Monday Postgame: Who made the biggest statement in Week 17? Jack McInerney says Union, is he right?
Chicago’s Mike Magee and the Vancouver’s Camilo continued to come up bigger than Sunday night’s “Supermoon.”
FC Dallas uncorked a two-minute, two-goal comeback in the final moments against Kansas City to stay unbeaten at home, and D.C. United mercifully ended a club-record winless streak with a 1-0 win over San Jose.
Portland and Real Salt Lake both produced impressive wins to take over the top spots in the Western Conference, while Montreal blanked 2012 MLS Cup finalists Houston to solidify their place atop the East.
Yes, after two weeks of truncated schedules, MLS came roaring back with a full slate this round, and there was no shortage of developments to catch the eye.
We also saw the league’s 10,000th goal (by Vancouver’s Jordan Harvey), 1,000th goalscorer (FC Dallas’s Walker Zimmerman), and the Portland Timbers’ 100th tally (by newcomer Frédéric Piquionne, who scored his first goal in MLS).
And as the season nears the halfway mark, what look like some dependable storylines are developing – or the very least, some clear messages are being sent, to paraphrase Philadelphia striker Jack McInerney, who told MLSsoccer.com that his team’s 3-0 romp over New York on Sunday “sent a message around the league today.”
If that’s true, then at least three other teams – Real Salt Lake, Portland and Montreal – can definitely make the same claim this week.
So which side sent the loudest, clearest message?
Let’s listen in, loudest first:
Real Salt Lake beat Seattle by two goals on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, but it could have been more: The home team out-shot the visitors by a gaping 17-2 margin, and Seattle only put one strike on target all game.
Yes, the Sounders – who came into the game having won five of their previous six – were missing midfield linchpin Osvaldo Alonso, but his absence alone wasn’t enough to account for this one-sided affair. RSL not only dominated the midfield, they also rendered US international Eddie Johnson invisible, and prevented his strike partnership with new acquisition Obafemi Martins from clicking.
Meanwhile, the rebuilt Claret-and-Cobalt showcased their newly established depth, with youngster Carlos Salcedo putting in a solid shift at center back alongside veteran Nat Borchers, and much-traveled Khari Stephenson shining on the left flank. The ever-dangerous Olmes García came in for goalscorer Robbie Findley to put pressure on Seattle late.
And coach Jason Kreis got the impressive win without using Joao Plata (unused sub), or Luis Gil (at the U-20 World Cup).
RSL are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games in all competitions and beaming out a strong signal that they are legitimate contenders for the top seed in the West, the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup.
Caleb Porter’s Timbers have been sailing along on a club-record unbeaten streak, getting results on the road like never before, and fueling talk that the former Akron coach has instilled a new culture and a new identity in Portland.
But while his team had gone unbeaten in 15 straight games, they hadn’t been winning a lot of those games. Their nine draws had put them on pace for the single-season record of 16 ties (set by New York and Chicago in 2011), and caused some observers to question whether a true contender would have turned some of those draws into wins.
When Colorado Rapids came to JELD-WEN on Sunday night, looking to shake a two-game losing streak, it was stand-and-deliver time for Portland. After weathering a fast start from the visitors, Porter’s side did both, reeling off an impressive 3-0 win to extend their unbeaten streak to 15 games.
With three assists from Rodney Wallace and a goal and an assist each from Will Johnson and Piquionne, Portland also demonstrated their wealth of attacking options. (Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri didn’t even make the scoresheet this time, and the team won by three goals.)
Portland sent a message that – nine ties aside – they’re for real, and any opponents who doubt it will do so at their peril.
Sometimes a message can be so consistent yet quiet that it gets lost in the cross talk. Such is the case with the Montreal Impact, who blanked Houston 2-0 last Wednesday, getting goals from Felipe and Marco Di Vaio, who bagged his 10th of the year, tied with McInerney and Magee for tops in the league.
Montreal have been sending the same message since Day 1 this season: We are an organized, experienced and professional side that knows how to win. And win the Impact have. They lead the league in points per game with a 2.06 average.
Like a savvy politician, one destined for office, the Impact stay on message no matter what comes their way. A 2-0 loss to Columbus the previous week? No problem – Montreal bounced back with a quality win over Houston, the East’s representative in the past two MLS Cups.
The Impact also currently lead the Eastern Conference by four points, with at least two games in hand on each of the four teams behind them. And they should be getting veteran attacker Davy Arnaud back soon.
Montreal’s message may be in the background this week, but it’s as powerful as ever.
Philadelphia are happy with their 3-0 pasting of New York, and deservedly so: They got two goals from a lively looking Conor Casey – whose return to form would only take pressure off, and help, Golden Boot contender McInerney – and they got another assist from Sébastien Le Toux, who leads MLS with seven for the season. Philly also moved into second place in the East with the win.
But the Red Bulls were missing Jámison Olave (suspended), Tim Cahill (injured) and Juninho (suspended), and they lost winger Lloyd Sam to a red card in the first half, forcing them to play 62 minutes with 10 men.
So yes, Philly made a statement this week, but it wasn’t as bold as McInerney might hope, and it was quite a bit fainter than the messages emanating from Sandy, Portland and Montreal this week.