Giovanni Savarese worked his magic in Portland Timbers Cascadia win, Chicago Fire find their goals and more from Week 13 | Steve Zakuani

Timbers celebrate goal vs. Seattle

Giovanni Savarese worked his magic, the Fire finally found their goals, the Crew continue to dominate and more. Here are the top takeaways from Wednesday night’s action.

Savarese’s magic

Gio Savarese deserves a lot of credit for the Portland Timbers’ win over the Seattle Sounders. The truth is that Seattle could have easily led by two or three goals at halftime, such was their dominance in possession and through the clear-cut chances they created. However, the second half was a different story.

Seattle’s dominance of possession continued but the clear-cut chances were gone. Why was that case? Savarese realized the Sounders got in behind his team at will in the first half, especially with Jordan Morris making outside-in runs from the left, but also through Joevin Jones, Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro breaking through from midfield.

HIGHLIGHTS: Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders FC | September 23, 2020

In the second half, the Timbers backline was noticeably deeper. Their starting position was about 10 yards further back than it had been in the first half and this denied the Sounders the space they craved in behind. The result was a lot of possession for the Sounders without creating the same caliber of chances they did in the first period.

We usually think coaches have to bring on a super sub or switch their team into a new and improved formation to impact the game, but sometimes it’s as simple as asking your players to drop their starting position by a few yards. The Sounders can definitely feel hard done by because their first-half performance alone was worthy of a couple of goals, but we must give credit to the Timbers for the minor adjustment that allowed them to largely neutralize — in the second half — a team that had scored 10 goals in their last two games.

Most impressive blowout?

On a night where we saw several blowout wins, I believe the Chicago Fire’s big win was the most impressive.  LAFC won 6-0, but if you’ve been reading my columns, you’ll know I was not surprised by that in the slightest. Their attack, even without Carlos Vela, usually generates so many quality chances, especially at home, and that’s why they lead the league in goals. They can explode for multiple goals on any given night.

The Rapids put five past San Jose and that’s precisely why I don’t think it was as impressive as the score suggests. Don’t get me wrong, Robin Fraser’s men deserve enormous praise and look like they are putting a little run together, but this was a San Jose team that has given up five goals or more five times in 13 games. They are shockingly bad defensively.

This brings me to the Fire. Earlier in the season, I felt they had the potential to really challenge in the East especially because of their midfield duo of Alvaro Medran and Gaston Gimenez — two players with the skill set of midfielders you see on a lot of playoff teams — but also because I felt there were goals in Robert Beric and CJ Sapong. To date, they haven’t quite hit the heights they looked like they could but in all honesty, they’ve often deserved more than the results they’ve been getting. For example, in their 4-1 loss to Orlando they had 19 shots — the same as Orlando — and in their 2-1 loss to the Revolution they had 17 shots to the Revs’ nine.

HIGHLIGHTS: Chicago Fire FC vs. Houston Dynamo | September 23, 2020

The Fire create a ton but just haven’t been finishing. Against Houston, they finally found their scoring touch and the result was a devastating victory and their first win in a month. Most impressive of all is they got it done at both ends of the pitch. Not only did they dismantle the Dynamo backline, they kept one of the league’s deadliest counterattacking teams to only one shot on goal and came away with the clean sheet.

Quick takeaways

Galaxy better without Chicharito?

Are the LA Galaxy better without Chicharito? Ultimately the answer will be no, but right now it’s yes because they haven’t found a way to get the very best out of Cristian Pavon while Chicharito is on the pitch. When Ethan Zubak plays up top, the Galaxy’s game is predictable to the players because they know the spaces Zubak will occupy, the runs he will make and that he will react to what Pavon is doing. This allows Pavon to roam from the wing and just play his game without worrying about adjusting too much to another star. The chemistry with Chicharito isn’t there yet and that’s why they look disjointed offensively when he plays — they are still learning his movements, tendencies and how best to pair him with Pavon. They will figure it out eventually and once they do, they will be better with Chicharito in the team.

Shield is Crew’s to lose

HIGHLIGHTS: Columbus Crew SC vs. Minnesota United | September 23, 2020

They’ve played 13 games, they’ve only lost once and have only conceded five goals — the Supporters’ Shield is the Columbus Crew’s to lose. I can’t see them losing more than three or four games this season, and I don’t think they’ll concede more than ten goals. Defensively they are very well organized as a group, but a special mention must be given to Josh Williams and Jonathan Mensah, who have been the best center back duo in the league in recent weeks. Unless they have a catastrophic collapse or unfortunate luck with injuries, no one will catch them.

RBNY’s surprise win

HIGHLIGHTS: Inter Miami CF vs. New York Red Bulls | September 23, 2020

The surprise win of the night goes to the New York Red Bulls, which handed Inter Miami a 4-1 home defeat. Heading into the game, there was nothing to suggest they could score four goals — they were scoreless in three of their previous four games — let alone against a team that hadn’t been conceding many goals and was coming off an impressive win.

They ended up doing it without their most creative player in Kaku, who stayed on the bench all night. The key to the win was ruthless efficiency, as they scored four goals off of five shots on target. The win came while they played a simplified, back to basics 4-4-2, and that may be the key to finding some good form — setting up in two blocks of four in order to be hard to beat, and then being clinical with chances at the other end.

Orlando a lock for the playoffs?

HIGHLIGHTS: Sporting Kansas City vs. Orlando City SC | September 23, 2020

I’ve learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to MLS, but after what I’ve seen from them so far this season I am going to go on record and say Orlando City will not only definitely be in the playoffs, but they will be a force to be reckoned with once they are there. For me, their win against Sporting KC was their most impressive win of the season because it was away from home — where they don’t always look as dangerous as they do at Exploria Stadium — and against one of the strongest teams in the West. They showed how well they can close out a game, because for all of Sporting’s pressure as they pursued an equalizer — they had 13 corners and 16 shots — Orlando only allowed two shots on goal all night.

That will have pleased Oscar Pareja most, because their defense has not been as good as the Crew’s or the Union’s, the two teams immediately above and below them in the standings, and it will need to be at that level if they are to add any silverware to crown this impressive season they’re having.