[MLS: Week 24]A weekend of important games between the top teams produced a jumbled Supporters’ Shield race and also propelled FC Dallas, which beat Real Salt Lake, 2-1, after playing the second half with 10 men, into the top spot of the Power Rankings.
Aug. 24 (Report)
Portland 2, Seattle 4
Philadelphia 4, San Jose 2
Aug. 23 (Report)
New York 4, Montreal 2
Sporting KC 0, D.C. United 3
Toronto 2, Chicago 2
Columbus 3, Houston 0
LA Galaxy 2, Vancouver 0
New England 1, Chivas USA 0
Aug. 22 (Report)
FC Dallas 2, Real Salt Lake 1
1. FC DALLAS (12-7-6), 3.Several teams have reeled off impressive streaks this season yet by beating Real Salt Lake, 2-1, last Friday FCD did more than win its seventh game in the last 10. It scored both goals after Blas Perezwas sent off in a dubious officiating decision and gutted out the entire second half a man down. Je-Vaughn Watson scored with his chest, Fabian Castillo notched yet another electrifying goal -- he leads the team with nine -- and only a deflected shot in stoppage time thwarted a shutout. Watson and Zach Loyd led a stout defensive effort that contained RSL for most of the game and that deflected shot was just the second goal allowed in the last four matches.
2. SEATTLE (14-7-3), 2. With first place in the Western Conference and the Supporters’ Shield lead dangling in front of them, the Sounders pummeled the Timbers, 4-2, at Providence Park Sunday as Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey strengthened their case as the best forward duo in MLS. After firing a shot off the goalpost, Dempsey scored his fifth goal against Portland this season; he hit a hat trick in the 4-4 bonanza back in April. Martins set up a goal for Dempsey, who returned the favor with a through ball Martins put away for one of his two goals. They are the team’s co-leaders with 10 goals apiece. Chad Barrett’s goal was his third in as many games; he also netted Wednesday in a 1-1 tie with San Jose.
3. D.C. UNITED (13-7-4), 4.If a Wednesday night CCL match -- in which United went with backups and reserves -- and trip to the Midwest were supposed to sap their energy, its players didn’t get the memo. They rode out some early SKC pressure and banged home three goals in seven minutes to take command of a match they won, 3-0. With Eddie Johnson suspended, Fabian Espindola started up top with Luis Silva floating in the hole underneath, from whence he set up goals for Espindola and Chris Rolfe, whose pass to Perry Kitchen produced the third goal. Bill Hamid got his sixth shutout of the season as United won at Sporting Park for the first time. United’s road mark of 5-5-1 is third-best in the league.
4. SPORTING KC (12-7-6), 1.Breakdowns while defending three counterattacks led to all of United’s goals and though SKC came back in the second half and hit the post through Graham Zusi, it didn’t muster the home performance of a defending champion against a capable conference rival. After winning four in a row, it has lost twice and tied once in the last four games. The onset of CCL play -- SKC went to Nicaragua and tied Real Esteli, 1-1, on Tuesday -- will stretch the roster unless head coach Peter Vermes can utilize his personnel shrewdly. Midfielder Paulo Nagamura has been sidelined with a bad ankle since early July, and his return can help shore up the middle.
5. LOS ANGELES (11-5-7), 6.A shot off the crossbar in the later stages of the Galaxy’s 2-0 defeat of Vancouver summed up the night for Robbie Keane; he’d already used up his luck by setting up a pair of goals inadvertently. A shot that was going wide of the far post was roofed by Landon Donovan, and a shocking mis-kick rolled right to Marcelo Sarvas, who fired sharply into the far corner. A shutout with much-maligned Leonardo in the back line may help his confidence, though A.J. DeLaGarza’s stout work at left back played a significant role. Six wins in the last nine games has propelled L.A. into the Supporters’ Shield race yet it is still fourth in an insanely competitive Western Conference.
6. REAL SALT LAKE (11-5-9), 5.An unbeaten run of six games (four wins, two ties) ended when RSL conceded two goals and scored only one playing a man up against FC Dallas. RSL struggled to stop FCD and didn't score until Olmes Garcia got free in stoppage time. Not many teams can counter at the speed FCD possesses, but head coach Jeff Cassar and his players are likely to see similar tactics for the rest of the regular season and in the playoffs.
