What a difference a week makes: After this round’s four-day, 16-game churn, several teams have had the outlook on their seasons shaken and stirred.
In Week 18, the San Jose Earthquakes scored their most dramatic win of the year, rallying for two extremely late goals to beat LA and stir memories of the Quakes’ magical 2012 season. Cut to this week, when San Jose dropped two consecutive games and saw their road to the postseason get a lot steeper.
The LA Galaxy, the team on the other side of San Jose’s pulsating victory a week ago, went in the opposite direction, producing back-to-back wins to climb into third place in the West, just four points out of first.
FC Dallas, once the leaders in the West, saw their winless streak balloon to six after a tie to lowly Chivas USA and a loss to the Galaxy.
And speaking of Chivas, the Goats haven’t righted the ship by any means, but they did pull off two ties this week to spark a three-game unbeaten run, with help on the way.
The busy week also brought about the end of two streaks as 10-man Portland fell 1-0 to Columbus to snap their franchise-record unbeaten run at 15 games, and Chicago lost 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City to end the Fire’s undefeated streak at nine games in all competitions.
The full slate also carried every team but Seattle (16 games played) to or beyond the halfway point of the 34-game season. Which means now is a good time for some 2013 midseason awards.
To the envelopes:
Biggest Surprise: Montreal Impact
They’ve hit a slight lull, going winless in their last three games, but the Impact still sit atop the Eastern Conference standings (with games in hand on the four teams behind them), and at 9-4-4, they have the best points-per-game average in Major League Soccer.
Few observers would have expected all that from a team in just its second year of existence, with a new coach and several new players.
Runner-up: Portland Timbers. With only two losses all season, and a franchise-record 15-game unbeaten run under their belt, the Timbers are finally giving their excellent fanbase the team it deserves. Not many outside the Rose City would have predicted this start to 2013.
Biggest Bust: D.C. United
The Black-and-Red reached last year’s Eastern Conference Championship – a home-and-home series away from MLS Cup 2012 – yet now sit dead last in the East with a 2-13-4 record that included a franchise-record 13-game winless skid. What happened?
Runner-up: San Jose. Last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners shocked the league by parting with their coach in June and are currently a long shot to make the playoffs at 5-9-6.
MVP: Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy
In Sunday night’s win over fellow Western Conference contenders FC Dallas, Robbie Keane frequently dropped into midfield to pick up the ball and orchestrate attacks – and then hustled into the box to help finish them off.
He was the best and busiest player on the field and he helped create both of LA’s goals in the 2-0 win. That was three days after scoring both goals in a 2-1 Galaxy win over Columbus. He has seven goals and a league-leading eight assists – in 11 games. In other words, he’s just getting started.
Runners-up: Mike Magee, Chicago. Magic Mike is tied for the league lead in goals with 11 and has rekindled the Fire’s season since joining them from LA in May. Marco Di Vaio, Montreal Impact. The Serie A veteran joins Magee atop the goals list and has paced the Impact’s fast start. Camilo, Vancouver Whitecaps. With 10 goals and three assists in 13 starts, the Brazilian has been the Whitecaps’ top performer, and one of the hottest players in the league during the past month.
Rookie of the Year: Dillon Powers, Colorado Rapids
The 22-year-old Dillon Powers has seized control of the Rapids center midfield like a player beyond his years. He leads all rookies in minutes played, excels on both sides of the ball, and has racked up three goals and two assists in 18 starts
Runners-up: DeAndre Yedlin. The speedy, attack-minded wingback is a rising star. Deshorn Brown, Colorado. Big (6-foot-2) and fast, he leads all rookie scorers with five goals and four assists. Andrew Farrell, New England. The hard-nosed, athletic right back has been a key part of the league’s stingiest backline.
Coach of the Year: Marco Schällibaum, Montreal Impact
The veteran Swiss manager has imposed a style and an identity on his Montreal side in short order, holding wily veterans like Di Vaio and talented youngsters like Andrew Wenger to the same high standard. His record speaks for itself. Also, Schällibaum burns hot beneath his cool, designer-suit exterior: He’s been suspended three times this season, including once for allegedly dousing the fourth official with water.
Runner-up: Caleb Porter, Portland Timbers. The Timbers showed their personality on Sunday, while suffering just their second loss of the season. Despite being down a man for 80 minutes, Portland took the game to Columbus, won the possession battle, and created more chances than their hosts. Porter has transformed this club.
Most Notable Hair Trend:
The Blondes Have More Fun, a.k.a. “Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man,” is sweeping the MLS nation from New England to Seattle to Los Angeles.
Some leading proponents of the style:
Saer Sene, New England Revolution
Dimitry Imbongo, New England Revolution
Andrew Farrell, New England Revolution
Gyasi Zardes, Los Angeles Galaxy (pictured right)
Eddie Johnson, Seattle Sounders
DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle Sounders
MLS alum Maurice Edu and US national teamer Terrence Boyd have also been spotted post-peroxide recently. No word on whether Landon Donovan will return to his Bleach Boy days of 2001 and earlier.