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  • MLS Week in Review – Round 32

    James Grossi

    With goals few and far between pickings were slim, but the top three go to Montreal’s

    – the dance was unnecessary however; DC’s
    after a turnover, and Chicago’s
    that played him in – shame that Nyarko looked to have suffered another bad injury shortly thereafter.

    On to the results:

    Results in Brief

    The round began on Thursday night with a fitting match-up to herald the coming playoffs and the last home match for Dominic Kinnear in his tenure with Houston. In his nine years with the club, Kinnear led his side to four Cup Finals, winning two, both against New England in 2006 and 2007. Last Wednesday it was made official that Kinnear would be leaving the club, returning to his old stomping grounds in San Jose as the Earthquakes look to turn the page and harken back to their past as they open their new stadium.

    The Dynamo were eliminated last week for the first time since 2010 and just the second time ever under Kinnear, but the Revolution were very much still in the mix, in possession of second place in the East, tied with Sporting KC.

    A close fought opening frame – most notable for a wild Luis Garrido elbow that caught Lee Nguyen in the throat and will no doubt get some attention from the DisCo – gave way to a Dynamo opener in the 37th minute when Garrido’s long ball forward allowed Omar Cummings a shot from the right-side of the area. His attempt was parried by Revs keeper, Bobby Shuttleworth, but the rebound fell to Giles Barnes, arriving perfectly late to the top of the area to hit a low right-footer across to the far-side of goal.

    New England’s misfortune continued at the start of the second half, when Jermaine Taylor caught Andrew Farrell with a biting challenge on the ankle that forced the standout sophomore defender out of the match.

    Their luck would turn with the addition of Jermaine Jones in the 63rd minute, as two minutes after his introduction Jones would hit a nice ball down the left for Kevin Alston, who picked out Nguyen with a pull-back to the top of the box having driven deep to the end-line past a napping Andrew Driver. Nguyen stepped around a desperate lunge from Taylor to hit a right-footer to the top right-corner of the Houston goal.

    New England would find their second with time ticking down, waiting until the 87th minute to ensure the points were theirs. A Kelyn Rowe free-kick from the right began a spell of pressure, the ball eventually falling to Jones on the left. His cross was deflected, falling to Charlie Davies at the right-post, who put an effort on goal that Kofi Sarkodie was able to clear off the line. The rebound fell to Darius Barnes in the middle, who wisely and calmly tapped a ball to Nguyen – a better finisher in a better position - to right-foot past Tyler Deric, who got a hand to it, but could not keep it out.

    Having entered the round level on points with Kansas City, the win would see New England move into sole possession of second-place. Houston meanwhile were unable to find a much-deserved win for Kinnear in his farewell match.

    Friday night saw a Portland side desperately in need of a win to stay alive – they entered the weekend trailing Vancouver by a single point in a race for that fifth spot in the West. Their path would have to go through Salt Lake, no easy task, especially considering the visitors were hoping to fend off the surging Dallas to keep hold of third place and out of the play-in round.

    As such, it was no surprise that Portland moved forward in waves, repeatedly testing Nick Rimando and the Salt Lake defenses, probing for a weakness throughout the ninety minutes. In the 18th minute, Rimando had to be alert, reading the intentions of Diego Chara to get his fingertips to a low cross across the top of the box, pushing it away from two incoming attackers on a quick break. Salt Lake had a few good looks of their own, Robbie Findley forcing Donovan Ricketts down low to his left to push a ball off the line when the Salt Lake attacker got on the end of Tony Beltran cross.

    Chances aside, there was quite a midfield battle brewing – Chara and Kyle Beckerman mixing it up in the centre of the pitch – and a flurry of yellow cards, three in three minutes, calmed a fractious battle.

    Portland’s best chance of the match would come in the 61st minute from a mad goal-mouth scramble that saw Darlington Nagbe get on the end of a Diego Valeri ball that was partially-blocked by Beltran, but his effort was saved by a miraculous sprawl from Rimando; Rodney Wallace would follow up the rebound, only for Chris Wingert to get in the way of his effort, sending it out for a corner.

    A pair of Timbers handball shouts – first on Luis Gil who cleared a Norberto Paparotto header from a corner kick off the line with his thigh and then on Nat Borchers, who appeared to catch a bouncing ball inadvertently with his elbow in stoppage-time – but no call was forthcoming and the match would end scoreless.

