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MLS Week in Review: Round 27

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source:  Fear the Galaxy

Every week we find another reason to see the Galaxy as one of the teams to beat, if not the team to beat, for MLS Cup. (It would mark an unprecedented third in a row for Bruce Arena’s star-strewn team.) This week we were reminded of three of them. Landon Donovan scored again, and that makes five in four league matches since returning from that sensational Gold Cup reminder that he is still the best attackers this country has produced. There was Robbie Keane, who continued to build a solid league MVP case with yet another goal and yet another assist. And there was Jaime Penedo, the Panamanian international who has stabilized the club’s formerly concerning situation in goal. It all came as the Galaxy made pretty easy work of rival San Jose in a 3-0 win at the StubHub Center.

The Galaxy is 4-0-1 in all competitions since the All-Star game, and has not conceded a goal in its last three matches.

Donovan inches closer to goals record

Already U.S. Soccer’s all-time leading scorer and the LA Galaxy’s all-time leading scorer, Donovan has drawn ever so close to Jeff Cunningham’s all-time mark in Major League Soccer. His strike on Saturday against the Earthquakes was No. 132, leaving the 31-year-old forward just two shy of the all-time league mark, which Cunningham took from Jaime Moreno just three years ago. Donovan, who made last week’s big off-field splash by re-signing with the Galaxy, will miss L.A.’s next match while pulling national team duty, but will have six chances after that for records chasing.

The big gamble

You really have to hand it to New York Red Bulls manager Mike Petke, who is not even a full year into his first pro coaching assignment. In polite company we would say it like this: the man has courage.

How else to describe Petke’s decision to bench French superstar and former World Cup winner Thierry Henry? Henry doesn’t always play well with others, wearing his lack of patience with lesser players on his Red Bulls sleeve, frequently showing up his teammates. But that’s nothing new, and everyone seems to tolerate it.

What Petke could not allow, apparently, was a training-ground blow-up on Thursday. They hashed it out, but the upshot was a place for Henry on the bench near Petke for a match the wildly inconsistent Red Bulls absolutely could not afford to squander.

Sure enough — and what a relief for the manager — the Red Bulls prevailed 2-1 over woeful D.C. United.

Eddie Johnson and the coming storm

Clint Dempsey is four games into his highly paid days with Seattle, still stuck on no goals and no assists. But Seattle is winning, so no real pressure points are being reached.

Well, they wouldn’t be except for Eddie Johnson’s brazen message to the club, his “pay me” celebration upon scoring he only goal in Seattle’s weather-delayed win at Columbus.

Johnson’s deal is up at year’s end, he wants to remain in Seattle, and now he is scoring while $5 million man Dempsey isn’t. So you do the professional contract math.

Dempsey and Johnson go way back, so there may not be tension between the pair; Dempsey probably wants to see Johnson get a big, fat raise,too.

But how will the this play with fans, who have right to wonder where Johnson’s true loyalties lie? And how will the rest of the Sounders see Johnson’s self-centered actions with the team in such a healthy place, on such a swell roll, steadily climbing in the West?

Real Salt Lake on a goal tear

Portland was the latest to find itself brushed aside by a Real Salt Lake team that has achieved top offensive gear. After hitting three versus Portland two weeks ago and then four versus Columbus last week, Javier Morales led the offensive way as RSL crushed Portland in Utah, 4-2. With the latest win in Utah, RSL extended its lead in the West and for the Supporters  Shield to five points, although all pursuers within bothering distance have games in hand.

“El Cubo” Torres rising

Chivas USA is getting something out of this season of misery. It’s Erick “El Cubo” Torres, the young striker on loan from mother Chivas, the Liga MX team in Guadalajara.

Torres had two more goals in Sunday’s 2-2 draw in Vancouver, including one very cool overhead kick. That followed last week’s two-goal evening, bringing the young striker’s total this year to six.

While it’s great that Chivas USA fans get something to feel good about this year, Torres is almost sure to be recalled for the Liga MX spring season – so he won’t be around the StubHub Center long.

Sporting KC back on track

Peter Vermes’ team found a rough patch in August, losing three times in league play losing ground in the tightly packed Eastern Conference playoff jostle, naturally)  and finding goals in awfully short supply lately. So a commanding 2-1 victory over visiting Colorado should go far in helping to fortify any sagging confidence around Sporting Park.

Speaking of that match …

The weekend’s top goal

Benny Feilhaber’s can be maddeningly inconsistent, but Sporting KC’s former U.S. national teamed always has a special goal or two lurking about him. He sure dropped a doozy on helpless Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin in Round 27, an outside of the foot bender that was as gorgeous as it was audacious. Watch and enjoy …

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Three takeaways from the Red Bulls CCL draw against the Whitecaps

New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, left, trips over Vancouver Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston inside the Whitecaps box during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal soccer match, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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With 90 more minutes to play up in Vancouver, this tie is far from over. However, Wednesday night’s clash at Red Bull Arena surely presented intriguing storylines ahead of leg two.

The Vancouver Whitecaps picked up a critical away goal in their 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal meeting.

While their CCL clash was the first competitive action for either side since 2016, both clubs showed glimpses of brilliance in the first of their two encounters in the competition.

Here’s a look back at three important takeaways from the Red Bulls’ draw against the Whitecaps.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Red Bulls still working out kinks up front

Bradley Wright-Phillips has been one of Major League Soccer’s most prolific goalscorers since joining the Red Bulls, but even the star striker struggled to find the ball in dangerous positions on Wednesday. The Red Bulls striker netted the game’s equalizer after 62 minutes, but chances were far and few between on the night for Wright-Phillips.

