So you probably didn't get to watch every MLS match this weekend. That's what we're here for. Here's what you missed, while you were doing who knows what.
COLUMBUS ARE FOR REAL: The new-look Crew under Gregg Berhalter are the only team with a 100-percent record in MLS, with a stoppage-time winner from Justin Meram to stun Seattle and snag a 2-1 road win (WATCH THE GOAL HERE). Credit Berhalter's golden touch, bringing on Meram with a minute left.
Under Berhalter's new style, the Crew have arguably turned into the most entertaining team to watch in MLS. The end-to-end affair with the Sounders was the best game of the weekend and it was in large part due to the Crew's attack-minded philosophy. They did, however, leave themselves exposed on the counter once again (it happened last week vs. Philadelphia). But fortune favors the bold and the players are buying into the system. It helps they're seeing the results of all the running they say they were asked to do during the preseason.
A small sign that the squad loves their new coach: After his game-winner, Meram leapt into Berhalter's arms to celebrate and later said this.
Justin Meram: "This was the first time I felt going into the road and a hostile environment that we're going to win." #Crew96— Andrew King (@AndrewKingMLS) March 30, 2014
DIAZ'S COMING-OUT PARTY: Mauro "El Magico" Diaz became an FC Dallas player last July 17, but only now is the league really taking notice. When the ex-River Plate man touches the ball, including free kicks, good things happen and his vision is world class. He singlehandedly decided his team's latest victory with a second-half goal (WATCH IT HERE). This guy's a star and if you don't believe me, FCD boss Oscar Pareja said he "is carrying the team" last week and Portland's Caleb Porter said: "He pulled off a play and that was the difference in the game."
According to Fernando Clavijo, Mauro Diaz's sisters are/were dating the Funes Mori twins, which is part of why he's in Dallas. Crazy.— Jason Davis (@davisjsn) March 30, 2014
PAST PERFORMANCE IS NO GUARANTEE OF FUTURE RESULTS: This disclaimer applies so far in 2014. The season has not been kind to last year's regular season conference leaders, New York Red Bulls (East) and Portland Timbers (West). Both are third from bottom in their respective conferences, still without a victory and struggling to score goals.
BEST FORWARD IN 2014? Let's just go ahead and call Erick "El Cubo" Torres the 21-year-old Marco Di Vaio. He means just as much to Chivas USA as Di Vaio does to Montreal and he's scoring at a Di Vaio-like clip: Sunday's PK conversion at Red Bull Arena marked his 4th goal in four games to start the year. With every goal, the urgency grows to keep him in the fold with his loan expiring in June.
PENALTIES > REDS: The Torres PK was one of six awarded in Week 4 (two for Colorado and one each for Real Salt Lake, Vancouver, Columbus and Chivas USA). All were converted. There were also five red cards on the weekend: Andrew Wenger (Montreal ... in front of his hometown family and friends), Marvell Wynne (Colorado), Je-Vaughn Watson (FC Dallas), Michael Harrington (Portland) and Djimi Traore (Seattle).
The Watson-Harrington red cards came on the same off-the-ball altercation, which is still shrouded in some mystery because it wasn't caught by the broadcast cameras -- it even prompted a "????????????" from Timbers owner Merritt Paulson via Twitter. But referee Sorin Stoica gave the explanation after the match: violent conduct off the ball. And for Harrington, it was the first-ever red card in his 186 career matches. And he still feels he shouldn't have been sent off.
ABOUT THOSE RAPIDS PKs: If you're keeping count, that's five penalty kicks awarded to the Rapids in only three games. That's a league record. But believe it or not, the Rapids have had penalty kicks in four straight matches before.
All the PK's are belong to us. #Rapids96— A Tie and a Crest (@CapTied96) March 29, 2014
FRANTIC FINISHES: But Week 4 will probably be remembered most for its four dramatic stoppage-time goals, three of which were game-winners (SKC's Dom Dwyer in 92', Crew's Meram in 94' and New England's Lee Nguyen in 93'). RBNY scored the latest of the stoppage-time goals in the 95th minute to salvage a tie vs. Chivas USA. Those goals overshadowed the late heroics of Di Vaio (80th minute equalizer), Chicago's Quincy Amarikwa (tied the game in the 82nd minute) and the stunning winner by Diaz in the 84th minute for Dallas.