    The point each would not be sufficient for either club come round’s end, as Portland would remain a point behind Vancouver and Salt Lake would drop into fourth with Dallas moving into third, ahead by a single point as well.

    Saturday kicked off with appetizing match as Eastern Canadian foes Toronto and Montreal met in Toronto, where TFC hoped to keep their slim playoff aspirations alive.

    Their hopes received a boost in the 20th minute when Warren Creavalle scored the game’s opening goal, keeping his eye on a deflected Luke Moore effort that fell out of the sky, right-footing a first-time finish into the bottom right-corner of the goal past Evan Bush after Matteo Ferrari got a piece of Moore effort after Jackson’s neat back-heel played up to the striker.

    It was short-lived advantage however, as Patrice Bernier’s long ball sprung Andres Romero streaking up the right off the back of Mark Bloom and his cut-back found Felipe alone at the top of the box to guide a right-footer into the top right-side of the goal. The Brazilian milked his celebration, dancing in front of the addled Toronto fans.

    Montreal continued their good play into the second, nearly grabbing another goal minutes after the restart when Felipe chipped in Jack McInerney, only for his finish to clip off the top of the bar in the 53rd minute. Felipe himself would draw a good diving stop out of Joe Bendik in the 68th minute.

    Desperate, Toronto poured forward, their best chance coming on the counter in the 80th minute when Dwayne De Rosario played Gilberto up the left. The striker’s well-placed cross to the back-post was met by Dominic Oduro, but Bush was on hand for a crucial foot save.

    Two minutes later the Impact were reduced to ten men, when Heath Pearce was harshly dismissed for a lunging challenge on a streaking Oduro – it was definitely a foul, but whether the card was warranted is a matter of debate. The physical play continued with Jackson drawing a crowd when he flung himself needlessly into Eric Miller.

    The sides would exchange half chances, De Rosario lifting an effort over the bar after Doneil Henry played him in with some silky moves down the right-side of the area and Bendik was called upon again to deny Marco Di Vaio when Bernier’s quick free-kick found Issey Nakajima-Farran who played to the Italian retiree on the right.

    Jonathan Osorio would see a red card as well, equally harsh for a swing at Felipe, who milked it, feigning injury. Bendik lifted him off the pitch and the pain magically disappeared with the diminutive Brazilian outraged at the affront – the TFC keeper would be booked as well. A spectacular collision in midfield, Hassoun Camara upending De Rosario, who then executed a back-heeled can-opener on the defender that saw them each booked – it was Camara’s second yellow of the match.

    With the draw, Toronto were officially (and mercifully) eliminated, much to the pleasure of the visiting Montreal fans who took up a good chunk of one stand.

    The rancourous enthusiasm of the opening match was counterbalanced by a sleeper of a game in Colorado, where the eliminated Rapids looked to end their long winless run against playoff-bound Dallas.

    A quiet first-half gave way to a muted second, the game’s only goal coming from the penalty spot in the 56th minute after Chris Klute was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box. Dillon Powers weak clearance bounced up on his teammate, catching an elbow/forearm as the player turned and the official pointed to the spot. Blas Perez stepped up, calmly slotting a right-footer past Clint Irwin, freezing the keeper with a slight-stutter before dispatching low to the left-side of goal.

    Jared Watts was booked for complaining at the award, a senseless remonstration that would led to his dismissal in the 79th minute when he hauled down Andres Escobar who had the beating of him, reducing Colorado to ten men.

    With the win Dallas leapt over Salt Lake into third spot in the West, ahead by a single point and ending a four-match winless streak on the road; Colorado fell to a third-straight loss, extending their club-record winless run to thirteen matches.

    Saturday’s action returned to the East for two more matches, the first of which saw eliminated Philadelphia continue their domination of Kansas City.

    Having had their hearts broken with last weekend’s come-from-behind win by Columbus – conceding three goals in short order having battle to a two-goal lead – Philadelphia came out intent on restoring their damaged pride, taking the game to playoff-bound Kansas City.

