MLS Week 30 Recap, Highlights: Galaxy take Supporters’ Shield lead, more

LAG

by RYAN BRISTER

With four weeks remaining in the Major League Soccer season, the standings are impossibly tight. Just eight points separate the league’s best record from the 13th. As has been the case so often lately, the Supporters’ Shield race was marked by stalls and stumbles. All three of the biggest contenders for that trophy fell over the weekend.

LA Galaxy 3-2 FC Dallas

The Galaxy took the lead through some of their biggest names in the 11th minute. Gio Dos Santos laid the ball off for Robbie Keane just outside the box, Keane played it wide to Gyasi Zardes, who hit Dos Santos with a hard cross that Gio had no problem finishing. Just a couple minutes later, Dos Santos assisted on a Keane goal, and the Galaxy were up 2-0 within a quarter-hour.

Dallas settled down after this horrendous start, and gradually created chances of their own. They scored in the 34th minute on something that really shouldn’t have been a chance. Robbie Rogers’ attempt to clear a long pass instead skied into the air. Michael Barrios won the header and Donovan Ricketts appeared lost as it went over his head and into the net. Barrios is 5’2″, for the record.

Even into the second half, it felt like Dallas had the momentum. But a sequence of chances for the Galaxy eventually resulted in a goal that restored their two-goal advantage. Robbie Keane missed on one sliding chance, then hit the crossbar from close range shortly thereafter. On the corner, the ball eventually dropped for Stephen Gerrard, who turned and fired it in.

The goal seemed to stall Dallas’ push, and LA nearly went on to extend their lead further. Robbie Keane hit the crossbar again. But Dallas avoided conceding further, and in the 85th minute provided some late drama. A corner kick was only partially cleared, and eventually worked through the box to Atiba Harris, who scored. Matt Hedges played a back heel assist to get the ball through to his fellow defender.

LA has the most points in MLS, but with only three games remaining—and tough games at that—it’s hard to see them ending the season atop the Supporters’ Shield race. Dallas is three points back, but with two games in hand.

Sporting Kansas City 1-1 Seattle Sounders

A gutsy effort from SKC’s depth players earned them a point against Seattle.

Peter Vermes made several changes to his ideal starting XI for Sunday’s game. Benny Feilhaber was suspended, but Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer were rested for the Open Cup Final, which is on Wednesday in Philadelphia. The young, makeshift SKC lineup sat back and absorbed pressure from the Sounders. It took 25 minutes for the visitors to find a good chance, and Obafemi Martins shot it right at the keeper.

Martins would soon make up for the chance he wasted. In the 32nd minute, he received a good pass from Nelson Valdez, held off Kevin Ellis, and got off a shot that Jon Kempin couldn’t keep out. Martins has scored in five straight games.

But on the whole, Sporting did not look overmatched. Kempin had to make another big save on Clint Dempsey in the second half, but the game remained in reach through 75 minutes. Vermes brought on Dwyer at that point, and just a few minutes later he popped up at the back post to finish a cross from Amadou Dia.

Kansas City’s efforts were nearly unraveled after the equalizer. Dempsey again found himself in behind the back line, but could not direct Martins’ cross on target in the 86th minute. His two missed chances cost Seattle two points.

A draw at home isn’t always the best result, but Vermes has to be happy given the circumstances with his team’s effort. The two teams remain separated by just a point, and SKC has a game in hand.

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-2 New York City FC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7byVRUnbZY

Late penalty calls penalty calls for both sides added controversy to NYCFC’s win in Vancouver.

NYCFC was in must-win mode heading into the match, and it showed in their desire to get forward and attack. They scored the game’s opening goal half an hour in. Andrea Pirlo set up Angelino with a through ball down the left, and the ensuing cross was skidded in to the far side of the net by Frank Lampard. After a long wait, Lampard now has two goals in his last three games.

