This weekend saw more than a few matches end quite differently than current run-of-form suggested, and as a result the fight for table position just got a bit tighter. This parity is what makes so many fans love or hate MLS. Regardless of anyone's opinion, the fact is that no team can be taken for granted on any given weekend.
Sporting Kansas City beat DC United 1-0 in a match that no one really deserved to win. While the first half had its moments of excitement, with a few near misses and neat passing from Sporting, the same could not be said for the second half. In fact, for the most part Sporting looked nothing like their rampaging selves from last week's dismantling of Montreal.
DC United looked like a team that was desperately missing Dwayne De Rosario, a factor many expected to weigh heavily in the outcome. To be fair to DC, he's a man few teams could lose and not notice his absence. What at first looked like a strategy to frustrate Kansas City quickly revealed itself to be nothing more than a ruse. DC simply lacked the quality to really challenge Sporting's midfield wall.
When United attemptd to go forward they had no creativity or spark, putting nothing more than four shots on goal and only hitting a single shot on target. They were outshot 13-4 by Sporting, and while SKC could only put two shots on frame, they held the lion's share of the possession. At no point did Sporting look as though they would lose at home.
Claudio Bieler again lived up to expectations because, despite his and his team's performance throughout the match, it was his shot that killed DC's chances of getting any points out of the game. His goal moves him up to second place in the scoring charts (tied with Robert Earnshaw). Oddly enough, Bieler and Earnshaw both trail Mike Magee (you all had him for the golden boot this year, right?).
The Colorado Rapids surprised pundits and fans alike by beating Real Salt Lake at home 1-0, with a goal by Atiba Harris beating Nick Rimando early in the 5th minute. I've linked the entire sequence below and it just highlights the fact that, when Atiba Harris scores on you, your defense has failed enormously.
This is clownshoes defending at best, as Harris is left wide open while RSL engage in a kindergarten-style of defending where everyone masses around Edson Buddle. There are five defenders, and no one has noticed Harris standing completely open in front of the net.
Not RSL's finest moment in defense.
The San Jose Earthquakes will be disappointed with their 1-1 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps, but it must be reassuring for all Quakes fans (and fantasy managers) that Chris Wondolowski scored yet again. This was probably the game that helped Dallas the most this weekend, as Vancouver and San Jose both look to be teams who will be sticking around for a while, jockeying with FCD for table position.
The helpful tie did not occur without some controversy though. In the 61st minute, two San Jose players, Victor Bernardez and Alan Gordon, went off to the sidelines to change out their boots. When they were done however, referee Fotis Bazakos did not wave them onto the field and during the ensuing 9 vs 11 situation Corey Hertzhog scored a goal that was dramatically protested by the Quakes. How is it fair, they claimed?
Well, it might have something to do with Law 4 from FIFA's Laws of the Game, stating that the ball must be out of play in order for the players to be allowed back on to the pitch. The protests had no ground within the rules, and as such the goal stood, allowing Vancouver the chance to close out their visit to California with a tie.
Their draw gives them only one point apiece, leaving Vancouver in 5th place with seven points and San Jose in 4th with eight points. Valuable dropped points? We'll take those every day.
The Portland Timbers upset the hated Houston Dynamo 2-0 in what will count as Caleb Porter's first League win in his career. Normally, having a conference opponent pick up points is a bad thing, but Portland is well behind FCD. It's safe to say that we can all relish a bit of misery dealt to the the boring, boring Dynamo.
Things started off terribly for the Timbers despite the happy result. Due to injuries early in the game, Portland was forced to sub off both David Horst and newly acquired stud Diego Valeri before the 30th minute had passed. The Timbers' insipid display, coupled with losing their best forward, had many wondering if the Timbers had it in them to fight a Dynamo side seemingly content to play for the draw.
In usual Caleb Porter fashion however, the Timbers ate their Wheaties at half time and came out firing in after the break. It wasn't long before Ryan Johnson took advantage of a great cross by Diego Chara and put the home side up 1-0. With Darlington Nagbe orchestrating the attack and controlling the final third, the Timbers finally looked like a team with a purpose.
A 18 minutes later, Nagbe found Johnson open on the left hand side and slot him a perfectly weighted pass. Johnson timed his run perfectly, broke past the Dynamo defense and struck a wonderfully placed shot to put the game out of reach. The Timbers Army just about lost it at the second goal, and deservedly so. The Timbers made the Houston back line look like amateurs in the sequence leading up to the goal.
The Chicago Fire beat the New York Red Bulls 3-1 in a match that, though poor in quality, was not short on talking points. Fire fans will be delighted with the result (the product of a determined performance by Chicago) as New York fans are left to wonder where their midfield spart has gone to.
Russel's goal might win goal of the week but Jamison Olave's strike might give it a run for its money. After Juninho overshot a free kick, Brandon Barklage and Tim Cahill combined to get the ball to Olave, who made an acrobatic half-scissor kick to open the scoring in style.
The Fire could have been level later in the first half after the referee pointed to the spot due to a handball by Johnny Steele. In typical 2013 Fire fashion, Chris Rolfe missed the penalty kick by a healthy (unhealthy?) margin of about three feet. Later, a midfield pass to Peguy Luyindula saw him free in on Sean Johnson. Luyindula took a page out of Rolfe's book and struck the shot well wide, as abysmal finishing had become a recurring theme.
The moment of the half came right at the 45th minute, when a Fire cross appeared to be overshot. Luis Robles charged out to grab the ball, only to have Daniel Paladini coming barging in out of nowhere and headed the ball right out of Robles' hands into the net to bring the game level. Robles late reaction and poor positioning allowed Paladini his goal, but it still remains impressive. It's a very gutsy move, especially in a sport where goalkeeprs are favored in aerial duels.
The half came and went with both teams struggling for any creativity in the middle. Even bringing Thierry Henry off the bench did little to help the stagnant Red Bulls attack, and when the Fire brought on Maicon Santos to shake things up, I predicted on twitter he would be useless. Taylor Twellman called him out for his lack of engagement on the field and then, as if he heard him on the spot, Santos broke out to score two goals.
The first of goals was very impressive. A great midfield pass from Paladini saw Santos time his run perfectly to beat the Red Bulls defense. Once inside the box he cut to his right to fake out Olave, who fell promptly on his rear to watch Santos finish the goal with precision. Chicago took the lead and New York didn't really mount much of a threat afterwards. The second goal resembled something of a 2013 FCD set piece: a long range shot was allowed to bounce in the box and Santos pounced on it to score.
Who predicted these outcomes? Some (including myself) would have bet their homes on Chicago losing, but as luck would have it they found their inner drive and put together a nice performance by the end of the game.
LAST MINUTE ADDITION:
We've just heard that New England player Kevin Alston has chronic myelogenous leukemia. Keep him in your prayers, he's a classy guy who has been a faithful servant to his club.
Food For Thought
- Is Chicago back on the right track? Was a win all they needed to get their season going in the right direction?
- Who else is unimpressed with Juninho so far? He really has contributed very little to the Red Bulls' game outside of some set pieces, and even most of those haven't been all that special.
- Are you concerned about San Jose now that Lenhart, Prince of Thugs, is back?
- What was your favorite moment of the weekend? Pencil me in for both Timbers' goals.
- Seattle is the last team to be held winless. How surprised are you?