A great weekend for MLS soccer was overshadowed by some high-profile injuries that may close the door on some struggling teams. Meanwhile, the top of the pack looked stronger: Donovan’s return coupled with New York’s victory Thursday has two of the big name teams clicking on all cylinders at the moment and threatening to open a divide in the standings. The East is still the East – three teams will take the playoff spots but no one’s sure who and in what order.
But the big takeaway from this weekend is, of course, Lambeau Leaps are not allowed in MLS. Here’s your weekend recap:
Seattle Sounders 1, Colorado Rapids 0: We’ve covered the match and implications in-depth on this site, but I can’t emphasize enough how big of an impact Zakuani’s injury is on the Sounders. Fredy Montero looked to be on his way back to form and they finally looked to be clicking on offense at least. Now they have to replace one of their best playmakers. Their schedule over the next few weeks is critical: Toronto, Portland, Kansas City and Dallas at home; traveling to DC and Columbus. This is not murderers row, but the kind of schedule that could show us if Seattle are contenders or pretenders this year. Look for a Colorado post this week to talk about their travails.
Toronto FC 1, Columbus Crew 1: I mentioned last week that Columbus is facing an easier part of the schedule, and if they want to be considered a playoff contender, they need to win these type of games. Instead, they settled for a draw and only after Toronto were down to ten men. Tony Tchani’s celebration made it clear that MLS officials will not tolerate goal celebrations off the pitch; players be warned. The Toronto goal snapped the Crew’s impressive scoreless streak and gives some hope to a side that was pretty down after last week’s loss.
Chivas USA 2, San Jose 1: This is a bad, bad loss for San Jose. While Chivas got a long deserved win, this is the kind of match San Jose needs to win to be considered a playoff team. They are winless in their last four and while losing to New York last week is no disgrace, losing at home to the Goats arguably is. An additional footnote, this match was the first time this season an MLS team came from one goal down to win a match. Chivas is also now undefeated in their last four matches.
FC Dallas 2, Vancouver Whitecaps 1: Dallas may have won the battle but in the process lost the war. The home side looked like they were finally gathering some momentum this season and beginning to play as well as they should be; Brek Shea was even returning to the right side of the midfield. Credit to the team for rallying for a win after David Ferreira went off with a broken ankle, but make no mistake this is a serious blow. He is their best playmaker and one of the best in MLS. For the ‘Caps, it was another blown lead and another yellow card for Eric Hassli, who will miss their next match due to this card being his fifth.
New England Revolution 3, Sporting Kansas City 2: So many storylines, so little space. Let’s start with Benny Feilhaber’s debut in MLS: he played the whole match and assisted on the Marco Perovic goal. He also was responsible for the red card to Aurélien Collins: the KC defender and Revs midfielder got into a tussle after Collins collided with Matt Reis. While KC fans may argue it was unjust, Collins was sent to the showers with a straight red. The Revs also saw Steve Nicol’s newest formation – Shalrie Joseph playing as a forward, not a midfielder, to provide support up top for Lekic. Kansas City, meanwhile, needs some help on defense. The team’s backline leaks like a sieve and cannot keep giving up 2.4 goals a game.
Chicago Fire 1, Houston Dynamo 1: The ageless Bobby Boswell continues his strong year. The defender scored the equalizer late in the match and, don’t look now, but Houston’s on a nice hot streak. They are unbeaten in their last five and are climbing the Eastern Conference standings. Chicago, on the other hand, can’t buy a win at the moment and their upcoming schedule won’t help that effort: they travel to Colorado then host the high-scoring Whitecaps before traveling to Toronto and Philadelphia.
Los Angeles Galaxy 3, Portland Timbers 0: Welcome back Landon Donovan. The Team USA midfielder scored twice, including a penalty, but the match may have been over in the fourth minute when Chad Barrett scored. LA fielded their strongest lineup of the year and looked like one of the best teams in MLS since maybe their opening night win over Seattle. Portland, despite their good karma at home, just does not play well on the road. They are two different teams depending on where the game is played. For Timbers fans, the one bright sport was getting to see their new DP in action as Diego Chara was subbed on in the 46th minute.