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by Ridge Mahoney, August 18th, 2014 3:33PM

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[MLS: Week 23] Big wins for Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake moved them atop their respective conferences and into a tie for the Supporters’ Shield. SKC’s Dom Dwyer notched his 15th and 16th goals of the season in a 4-1 defeat of Toronto and livewire Joao Plata moved into the scoring list top five by netting his 11th as RSL beat Seattle, 2-1, in a matchup of the top two Western teams.

MLS Week 23 Results
Aug. 17 (Report)
D.C. United 4 Colorado 2
Aug. 16 (Report)
Chivas USA 0 Vancouver 0
Columbus 4 LA Galaxy 1
Montreal 1 Chicago 0
New England 1 Portland 1
Real Salt Lake 2 Seattle 1
San Jose 0 FC Dallas 5
Sporting KC 4 Toronto FC 1
Aug. 15 (Report)
Houston 2 Philadelphia 0

1. SPORTING KC (12-6-6), 1.
A 4-1 pummeling of Toronto FC brought SKC its seventh victory in the last 10 games and marked a sharp revival from the listless 2-0 loss to Vancouver that preceded it. Dwyer converted penalty kicks won by Benny Feilhaber and himself to forge a 2-0 advantage, and after the lead was cut in half, a big save by Jon Kempin prevented an equalizer. Soony Saad then scored a goal and set up another for C.J. Sapong in a convincing reminder that a repeat championship wouldn’t be a surprise.

2. REAL SALT LAKE (11-4-9), 5. For the second straight week, the Luke Mulholland-Joao Plata duo produced the game’s first goal in an RSL victory. Plata escaped the Seattle defense to head home Mulholland’s free kick. Four minutes later, RSL scored again when Luis Gil’s through ball split open the Seattle back line, and Mulholland has been given credit for what was originally ruled an own goal. Mulholland’s sixth goal of the season turned out to be the winner in RSL’s third straight win and fourth in the last six games, during which it has conceded only four goals and not been beaten.

3. SEATTLE (13-7-2), 2. As good as the Sounders have been this season, they couldn’t solve Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto. Playing their third game in six days, they conceded a pair of goals four minutes apart and lost, 2-1. Chad Barrett’s goal capped off a wild sequence during which a Clint Dempsey shot was saved and Andy Rose’s follow-up hit the post. Those games in hand are going to be made up quickly; Seattle hosts San Jose Wednesday and is at Portland Sunday.

4. FC DALLAS (11-7-6), 4. Maybe a 5-0 blowout of San Jose will alert the league’s followers that FCD has already matched its win total of last year, when it led the conference early and plummeted to an eighth-place finish. The hat trick scored by Tesho Akindele should move him up in the Rookie of the Year discussion, as he is improving every week, and Fabian Castillo marked another dazzling performance by scoring the other two goals. Since losing in San Jose, 2-1, May 31, FCD is unbeaten in nine games and during that run has posted four shutouts. Keeper Raul Fernandez has regained the starting spot. Up next is RSL at home on national TV in a quintessential statement game.

5. D.C UNITED (12-7-4), 6. Starved by two straight shutout defeats, United feasted on a disorganized opponent to beat Colorado, 4-2. Luis Silva’s second goal broke open a nervy 1-1 game and last-minute replacement left back Taylor Kemp stormed upfield to center a ball Chris Rolfe slid home for the winner. Kemp, who replaced an injured Chris Korb, had already assisted on Silva’s first goal. The rampant D.C. attack notched a fourth in the final minutes when Fabian Espindola celebrated his return after a six-game injury absence by drilling home his team-high eighth goal of the season.

6. LA GALAXY (9-5-7), 3. Columbus lit up what had been the league’s best defense, 4-1, to hand the Galaxy just its second defeat in the last 13 games. Two counterattack goals were conceded last week in a 2-2 tie with San Jose, but in this encounter the Crew struck twice during a back-and-forth first half and resumed its pressure after Gyasi Zardes had scored his ninth goal in the last 10 games. Zardes, Landon Donovan, and Robbie Keane took a combined 14 shots, so the chances were there, and Zardes scuffed a sitter wide on a Keane cross with the score, 3-1. But wide-open games are not what this team prefers.

7. VANCOUVER (7-4-12), 8. The ‘Caps reverted to their tying ways with a 0-0 result at Chivas USA for their fifth deadlock in the last six matches. Forward Omar Salgado didn’t do much in a rare starting assignment, Pedro Morales -- limited to a substitute’s role because of a tight hamstring -- couldn’t spark the attack, and Darren Mattocks hobbled off at halftime with a leg injury. The defense did post a third straight shutout but the result adds up to just two points against Chivas USA out of a possible nine.

8. TORONTO FC (9-8-5), 7. The Reds have already won three more games than they did during the entire 2013 season, so the progress in palpable, yet handed an opportunity to show their quality against the defending champion, they crumbled in a 4-1 loss. The first of two penalty kicks awarded against TFC looked debatable, and Gilberto scored his fifth goal of the season to cut the deficit in half, but a back line missing Mark Bloom and Steve Caldwell just couldn’t cope with the SKC attack. That depth so desired by head coach Ryan Nelsen has yet to emerge.

