Darlington Nagbe, Andrew Jacobson

Portland 1-0 Dallas: Beautifully exciting match erases controversy of another headbutt

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I’m not so sure it’s possible to ask for more from a match and receive it.

With the top of the Western Conference getting tighter and tighter, the two teams certainly played like it mattered.

The game had everything: attackers fired missiles as the goals, goalkeepers launched themselves for world-class saves, dribbling and runs, terrible misses, and a goalazo out of nothing made all the difference.

Darlington Nagbe hit a blast into the top right corner on a 180-degree turn for the goal that gave the conference lead to the Portland Timbers, grabbing all three points at home over FC Dallas.

It wasn’t the only exciting moment though.

Diego Valeri headed off the crossbar. Donovan Ricketts saved a howitzer from Dallas’s Jackson. Raul Fernandez made possibly two of the saves of the season on shots from Diego Chara, and the midfielder missed a gaping opportunity on a third following a breakaway. Michel continued his set-piece prowess with a scathing free kick shot just wide.

It was a gut-check for the Timbers after scoring their goal, with their midfield controlling the action and their goalkeeper pressed into a few clutch saves. Unfortunately, their forwards choked multiple times in front of goal to get a second, but it didn’t come back to hurt them.

The win pushes Portland one point shy of Real Salt Lake and two shy of Dallas in the lead. It appears the top three pull further and further away from the rest of the pack in the conference with each passing week.

The only issue with the match was the shroud from another headbutt in the MLS. Jair Benitez popped Frederic Piquionne in the nose with his forehead, and you can bet your britches he’ll face some discipline. The problem is, the referee did nothing about it. The assistant referee waved his flag furiously after the incident, and the head referee had a chat with him, but nothing came of it.

It’s deja vu all over again for Major League Soccer, but fortunately, this time around, the excitement far outweighed the stain.

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.

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

Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

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