ORIGINAL LOOK: Chivas USA's Adolfo "El Bofo" Bautista definitely has a look. We'll let you judge whether it's the best in MLS and perhaps what its most redeeming aspect is: 1) the mohawk/ponytail combo hairstyle or 2) the white gloves with the outline of a person's face? I mean, he's not even "Bofo" (bald) any more.
Has Bautista earned the nickname "The Bulter"? Has to be with those white gloves, no? #ChivasUSA— Matthew Levine (@MatthewLevine4) March 30, 2014
DISASTROUS TURN FOR TORONTO FC: Everything looked rosy after two wins to start the Bradley-Defoe era, but that all came crashing down at Rio Tinto Stadium. A resounding 3-0 loss, few real chances and injuries to both Julio Cesar (WATCH IT HERE ... locker reports say his knee looked like a grapefruit) and Jermain Defoe (hamstring injury) definitely represented a reality check. To add insult to injury, RSL fans were chanting "overrated" at them in stoppage time. But at least Michael Bradley still had a decent game (he also turned RSL 'keeper Nick Rimando into stone on a 54th-minute shot that hit the post).
RSL BRING IT VS. TORONTO: Was it all the Kyle Beckerman vs. Michael Bradley pregame chatter? Or was it that Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen was calling for the suspension of RSL Alvaro Saborio for a play in Week 3? Either way, Real Salt Lake were plenty more motivated and energetic than they were last week in a 1-1 home tie vs. LA. It had head coach Jeff Cassar celebrating in his postgame presser with a special scarf.
KLINSMANN SIGHTING: The US manager was spotted in the box of RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen for RSL-TFC together with his former German national team manager Berti Vogts, the current manager of Azerbaijan, the USA's opponents in a May World Cup tuneup. Vogts was announced on Sunday as a special advisor to the US' World Cup efforts. Klinsmann later added RSL right back Tony Beltran to the USMNT squad for the Mexico freindly in place of the injured Brad Evans.
SQUAD INTRIGUE IN MONTREAL: There's little question that the Impact continue to be dependent on Di Vaio and his goalscoring exploits after he scored in his return from suspension in Philadelphia (WATCH: Di Vaio's sensational equalizer). But the benching of captain Patrice Bernier in favor of Collen Warner has caused a stir. Bernier says it's "hard to accept," while manager Frank Klopas was direct about the topic: "It was hard [decision] ... but I don't play favorites."
NOTABLE DEBUTS: Charlie Davies's 28-minute sub appearance for the Revs on Saturday not only marked his first appearance of 2014, but it was also his longest spell of MLS regular-season action since starting for DC United back on October 19, 2011. In the same San Jose-New England match at Buck Shaw Stadium, ex-Benfica man Yannick Djalo had some interesting touches in his 11-minute MLS debut for the Quakes.
CAN-DO SPIRIT: In the 85th minute of the Crew's surprise victory in Seattle, Federico Higuain was interrupted from taking a corner kick by what looked like a beer can. Referee Alan Chapman duly took note and then tossed the can aside.
HEATED WORDS: You'd think we were in the home playoff stretch with how heated some of the exchanges have been on the field ... between players on the same team! A good sign that MLS regular season matches are gradually taking on new and greater meaning.
First, there were New York Red Bulls veteran center backs Jamison Olave and Armando, who weren't shy about exchanging their views during the course of the match vs. Chivas USA (WATCH IT HERE). While, D.C.'s Eddie Johnson was also remonstrative when it came to a pass from teammate Jared Jeffrey that wasn't where he expected it to be (below).
