MLS West vs. East: not much of a fight right now


In terms of West vs. East in Major League Soccer this year, it’s a two-hit fight.

You know that old schoolboy slanguage, right?  The two-hit fight?  “I hit you, you hit the floor.”

Yep. Major League Soccer’s Western Conference is doing all the swinging – the East is doing all the ducking, dodging and deflecting.

As Los Angeles finished out MLS Round 2 last night by pulling D.C. United’s defense apart the way a dog pulls apart an unguarded Holiday turkey, the numbers leaned left on the map and landed with a wallop: The Western Conference teams are 9-2 against the East.

Houston is single-handedly propping up any vestige of Eastern Promises at the moment, holders of the only two “Ws” from the right side of the conference map.

There’s little disagreement that Major League Soccer’s West is best. On the other hand, these numbers do deserve just some closer inspection – because maybe at second glance, it’s not quite as awful as it seems.

  • The schedule is heavy with Western Conference home dates in March.  It’s a weather thing. So far, 10 of those 11 matches were at stadiums in the warmer West.
  • Sporting Kansas City hasn’t yet tapped into this intra-conference scrap. The Livestrong Sporting Park outfit looks every bit as brawny as we all expected, with a close win on the road (at D.C. United) and last weekend’s romp-and-stomp over 10-man New England. Kansas City is likely to move the numbers a little.
  • That could begin this week, actually; FC Dallas travels north to meet SKC.  In fact, four of six intra-conference tussles play out inside Eastern grounds in Round 3.

There is one more branch on this tree to consider:  It’s how the East vs. West skew and this year’s unbalanced schedule dents the Supporters Shield chase. Because some recognizable names already have something interesting to say about it. (I’ll have that a little later today …)

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

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Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)