10 things we learned from MLS gameweek 10 of the 2016 season


Here are the ten things we learned from Week 10 of the 2016 MLS season.

1. Triumph in Toronto

No one needed to be told that Saturday night in Toronto was a Bloody Big Deal. It just was.

After an eight-game road trip to begin the 2016 season, TFC returned home to play FC Dallas at a newly renovated BMO Field.

In some ways, it was déjà vu. The first stage of BMO’s renovation kept Toronto away from home for the first seven games of last season, but when they finally returned to play in front of a sellout crowd, the result was a dreadful 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo.

In many ways, that game – and last season a whole – was a halfway point. There were promising signs, but Toronto still couldn’t get the important things right. Now, though, TFC look like the finished product.

Thanks to a Tsubasa Endoh goal, Toronto beat Dallas 1-0. It was a score-line that flattered the visitors, but as good as the likes of Giovinco and Michael Bradley were, it was the stadium itself that stole the show.

What was once a poorly designed, barren arena has turned into one of North America’s best soccer venues. It’s loud now, too. When the Portland Timbers opened what is now called Providence Park in 2011, then Timbers coach John Spencer remarked after the game that the atmosphere felt European.

The same could have been said of BMO on Saturday night. It felt like a Champions League game.

This club has finally arrived. At some point in the future – maybe the near future – Toronto is going to win MLS Cup and expand BMO again, adding another stand on the open side of the stadium to bring the capacity to over 35,000. The hard work to build the football club has been done. It should be downhill sledding from here.

2. Tim Leiweke

There are a number of people who deserve credit for Toronto’s revival, but one of the men most integral to Saturday night was not around to enjoy the fruits of the occasion.

It was Tim Leiweke who first began to push TFC in the direction of relevancy when he took over as the President of MLSE in 2013.

It was Leiweke who laid the groundwork for the two-part expansion of BMO Field at considerable financial risk, and Leiweke who played a major role in signing Bradley, Gilberto, Jermaine Defoe – who would turn into Jozy Altidore – and Giovinco.

So while his time at MLSE was shorter than anticipated, there can be little argument that Toronto – and MLS as a whole – didn’t benefit from his presence in much the same way that LA did when he was with the Galaxy and signed David Beckham.

In fact, the only reason to be hopeful about Beckham’s Miami project – which hit another stadium snafu last week – is that Leiweke is on board. As much as any other single person, Saturday night in Toronto was his.

3. All Hell Breaks Loose in Columbus

The Columbus Crew’s 2016 was off to a rough start, but it absolutely fell apart on Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium.

Things started unraveling when the Crew, at 3-1 up early in the second half, won a penalty. Kei Kamara, who was on his first career hat-trick, wanted to take it. But the regular penalty taker, Federico Higuain, refused to stand down.

The result, after an intervention by captain Michael Parkhurst, was that Higuain dispatched the penalty to give Columbus a three-goal lead while Kamara fumed – and, unsurprisingly, that three-goal margin wouldn’t be enough.

Montreal came roaring back with two goals immediately after the incident to make it 4-3, and then tied the game in stoppage time on a long-throw goal from former Crew striker Dominic Oduro.

After the game, a furious Kamara let it rip – calling Higuain selfish, blaming the Argentine for costing him the Golden Boot last year, and announcing that he does not rely on him whatsoever for service game in and game out.

Clearly, the issues between the two teammates – both talented, temperamental players – have been boiling for a long time.

But the truly troubling thing is the timing of this feud. It’s one thing for a fight to kick off when a team is 4-1 down. But you’re about to go up 4-1 – in a big home game, no less – and your two best players are still at each other’s throats, you have a serious problem on your hands.

This year has been a major test of Gregg Berhalter’s coaching metal – and while you have faith in Berhalter to figure things out tactically, his prowess as a man-manager is considerably less established.

4. Does Kamara Have A Point?

Kamara’s accusation that Higuain is selfish is rich, considering the circumstances in which it arose, and there’s no doubt that Kamara himself has a selfish streak.

It was that streak that colored his first spell with the Crew, and it was very much present when he held out and threatened to retire during the offseason when he wanted a pay-raise.

But whatever you think of his motives, Kamara’s accusations against his teammate aren’t baseless.

Not only is Higuain a much, much worse penalty taker than Kamara is – though that wasn’t exactly the point of Kamara’s criticism – the numbers show that two haven’t connected on the field in their time together.

Higuain didn’t complete a single pass to Kamara against Montreal, and he only assisted three of the striker’s 27 goals last year – an astoundingly low number for a playmaker as talented as the Argentine.

Either the pair will make both a public and private show of patching things up, or one – or both – will be shipped out.

Both men are past 30, and moving on might not be a terrible thing for Berhalter and Columbus. Perhaps this core group’s championship window closed last December against Portland.

5. Vancouver Makes A Stand

Last November, the Portland Timbers ran the Vancouver Whitecaps off the BC Place turf in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal. It was a stinging defeat, not just because it came against a Cascadian rival, but also for how thoroughly it was inflicted.

With that history and a dismal start to 2016 in mind, the Whitecaps knew that they needed a performance against Portland on Saturday.

And, to their credit, they delivered. Masato Kudo got his first MLS goal, and a mishandled Christian Bolaños cross gave the ‘Caps a feel-good, much-needed 2-1 win over the Timbers.

Now Vancouver needs to carry the energy they brought against the Timbers forward – especially on the attacking side of the ball. Bolaños was terrific, as was Pedro Morales from a deep-lying position in central midfield, and if Carl Robinson has found an answer up top in Kudo, the ‘Caps should be okay.

6. What Is Going On With Kansas City?

Another team home underdog to get a much-needed win this weekend was Houston. Brad Davis’ return and Cubo Torres’ presence in the starting lineup garnered the pre-match headlines, but it neither man had a real impact as the Dynamo won 2-0.

It was a win that Owen Coyle badly needed, but it means that Sporting Kansas City has now lost four of its last six – and this defeat came with Peter Vermes’ first-choice starting eleven all on the field.

Despite dominating possession by an eye-popping 68%-32% margin, Kansas City only managed three shots on target. The team is clearly missing Krisztian Nemeth, but beyond that, they need Benny Feilhaber to come close to replicating his 2015 season. So far, he’s nowhere close.

SKC has plenty of hard workers, as is typical of a Vermes team, but they’re lacking in creativity from back to front. They might need to shake things up in the summer or watch this season slip away.

7. Big Day in LA

The LA Galaxy raced out to a 3-0 lead before halftime and put away the New England Revolution 4-2 on Sunday afternoon, becoming the first MLS team to reach 300 wins.

Bruce Arena fit returning captain Robbie Keane in underneath Gyasi Zardes, and the Irishman responded with two first half goals. Also on the score-sheet for LA? Gio dos Santos and Steven Gerrard.

Despite letting Revs back into the game, it was a good day in Carson, and a reminder that there isn’t a team in the league that scores goals like the Galaxy do.

If a defense that was, entering the match, third-best in the league can play more like it did in the first half than it did in the second half in the coming months, LA will be in the thick of trophy race again.

8. Jermaine Jones Keeps Scoring Goals…

And the Colorado Rapids keep picking up points. Their latest triumph was at home in the Rocky Mountain Cup over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night, with Jones scoring the game-winner just after halftime.

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