Major League Soccer Week in Review – Round 21

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Welcome back Boca – been a long time, man:  Chivas USA snapped its 14-game winless streak with a victory in Southern California against Toronto. Was it mere coincidence that former U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra and Erick “Cubo” Torres made their debuts for Chivas USA? Hardly. Torres had the game’s only goal, in fact.

Vancouver’s Camilo scores. Again!: It’s Camilo world right now; the rest of us are just trying to keep up the highlights of his goals. Things did not work out well for his Whitecaps, who finished the round of matches late Saturday on the West Coast with a 2-1 loss to the Galaxy. But the Brazilian forward supplied his team’s lone strike, breaking away and finishing the confidence you’d expect of the league’s leading scorer, not with 13 goals. Camilo has 10 goals in the Whitecap’s last 8 games – and holy Cap, that is getting it done!

Lightning in Chester: Lightning delayed the second half of Saturday’s Union-Timbers match for nearly an hour outside Philadelphia.  Around the unusual delay, it was a show of goalkeepers in the team’s 0-0 draw at PPL Park.

The weekend’s “Ooops” moment – and from a highly unlikely source: Generally speaking, Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is a rock. He makes the big saves and sweeps up all the little stuff, all while providing good information to the sentinels in defense. But … what a bad moment he had in Utah, completely misjudging a ball that turned into an RSL goal – the kind of mistake we see from young goalkeepers  (like Andrew Weber in Seattle over the weekend) but so rarely from a vet like Nielsen. Here ‘tis.:

Real Salt Lake’s streak ends: All things considered, Real Salt Lake is in a great place, still well positioned and doing wonderfully in a bit of a rebuilding campaign. Still, this one smarts. Jason Kreis’ team was a goal up at home when Chris Wingert drew a second yellow card. A man down, RSL quickly conceded the equalizer and then, near the end, the telling goal to Sporting KC. And just like that, RSL’s 11-game unbeaten streak went “poof!”

The week’s ref-related controversy: It’s too bad all of Real Salt Lake’s best players could not be available for Saturday’s meeting, a matchup between two of the league’s best.

What’s really too bad is that U.S. Soccer’s referee assigning attachment didn’t understand that this match had the potential to be quite physical and tightly contested – which it most certainly was. Referee Matthew Foerster was working his 15th MLS match, and that relative lack of experience could be seen.

Long story short, things got a little out of control, RSL saw a man ejected and things(as noted a couple of paragraphs up) came apart from there for the home team.

Best goal: When we talk about “best goals,” the money moment usually arrive in the finish. Sometimes, though, it’s about the skillful set-up. Watch young Galaxy striker Gyasi Zardes leave a Vancouver Whitecaps defender for dead (falling down, and then attempting some desperate, lunging gambit to get in Zardes’ way just before the far-post finish.) It’s his third MLS goal … and this is why some folks are fairly excited about the Galaxy Academy product: Well done, young man.

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Smash … grab … run!: As the final whistle approached, New England would surely have been OK with a 0-0 draw, not having created much in the way of quality chances at Columbus. But center back Jose Goncalves found goal in the 90th minute, and exciting young attacker Diego Fagundez scored his sixth this year as the Revolution sneaked out of Crew  Stadium with a 2-0 victory thanks to a couple of very late hits.

D.C. United records watch: The lastest butt-whuppin’ in this sad march to infamy (4-1 Saturday to Chicago) leaves the league’s biggest 2013 disappointment with a 2-14-4 record. S the team some picked to rule the Eastern Conference in 2013 remains on pace for second fewest points per game ever in MLS (the 1999 MetroStars hold the mark at 0.47) and for fewest goals over an entire season. Ben Olsen’s team has nine so far through 20 matches; the MLS record is 21, set by United during a 30-game season in 2010.

Week’s top save: Apologies to Donovan Ricketts for failing to hand over yet another top save to the Portland Timbers’ super sprawler, but watch this highly agile stop from New York’s Luis Robles, who had to react with ultimate speed to turn away Richard Eckersley’s deflected effort:

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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.