MLS Week 22 Recap, Highlights: Goals, Goals, Goals

IMAGE, REALSALTLAKE.COM

by RYAN BRISTER
MLS Writer

If you appreciate defense, now would be a good time to look away. Major League Soccer’s goal-scorers have heated up along with the weather, and week 22 was even more prolific than the week before. 39 goals were scored on Saturday alone, the most in a single day in MLS history. The league has more teams and games now than ever before, but consider that the previous record was 30. The larger trend was embodied by a 10-goal shootout in DC.

DC United 6-4 Real Salt Lake

That scoreline is not a typo. Defenses took a sabbatical as DC outscored RSL in a bonkers game at RFK stadium.

It was probably an omen when Joao Plata scored in the first minute of the match. After good hold-up play from Devon Sandoval in the box, the ball made its way back to Plata who finessed a right-footed shot 20 yards into the bottom corner of the net. DC has allowed eight goals in the opening 15 minutes of matches, the most in the league. They would have given up another if not for a good save by Andrew Dykstra in the seventh minute.

RSL doubled their lead midway through the first half. Kyle Beckerman scored his first goal of the season and it could not have been much better. Plata laid the ball off for him, and he one-upped the forward with a hard shot off the inside of the post from 25 yards out.

But nothing seems to phase this United side. Just before halftime, they climbed back into the match. Chris Rolfe won the ball off of Tony Beltran in the RSL box, cut on to his right foot, and curled his shot into the far side of the net. Sandoval earlier had a chance to make it 3-0, but instead it was 2-1 going into halftime. Then all hell broke loose.

DC equalized from the penalty spot in the 54th minute after Sandoval dragged down Bobby Boswell in the box on a corner kick. Chris Rolfe stepped up and scored his second of the match. Five minutes later, Taylor Kemp hit a bouncing ball with the outside of his left foot and it flew into the top corner of the net. For the second time in two weeks, DC had overturned an early 2-0 deficit. But neither team was done scoring.

In the 62nd minute, RSL pulled back level. Javier Morales’ outswinging free kick was headed in by Aaron Maund. One minute later, a hard-fought DC goal made it 4-3. Fabian Espindola scored from on the ground in a goal-line scramble after Jeff Attinella fought off Alvaro Saborio’s attempt. Saborio had a couple good chances to score against his former team, but was denied each time.

RSL leveled the match again in the 68th minute. Abdoulie Mansally had the equalizer and again Morales was responsible for the assist. Morales played a great ball to get Mansally into the box, and he scored from a tight angle near the end line.

But in the end, as so often this season, DC found a way to escape the chaos with three points. In the 79th minute, Espindola played a short corner for Kemp, who crossed it into the box. Perry Kitchen got the jump on RSL’s defenders and headed in DC’s fifth goal of the night. Nick Deleon scored the sixth, final, and perhaps best of DC’s bunch with a rocket in the 85th minute.

I’m exhausted just writing all that. The 10 goal total is the most in MLS this season, and the second-most in a game in league history.

Seattle Sounders 0-3 Vancouver Whitecaps

A brace from the unlikely source of Pa Modou Kah powered Vancouver past their slumping rivals in Seattle.

53,125 fans showed up for the Cascadia Cup match, and most of those found it unenjoyable from the beginning. Six minutes in, Kah scored his first of the night after a free kick wasn’t cleared. The ball bounced up in the box, and Kah did remarkably well for a defender to turn and volley it in while his body was moving away from goal.

Seattle probably should have had a penalty just before halftime. Mark Geiger, who is having just a wonderful refereeing month, did not see the incident, and kept his whistle silent.

So early in the second half, Kah came up for another set piece and scored again to double Vancouver’s advantage. After a low cross Cristian Techera hit a low cross into traffic and Kah made a deft flick with his right foot to redirect it goalwards. In three MLS seasons, Kah now has a total of three goals.

Vancouver iced the match in the 75th minute. Pedro Morales, fresh off the bench, slipped his free kick through a hole in Seattle’s wall and into the back of the net. The Sounders didn’t show signs of being able to comeback from 2-0, and 3-0 was much too steep a hill to climb in the final 15 minutes.

Clint Dempsey played the full 90 minutes for Seattle, but clearly he was not a panacea for their struggles. They never really threatened the Whitecaps’ All-Star keeper, David Ousted. Seattle has now lost seven of eight games, and scored just two goals in that span. Obafemi Martins should be returning from injury soon. On Wednesday, the Sounders begin CONCACAF Champions League play—in Vancouver.

New England Revolution 3-1 Toronto FC

Jozy Altidore was sent off on a tough night for TFC at Gillette Stadium.