    The Union dominated large swathes of the match, testing fit-again keeper, Eric Kronberg, before taking the lead in the final minute of the first half when Vincent Nogueira cut in from the right, playing up to Brian Brown, who in turn played wide right to Cristian Maidana. Maidana returned a pass into the middle, finding Brown making a run off the shoulder of Aurelien Collin and in front of Seth Sinovic to right-foot the opener to the right-side of the goal.

    Sporting would equalize nine minutes after the restart from the penalty spot after Zac MacMath upended Soony Saad in the box. The play began with Lawrence Olum forcing a turnover in midfield and Paulo Nagamura playing Saad in down the left-side of the area, prompting MacMath to take a chance with an attempted-sliding collection.

    Dom Dwyer stepped to the spot, wiping the slate clean after last weekend’s missed penalty, with a calm, well-taken left-footer placed low to the keeper’s right after sending MacMath guessing the other way.

    But the Union’s desire to end the season on a high in front of their home fans would not be denied, retaking the lead in the 71st minute with Maidana again the playmaker. Danny Cruz played out wide to the right for Sheanon Williams, who slid a ball forward for Maidana down the right-side of the area, drawing three defenders towards him before cutting a ball to the near-post for Pedro Ribeiro. The rookie calmly collected with his left, settling the ball for a right-footer shot under Kronberg towards the left-side of goal.

    The win was Philadelphia’ second over Kansas City this season, having won and drawn matches in Kansas City earlier; with the loss Sporting concede second-place in the East to New England, trailing by three points, and only three points ahead of Columbus, who play on Sunday.

    Where Kansas City have dropped off their blistering place to settle back into the pack, DC have kept their slow and steady assault on the table steaming along – their win over Chicago would locked up top spot in the East for the club, ensuring them home advantage through the conference playoffs and earning them a place in the record books with the largest season-after-season turnaround, having improved by 42 points after a dismal 2013.

    United suffered a blow when it was announced that a hamstring injury would see Luis Silva miss the next four-to-six weeks – the playoffs, basically – but the form of Eddie Johnson, who scored in a second-straight match and assisted on the opener is a boon.

    DC would take the lead in the 31st minute, when Nick DeLeon and Eddie Johnson crisscrossed, the striker ranging out wide right to receiving a ball down the flank from DeLeon before hanging up a cross to the back-post where it was met by Chris Pontius to nod in his first goal of the season after a year marred by injury.

    Johnson would add the second himself in the 53rd minute, when a miscommunication and a poor-pass saw Patrick Ianni bank a ball off his teammate Chris Ritter, falling to Johnson who surged to the right, blowing past Jeff Larentowicz before blasting a right-footer past Kyle Reynish, making his first start for the club in goal.

    Chicago would find some consolation with a fine goal as Patrick Nyarko played a lovely ball with the outside of his right-boot to spring Harrison Shipp in down the right-channel. The rookie reminded award-voters of his skill after a quiet few months, slotting a right-footer under Bill Hamid to the far-side of goal.

    Unfortunately for the Fire, Nyarko looked to suffer a devastating knee injury, planting his feet awkwardly before crumbling to the ground – not good for an exciting player who has struggle with misfortune for years.

    The three points put DC beyond the reach of Eastern foes, into first place on 58 points, six ahead of nearest chasers New England. For Chicago, the self-titled draw kings, the loss was just their tenth of the season.

    Saturday night would close with the back-end of that Western Conference playoff battle with Vancouver looking to reinstate some breathing room between themselves and Portland.

    Ramifications aside, the match was also notable as the last that the Earthquakes would play at quaint little Buck Shaw Stadium, their home for the past seven years, with their new ground set to open new season.

    Somewhat fittingly, the Quakes closed their tenure as it had opened, with a scoreless draw – the less said about this one the better. The only real action worthy of words was Jordan Harvey getting hit in the back by a Kekuta Manneh shot and drawing an offside flag for his troubles.

    With Dominic Kinnear’s rumoured return having come to fruition, former Canadian International Mark Watson and his assistant Nick Dasovic left the club last Wednesday, leaving interim Ian Russell to see out the season.

    He was unable to overturn a fourteen-match winless run, establishing a new club record, but is unbeaten in his tenure, which is something. With the draw the Whitecaps extend their unbeaten run to four matches and reinstate the one point advantage over the Timbers in their playoff race with one match remaining for each club.

    Sunday kicked off back in the East with New York and Columbus, sitting fourth and fifth respectively, battling over playoff positions.

    New York booked their spot last weekend, while Columbus were ensured of theirs without taking to the pitch when Toronto failed to collect the win over Montreal the previous day. This would be a match for momentum and perhaps a preview the play-in round in the East, should standings remain the same come the end of the season.

    Columbus flew out of the gates where New York stumbled, dominating from the off and taking the lead after seventeen minutes when Wil Trapp dispossessed Thierry Henry and played Ethan Finlay down the right. Finlay played a ball to the near-post, where Aaron Schoenfeld failed to connect on his first attempt, while his second kicked up off the desperate lunging block of Jamison Olave to loop past a helpless Luis Robles.

    The Crew would add a second in the 34th minute, Finlay this time the scorer – grabbing a goal in a fourth-straight match. The in-form wide attacker was played down the right-side of the box by a wonderful Tony Tchani ball, placed inside the full-back, Roy Miller, before squeezing a right-footer from a tight angle under Robles.

    Red Bull would awaken from their slumber – if only for a moment – in the 58th minute when Lloyd Sam drew one back for the home side, moving in from the right, beating Bernardo Anor to cut in and smash a right-footer past Steve Clark in the Crew goal.

    But Schoenfeld ensured the points for Columbus in the 80th minute with his second of the match, found by a Finlay pull-back at the near-post after Federico Higuain had played Finlay down the right-side of the area. Schoenfeld would not require a second look this time, right-footing his effort firmly to the right-side of goal.

    The loss snapped New York’s long unbeaten run at home – nine matches – and dropped them below Columbus into fifth spot; the Crew meanwhile surged into fourth with a fourth win in their last five, level on points with Kansas City and hoping to avoid a rematch with New York in that one-game knockout play-in.

    The round concluded with the marquee matchup between Supporters’ Shield contenders Los Angeles and Seattle. Tied on sixty points, the trophy would be determined appropriately, as a scheduling quirk has the two meeting on consecutive weekends in the final two rounds of the season.

    The Sounders entered with the advantage, holding the first tie-breaker (wins), needing just to come out equal after the two games had been played, whereas the Galaxy needed to take the series.

    The match would also be Landon Donovan’s final regular season home game, a momentous occasion for the forward, his club, and the league. And it was nearly Donovan who kick-started the scoring in the 10th minute, getting on the end of a Dan Gargan cross at the back-post, guiding his tight-angled header off the face of the bar.

    As it was, the Galaxy would have to wait until first-half stoppage-time to take the lead, capitalizing on a momentary lapse of concentration from the Sounders. A harmless Gargan ball into the area was missed by DeAndre Yedlin’s header, his leap put-off Brad Evans, who could only nod his clearance towards the top of the box, where Baggio Husidic collected and drove a low left-footer to the bottom right-corner of the goal, beating Stefan Frei and opening the scoring seconds before the half-time whistle was set to be blown.

    The home side would add a second five minutes after the restart, when a Donovan corner kick skipped to the top of the box and was laid back by AJ DeLaGarza to Marcelo Sarvas on the right of the arc to sweetly hit a right-footer that appeared to take a touch off the attempted block off Obafemi Martins finding the left-side of the goal.

    The contentious first half had seen five bookings and Seattle’s frustration was palpable when Martins earned the sixth in the 57th minute for steamrollering over DeLaGarza. That passion sparked something in the disgruntled Sounders, who would draw one back in the 69th minute when Yedlin was finally allowed a foraging run up the right.

    The young full-back was able to squeeze a cross between Donovan and Robbie Rogers, picking out Martins in the middle, who got a slight touch on the service, helping it on towards the back-post where Clint Dempsey was attacking unmarked, driving a left-footed smash into the back of the net.

    Three minutes later the Sounders had equalized, Dempsey and Martins again involved, as the former played to the latter, who in turn found Lamar Neagle streaking down the right-flank to slip a right-footer through the legs of Jaime Penedo.

    Neither side would find the winner, the match ending all-square; the main implication for next weekend will be the suspension of Omar Gonzalez, who was dismissed in the 88th minute for a needless lunging challenge on Gonzalo Pineda, collecting his second booking of the match.

    Should a winner emerge in Seattle, they will take top spot, but a draw favours the Sounders.


    The extended review of the Canadian performances will be posted tomorrow (Tuesday) early afternoon, looking over a moderately busy week. Nine players saw the pitch this week – four as starters and five from the bench – those most did so in the Canadian derby between Toronto and Montreal.

    Most noteworthy was a fine performance from Patrice Bernier, who showed why he is still one of the best passers around, while rumours swirl around the future of Doneil Henry.


    Quality soundbytes were few and far between this round, though the farewells did bring out some interesting ones:

    Brad Davis commented on Dominic Kinnear’s departure: “It’s been hard. It’s not an easy thing for players to go through. It definitely, mentally, was difficult. Dom’s choice to leave I think everybody understands it and supports him in that, but the unknown as an athlete and what happens to us is a big question. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult and weighed on us a little bit. We still went out to do our business to the best of our ability but it was something that was there.” He continued, “As players we would’ve loved to send Dom out on a win. Dom’s shoes aren’t necessarily going to be filled. He’s always going to have, there’s always going to be part for what he’s done.”

    San Jose’s Jason Hernandez reflected on his time with the Earthquakes at Buck Shaw: “It seems like full circle. I’m very honored to be part of this club for that long. I’m very honored to leave this stadium with some good memories and also to leave in the company of some really great and historic players for this club. [i’m] ready for the next chapter.”

    Sam Cronin would have appreciated a more appropriate ending however: “I was thinking it would be fitting if we would have scored late there to win, and have a little bit of a walk-off like we’ve done so many times. But it wasn’t to be tonight.”

    All the talk in LA revolved around the match, rather than Landon Donovan’s goodbye – there will be further nights for that in the post-season. Bruce Arena took the disappointment of giving up the two-goal lead rationally: “To say that you have to go into the last game and win a game to get the Supporters' Shield, that's fair enough; who can argue that?”

    See It Live

    The DOM-inator two-stick in Houston was pretty rad and Joe Bendik lifting Felipe off the pitch was hilarious (well worth the yellow card), but clips of Quincy Amarikwa’s crazy pass and Kekuta Manneh hitting Jordan Harvey with a shot, in an offside position no less, were not available.

    The pregame Landon Donovan ceremony can be seen here, but more explosive was the heated exchange of words between Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey when they got their wires crossed – they would get over it and combine for both Seattle goals.

    Some of the top saves: Nick Rimando’s save on Darlington Nagbe will win Save of the Week – but was not available; Evan Bush on Dominic Oduro, Eric Kronberg on Cristian Maidana, and Jaime Penedo on Obafemi Martins paled in comparison.


    A few moments of controversy:

    Portland claimed two handballs – the first on Luis Gil was not, but Nat Borchers elbow, while it would have been harsh, has been called – clip unavailable; watch for Simon Borg’s Instant Replay later today.

    Both straight reds in Toronto were unnecessary, with the referee taking it upon himself to kill the match before things got overheated. Heath Pearce was rightfully angered by his dismissal, a foul, maybe a yellow, but red? And the replay of Jonathan Osorio’s is inadequate to judge, but only Felipe seemed to think it was a foul, the rest of the Impact playing on without even a shout.

    What about Chris Klute’s handball that led to Dallas’ winner – a little harsh, no?

    And finally, New York’s Roy Miller may be hearing from the Disciplinary Committee for his hand to the face of Ethan Finlay – again no clip at the moment.

    Upcoming Fixtures

    The final round of the MLS season is here (finally, phew), but not until the CONCACAF Champions League wraps up its Group Stage. On Wednesday DC heads to Panamanian side Tauro FC, while Portland travel to Honduras for a visit to CD Olimpia. New York and Montreal meet on Wednesday and Kansas City head to Costa Rica to take on Saprissa.

    Wednesday: Salt Lake-Chivas. Friday: Chicago-Houston. Saturday: Seattle-Los Angeles; Montreal-DC; New England-Toronto; Dallas-Portland; Vancouver-Colorado. Sunday: Columbus-Philadelphia; Chivas-San Jose; Kansas City-New York.

    The Playoffs begin next week with the Play-in matches, pitting the fourth and fifth seeds against one another on Wednesday and Thursday.

    All video & quotes courtesy of MLSsoccer.com

    Each week James takes a look at the league as a whole.

    You can follow James on twitter @grawsee or read more of his writing at Partially Obstructed View

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