You can argue that FC Dallas has yet to face the toughest part of their schedule, or that the bounces have all gone their way. What they can't be faulted for though, is the way the Western Conference seems to be intent on maximizing the Toros' lead at the top of the standings.
With only the Portland Timbers looking like serious challengers (at least at this point in the season) for FC Dallas' top spot in the West, the East is currently a more tightly packed group.
The Montreal Impact beat Real Salt Lake 3-2, in a incredibly fun match to watch that had plenty of goals and drama. When your back is pressed against the wall, when all odds are against you, when you're punched out in the 10th round and can barely stay on your feet, that's when your character shows.
Montreal showed an enormous amount of character, fighting back not once, but twice from a losing position to win in the most dramatic way possible: the last gasp, stoppage time goal. Mateo Ferrari was responsible for an own goal in the first half. That own goal put RSL up early in the 7th minute, but it didn't set the tone. It simply spurred the Impact to fight harder. Late in the first half Marco Di Vaio brought the game level, but RSL refused to and and in the 77th minute Kyle Beckerman scored to put Salt Lake in front yet again.
Beckerman's efforts wouldn't be enough, as three minutes later the Impact equalized, and it set the stage for this dramatic goal to seal the three points for Montreal.
There isn't much to write, as blowouts tend to be short of drama. It's worth noting that with the Sounders coming up next, Dallas has been put on notice. This Seattle team is starting to look like the team many writers picked to win the MLS Cup in preseason polls. If their total destruction of San Jose doesn't worry you, you are a very confident person.
The Vancouver Whitecaps stunned the LA Galaxy, and the rest of the league, by dispatching the reigning Champs 3-1 at BC Place. While the Whitecaps didn't look organized at all in the first half, the halftime speech from head coach Martin Rennie must have lit a fire under their collective heinies, and the Canuck Club emerged from the locker room ready to put LA to the sword. The performance was night and day, and by the 75th minute the Whitecaps had a firm 2-0, and would see out the game from there on out.
Not all was glood and doom for the Galaxy, because homegrown product Gyasi Zardes scored his very first MLS goal in the 86th minute. Losing to a Western Conference opponent is never a good thing, but Zardes scoring should give LA hope that, despite the loss, a good sign has been shown in the forward depth department.
The Colombus Crew lost yet again, this time to the Colorado Rapids. It wasn't long ago when they were impressing most people with their attacking, fluid play. That has all skid to an abrupt stop, with the wheels falling off the Crew buggy while the cart crashes into innocent bystanders.
What exactly has gone wrong with the Crew? This doens't look like the fast, confident team from a month ago, and their morale is surely dropping after all the negative results. These things tend to be a vicious cycle, with low morale causing poor performances, poor performances lead to losses, losses lead to morale problems, and yada yada yada. Can Robert Warzycha stop the bleeding in Ohio before their season really begins to get in trouble?
The Rapids meanwhile, got back in the win column with a good game against Columbus. How Oscar Pareja manages to get his team to perform week in and week out, with that patient list he calls a roster, is impressive.
The Portland Timbers slapped around Chivas USA, winning 3-0 at Jeld-Wen Field. Much like the San Jose/Seattle game, there isn't much to write about this. You can tell that the Chivas players are motivated and committed to playing for their coach, they simply lack the awareness and skill to truly compete with the best. Portland was in another class entirely for most of the game, and luckil for them avoided the disappointing result they at home against the New England Revolution.
It seems like an awfully long time ago that Chivas were breathing down FC Dallas' neck. They have collapsed quickly, and are again sitting in a rather familiar spot for them: last place.
If last place wasn't bad enough, Chivas player Mario de Luna pushed a ball boy down for which he will certainly be suspended for at least a few games. What compels a man to shove a teenager to the ground? I understand the frustration he must have felt, but if that isn't the height of stupidity, I don't know what is.
Have fun on the sidelines, de Luna.
One last item on Chivas: Chelis rocked a pink sweatervest on the sidelines.
I take back everything I've ever said about Chelis.
Take a sip of sweet, vintage Schadenfreude (Viña del mar, 1981) fellow Dallas fans. The Houston Dynamo's home unbeaten streak has finally been broken, courtesy of the Greatest Team in MLS (they won, so obviously they get the title back), Sporting Kansas City.
If you did not catch the game, you missed a pretty exciting match. There was plenty of back and forth. There were cards, posts hit, altercations and macho posturing. There were goal-line clearances, close calls, and adrenaline charged free kicks. It also included several gems from the commentating team, including the line "the two best set piece takers in America are on the field", and "this is the strongest rivalry in MLS".
Aurelien Collin scored the game winning goal midway through the second half, on a long throw in that saw him head the ball past Tally Hall. My personal opinions on Collin are well-documented, but that doesn't take away from his puncturing of the Dynamo's pride. He is an absolute gem to have on any fantasy team and he comes highly recommended by Chipotle FC (only the most exciting team in the Big D Soccer fantasy league). Mr. Collin had several key interceptions and tackles to go with his goal, making him the MOTM for this game. Jimmy Nielsen would be a close second, as his saves kept Sporting ahead during critical moments of the game.
SKC celebrated their streak-killing with a huddle in midfield and by partying loudly in the tunnel. The Dynamo were quick to downplay the celebrations.
Bobby Boswell said it didn't matter to Houston, and even mocked Sporting's elation.
"I've said this since you guys have started talking about the streak, it's given teams that come in here with more motivation. ... Have you ever seen a team win a game and have a huddle after the game and go run around screamin in the tunnel and stuff like that? I haven't. Obviously they feel they've accomplished something great. Credit to them for getting the result, but it's not going to break us as a team."
I don't know who Boswell is fooling here, but I don't buy what he's selling for one second. Losing at home, to a team that is your direct rival, and have them end your streak in the process stings. It stings badly. He's right to say that the loss will not break the Dynamo as a team, but his and the rest of the Dynamo's reactions are those of a angry team that cannot stand losing (which is fine, they shouldn't like losing). They're quick to pretend it's no big deal though.
The thing is, their "we don't care" act is hard to buy because it is a big deal. Athletes don't excel because they don't care about winning/unbeaten streaks.
Your home is no longer safe, Houston. Your narrow field and physical (read: rugby-like) play couldn't save you this time.
Houston will likely carry on, with their business continuing as usual, and they will still being a solid team. They won't (sadly) go on a massive losing streak or otherwise fall apart. What might happen, hopefully, is that the loss will prevent Dominic Kinnear from appearing on every podcast and radio show in the United States (and Canada).
I have had quite enough of listening to him every other day in some form or another.
Food for Thought:
- Is this recent rut a blip on the Crew's radar, or is something amiss in Columbus? Can anything be done to fix it?
- What's the appropriate disciplinary measure for Marco de Luna?
- Who is the best team currently in the league besides FC Dallas?
- Do you believe Montreal is a legitimate threat to win the Cup this year?
- Do you believe Houston's claims that the streak doesn't matter to them?