The score remained in NYCFC’s favor for almost an hour, before Ricardo Salazar made his mark on the match. First, he gave a penalty to the hosts when Kendall Waston went down in the box. Angelino was deemed to have brought him down. Pedro Morales, who began the night on the bench, leveled things for the Whitecaps.

But late in stoppage time, Salazar tooketh away. Matias Laba was called for a foul in the box on what looked like a clean tackle for the ball. Despite their protests, Vancouver could only watch as David Villa scored the winning goal from the spot.

With the win, NYCFC stays vaguely alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Vancouver, meanwhile, slips to second place out west.

New York Red Bulls 2-5 Orlando City

New York’s defense could not contain Cyle Larin as Orlando romped at Red Bull Arena.

Jesse Marsch’s high press pushed much of the early match deep into Orlando’s territory. But the Red Bulls produced few chances to show for it, and Orlando learned to cope with the pressure. They took the lead when Cyle Larin headed in a corner kick in the 24th minute. The goal, Larin’s 12th, set a new record for goals by a rookie in MLS. Larin had been in a lengthy drought since tying the record on August 1st.

The Red Bulls have shown a penchant for quick responses this season, and soon leveled the match. They did so with a good set piece routine in the 29th minute. Sacha Kljestan lofted a cross to the far post, and Matt Miazga got up highest to head it back across goal. Dax McCarty was there to finish the job.

In the box during New York’s free kick, Seb Hines was injured and had to leave the game. He would be replaced by Carlos Rivas. Just before halftime, Rivas hit Cyle Larin with a perfect cross, and the Canadian beat Robles for his second goal of the match. The shape of this goal, a cross from the left towards Larin, would become a recurring theme.

Orland

The Lions wasted no time after the break. Just seconds into the second half, Rivas found space again out left, and he put a cross in for Larin. This time, Damien Perrinelle got in the way, but he couldn’t do so without putting the ball into his own net.

Gonzalo Veron came off the bench early in the second half, and helped the hosts climb back into contention. Veron found Lloyd Sam in the box, and the Englishman turned and finished well. With thirty minutes left, the Red Bulls were down just one.

But their hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed. Rivas got in behind the defense on a good pass from Brek Shea, and he found Larin again, onside, to complete the rookie’s hat trick. That’s Larin’s second of the year, and both have come in New York.

Larin’s third goal took the steam out of the Red Bulls. Things only got worse from there. Matt Miazga picked up a second yellow in the 77th minute. He’ll serve his suspension after returning from Olympic Qualification with the U-23 USMNT. Bryan Rochez combined with Kaka to score the final goal in stoppage time.

The Red Bulls will wonder what exactly happened here. At home against Orlando is a game they would have expected to win, but instead they were dismantled on the counter. But the week’s other results did not punish the Red Bulls’ Supporters’ Shield hopes.

Montreal Impact 2-0 DC United

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcDtIZcGw5I

Didier Drogba scored twice early as Montreal defeated slumping DC.

Bill Hamid had already made a big save on Dom Oduro before Didier Drogba stepped up for a free kick in the fourth minute. Even Hamid couldn’t stop Drogba’s powerful shot; he got a hand to it, but could only push it off the inside of the post on its way in. Seven minutes later, Drogba struck again. This time, he pounced on a giveaway in open play. He dribbled past Steve Birnbaum and chipped Hamid to double the lead.

The tone having been set, DC never did much to threaten the Impact’s lead. Hamid ended with five saves, while Evan Bush needed just three to preserve his clean sheet. DC’s nine shots overall were an improvement from their previous visit to Montreal, when they managed just one. Of course, they won that match—and haven’t since.

The Impact are one of the hottest teams in MLS, and will pose a problem for anyone they face in the playoffs if they can maintain their current form.

Columbus Crew SC 1-2 Portland Timbers

Portland grabbed a vital win on the road in Columbus.

The Timbers came out strong, despite being the visiting side. They probably should have had a penalty in the ninth minute, but referee Silviu Petrescu apparently saw nothing wrong with Wil Trapp’s tackle on Darlington Nagbe. Judge for yourself.