New England broke the week’s general trend by waiting 34 minutes to score the opening goal. A clever set piece did the trick. Chris Tierney lofted his free kick towards the end line, and Kelyn Rowe’s volleyed cross was bundled into the net by Charlie Davies.

Things quickly unraveled for Toronto from that point. Altidore earned himself a red card for kicking out at Jose Goncalves on the turf. In the 43rd minute, Damien Perquis brought down Rowe in the box on a free kick, and Lee Nguyen scored the ensuing penalty. The Revs were up two goals and a man by halftime.

In the 62nd minute, another set piece produced New England’s third goal. Tierney’s free kick took a deflection and bounced through to Davies, who may have been offside. The flag stayed down, and Davies tapped the ball in for his ninth goal of the season.

Jonathan Osorio scored later on for Toronto, but there would be no three-goal comeback this week. The result lifts New England above TFC in the standings, but the Reds still have four matches in hand.

Orlando City 5-2 Columbus Crew SC

Cyle Larin scored another two goals as Orlando romped over the Crew.

Columbus actually scored first, just five minutes into the match. Justin Meram made a great individual run through traffic and played a ball into the box for Frederico Higuain. Higuain hit his shot first time past Tally Hall to give the Crew an early lead, just as they had the last time they played at the Citrus Bowl.

But Larin was in a goal-scoring mood on Saturday night, and wouldn’t be held off for long. Steve Clark had already denied him twice before the 20th minute, when the Canadian leveled the match for Orlando. New Lion Corey Ashe got down the left wing and put in a cross that somehow made it through to Larin for a tap-in.

Columbus had a couple great chances to retake the lead, but Tony Tchani hit the post (and perhaps an arm), and Kei Kamara had his header saved by Hall. Late in the first half, OCSC made their visitors rue those missed chances. Darwin Ceren powered home his own rebound to lift the Lions to a lead at halftime.

In the second half, the floodgates opened for Orlando. Ashe and Larin combined again in the 53rd minute. Larin wanted a second-straight hat trick, but ultimately had to settle for a brace. His 11 goals are tied for the most ever in a season by an MLS rookie.

Aurelien Collin headed in a corner kick to extend Orlando’s lead to 4-1 in the 77th minute. Kaka did the crossing on Cristian Higuita’s goal as the home side piled it on. In stoppage time, Collin scored again, but in the wrong net. The own goal mattered little, and Orlando grabbed a key three points to try and keep pace in the playoff chase.

New York City FC 2-3 Montreal Impact

On another goal-filled afternoon at Yankee Stadium, the Montreal Impact spoiled Frank Lampard’s long-awaited debut.

A sub-par first half may ultimately have sunk the hosts. Montreal were quicker out of the gate and took the lead within five minutes. A long ball over the top from Laurent Ciman was brought down by Dominic Oduro, who nutmegged Josh Saunders on his way to scoring the opening goal. Another long ball, this time from Dilly Duka, led to Montreal’s second goal in the 31st minute. The ball bounced up nicely for Ignacio Piatti, who flicked it up and over Saunders and into the net.

NYCFC was given a way back into the game via a questionable penalty call. Ambroise Oyongo slid past Tommy McNamara in the box, and didn’t seem to make much contact in the process, but was called for the foul. David Villa scored from the spot.

But then an even more questionable call restored the Impact’s two-goal lead. Josh Saunders was judged to have brought down Piatti in the box at the end of a frantic counter attack. Piatti, who missed a great chance on a counter a few minutes prior, did not miss his penalty.

City quickly pulled one back with a great team goal finished off by Tommy McNamara. But with five minutes plus stoppage time remaining, the hosts were unable to muster a third goal, and the game ended 3-2.

That’s a big result for the Impact in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They now have three more points and three games in hand on NYCFC for the final playoff spot.

Philadelphia Union 1-3 New York Red Bulls

Shaun Wright-Phillips made a great first impression, helping the Red Bulls to victory in his MLS debut.

The Union pressured the Red Bulls heavily, but couldn’t score in an often sloppy first half. While at times it felt as though the Red Bulls were merely weathering the storm, in truth neither side had a single shot on target before halftime. The Red Bulls created some danger on the counter, but neither side was at their best.

Two new signings, one for each team, came on in the second half, and both played a role in the first goal. Shaun Wright-Phillips was knocked over by Tranquillo Barnetta in the box in the 65th minute, when the two had been on the field a combined five minutes. Sacha Kljestan took the penalty, and was able to beat John McCarthy.

Philly finally got their breakthrough in the 73rd minute. Cristian Maidana’s cross was mishit by Fernadno Aristeguieta, but the ball bounced nicely to Sebastien Le Toux who hit a powerful shot into the roof of the net.

