and Colorado are 9th and 10th in the West.