TN2

The visitors would take a deserved lead later in the half. Nagbe had a too-rare assist with a clever flick to play Fanendo Adi into the box, and the shot squeezed past Steve Clark into the net. To that point, the Timbers were outshooting the Crew 6-3, and in reasonable control over the match.

But the Crew are ever-capable of scoring. Kei Kamara leveled the match off a corner kick just before halftime. Frederico Higuain’s corner met Kamara before the near post, and he headed it into the bottom corner of the goal. Kamara’s 22 goals are the most in MLS.

Adi never seems to settle for just a single goal. In the 50th minute, he completed his brace, his eighth in MLS. It was a quick Portland counter, spurred by a good through ball from Diego Valeri to Rodney Wallace out on the left wing. Wallace’s cross was flicked inside the far post by Adi. The Nigerian striker now has 12 of the Timbers 31 goals this season.

The three points are hugely significant for the Timbers, who felt pressure from below the red line out West. Crew SC, meanwhile, miss out an opportunity to go first in the East.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Real Salt Lake

Only a deflection could beat Nick Rimando, but San Jose got the goal and the win they needed.

The Earthquakes had a flurry of chances on a corner kick in the 25th minute. Matias Perez Garcia nearly scored an olimpico, but had it saved off the line by Rimando. Multiple swings at the rebound were blocked before a final shot sailed wide of the goal. They had another spell in the box ten minutes later, but Shea Salinas hit the post and nobody could find the angle for another shot.

Without Javier Morales, RSL’s ability to create chances was diminished, and they had to rely on Rimando again in the second half. He denied Chris Wondolowski from what should have been point-blank range. Wondo had two big chances saved away by Rimando in the half.

Joao Plata was similarly frustrated at the other end. Played in twice behind the San Jose defense, he was stopped once by David Bingham and sent the other chance wide.

San Jose’s finishing needed work; just six of their 20 shots were on target. But their performance and chance creation deserved more than a 0-0 draw. So maybe it was fair when Perez Garcia’s shot in the 87th minute took a deflection and trickled into the net. Perez Garcia took off his shirt in celebration, and was given a yellow card, his second of the match. The Quakes hung on with ten men.

Montreal Impact 2-1 Chicago Fire

In midweek, the Impact began Brian Bliss’ interim reign with a defeat, but the Fire put up a fight.

Chicago made an attempt to sign Didier Drogba this summer. He rebuffed them, and the first time he faced them, he scored a hat trick. He was a little more merciful on Wednesday, but still scored the game’s opening goal. Did he foul Jeff Laurentowicz in doing so? Yeah, probably. The referee ignored it.

Drog2

A series of unfortunate events led to the Impact giving up an equalizer. Nigel Reo-Coker went up for a header and missed the ball, letting Gilberto in on goal. The Brazilian chipped the ball over Bush, but had his header hit the post as Donny Toia whiffed on a clearance. David Accam cleaned up the mess, and Toia could not keep his header out.

Accam could have given Chicago the lead in the 73rd minute, but after dancing through the defense, he lofted his shot over the bar. Naturally, it wouldn’t be long before the next goal was scored in the other direction.

Patrice Bernier returned from injury to make a substitute appearance, and he got an assist in his 28 minutes. His through ball played Andres Romero into the box, and Romero finished well to put Montreal back in front.

Two wins in the week further solidifies Montreal’s playoff positioning; they still have two games in hand on the teams below them.

 

Toronto FC 3-2 Chicago Fire

Toronto overcame a brace by their former player and avoided home embarrassment with a win over the Fire.

The game started in the worst possible way for the Reds. Gilberto broke through a defense that was apparently still sleeping, and gave Chicago the lead just 40 seconds into the match. Gilberto, of course, spent 2014 with TFC before making way for their new assortment of designated players.