Almost immediately after giving up the lead, the Wright-Phillips brothers combined to take it back. Shaun skilled his way to the end line and put in a bullet of a cross that Bradley just had to redirect towards goal. BWP’s nine goals lead the Red Bulls, but that one must have felt particularly sweet.

The Union pressed for another equalizer, but in stoppage time the Red Bulls were able to exploit their vulnerability at the back. Kljestan and Anatole Abang led a two-on-one breakaway, and Abang finished off the opportunity to seal the victory for the visitors.

Combined with other results, the win boosts New York to second place in the Eastern Conference, and they have multiple games in hand on the teams closest to them.

Colorado Rapids 1-3 LA Galaxy

The Galaxy came back to grab their first road victory of the 2015 season.

After a strong opening 10 minutes, the Rapids got on the board first. Former Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas scored the opening goal by sneaking in behind the back line and taking the ball away from Donovan Ricketts. The Jamaican keeper’s return to the Galaxy was not off to a great start.

But as the game went on, it tilted more and more in the favor of the Galaxy. They scored an equalizer 10 minutes into the second half. Sebastian Lletget made a good run down the left wing to stay onside, and he fired a powerful shot past Clint Irwin. Lletget now has six goals in just 10 appearances for LA.

Some of Pablo Mastroeni’s decisions appeared like he was playing for a draw, but the Galaxy didn’t relent. Clint Irwin made a good save on Steven Gerrard in the 69th minute, but the rebound bounced right to Alan Gordon on the doorstep of the empty side of the net.

Ricketts only had to make a single save as the Galaxy fended off Colorado’s attempts for an equalizer. Forced to attack, the Rapids were short handed at the back, and Keane made the most of this. He shoved James Riley off the ball and led a wild charge down the field that eventually resulted in him finishing off an assist from Gerrard.

Until Saturday night, the Galaxy’s last away win in MLS was at the Stubhub Center, against Chivas USA. Their last win outside of SoCal was last August in Colorado.

Chicago Fire 2-0 FC Dallas

The bottom team in the East stymied Dallas, who entered the weekend as the top team in the West.

As in so many other games this weekend, the open goal came very early. In the 4th minute, Jason Johnson played a ball for David Accam to run and get. A lucky bounce helped Accam get past Matt Hedges, and his finish beat Dan Kennedy to give the Fire the early lead. As it turned out, the one goal would be enough.

Dallas couldn’t really get an attack going despite their early deficit. They had more shots than Chicago, but fewer on target. Late on, they were given a chance to really add pressure when the Fire went down to ten men. Matt Matson went two-footed with his tackle on Michael Barrios, and might get a multi-game suspension for that.

But instead of leading to an equalizer, the red card preceded another Fire goal. This one was thanks to a penalty earned by Kennedy Igboananike, who was fresh off the bench. Igboananike was going away from goal, but Kellyn Acosta stuck out a leg and took him down for a penalty. Shaun Maloney took the penalty and sealed the result by converting it.

The result ends a five-game winning streak for FC Dallas, but they continue to have the most points per game in MLS. Chicago climbs to within five points of the playoffs in the East.

Sporting Kansas City 1-1 Houston Dynamo

Houston put an end to Kansas City’s home winning streak, but not without a great deal of controversy.

It did not take long for SKC to take the lead. On a free kick in the sixth minute, Dom Dwyer got his head to Benny Feilhaber’s free kick and deflected it into the far side of the net. Dwyer now has seven goals, while Feilhaber is up to a career-high 11 assists.

But while Sporting has often been able to pile on at home this season, that was not the case on Saturday night. Their attack sputtered and stalled after the opening goal, and they managed just eight shots, three on target.

Houston’s attack fared little better, but they did grab an equalizer in the 78th minute. As with SKC’s, the Dynamo goal came on a set piece Brad Davis’ free kick was directed into the net by Ricardo Clark to level the match at one.

Nathan Sturgis was sent off in the 86th minute for a dangerous challenge on Roger Espinoza.

In stoppage time, SKC was denied what should have been a penalty when the ball came up and hit Luis Garrido’s hand in the box. But referee Jorge Gonzalez, who had a great view of the play, waved off the shouts for a penalty. That marked a frustrating end to a frustrating game for Kansas City. They remain undefeated at home, but failed to win at Sporting Park for the first time since April.

San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Portland Timbers

San Jose and Portland did not get the memo.

Portland had the best chance at breaking the deadlock when Diego Valeri earned a penalty in the 74th minute. He cut inside on Shaun Francis and the Earthquakes defender brought him down for a surefire penalty. But Valeri stepped up to take his penalty and rocketed it off the crossbar.

The result has to be especially disappointing for the Earthquakes, who remain outside the Western Conference playoff picture. They could have pulled to within four points of the Timbers and Sounders for the final spot, with two games in hand.