Injuries, an international break, and a bevy of good matches gave MLS fans a number of games to watch Friday and Saturday. With the number of games to be played dwindling, every match-up takes on that much more importance, and this weekend the results shook up the Eastern Conference standings.
On Friday, a back and forth match saw the first place team grab a point in the last minute as Sporting Kansas City drew the Houston Dynamo 1-1. Despite dominating the run of play early, the good Dynamo midfield was able to bottle the home team’s passing game while Brad Davis, who usually provides the assists for goals, was able to grab his own goal in the 58th minute. But late in stoppage time it was C.J. Sapong, who had struggled to find his shot early in the game, who headed the ball past an on-form Tally Hall to even the score at 1. While Kansas City remains atop the conference, Houston remained in 4th place and crept a little closer to third.
Meanwhile, Columbus failed to secure their playoff spot while the New York Red Bull gained ground on Kansas City with the home team’s 3-1 win. Despite taking the early lead, Columbus saw a vintage Thierry Henry performance that included a brace and an assist. To their credit, the Crew played well without possible-signing-of-the-year Federico Higuain playing except for a few minutes at the end. Even though Henry equalized six minutes after Mirosevic tapped home an Arrieta pass from the left, it was not until the 79th minute that Dax McCarty scored the go-ahead goal and not until the 93rd minute that Henry got his second.
The loss moved Columbus out of the top five when D.C. United pushed past rival New England 2-1. The two teams played an aggressive and physical game that was evenly matched throughout. In their first game without captain and 2011 MVP Dwayne De Rosario, it was defensive midfielder Lewis Neal who scored the go-ahead goal in the 63rd minute. A couple of reaction Bill Hamid saves late in the game saved the win for DC and allowed them to move into fifth place.
Another Eastern Conference team that made a major move up the standings was the Chicago Fire. With their 3-1 win over the Montreal Impact, the Fire move past the Red Bull into second place in the East. It was their three mid-season acquisitions (McDonald, Alex, and Fernandez) who brought the team back from down 1-0 for the win. The loss makes Montreal’s playoff hopes more remote, especially with having played two more games than most of the teams in front of them.
As we move into the final weeks of the season and the top seven team jockey for playoff spots, it is important to keep in mind that not only is it good enough to make the playoffs but the seeding does matter this year. Below is the current top seven in the East with points, games played, and home record. As you can tell, the road will be a rough place in the 2012 playoffs so securing as many home games as possible is absolutely critical.
|Rank||Team||Games Played||Points||Home Record (W-D-L)|
|1.||Sporting Kansas City||28||51||8-4-3|
|3.||New York Red Bulls||28||49||10-3-0|