With a whopping 17 games and 61 goals across the league, MLS Week 19 presented plenty to unpack. Let's get started.
Normally a 2-1 lead in the 85th minute is enough bag a victory, much less a 2-0 advantage in the 90th minute. Yet that was not the case in the Lone Star State. On Tuesday the Houston Dynamo stunned LAFC with two injury-time goals to salvage a 2-2 draw on a night where they were mostly dominated. A day later, FC Dallas flipped the script on league leaders Atlanta United on the Fourth of July, a rapidfire brace from Tesho Akindele stealing all three points via a wild 3-2 comeback win:
Big Phil, goal poacher
Houston’s late magic was powered by the dogged leadership of Swiss veteran Philippe Senderos, who urged his team on even when a loss seemed certain, then walked the walk with a dramatic corner-kick equalizer. The big center back doubled down with a set-piece brace on Saturday in a 3-0 romp over Minnesota United. Note how he literally takes teammate Adolfo Machado by the hand in the leadup to his second:
I want revenge
The karmic phenomenon of players scoring against their former teams continues. This week LA Galaxy vs. Columbus Crew SC brought Ola Kamara and Gyasi Zardes head-to-head against their old clubs, and LA’s Norwegian striker netted the goal that sparked a 4-0 rout, while Zardes could only wonder ‘What if?’ after the immediate equalizer he assisted on was waved off by a Video Review.
Winding road home
Speaking of D.C.: That eventful 2-2 draw out in LA marked the final game of a long stretch of road games before they move into their long-awaited downtown home, Audi Field, on Saturday. Even with two temporary-site home games in the spring, it’s essentially been a four-month walkabout for the Black-and-Red. Will Wayne Rooney be fit enough to make his MLS debut against the Whitecaps? Can Washington's wanderers make a late charge up the standings?
The strapping frontrunner bagged another two goals and two assists in two matches this week to extend his torrid productivity pace since joining the expansion side. His game log to date is something to behold:
It seems Portland have forgotten how to lose. After an 0-3-2 start to their first campaign under Giovanni Savarese, the Rose City side are undefeated in 11 league games (not to mention alive and kicking in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup) after a 2-1 defeat of hapless San Jose. To me, what’s most impressive about the Timbers is their attack’s uncanny ability to create danger even when outnumbered:
A moment before Portland's first...
These screenshots show how many bodies the Earthquakes have in front of Diego Valeri and Samuel Armenteros when the ball turns over before PTFC’s two goals. Simple math suggests that five – much less eight – defenders should be able to deal with three attackers, right?
...and just before their second
Not so much. Valeri’s magical playmaking is well known, while Armenteros has been an absolute beast in terms of finishing the chances he is served up. How can opposing back lines cope?
Darwin’s chips and dips
The term “perfect hat trick” refers to when a player scores one goal each with their left foot, right foot and head. I’m going to hijack that phrase and slap it on Darwin Quintero’s sublime trio of delicious chips against Toronto FC at midweek, each struck with its own special blend of loft and dip:
Two of the league’s best developers of young talent faced off at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, and set a new record for Homegrown Players on the pitch. Those concerned about cultivating the domestic player pool in the U.S. and Canada should be taking note of what Real Salt Lake – who by the way have also fashioned their respective home stadiums into imposing fortresses this year – and FC Dallas are up to:
Kei Kamara bagged the brace that steered Vancouver past a very game Fire side in a pulsating 3-2 shootout at BC Place. However, the play that everyone is talking about, Kamara’s second, was all about teenage phenom Alphonso Davies, who just keeps lighting up the ‘Caps flanks with devastatingly direct runs and service. Perhaps no great surprise, then, that the rumor mill says Real Madrid just became the latest European giant to send a scout out to British Columbia to take a closer look at Canada’s jewel.