7. TORONTO FC (9-8-6), 8.TFC took a pair of one-goal leads at home against Chicago but a rickety defense weakened by injuries to Steven Caldwell midway through the first half and left back Justin Morrow in the 58th minute conceded a pair of equalizers in a 2-2 tie. Doniel Henry replaced Caldwell with TFC leading,1-0, through an own goal and after Chicago tied the game, Gilberto scored on a breakaway to regain the lead only for TFC to concede again in the final minute.WhyJacksonand not Bradley Orrreplaced Morrow came up in the post-match analysis, but TFC needs to shore up the defense no matter who plays.
8. NEW YORK (7-7-10), 10. Thierry Henrymasterminded a 4-2 defeat of Montreal as only he can. A few days after turning 37, he turned the Impact inside out with two goals -- a diving header and a precise shot off the inside of the post -- and an assist -- he is tied for the MLS lead with Keane with 11.Bradley Wright-Phillipsscored twice to set a team record for goals in a season with 20 and he’s within reach of the all-time league mark of 27. How this team can look so good at times and still be stuck at .500 continues to mystify, and more questions will be asked as it starts Concacaf play this week.
9. COLUMBUS (8-8-9), 11. By scoring his third goal in as many games and assisting on one as well, Justin Meram set the Crew on its way to a 3-0 defeat of Houston, the team’s fourth victory in the last six matches. He scooped up a loose ball at the edge of the penalty area and worked himself free to score the first goal, then hit a nice cross for Adam Bedell to head home the second. Substitute Adam Schoenfeld added a third in the 64th minute, by which time the Crew’s marking and pressure had blotted out the Houston attack. Waylon Francistook over at left back for Giancarlo Gonzalez, who is being transferred to Italian club Palermo, and filling that hole is an important item on the agenda of head coach Gregg Berhalter heading down the stretch.
10. VANCOUVER (7-5-12), 7.Going down two goals to the Galaxy at StubHub Center 32 minutes into the match sent the Whitecaps spinning towards a 2-0 loss and a grim record of just one victory in the last eight games. The speed of Kekuta Manneh and Darren Mattocks seldom threatened, and though Mauro Rosales’ first Vancouver appearance as a halftime sub was encouraging, a quiet night for Pedro Morales stilted the ‘Caps attack. They also permitted far too many Galaxy touches in the penalty area and were constantly a step slow in midfield, where both Matias Laba and Gershon Koffie were missing.
11. PHILADELPHIA (7-9-9), 9.In his second stint in Philly, Sebastian Le Toux is reminding fans of his memorable first visit when he scored 25 goals and registered 20 assists in 2010 and 2011. He played a part in all the goals as the Union drilled San Jose, 4-2, on Sunday, by scoring once and setting up the other three, including two superb goals by Andrew Wenger. Wenger nailed Philly’s first goal high into the net with his left foot and powered into the box from midfield to smack home the clincher off the outside of his right foot. This probably isn’t the best time to take a break, as the Union has taken 12 points from its last seven games. It doesn’t play again until Sept. 3 when it hosts Toronto FC in the first of two crucial encounters back-to-back.
12. PORTLAND (7-8-10), 12.A 4-2 home loss to archrival Seattlelowered the Timbers further into the bin labeled “Biggest Disappointment of 2014.” Portland’s midfield and back line crumbled repeatedly, and barely three minutes after Fanendo Adi had scored to give the Timbers a breath of life, they conceded a fourth goal. (Adi netted again in stoppage time.) A long road trek to New England and Guyana and back to Portland may have taken a greater toll than anticipated by head coach Caleb Porter, who split up his original squad of 28 players after it tied the Revs, 1-1, last weekend. But if defender Liam Ridgewell is to be the savior, he can’t be schooled by Brad Evans, as per the first goal.