HEAD START ON RIVALRY WEEK: The first rivalry weekend of the 2014 season is coming up in a few days and league-leading FC Dallas are already fanning the flames:
MLS CUP REVENGE: It's not a "rivalry match" per se, but based on the comments flying around over the weekend, might as well start treating SKC vs. RSL like one (April 5, 8:30 pm ET on MLS LIVE). That's what you get when SKC's Dom Dwyer says "I hate them very much." Meanwhile RSL's Nat Borchers "can't wait to play these guys. Been thinking about them all offseason."
"NOT" PLAYS OF THE WEEK: We've got two good candidates here -- first, there's the Crew's Dominic Oduro's whiff against Seattle that sent him tumbling to the ground (WATCH IT HERE). And then Vancouver's Darren Mattocks takes a shot that we can only label as misguided (WATCH IT HERE). The biggest blunder of them all may be the own-goal by San Jose's Victor Bernardez, which will find its place on the all-time list of worst own-goals ever ... in soccer history (watch below).
QUIET ON THE SET: Analyst Robbie Mustoe was in his "Between the Benches" post created by NBCSN down on the field. But sometimes you're so close to the benches you don't want to be a distraction. It was evident that he was using a quieter voice during the match. Meanwhile, you almost thought you were hearing too much from the field mikes on the Altitude broadcast this weekend.
On the pronunciation front, Revs right back Andrew Farrell became Pharrell (as in Williams) during the first half of the San Jose broadcast, while RSL broadcaster Brian Dunseth apparently had the line of the season thus far:
But not everyone was impressed, as at least one Canadian outlet called Dunseth's comments "a cheap shot."
WHAT AILS RED BULLS? Despite winning a Supporters' Shield last year, the Red Bulls have yet to really carve out a clear identity on the field like other teams in the league have. What are they about? A high-pressure team? Counterattacking? Possession-based? Being a chamaeleon squad can only take you so far. And you can't always rely on energy and urgency in every match. You need to be able to resort to what it is you do best. And I'm still not sure what that is for RBNY.
PETKE GOES TO WAWA: The RBNY manager was asked during the week whether he was concerned by the team's winless start. Sunday's MSG broadcast aired his tongue-in-cheek reply: "I worry that Wawa is going to make crappy coffee when I go there in the morning. I tell you one thing and it turns into a headline."
BLACK ARMBANDS: If you noticed them this weekend all around MLS -- in addition to the moments of silence -- they were worn in memory of former MLS player Shawn Kuykendall, who passed away after a battle with cancer. The New England Revolution used the match to remember last week's Boston Fire Department victims with a special armband.
PAPER TRAIL: When Houston Dynamo rookie Mark Sherrod ran onto the field as a substitute for his team in Vancouver, he brought with him aerial prowess, plenty of hustle ... and a piece of paper. Yep, the cameras caught him pass along to captain Brad Davis what we presume were some instructions from the bench.
KAKA NEWS: On the same weekend that Kaka speaks out about coming to MLS and reports emerge on the topic with more and more details, he goes ahead and gives MLS fans a tease of what might be in store with two goals against Chievo Verona (WATCH THEM HERE).
MLS ROLLERCOASTER: Another Brazilian native had the wildest two minutes of any player in MLS this weekend. Sporting KC's Benny Feilhaber went from being the culprit on the Colorado penalty kick which gave the Rapids a 2-1 lead (WATCH IT HERE), to scoring the 2-2 equalizer just seconds later (WATCH IT HERE).
WEEK 4 INFIRMARY LIST: We'll wait from word on some of the more disconcerting injuries from the weekend. It starts with Sporting KC's Ike Opara, who was hurt on the play that resulted in a PK for the opposition (early reports are that it's nothing long-term). But the defender confirmed it's not a break or a fracture to his leg. San Jose's Steven Lenhart left after appearing to tweak his knee. Bash brother Alan Gordon replaced him. RSL's Chris Wingert left his match with groin trouble.
RBNY's Tim Cahill (right hamstring) and D.C.'s Luis Silva left their respective matches after just a half-hour. Another ankle sprain sidelined Red Bulls right back Richard Eckersley before halftime (his right ankle looked like a baseball, according to his head coach).
