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Climbing the Ladder: Who wins with a hat trick?

Rookie Will Bruin scored the first hat trick of the 2011 season for the Houston Dynamo last Friday, and the Dynamo understandably rolled to a 4-1 win over D.C. United. But of the nearly 100 all-time matches in MLS history in which a player scored a trick, five times the team with the hero failed to seal the deal.

Let's take a closer look at those times when the hat trick failed to save the day.

July 27, 1996 - Tampa Bay 4, Los Angeles 3
Two penalties from Carlos Valderrama assured the Galaxy ended up empty-handed on the night, despite Cobi Jones’s hat trick. Looking back, it was an important result in the race for the Supporters' Shield, even though at the time the award didn’t exist. LA entered the match only two points above the Mutiny, ended the day a point behind and never regained the advantage.

May 10, 1998 - New England 4, Tampa Bay 3
Possibly the most frustrating game on this list. Three times the Liberian Musa Shannon gave Tampa the lead, only for the Mutiny to give up a quick equalizer. Then in the 89th minute, once-capped American midfielder Imad Baba got the winner for the home team.

Sept. 9, 2000 – New England 4, New York 3
It’s a scoring feat from the 2000 Metrostars, but this one doesn’t involve Clint Mathis. That team also featured the Colombian duo of Alex Comas and Adolfo Valencia, and all three players ended the year with double digits in goals. Here, Comas was responsible for all of them in this regular season finale, but it wasn’t enough.

May 9, 2001 – Tampa Bay 4, Los Angeles 4
 A player scoring four times in a game is something that’s only happened 10 times in MLS history, and it happened in two separate games on this special night. The 2000 scoring king Mamadou Diallo had all four goals for Tampa, yet they were denied by rookie Brian Mullan’s brace in a thrilling encounter. Meanwhile, DC beat up on New England to the tune of 5-0, and the Sierra Leonean striker Abdul Thompson Conteh netted a beaver trick of his own (that’s the Caribbean term for scoring four goals - seriously).

Aug. 21, 2005 - New York 3, Chivas USA 3
After struggling during their expansion year, Chivas brought in Mexican stars Juan Francisco Palencia and Juan Pablo Garcia to boost the team. Both were in the starting lineup for their anticipated debuts, and although Amado Guevara scored an early penalty, it was clear that new signings were making a difference. Chivas led 3-1 at half before Guevara pulled one back from the penalty spot, but the reigning MVP would save his greatest heroics for stoppage time. Taking a short free kick from Youri Djorkaeff, the Honduran hit a curling, first time shot from outside the box to level the match at three and complete his hat trick. Point earned.

 

When Undefeateds Are Defeated

 

Year Team Record Finish
1996 Los Angeles 12-0 2nd
1997 DC United 4-0 1st
1998 Los Angeles 9-0 1st
1999 DC United 3-0 1st
2000 Kansas City 10-0-2 1st
2001 Columbus 1-0-1 4th
2002 Los Angeles 2-0-2 1st
2003 San Jose 4-0-2 2nd
2004 Dallas 2-0-2 8th
2005 New England 7-0-4 2nd
2006 DC United 3-0-2 1st
2007 New York 3-0-2 6th
2008 Dallas 2-0-2 11th
2009 Chicago 5-0-6 5th
2010 Los Angeles 10-0-2 1st
2011 Real Salt Lake 4-0-0 ?

Last week was one to forget on the field for Real Salt Lake. First, they lost the CONCACAF Champions League final and their record 34-game home unbeaten streak. Then, they suffered their first 2011 MLS defeat in Portland.

But it’s not all bad, as they were one of only three teams in league history to take maximum points from their first four matches, joining the 1996 and 2010 Los Angeles Galaxy teams. They also were the league’s last unbeaten team, which has been a welcome honor in previous years.

At right is a list of the last unbeaten regular season teams, along with their finish in the overall standings:

 

US Open Cup Runs

 

D.C. United dropped an US Open Cup qualifier to the New England Revolution last week, which ended a run of eight straight years of participating in the tournament proper. Impressive, but there have been a few longer streaks, including the Chicago Fire, who have never missed out on the tournament since their inception in 1998.

If the Fire can once again reach the tourney peoper, they'll break the MLS record of 13 straight appearances, set by Dallas (1996-2008).

San Jose, meanwhile, hope to avoid a negative distinction. If they don’t advance, they’ll become the third American team to miss out on the tournament for four straight seasons, joining Colorado (2008-present) and Real Salt Lake (2007-2010).