13. COLORADO (8-11-6), 13. By the time they return to action Saturday in Seattle, the Rapids will have had 10 days to ponder the collapse by which 2-0 and 3-1 leads were squandered to the Galaxy in a 4-3 midweek defeat. After Marlon Hairston scored his first MLS goal, Edson Buddleheaded home his 100th, and a thunderous free kick by Marc Burch canceled out the Galaxy’s first goal. But a defense missing injured captain Drew Moor also lost his replacement, Jared Watts, to injury, and the Galaxy took full advantage. Five straight losses have dragged the Rapids out of the playoff tier and who can lead the team out of this mess is not clear.
14. HOUSTON (7-13-4), 14. DaMarcus Beasley sits and Luis Garrido plays, and Houston looks tentative and shaky again in a 3-0 loss at Columbus. Maybe the nerves would have been settled had Will Bruin converted an early chance, but his shot hit the goalkeeper in the face and only one other Dynamo attempt was on frame. Brian Ownby replaced Garrido and came close to scoring twice, only to be denied by strong slide tackles. A strong run is needed to retain any semblance of playoff hope, but next up is a date at Sporting Kansas City, which is stewing in the aftermath of that loss to D.C. United.
15. SAN JOSE (6-10-7), 15.There’s not much cause for optimism, only frustration and desperation after a two-game road swing to Seattle and Philly accrued just one point: a 1-1 tie with the Sounders thanks to an equalizer by Chris Wondolowski. He also tied the game against the Union at 2-2 by volleying a sweet, deep cross from Shea Salinas, but a dubious foul call on the latter provided the free kick by which Philly took a lead it did not relinquish. (Sam Cronin scored San Jose’s first goal with a world-class blast from about 28 yards out.) Winless in four, and deprived of Designated Player Matias Perez Garcia after just two appearances because of a knee injury, the Quakes play five of their remaining 11 games against Portland and Vancouver. They need to pass both of them, as well as Colorado, to make the playoffs.
16. CHICAGO (4-6-14), 16.The ties keep piling up, but in this one the Fire showed some spark. It came back from an early own goal scored for Toronto by Bakary Soumare to finish at 2-2. Four minutes off the bench in his Fire debut, Robert Earnshawheaded an equalizer against his former team to tie the game, 1-1, and after Chicago conceded again Quincy Amarikwa volleyed home in the final minute of regulation. Amarikwa’s goal tied him with Mike Magee for the team lead with seven, and the addition of Earnshaw will boost the available firepower. With eight games to play, the ninth-place Fire is only five points out of a playoff spot but must pass three teams. It plays only two of those foes immediately ahead of it, Philadelphia and New England, so help will be needed.
17. NEW ENGLAND (9-12-3), 18. The tug-of-war for USA midfielder Jermaine Jones ended shortly after the Revs downed Chivas USA, 1-0, Saturday with a Lee Nguyen goal in the 56th minute and a few excellent saves by keeper Bobby Shuttleworth. Diego Fagundez hit a clever crossfield ball that Kelyn Rowe and Daigo Kobayashi turned into the chance Nguyen converted. Shuttleworth snared a ball on the goal line to preserve the victory. Jones comes into the picture at the perfect time to spur a late-season push and alleviate the Revs’ sporadic breakdowns in central midfield. His robust tacking and a few potshots from distance won’t hurt, either, if head coach Jay Heaps can harness his fiery persona.
18. CHIVAS USA (6-12-6), 17. A commendable defensive effort went for naught, literally, as a fifth consecutive game without scoring yielded a 1-0 loss at New England. Felix Borja failed to convert a one-on-one against Shuttleworth and several other good opportunities were squandered as the winless streak extended to six games. A derby between teams headed in opposite directions is set for Sunday at StubHub Center.
19. MONTREAL (4-15-5), 19. Three goals conceded in 22 minutes blew away a 1-0 lead provided by Dilly Duka’s goal in the 37th minute and sent the Impact en route to an eighth loss in the last nine games. Duka ran onto a through ball from Calum Mallace to score his first goal for Montreal, and after the roof fell in, Andreas Romero converted on a counterattack to briefly narrow the gap to 3-2. Recently signed DP Ignacio Piatti played the first 70 minutes and managed two shots. Fatigue from a 3-2 Concacaf Champions League victory over FAS in El Salvador Wednesday clearly affected the Impact, which rather soon must start focusing on 2015.