MLS's Best of July

By Ridge Mahoney

So much international soccer -- Gold Cup, Women’s World Cup, prestigious club friendlies -- was played during July that some great moments in MLS may have been overlooked.

The MLS debuts of NYCFC’s Andrea Pirlo and the Galaxy’s Steven Gerrard are milestones in the league history and both players showed their stuff as their teams racked up five goals in a game. But there are many more stories unfolding.

FC Dallas rolled through the month unbeaten to take over first place in the Western Conference and the sporadic form of Columbus Crew SC didn’t prevent leading goalscorer Kei Kamara (15) nor assist leader Ethan Finlay (12) from maintaining their top-dog status.

This list includes many of the top events and performers during July.

BEST GAME. We’ll take an obvious choice here. New York City’s 5-3 defeat of Orlando City SC last Sunday had just about everything: two shrewd goals by David Villa, a hat trick by Lions rookie Cyle Larin, a three-assist game by Kwadwo Poku, some sublime stuff from Pirlo, and another boisterous crowd at Yankee Stadium.

BEST ONE-MAN SHOW. He’s a weekly highlight show all by himself, yet Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco outdid himself in an amazing 4-4 tie July 12 that rivaled the NYCFC-OCSC shootout for game of the month. He scored a pure hat trick -- three consecutive goals -- to wipe out a 2-0 deficit and after NYCFC had re-tied the game at 3-3 he set up TFC’s fourth goal for Marky Delgado.

BEST GOAL. There were several high-scoring games that included memorable goals, yet the best of the best was probably Marco Donadel’s during the Impact’s impressive 3-0 defeat of Columbus July 12. Montreal played a short corner from the left wing in the eighth minute and Calum Mallace played a ball that Donadel took into the middle and lashed a blistering shot from more than 30 yards into the top far corner.

(This clip also includes an unforgettable celebration. He runs to the stands and leans well into the seats to kiss his daughter, who is also wearing a No. 33 jersey with daddy’s name on the back.)

BEST ASSIST. There were all manner of slick through balls and bending crosses that produced goals, but sometimes the unusual takes the prize. Mauro Rosales chased down a throw-in from Steve Beitashour and just before it bounced out of play behind the endline he hooked it over goalkeeper Clint Irwin to the back post, where Kekuta Manneh stuffed it into the net.

BEST SLALOM GOAL. RSL playmaker Javier Morales is renowned more for his passes and set plays than scoring goals, but he and his teammates will need to step up their finishing in the wake of Alvaro Saborio’s recent departure. He did just that last weekend in a crucial 2-1 defeat of Sporting Kansas City. Morales latched onto a header from Sebastian Jamie and took the ball past three flailing challenges to bang it into the net.

BEST FREE KICK. July wasn’t a great months for goals scored directly from free kicks yet Villa netted him one of his two goals in the 4-4 tie with TFC with a free kick.

BEST PASS AND FINISH. Every week it seems another FC Dallas player steps into the spotlight, and during July Michael Barrios emerged as a scoring threat by scoring three times. In a 4-1 defeat of Portland he played a role in the buildup and supplied the finish FCD went the length of the field to open the scoring. After picking up the ball on the right side of midfield and veering into the middle, he glides into the penalty area unmarked and scores before the Timbers defenders can react.

BEST HEADER. Out of some very worthy candidates, we’ve chosen one of several by Kamara. He headed a goal in each game as Crew SC downed Chicago in back-to-back encounters; a dispatch of a Finlay cross capped a counterattack the produced the only goal of a 1-0 victory.

BEST SAVE. It was a great month for Vancouver keeper David Ousted and Houston’s Tyler Deric, who between them grabbed the Save of the Week award three times. But this stop by Crew SC’s Steve Clark should have won for week 18 and it’s our pick for best of the month as well. He thwarts Bradley Wright-Phillips by scrambling across the goalmouth and flying right to palm the ball away.

BEST DOUBLE SAVE. It came at the end of a depressing defeat, yet Revs keeper Bobby Shuttleworth pulled off the very rare feat of stopping a penalty kick and snuffing the followup attempt as well. In both cases, he left Sal Zizzo of the Red Bulls flabbergasted. He dives right to parry the penalty and recovers in time to block Zizzo’s shot off the rebound as well. Finally, he gets some help and the ball eventually drops over the crossbar.

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