D.C. United v San Jose Earthquakes

The Money Shot: top clubs in this week’s MLS rankings


6. Houston Dynamo – A win and two draws over eight days is commendable for a club with so much going on. The stadium is open, the hard road slog is behind them and Dominic Kinnear’s team even has a little breathing room for a few days. Now, the season can really start.

5. New York Red Bulls – It’s just hard to make sense of these crazy kids. Few teams are as beat up, and yet this is Major League Soccer’s hottest team (statistically speaking) with five wins in a row. We know what they are saying around Red Bull Arena: “Why ask why? Just keep the party going!” Heath Pearce debuted at center back in the latest victory, Saturday over Montreal (while playing a man down for half an hour, no less.)

4. D.C. United – Two home games brought two fairly comfortable wins (over Colorado and Toronto). Dwayne De Rosario is on one of his signature tears with three goals in Round 11. And don’t look now, rest of league, but Andy Najar and previously muted DP striker Hamdi Salihi are starting to feel it.

3. San Jose Earthquakes – Alan Gordon (pictured) to the rescue. Again! For the second consecutive week, the ‘Quakes fell behind at home to a side they probably shouldn’t have (this time to Columbus). And for the second consecutive week, Gordon came off the bench to strike late, helping his side split the points. It’s exciting, but clearly the Buck Shaw bunch would like better on home grass.

2. Seattle Sounders – Everyone gets excited about bicycle kick goals, and I get it. They’re cool and all. But what gets my little soccer shorts going are goals like Fredy Montero’s late equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Vancouver. The ability to make space and then to perfectly, skillfully draw a curling arc with the ball around a stranded, helpless goalkeeper? Yeah, that does it for me. (And it’s the kind of goal that Montero manufactures from time to time, hardly his first artistic maneuver.)

1. Real Salt Lake – Unbeaten in five and well-rested (idle in Round 11) ahead of a home match this weekend? Yeah, the Western Conference leaders will certainly take that. They probably will have to deal with the absence of midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando (although it’s possible Rimando could be released back to the club.)

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.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

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.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

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