9. PHILADELPHIA (6-9-9), 9. A five-game unbeaten run ended with a 2-0 defeat in Houston that marked rookie goalkeeper Andre Blake’s MLS debut. He recorded seven saves, including a spectacular stop that temporarily kept the Union within a goal. Philly, playing its third game in seven days, mustered just two shots on goal and handed Houston a clinching goal in the final minutes when a cross bounced off Ray Gaddis into Blake’s net. Another rookie making his MLS debut, Pedro Ribeiro, threatened the Houston goal twice late in the game but couldn’t find the net.

10. NEW YORK (6-7-10), 10. The Red Bulls sat out last weekend, and the break came at a good time. They host Montreal Saturday, play their Concacaf Champions League opener next Tuesday against Salvadoran club FAS, then travel to D.C. United for a crucial intraconference clash a week from Sunday.

11. COLUMBUS (7-8-9), 13. 
Former Galaxy defender and assistant coach Gregg Berhalter masterminded a 4-1 spanking of his ex-employer triggered by a dazzling first half from Justin Meram. He twisted away from pressure to curl a superb shot into the top corner in the 23rd minute and 10 minutes later slipped a pass for Ethan Finlay to blast home a second goal. Seven saves by Steve Clark and late goals from Ben Speas and Giancarlo Gonzalez rounded out one of the best showings of Berhalter’s first season as an MLS head coach. The Crew has won three of the last five games, in which it has scored 11 goals.

12. PORTLAND (7-7-10), 12. Five games without a tie -- its longest such run of the season -- ended with a 1-1 result in New England. English defender Liam Ridgewell channeled his inner Bobby Charlton by picking off an interception near the midfield line and striding forward into the penalty area to shoot the tying goal low inside the far post. The Timbers have compiled the most points, 20, after allowing the first goal and Ridgewell’s is the 21st goal scored by the Timbers in the 61st minute or later, which ties them for the league lead in that department.

13. COLORADO (8-9-6), 11. There’s nothing swift about the last eight games; the Rapids have won just one and tied two. Their staying power failed them at RFK; after a spectacular, dipping shot by Dillon Serna pulled them even with D.C. at 1-1, they surrendered three goals in 20 minutes before Deshorn Brown netted in the final minutes. Four straight losses -- during which it has conceded 11 goals, including the first one in each game -- have dragged Colorado out of the playoff tier and into seventh place. Errors in the back line and porous midfield play need correcting right away.

14. HOUSTON (7-12-4), 17. Will Bruin’s up-and-down season is on an upswing; he scored once and threatened several other times in a 2-0 defeat of Philadelphia that perked up the Dynamo’s playoff prospects. A minute after squandering a good chance early in the second half, Gilles Barnes served a ball from the left flank that Bruin dispatched into the net for his team-high ninth goal. Houston preserved the lead and got a second goal in the final minute when an Omar Cummings cross produced an own goal. Two straight shutouts and seven points in the last four games are encouraging. However, a horrid 1-9-1 road record and minus-17 goal difference need drastic improvement, starting Saturday against one of the teams Houston is chasing, the Crew.

15. SAN JOSE (6-9-6), 14. The Quakes are back in last place -- tied with Chivas USA -- after suffering a team-worst 5-0 home defeat inflicted by FC Dallas, which San Jose had beaten at home on May 31. FCD twice scored on rebounds after good saves by keeper Jon Busch, and such a dismal performance heading into a tough stretch of four road games out of the next five doesn’t bode well for those flickering playoff hopes. DP Matias Perez Garcia looked lively at times and perhaps head coach Mark Watson can utilize his talents to spark quicker starts; the Quakes’ one goal scored in the first 15 minutes of play is the fewest in MLS.

16. CHICAGO (4-6-13), 15. Midfielder Sanna Nyassi debuted against the team that traded him to the Fire, but his appearance off the bench didn’t much lift Chicago’s attack in a 1-0 loss at Montreal. It produced just four shots, two on goal, and has scored seven goals while winning just two of its last nine games. Recently signed forward Robbie Earnshaw didn’t play; he is expected to debut for the Fire Saturday against his former MLS team, Toronto FC, for which he scored eight goals last season.

17. CHIVAS USA (6-11-6), 16. A 0-0 tie with Vancouver ended a four-game losing streak but extended Chivas USA’s goalless streak to four straight games. Ecuadoran forward Felix Borja played the full 90 minutes in his debut for the club and his work helped create seven shots for Erick "Cubo" Torres; three of them were on frame but didn’t wind up in the net. Torres has registered an incredible 67 percent of the goals (14 of 21) for the league’s lowest-scoring team.

18. NEW ENGLAND (8-12-3), 18. One of the few bright spots of a barren Revs’ run is the fitness and form of Charlie Davies; he ran onto a Diego Fagundez pass to score his second goal in as many games against Portland, but the Revs were unable to hold onto the 1-0 lead. Instead, Ridgewell slalomed past three players to leave New England with a 1-9-1 record in its last 11 games. One of the league’s surprise success stories last year continues to disappoint in 2014.

19. MONTREAL (4-14-5), 19. The Impact snapped a seven-game losing streak by squeaking past Chicago, 1-0, with a Marco Di Vaio goal. Ignacio Piatti played 53 minutes in his debut and by winning the Impact exceeded D.C. United’s all-time worst win total of three games that it set last year. It’s hard to believe Montreal is 23 points behind United in the standings -- it finished 33 points ahead of D.C. last year -- but that’s how dismal this season has been. Montreal plays in a triad this week; in El Salvador against FAS Wednesday and at New York Saturday. (Those two teams play their CCL game next week.)


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