Major League Soccer Week in Review – Round 20

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Best match: Portland needed a stoppage time goal to get past the LA Galaxy, 2-1, in a feisty match at Jeld-Wen Field that had a little bit of everything. It ended with a little huffy-puffy fit at the end from a clearly frustrated Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, who was surely upset that his team had just conceded another late goal and took it out on Portland manager Caleb Porter. (Arena calmed down just a bit, waved Porter over and made nice before they left the field.)

What Arena was really mad about: When Portland’s Andrew Jean-Baptiste struck late Saturday night in Stumptown, it was the eighth stoppage-time goal Los Angeles has conceded this season and the 15th they’ve allowed after the 75th minute.

League’s hottest scorer: No coincidence that Vancouver started winning about the team Brazilian forward Camilo went on a huge scoring tear. He added two more in the Round 20 capper late Sunday, a 3-1 win over Chicago, and now has 10 goals in his last nine matches. With 12 overall, Camilo is now alone atop the league scoring lead.

What happened to Montreal’s defense?: Thierry Henry had a goal and two assists in New York’s fashionable 4-0 win over Montreal. It was truly one of the top performances from Mike Petke’s team this year. On the other hand … What gives with the Montreal defense, which has allowed 12 goals in the last four matches? That’s not the way Marco Schallibaum’s team will stay near the top in the East.

An underrated man: Anybody remember how New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty stepped up his game and established himself as a midfield force in MLS last year? Well, Eric Alexander is starting to wear the look of Mr. Stepping It Up this year. When on his game, Alexander is providing extra helpings of offensive drive through the midfield. He still needs to add the element of consistency, but more matches like Saturday’s and the veteran American will be for New York what (the just released) Juninho could not be.

Houston finds the target again – but those forwards still aren’t scoring:  Houston finding goal has not traditionally a remarkable event. But the team nearly went 0-for-June, finding net just once in five matches (including one Open Cup contest). So scoring for a second consecutive match rates as a “talker” in this case as Dominic Kinnear’s team turned up a 2-1 victory at New England

On the other hand, it took two wonderful strikes from midfielder Adam Moffat to grab the three points. Once again, Houston’s strikers aren’t getting it done. Moffat and fellow midfielders Warren Creavalle and Brad Davis have all struck for goals lately … while the last time a Dynamo forward scored was way back on May 8.

Weekend’s best goal: No holding midfielder in MLS can thump in the long-range beauties the way Adam Moffat can. The Houston Dynamo veteran’s latest was struck with his left foot, which is his “weaker” foot.

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Real Salt Lake’s highly significant win: Real Salt Lake retained its pose as the league’s hottest team (extending its club-record unbeaten streak to 11 games across all competitions) with a 3-0 win over FC Dallas. It was the first time RSL had won in Texas, so manager Jason Kreis shed that weight from himself personally and from the club. And it was the organization’s 100th MLS win overall.  Neither team was at full strength, but the visitors had slightly more to deal with in absences of Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Alvaro Saborio.

Worst refereeing moment: When we say “worst,” that accounts for pretty much the entire season in this case. We talked more about it here. But long story short, referee Jorge Gonzalez made an absolutely baffling decision in Philadelphia, one that weighed heavily in turning a potential 1-1 draw into a Union win over Chivas USA.

The alarming injury at L.A.: Details are scarce (there may be a further diagnosis later today) but Galaxy striker Robbie Keane limped off late in Saturday’s loss to Portland. A Galaxy offense without Keane (whom we labeled last week as our mid-season choice for league MVP) would be a tame offense indeed. Anyone else getting the feeling this just isn’t the year for the two-time defending champs?

MLS Snapshots: Opara scores a bike, SKC win; SJ thump RSL

Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The game in 100 words (or less): I’m going to start by quoting myself (re: Sporting Kansas City), via Twitter: “This team is better in June than it was in March, and will be better in October than it is in June. Just steadily progressing.” Saturday’s 2-1 victory away to LA Galaxy (just their second road win of the season, and the team’s fourth and fifth away goals in 10 games) is the latest sign of progress for Peter Vermes’ side, as they extend their lead on the rest of the Western Conference to five points. Roger Espinoza and Ike Opara scored the visitors’ goals — the latter coming in spectacular, most unexpected fashion — before the hosts pulled back to 2-1 through Dave Romney late in the second half. LA, meanwhile, sit sixth in the West, one point clear of the wrong side of the playoff cut line.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Three moments that mattered

22′ — Diop’s howler puts SKC up 1-0 — Sometimes — and this is one of those moments for Clement Diop — you just want the ground to open up and swallow you into the middle of the Earth.

35′ — Opara rides his bike to 2-0 — Ike Opara, a center back, scored a bicycle kick from a long ball played to him by Matt Besler, Sporting KC’s other center back. It’s a sequence of events you won’t see again for a long, long time.

59′ — Smith goes through Feilhaber, who is subbed off — Baldomero Toledo allowed Nathan Smith to stay on the field after this “tackle” on Benny Feilhaber.

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Man of the match: Ike Opara

Goalscorers: Espinoza (22′), Opara (35′)


San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Real Salt Lake

Three Two moments that mattered

13′ — Hoesen blasts a loose ball past Rimando for 1-0 — If you fail to clear the ball anywhere inside 12 yards, you’re probably going to get scored on. Danny Hoesen got all of this one.

68′ — Hoesen sets up Ureña for 2-0 — Hoesen’s speculative through ball found its way into space, and Marco Ureñat took it from there, putting the game away and handing RSL their eighth loss in 11 games.