Despite dominating the possession for long spells of the match (as is the case much of the time), the Red Bulls found difficulty breaking down the Whitecaps when it mattered most.

Jesse Marsch’s side managed just two shots on target throughout the 90 minutes, while Sacha Kljestan’s penalty kick miss voided the host side from leveling up the first leg just after the halftime break.

The Red Bulls have wanted to toy with a two-striker set since early 2016, and Marsch finally got his wish with Argentine DP Gonzalo Veron match fit for the start of the campaign. Veron looked solid at times with his quality first touches and quick pace, but it was the final ball that was often lacking.

Sacha Kljestan and Daniel Royer interlinked well with one another behind the two strikers, and with Mike Grella and Alex Muyl also tabbed as rotational players in the midfield, Marsch will have a solid group to pick from to help his attack develop moving forward.

Manneh is coming into his own

He scored, facilitated and just looked all around dangerous against the Red Bulls. Kekuta Manneh has become one of the most intriguing MLS players over the past 12 months in large part because of his success in the league as well as the opportunity to represent the U.S. Men’s National Team.

While his goal wasn’t the prettiest six minutes before halftime, the Whitecaps attacker was in the right spot, just as he was for much of the night. His three shots on target led all players involved, but it was Manneh’s confidence under pressure that was most impressive.

The Whitecaps didn’t throw too many numbers forward on the night — with the second leg being north of the border — but Manneh and the Whitecaps attack thrived on the counterattack on several occasions.

With a number of players unavailable for Carl Robinson’s side, including Yordy Reyna, Christian Bolanos and Fredy Montero, the visitors played a strong opening leg, particularly after playing the final 20 minutes down a man when Cristian Techera was dismissed for a high tackle on Red Bulls defender Sal Zizzo.

Youngsters show out for both sides

Experience is still the name of the game for both the Red Bulls and Whitecaps, but Wednesday night also provided a glimpse into the future with several stellar performances from the youngsters on the pitch.

Sean Davis was tasked with filling the hole in the central midfield after Dax McCarty was treaded away from the Red Bulls this offseason, and although the youngster has had experience in the past, he certainly didn’t disappoint for Marsch’s group. The 24-year-old looked confident in his distribution and defended well when called upon alongside Felipe.

Meanwhile, Whitecaps attacker Alphonso Davies continues to turn heads for a player that is only 16 years old. Davies only appeared in eight MLS matches last season for the Western Conference side, but looked like a seasoned veteran against the Red Bulls at times with his blazing strides and pinpoint passes.

The young attacker surely has room to grow, particularly in front of net, but hey, he’s 16.

New York Red Bulls 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps: BWP saves a draw

New York Red Bulls' Aaron Long, top, climbs over Vancouver Whitecaps forward Erik Hurtado while competing for the ball during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal soccer match, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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  • ‘Caps nap road goal
  • Techera sent off in 71′
  • Return leg March 2

Kekuta Manneh and Bradley Wright-Phillips traded goals as the Vancouver Whitecaps and New York Red Bulls drew 1-1 in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

Cristian Techera sent the ‘Caps down to 10 men in the 71st minute when he connected with a kick between Sal Zizzo’s legs.

A deft touch by Wright-Phillips set up Sacha Kljestan for a fifth minute chance, but two sliding Whitecaps helped pressure the captain’s shot wide of the near post.

Vancouver had a chance two minutes later when Alphonso Davies played Russell Teibert down the right wing, and the Whitecaps wide man curled a shot wide of the far post.

[ MORE: Amazing beach soccer bicycle kick goal ]

The Whitecaps beat Luis Robles before halftime. Kendall Waston flicked a ball toward the net, and Kekuta used his head to turn the ball off Justin Bilyeu and behind Robles. 1-0, 39′.

A foul outside the 18 nearly saw Kljestan level it up with a 45th minute free kick.

Kljestan should’ve tied it up with a PK just after the break. He didn’t, barely chipping his Panenka attempt above shin level. Woof.

Wright-Phillips made it 1-1 in the 62nd minute, when Zizzo’s cross dropped at his feet. A quick reaction had the ball in the back of the net.

Sacha Kljestan stars in “When Panenkas Fail” (video)

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 22:  Sacha Kljestan #16 of New York Red Bulls heads the ball in front of Steve Birnbaum #15 of D.C. United during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 22, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
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When Panenkas don’t go well, players look foolish.

Sacha Kljestan looks foolish.

The New York Red Bulls captain strode to the penalty spot to level the score in Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.

[ MORE: Leicester grabs away goal ]

Only he didn’t. Kljestan chipped his attempt barely a foot off the ground, allowing David Ousted to kick the chance away. Bradley Wright-Phillips blazed the rebound over the frame, and it remained 1-0 for the ‘Caps.

WATCH: Liverpool loanee nets hat trick for U.S. U-20 side

STEVENAGE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Brooks Lennon of Liverpool celebrates his goal during the Premier League 2 match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at The Lamex Stadium on September 19, 2016 in Stevenage, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
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If Brooks Lennon brings this sort of scoring prowess to Real Salt Lake, he may just walk away Rookie of the Year.

On loan from Liverpool, Lennon is first on duty with the United States U-20 men’s national team in Costa Rica.

The U.S. opened U-20 World Cup qualifying with a 1-0 loss to Panama, and was under the gun when it allowed an early goal to Haiti late Tuesday evening.

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But Lennon scored a trio of goals and sent in the corner that Luca de la Torre eventually finished as the Yanks won 4-1. The U.S. has St. Kitts and Nevis in the final group match on Friday.

The top two teams from each group of four advance to the next round, in which four teams will qualify for the U-20 World Cup. That tournament is set for May in South Korea.