Howlers, howitzers and one clutch Deuce: What you missed in MLS Week 17

Fifteen games, 45 goals and a near-endless stream of drama and debate: MLS Week 17 was pretty, pretty, pretty good. Here's a cheat sheet.

Your new overlords wear red

A warm round of applause is due for Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire, MLS' clear frontrunners on both a total-points and points-per-game basis. The Reds and the Men in Red are four points clear of the pack in the Eastern Conference and Supporters' Shield standings, have just lost five total games between them over the first half of the season and remain in contention for domestic cup honors, too.

You might have seen TFC coming, but heading into the season few beyond the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan would have dared to predict this from the Fire. And Chicago aren't just winning games, they're often laying waste to whoever steps in front of them, as they did to Orlando City on Saturday:

Gotham is blue

Saturday's 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls wasn't New York City FC's first victory in this much-ballyhooed crosstown showdown, but it sure felt like the dawn of a new era in the #NYDerby. Patrick Vieira's crew ventured into Red Bull Arena and pretty much controlled things from start to finish, slicing through the RBNY press under the warm afternoon sun and serving notice that the Big Apple might take on a cooler hue for some time to come:

Dom is gone

The San Jose Earthquakes produced an impressive overall performance in their 2-1 defeat of Real Salt Lake; take a bow, Marco Ureña!

It couldn't stave off the dismissal of head coach Dominic Kinnear – one of the only coaches the club has ever known in its MLS existence – a day later. Sunday's surprise news marks the departure of one of the league's most tenured and respected bosses, an icon whose star has mysteriously dimmed amid MLS' swift growth and evolution. Now all eyes turn to the man who made the move, new general manager Jesse Fioranelli, as he enacts his vision for the Quakes.

Kekuta rising

He's widely regarded as one of the most exciting young talents in modern MLS, and possibly even a future star of the US national team. Yet you may have forgotten about Kekuta Manneh lately. The Gambian-born winger has been plagued by injuries for months, and initially found the going tough in Columbus when he arrived via trade from Vancouver in the spring. But he broke a year-long scoring drought in fine fashion on Saturday, coming off the bench to break Crew SC's deadlock with Montreal with a goal and an assist:

Diop drops, Ike bikes

Sporting KC's visit to the LA Galaxy offered up a broad spectrum of player emotions, from excellence to embarrassment. First LA goalkeeper Clement Diop gifted the Midwesterners the opening goal with a howler of a handling error on Roger Espinoza's long-range bid. Then Ike Opara produced an inventive bicycle kick – not bad for a defender! – to light up StubHub Center...

Land of 10,000 Plot Twists

Minnesota United remain winless on the road (not that they're the only ones) and below the red line in the Western Conference. However, it's become clear that just about anything can happen in their home games at TCF Bank Stadium. On Wednesday they swapped haymakers with Portland in a wild 3-2 tussle, and on the weekend things got chaotic when another Cascadia side, the Whitecaps, hit town:

Gone cold in the Lone Star State

Anyone who's visited Texas knows that the next two-plus months of the year are unrelentingly sweltering, with temperatures usually stuck at or above the 100-degree (Fahrenheit) mark. Yet after red-hot starts to the season, FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo have cooled down noticeably.

Both have won just one league match over the past month, and Friday's 1-1 Texas Derby draw, which probably excites neither side, epitomized their current frustrations. The 2017 destination of "El Capitan," the mountain howitzer that goes to the winner of these team' season series, remains uncertain.

Raging Timbers

It might've been even hotter in Portland, though, where Clint Dempsey conjured up a jaw-droppingly clutch late goal to snatch a 2-2 away draw for the 10-man Seattle Sounders in Sunday's Cascadia Cup clash. You've probably seen that footage, and can imagine how it ruined the Timbers' day. Afterwards head coach Caleb Porter fumed about his team's inability to see out the victory that appeared to be theirs for the taking, and he dropped some R-rated language in the process. 

Suffice to say that there's work to do in the Rose City.