Week 28 was an abbreviated round in MLS, thanks to the international window. But some noteworthy proceedings unfolded just the same – let’s take a look.
Undefeated no more
New York City FC have made Yankee Stadium a fortress this season, going 10-0-3 in their first 13 games there, making them the last team in the league to be undefeated at home. Few would’ve expected a New England Revolution side which hadn’t won a game since June to be the ones to end that streak.
But that’s exactly what went down on Wednesday, as the Revs absorbed wave after wave of Cityzens attacks, riding their luck until Brian Wright – making his first-ever MLS start – produced an instinctive one-time finish on a rebound coughed up by Sean Johnson. Maybe New England have some life in them yet…
Gray sky blues
The blue side of New York also welcomed D.C. United to the Bronx this week, and again had to settle for a sour-tasting result. This time it was Steve Birnbaum who exploited an error from Johnson, the D.C. center back elevating above the veteran goalkeeper’s outstretched hands to nod home Wayne Rooney’s set-piece delivery for a United lead against – way, way against – the run of play…
As he has so often over the past three-plus years, David Villa would rescue his team, curling a delightful free kick past Bill Hamid to salvage a 1-1 draw for the hosts. But with just one win in their last eight games and Columbus Crew SC bearing down on them – and bearing two games in hand – it’s gut-check time for an NYCFC side that only has so much time left to make the most of Villa’s greatness.
On that D.C. grind
While much of MLS sat idle during this international window, D.C. and NYC are playing two games a piece, a scheduling quirk that particularly reflects United’s backloaded home slate at Audi Field. The Black-and-Red welcome Minnesota United to the District this Wednesday, and just like they did so with a 15-player gameday roster on Saturday, they will likely have to do so shorthanded.
Meant to tweet this out last night. It’s Ben Olsen’s thoughts on Wayne Rooney’s performance against NYC, a game which could have caused endless frustration for the striker. #DCU pic.twitter.com/jHYMth89CC— Steven Streff (@streffsoccer) September 9, 2018
With Rooney and his attacking foil Lucho Acosta leading the line, D.C. have become gamers, a tough out for anyone they face. The question now is whether they can keep picking up points at a rapid clip as their congested calendar adds up the mileage on their tired legs. Montreal and New England, their main rivals for the Eastern Conference’s sixth and final postseason place, are surely praying they can’t.
Welcome back Chileno
Remember Felipe Gutierrez? One of Sporting KC’s showcase offseason signings, the Chilean international started 2018 like a house on fire, racking up five goals in his first five MLS games only to be sidetracked by injury woes. After undergoing sports hernia surgery on May 1, it took a while for him to find his scoring touch again, though he did so just in time to deliver SKC a needed victory, netting the sole strike in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Orlando City to keep the pressure on West leaders FC Dallas.
His finish offers a good lesson for young attackers: Make the most of any pocket of space you find in Zone 14, keep it low and on-frame and force the ‘keeper to make a save – as Joe Bendik didn’t.
Wall (noggin) pass
Like Kansas City, Portland held serve when they had to this weekend, staving off the visiting Colorado Rapids 2-0 via a lively performance up front from all-too-often-overlooked youngster Jeremy Ebobisse…
And a victory-clinching goal from Stumptown saint Diego Valeri, the beneficiary of a firm and particularly pinpoint delivery from Sebastian Blanco, who probably deserves more than just an assist on the scoresheet for more or less using Valeri’s forehead as a wall to beat Tim Howard from close range: