[MLS] Although New York took over the Eastern Conference lead, both the Red Bulls and runner-up Columbus have fewer points than the top three teams in the West -- Los Angeles, Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas -- all of which won. Chivas USA -- which fell to the Galaxy as David Beckham scored his first goal of the season -- and Philadelphia joined the ranks of those teams eliminated from playoff contention, leaving Kansas City, Chicago, and Toronto with the faintest hopes. Here's what we learned from last weekend's MLS action. ...
HANGING TOUGH. No team has suffered more this season than D.C. United, yet it spanked Colorado, 1-0, with a Danny Allsopp goal. The loss snapped the Rapids’ five-game home winning streak and gave United its first win in Colorado since 2000 as well as a 3-6 record under interim coach Ben Olsen.
On the one hand, that’s a poor record, yet under Olsen D.C. has also managed to match the number of wins it posted under predecessor Curt Onalfo (3-12-3).
A determined team effort beat Colorado, for which Omar Cummings, Marvell Wynne and Anthony Wallace didn’t play. Kurt Morsink cleared a Drew Moor shot off the goal line, and a header by Pablo Hernandez required a sharp save by Matt Pickens. Andy Najar -- who else? -- set up the goal by jinking clear on the right wing and firing a low shot Pickens couldn’t handle and Allsopp collected to scoop into the net.
Another team already knocked out of the postseason, New England, gave defending champion Real Salt Lake a good battle yet succumbed, 2-1. The Revs nearly took the lead when Sainey Nyassi hit the crossbar, and after falling behind, equalized in the 82nd minute when Kenny Mansally’s searing shot tore through the gloves of keeper Nick Rimando, soared high into the air, and dropped just over the goal line.
Yet about two minutes later, Alvaro Saborio got his 10th goal of the season by heading a Javier Morales corner kick. Despite outshooting a tired team, 20-6, New England’s penchant for fluffing opportunities cost it yet another game. It released Lithuanian forward Edgaras Jankauskas last week, and club management is again making noises about signing a Designated Player. (There’s one in New York who might be looking for work.)
FIZZLING OUT. In contrast to D.C. United and New England, a few other teams failed to deliver the performances required in critical situations.
Toronto FC bolted out to a 1-0 lead against Seattle in the 16th minute to quiet another big crowd at Qwest Field, but only for a few minutes. The Sounders rallied with two goals in five minutes and scored again early in the second half en route to a 3-2 victory. While Seattle can be commended for fine finishing on its goals, it ran rampant through gaps and holes resulting from the defensive confusion that has plagued TFC for much of the season.
TFC next plays Chivas USA, which -- like the Revs – played at home hit the woodwork early (Giancarlo Maldonado) against its Home Depot Center landlord, a.k.a. the Galaxy, and then fell behind, 1-0, to Edson Buddle’s 15th goal of the season. Unlike New England, Chivas USA didn’t equalize. A classic dipping free kick by David Beckham doubled the lead and then Alan Gordon, who had earlier squandered two good opportunities against his former team, scored from a clearly offside position to reduce the deficit. A red card in the 76th minute to Eddie Lewis gave Chivas USA a man-advantage it failed to exploit.
Chicago revived its playoff hopes by beating San Jose, 3-0, on Wednesday, but collapsed Saturday while losing in Dallas by the same score. In the 19th minute, defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe failed to deal with a soaring kick from FCD keeper Dario Sala, and Milton Rodriguez seized possession to give Dallas the only goal it would need.
One common theme is that Toronto FC, Chivas USA, and Chicago all changed their coaches after last season (so did New York, and that’s turned out rather well), and could be making changes again in the next few months. TFC has already fired Preki, pressure is building on Martin Vasquez at Chivas USA, and Fire chief Carlos de los Cobos has mentioned he's thought about rejoining the Salvadoran national team.
LIFE AT THE TOP. RSL’s win briefly moved it atop the Western Conference and the overall standings, but the Galaxy’s victory restored it to the summit. Los Angeles (51 points), RSL (50) and FC Dallas (49) are the confirmed playoff teams from the West; New York (47) and Columbus (46) are the only two playoff qualifiers from the East, and that won’t change unless Kansas City (33) can pull off a miracle.
The rest of the field is Seattle (42), San Jose (41), and Colorado (40). The Wizards have four games remaining: the Sounders and Quakes at home, Chicago and New England away. They lost, 1-0, to New York at Red Bull Arena, and came closest in the 47th minute when a Kei Kamara free kick struck the junction of goalpost and crossbar. An incredible 26-10 edge in shots failed to produce a goal.