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Man of the match: Danny Hoesen

Goalscorers: Hoesen (13′), Ureña (68′), Hernandez (90+4′)

MLS Snapshots: Hat trick for Accam; MNUFC come back from 2-0

Photo credit: Chicago Fire / Twitter: @ChicagoFire
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The game in 100 words (or less): All hail King David Accam, the newest superstar of MLS — except, well, you know, he’s been doing this for a couple years now. It’s not his fault you hadn’t already taken notice. For too long, it was Accam and not much else for the Chicago Fire, who finished bottom of the league two straight seasons, in 2015 and 2016. Now, with the likes of Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic and Bastian Schweinsteiger joining him in Bridgeview, Accam has ascended to his rightful throne as an MVP candidate. The 26-year-old Ghanaian international strengthened his case on Saturday, bagging three goals and an assist, playing a key part in all four goals, in Chicago’s 4-0 drubbing of Orlando City SC. Accam’s season stats now sit at 10 goals and six assists, for the Eastern Conference’s second-place team. If these kind of performances persist, don’t be surprised when Accam follows in Fabian Castillo’s footsteps, right off to Europe.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Three moments that mattered

8′ — Accam rounds Bendik for 2-0 — The long-ball distribution from Bastian Schweinsteiger is perfect, but Accam still has a ton to do from there. He corrals the ball with his first touch, quickly goes around Joe Bendik, gets his wits about him and fires through an opening to make it David Accam 2-0 Orlando City SC. This one came just six minutes after his brilliant backheel finish for the opening goal.

52′ — Accam sets up Nikolic for 3-0 — The time and space afforded Accam is inexcusable from Orlando’s midfield remaining players in their defensive half of the field, but the through ball still required inch-perfect precision to find Nikolic.

63′ — Accam converts from the spot — No doubt about this one, as Accam slams home from the penalty spot to complete his much deserved hat trick.

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

Man of the match: David Accam

Goalscorers: Accam (3′, 8′, 63′ – PK), Nikolic (52′)


Minnesota United 2-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

Three moments that mattered

45+2′ — Tchani heads a rocket past Shuttleworth — You’re not going to find many headers with more power behind them than this one from Tony Tchani, anywhere in the world, anytime.

50′ — Calvo heads down and past Ousted — Take, for example, Francisco Calvo’s goal five minutes into the second half… not quite as much behind it.

63′ — Thiesson hits it low, through traffic, for 2-0 — Jerome Thiesson’s equalizer needed eyes to make its way through a penalty area full of bodies.

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Man of the match: Kevin Molino

Goalscorers: Techera (17′ – PK), Tchani (45+2′), Calvo (50′), Thiesson (63′)

MLS Snapshots: Manneh inspires Crew SC; Philly, Atlanta win at home

AP Photo/Jay LaPrete
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Columbus Crew SC 4-1 Montreal Impact

Three moments that mattered

17′ — Higuain’s free kick beats Bush — Aided by a slight deflection off the top of the wall, Higuain put a free kick past Evan Bush to give the home side an early lead.

70′ — Manneh makes an immediate impact — The initial ball from Higuain is what you came here for, but the elementary defending by three Montreal defenders is what’ll keep you glued until the very end.

72′ — Manneh sets up Kamara for 3-1 — Kekuta Manneh had been on the field for all of three minutes, and he put a goal and an assist to his name. Most importantly, three points to that of Crew SC.

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Man of the match: Federico Higuain

Goalscorers: Higuain (17′, 88′), Jackson-Hamel (19′), Manneh (70′), Kamara (72′)


 

Philadelphia Union 1-0 D.C. United

Three moments that mattered

28′ — Blake gets down to deny Harkes from distance — Ian Harkes had picked out a spot just inside the far post, but Andre Blake was well up to the task of denying DCU’s homegrown rookie.

31′ — Picault slams Bedoya’s cross — Alejandro Bedoya’s cross has some serious loft on it, which it makes it so tough to keep the ensuing shot low and to hit it with such power. Fantastic finish from Picault.

70′ — Blake stone-walls Neagle from the spot — It’s a pretty poor penalty from Lamar Neagle, but it’s a massive moment so badly needed by Andre Blake who’s been well off his own standard this season. Don’t be surprised if it’s a season-turning save for the talented Jamaican.

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Man of the match: Andre Blake

Goalscorers: Picault (31′)


 

Atlanta United 1-0 Colorado Rapids

Three One moment that mattered

67′ — Martinez turns and beats Howard for the game’s only goal — You can’t give Josef Martinez this kind of space, and this kind of time, around the six-yard box. He’s shown us seven times already this season (in just seven games) how deadly he is from there.

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Man of the match: Josef Martinez

Goalscorers: Martinez (67′)

VIDEO: Accam’s slick backheel puts Chicago ahead

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For the last two years, David Accam has been, in my estimation, the best player in MLS that no one talked about.

[ MORE: NYCFC run rampant on Red Bulls, win NY derby 2-0 ]

Understandably so, of course, given the 26-year-old Ghanaian international and the Chicago Fire been rooted to the bottom of the league table for two years running. All of that has changed in 2017, though, as Accam finally has a forward (Nemanja Nikolic) who can not only put chances away, but create space and chances for his teammates, and a solid midfield base which allows him to cherry-pick counter-attacks just that little bit more.

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Entering Saturday’s game against Orlando City SC, Chicago sat second in the Eastern Conference, just four points back of Toronto FC, and Accam’s 7 goals and 5 assists (in 15 games) were a huge part of the why and the how. It didn’t take Accam long — two minutes, in fact, to put Chicago ahead of Orlando with a ridiculous backheel finish to Matt Polster’s cross.