Very full week this time around. No time for small talk, let's just dive in:
Putting the Damage On
Want to see a game summed up in one tweet? Here you go:
We'd all rather see a pretty build-up than Route 1, right? Yes, but when you have a speed advantage and a quick turnover, the right thing to do is to try to catch the defense out. Figueroa knew it, Barrios knew it, and there's your game-winning goal.
That just happened to leave FC Dallas atop the table on both points and points per game, with a solid and growing lead.
9. The one team that'll be kicking themselves most for failure to keep pace is probably Toronto FC. The Reds had what was probably a deserved win at Orlando City on Wednesday cancelled out by an "embarrassing" – Greg Vanney's word, not mine – 1-0 home loss to Montreal on Saturday night.
“Another situation where we give up a goal where we should never give up [one],” Vanney said. “A goal kick where we should have plenty of numbers back to deal with it and we don't. I don't know if we relax, thinking that we're going to clean it up and it catches us, but that is unacceptable.
“Once you give up the goal, they no longer have any ambition to have to play. They sit 10 guys in their box,” Vanney added. “Giving up the goal was a huge factor.”
TFC are now 6-2-1 in their last nine games. Both losses and the draw came while playing up at least one man. It's weird.
8. Montreal badly needed that win, coming as it didafter a 1-1 home draw on Wednesday against D.C. United. D.C.'s other outing during the week came on Saturday, a dominant 6-2 home win over the Chicago Fire.
I wrote about that particular game, and the emergence of a potential star for United, right HERE.
7. The Fire were actually well in that game against D.C. until Khaly Thiam's petulant and utterly inexplicable red card. They played even better in Wednesday's 2-2 home draw against the LA Galaxy – a game Chicago should have, by all rights, won pretty convincingly.
Even with that horrid miss and that horrid loss to D.C., the Fire have been a much better and much-more-fun-to-watch team since the arrival of Luis Solignac, as well as a midfield more geared toward getting multiple runners forward. It's not tiki-taka, but they're not stuck in the mud as they were earlier in the season.
I'm sure Bruce Arena is justifiably concerned about that. He's also suddenly concerned about shots, and thinks the Galaxy aren't taking enough:
Weird about face.
5. Quick: Who's second in the Western Conference?
You probably thought "Colorado" and you kinda have a point, since they're still second on points per game. But following their 2-1 loss at RSL on Friday night it's actually the Claret-and-Cobalt who are second in the West, and third overall behind just FC Dallas and TFC. Yura Movsisyan finally had the type of game that RSL fans have been waiting for, with a pair of goals and a drawn PK, but the better news for RSL was just how connected and dangerous the whole midfield and attack looked for the full 90 against the league's best defensive team.
Colorado head coach Pablo Mastroeni was succinct: "Credit to Salt Lake. They played well, they were committed, they created some good opportunities, they were more fluid, more confident."
Emphasis mine. I'm due for a long look at RSL in this space, so keep an eye out in the coming weeks. But without looking at numbers or heat maps, the eye test tells me they're attempting and completing more passes in the final third over the past month, a vast departure from the season's first half.
4. You can see my take on Sacha Kljestan's importance to the Red Bulls in the video embedded at the top of the page, produced following RBNY's 1-0 win over the New England Revolution on Sunday. Kljestan needs five assists in the final seven games of the season to become the second man in league history with 20+ assists in a year, while his teammate Bradley Wright-Phillips needs four more goals to become the first person to ever have a pair of 20+ goal seasons.
They've been good. Several front office-types I speak with assure me that this is the best team in the league, but I still can't ignore that road record.
3. That was one of two shutouts suffered by the Revs this past week, as they also got blanked in a scoreless draw at San Jose Wednesday night. Their goalless streak is now at 362 minutes, and they're five points below the red line with just seven games to go.
It feels very much like the only potential silver lining for New England will come in the US Open Cup final, which is at Dallas on September 13.
As for Crew SC, they've now won two of three, and both by shutout. It's too little too late for this year, but the defense has improved and both wingers, Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram, are playing like the internationals they are. I desperately wanted to make this, from Finlay, our Pass of the Week:
It didn't quite come off, though.