NGUYEN-ING Of course it would be former Vietnamese league star Lee Nguyen who would score the stoppage-time game-winner on Saturday night in San Jose. He's rounding into form with every game and Saturday's showing also makes this much clear: Good things happen for the Revs when Nguyen operates closer to goal.
By the way, tonight was Vietnamese Heritage Night at Buck Shaw. No joke. Nguyen's late winner was written in the stars. #NERevs— Jeff Lemieux (@jeff_lemieux) March 30, 2014
WWE IN MLS: Michael Jordan had the talcum powder pre-game ritual. San Jose Earthquakes captain Chris Wondolowski, who already has a "funny faces" routine on the team photo (right), opts for more of a wrestling-like move to get him pumped up (see below):
KAEPERNICKING: That's even less clunky than saying "Amarikwa-ing" when referring to a biceps-kiss celebration. Plus, the Chicago Fire forward is going to have to score a few more goals to justify renaming it. Below is his celebration after his equalizer vs. D.C. But there's more: He also captained himself in MLS Fantasy.
STANDOUTS: Loyd Sam was a star on the right wing for the Red Bulls. South American playmakers Javier Morales (RSL), Pedro Morales (Vancouver) and Federico Higuain (Columbus) were everywhere for their teams. Defensively, Vancouver's Andy O'Brien continues to quietly impress and the Union's center-back pairing of Amobi Okugo and converted defender Aaron Wheeler made play after play (although Okugo clearly conceded a bit too much space to Di Vaio on the equalizer).
Rapids rookie midfielder Jared Watts showed he belonged in his first-ever MLS minutes as a starting holding mid (and he even moved to left back later in the match). And a round of applause was earned by goalkeepers Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA), Steve Clark (Columbus Crew) and Eric Kronberg (Sporting KC), who each stood on his head.
MLS VERSION OF SOLAR ECLIPSE: When Toronto FC's Kyle Bekker was brought into the match at Rio Tinto Stadium, it ensured he was on the field at the same time as RSL's Kyle Beckerman. Last time we had anything similar had to be back in 2005 when WIll John and Will Johnson both played for the Chicago Fire.
ROADDRON: That was the name coined for the massive mobilization of somewhere between 800-1,000 Sporting Kansas City fans who made the trek to Dick's Sporting Goods Park. And the trip was well worth it after Dom Dwyer's stoppage-time winner. They did the celebrating for Dwyer, who didn't even smile after his blast found net (WATCH THE GOAL AND CELEBRATION HERE). No backflip. Nothing.
TIFO TALK: It was a case of extremes on the tifo front this weekend. You had the very graphic tifo by D.C. United supporters group La Norte, which was inspired by an old Virginia-based band, Gwar. It even included an image of a Fire player being impaled, which didn't go down well with everyone.
For a more wholesome tifo, we go to Vancouver.
And yet this might've been the best tifo of the lot in San Jose:
MILESTONES: Congrats to D.C.'s Davy Arnaud who's only the 25th player in MLS history to join the 300 club (as in 300 appearances). Another veteran, Chicago's Colombian center back Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, also scored his first MLS goal since 2009.
And if you weren't paying attention, with two more goals scored on Saturday night, RSL forward Alvaro Saborio is up to 55 goals in 101 MLS matches, and 71 goals in 119 games in all competitions. Love him or hate him, he's going down as one of the all-time MLS greats.
TWEET(S) OF THE WEEKEND: Here are the ones that caught our eye, including one that references Perry Kitchen's goal in a 2-2 tie:
DC threw everything at that goal, including Kitchen’s dink.— Fake Adrian Hanauer (@FakeAdrianH) March 29, 2014
Zizzo to Zusi was the first @MLS goal scored and assisted by players whose last names both start with Z.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) March 30, 2014
REVERSE GOONIE MAGIC: The Quakes are the self-proclaimed "Goonies" of MLS because they have a flair for late drama. But the roles were reversed on Saturday night with the Revs getting the stoppage-time winner in San Jose, halting the Quakes' 21-match home unbeaten run.
This time the Goonies fell asleep in the cave where they found Chester Copperpot.— Jason Davis (@davisjsn) March 30, 2014