The lead would last nearly half an hour before Sebastian Giovinco worked his magic on an equalizer. From a tight angle, just outside of the box, Giovinco curled the ball towards the far post. Jonathan Osorio seemed to get his head to the ball to ensure the goal, but it has been credited to the Italian.

Gio

In the 52nd minute, quick passing again freed up Gilberto, and again he made his former team pay. In past years, two goals by a player they so casually cast aside would have spelled out some sort of karmic doom for Toronto. But on Saturday, the Reds fought back.

Michael Bradley, who made a defensive error on the second goal, made a point of rectifying the matter. He went on another of his thirty-yard runs on the ball, and ended it by putting a deflected shot into the net. Giovinco was credited with an assist for his short pass in midfield, giving him an MLS record for goals and assists in a year with 35.

Toronto would complete the comeback win on a corner kick in the 79th minute. Again, it was Giovinco with the delivery, but the ball bounced around in the crowded box before Jozy Altidore hammered it home.

TFC sits just a point above Montreal in the standings, but there is a reasonable cushion between the two of them and the sides clamoring for a playoff spot below them. Chicago was eliminated from the playoffs with the loss.

New England Revolution 1-1 Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake made 10 saves to frustrate the Revs in a 1-1 draw.

Like his counterpart in Kansas City, Jim Curtin showed deference to the Open Cup final in his lineup. Still, it took a penalty late in the first half for New England to make the breakthrough. Fabinho made a silly challenge from behind on Lee Nguyen at the edge of the box to give away the penalty. Nguyen took care of the spot kick to give New England the lead.

The Union, despite their various disadvantages, refused to go away, and their persistence was rewarded with an equalizer in the second half. Fernando Aristeguieta received the ball in the box and, in one motion, turned fired a shot inside the near post.

The star of the night was Andre Blake. The goalkeeper position in Philadelphia has been a revolving door for the unfortunate in recent years, but Blake showed why he was the first pick of last year’s SuperDraft. The Revs knocked and knocked on his door all second half, but he answered each time. This game could have been lopsided if not for Blake. Ten saves is tied for the most in a game this season.

Blake

The slip up by New England prevents them from officially clinching a playoff spot, though that will surely come soon enough. It significantly hampers whatever hopes they might have had of finishing first in the East.

Houston Dynamo 1-0 Sporting Kansas City

Sporting did not bring their best performance to Texas, and left with a loss.

The first half is hardly worth mentioning. The two sides combined for just three shots, none of which was on target. The second half, thankfully, was a bit livelier.

A flash of speed and a good cross from DaMarcus Beasley produced the game’s only goal in minute 66. He played a good one-two with Brad Davis to get into the box and to the end line, then his cross trickled across the goalmouth to Will Bruin, who had a tap-in finish.

Boniek Garcia was sent off for a pair of yellow cards, but the 20-minute advantage didn’t help SKC any. They forced Tyler Deric to make just three saves on the night, and lost for the fifth time in seven games.

Houston Dynamo 3-2 Colorado Rapids

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYuhC-zsubg

In a game that was far more open than most expected, the Dynamo took all three points.

The scoring started very early; Houston got on the board in the third minute. It was a quick counter, led by Bruin. Giles Barnes’ stumbling touch worked well for Leonel Miranda, who hit a powerful shot into the net. Just five minutes later, Vicente Sanchez scored on a low free kick from about 30 yards out.

In the 24th minute, Bruin got one-on-one with a defender on the right wing, and beat him en route to setting up Barnes for Houston’s second goal. Barnes has seven goals this year, but that’s his first since May.

The Rapids equalized just before halftime, and again it was Sanchez. He was played in by Dillon Powers and his shot just trickled into the net. Sanchez’s four goals are tied for the team lead in Colorado.

Early in the second half, Davis gave Houston the lead once more. A cross intended for Bruin pinballed to Davis, who had a wide open net to aim for. After five goals in 47 minutes, the scoring dried up there.


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