Monday Postgame: Breathtaking action in Week 17 of MLS
Week 17 opened with a five-goal rout, ended with a five-goal thriller, and had a little bit of everything else in between.
There were late heroics, gut-punch results and a history-making goal that amounted to both. Goalkeepers had a huge impact, for better and for worse, and the league’s most famous player had a banner night followed by a landmark day in which he and his wife welcomed their fourth child.
It was another busy, memorable week, with 28 goals in 12 games, and when it was over, you could see the faintest outlines of the playoff picture beginning to take shape.
Let’s take a closer look.
The LA Galaxy were the most consistent team in the league last year, kicking off the season with an 11-game unbeaten streak and holding on to win the Supporters’ Shield.
After Saturday night’s 2-1 victory over Chicago, they’re on track to repeat the feat. The win extended LA’s unbeaten run to 12 games and left them with 39 points, most in the league and four points clear at the top of the Western Conference.
The Galaxy’s two most prominent players led the way, with David Beckham setting up Landon Donovan for the first goal, then scoring the second himself—directly off a seeing-eye corner kick.
With a goal, an assist and a win tucked away Saturday night, Beckham and his wife, Victoria, welcomed their fourth child, a girl named Harper Seven, on Sunday morning in Los Angeles. (This, of course, makes the baby a U.S. citizen. File that one away, USWNT fans.)
Seattle have taken over second place in the West behind LA, and their form is almost as hot as the Galaxy’s. Sounders FC are unbeaten in eight matches after a riveting comeback victory over Cascadia rivals Portland at JELD-WEN Field on Sunday afternoon.
The game started slowly, but the second half matched the electrifying atmosphere at JELD-WEN as Seattle battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to win 3-2 on Osvaldo Alonso’s 83rd-minute penalty.
Fredy Montero scored both of the visitors’ other goals, the second one after a beautiful buildup that went from James Riley to Lamar Neagle to Mauro Rosales, who found Montero in front of the net.
It was a bitter loss for the Timbers, who have dropped six of their last seven, including four at JELD-WEN.
De Ro Dagger
The Red Bulls kicked off the week with a 5-0 pasting of Toronto FC that put all of New York’s offensive weapons on display. New York got goals from Thierry Henry, Luke Rodgers, Joel Lindpere and two from Juan Agudelo to snap a four-game winless streak in style.
It was the Red Bulls’ first shutout since April 30, and it seemed to re-establish them as the dominant team in the East.
That feeling lasted until Saturday, when New York hosted I-95 rivals D.C. United and midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, whom New York had traded two weeks ago for Dax McCarty.
The two players were involved in the game’s only goal—but not in the way New York would have liked. In the 61st minute, De Rosario slipped McCarty’s mark with a crafty dummy, took a pass in the box from Josh Wolff and crushed a shot off the far post and in with the outside of his left foot.
While the Red Bulls are still in first place in the East after the 1-0 loss, they’re only six points ahead of sixth-place DC.
As tough as that defeat was for New York, it paled in comparison to Vancouver’s loss to Columbus this past Wednesday night.
The Whitecaps created several opportunities in the first half, including an effort from Shea Salinas that hit the post. It all went south in the second, though, as Terry Dunfield saw his penalty saved by Will Hesmer (who, like his counterpart, Joe Cannon, had a superb game) and Salinas saw a red card from the referee for a studs-up challenge on Josh Gardner.
That set the stage for stoppage time, when Columbus striker Jeff Cunningham nodded home a Gardner cross for a last-gasp winner, a tally that also happened to be the 133rd goal of Cunningham’s career, tying him with former D.C. United legend Jaime Moreno for the all-time MLS lead.
Vancouver went on to drop their second game of the week as well, falling 2-1 at Colorado, as Rapids striker Conor Casey opened the scoring with his sixth goal in his past seven appearances.
Sporting Kansas City also dealt with tough results and outstanding goalkeeping this week, though they did extend their unbeaten streak to 10 games.
In their first game, on Wednesday night, KC tied Colorado 1-1 after hitting the post twice and, in stoppage time, forcing a spectacular save from Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens on a deflected shot by rookie C.J. Sapong.
Pickens made a lightning-quick adjustment to the deflection, dove back to his left and, at full stretch, tipped the ball off the upright to preserve the 1-1 draw.
Sporting got an identical 1-1 result against Chivas USA on Saturday, thanks to a stoppage-time header from Designated Player Omar Bravo. But with slightly better luck, KC might not have needed the late dramatics.
They had a penalty shout denied in the 59th minute and several golden chances turned aside by Goats keeper Dan Kennedy, who spent much of the match standing on his head: Before Bravo’s thrilling equalizer, Kennedy stopped quality efforts from Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Kei Kamara, and Bravo.
Unfortunately for Dallas fans, while other netminders made highlights Kevin Hartman, one of the best goalkeepers in MLS history, did his best Robert Green imitation.
Hartman fumbled a weak shot from distance by Real Salt Lake’s Andy Williams to gift the hosts a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute at Rio Tinto.
After Dallas missed a golden chance to equalize in the 85th minute, another Hoops error led to the game-clinching goal from Fabian Espindola.
It was a solid 2-0 win for RSL, who ended Dallas’ three-game winning streak, but not everyone was smiling at the end. Striker Álvaro Saborío stomped off the field after being substituted in the 87th minute and left Rio Tinto without speaking to reporters.
While Saborío sulked, Chivas USA midfielder Nick LaBrocca surely smiled. He scored two goals this week to help his team to a win (2-0 over San Jose) and a draw (1-1 with KC). LaBrocca leads the Goats with six goals this year.
In the week’s other results, Houston blanked slumping Toronto 2-0 and Philadelphia grinded out a 0-0 draw at San Jose.