Mauro Manotas

Photo credit: Houston Dynamo / @HoustonDynamo

Top-seeded Timbers ousted, at home, by road-woeful Dynamo

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The game in 100 words (or less more): One by one, the trendy, higher-seeded favorites are falling away in the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs — same as the postseason has ever been. Sunday saw the Eastern Conference’s 2-seed, New York City FC, bow out at the hands of 5th-seeded Columbus Crew SC, not long before the Western Conference’s top-seeded Portland Timbers fell victim to 4th-seeded Houston Dynamo. Having secured a 0-0 draw in the first leg down in Houston, Caleb Porter’s side entered Sunday’s second leg with a decided advantage — Houston won just once away from home all season, and managed just 10 points in total from 17 tries. After Dairon Asprilla put Portland 1-0 ahead in the 39th minute, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the 2015 champions would move on to face the defending champs, their Cascadia rivals, the Seattle Sounders, in the West finals beginning on Nov. 21. Alas, Dylan Remick, a former Sounder himself, made it 1-1 just four minutes later, and Mauro Manotas delivered the final blow 13 minutes from full-time to propel Wilmer Cabrera’s side into the final four. In their 12 seasons of existence, Houston have been to the playoffs eight times, reached the conference finals seven times, appeared in MLS Cup four times, and won it twice.

[ MORE: 3 keys to Sunday’s 2nd legs ]

Three moments that mattered

39′ — Asprilla fires home the opener — Diego Valeri played the ball wide to Vytas, who lofted it into the box. Asprilla was quickest to react when the cross was a bit too deep, and the Colombian hit an unstoppable ball past Joe Willis.

43′ — Remick smashes home a loose ball for 1-1 — Tomas Martinez played the free kick into the box, Jalil Anibaba headed it down, and Remick smashed it past Jeff Artinella to put Houston ahead on away goals.

77′ — Manotas hits a slow bouncer past Attinella for 2-1 — Insurance.

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

Man of the match: Juan Cabezas

Goalscorers: Asprilla (39′), Remick (43′), Manotas (77′)

MLS: FCD really missed the playoffs; LA finish dead last

Photo credit: Houston Dynamo / Twitter: @HoustonDynamo
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FC Dallas 5-1 LA Galaxy

The standings: FC Dallas finish 7th in the West; LA Galaxy finish bottom of the West, and all of MLS

The game: It was too little, too late for FC Dallas, who on Sunday managed just their second win during the months of August, September and October. That’s a stretch of 15 games which saw last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners tumble out of the West’s playoff places and ultimately finish seventh, behind the San Jose Earthquakes on the wins tiebreaker. Roland Lamah scored twice on the day, to go with single tallies from Mauro Diaz, Matt Hedges and Michael Barrios. Oscar Pareja’s side began the season with treble aspirations for a second straight season (the Hoops also won the U.S. Open Cup in 2016), but will be watching this year’s playoffs from the comfort of their own couches. On the other hand, 2017 could have been worse — say, FCD could have been LA, who finished last in MLS for the first time ever. Sigi Schmid, should he remain in the job next season, has quite the rebuilding task on his hands. Let us not forget: LAFC arrive in March.

[ MORE: MLS at Week 34 — it all comes down to this ]

The goals

2′ — Cian heads home an early opener Things started brightly for LA.

37′ — Lamah gets a lucky bounce, pulls FCD level — Right place, right time for Lamah, who’s endured quite the rough first season in MLS.

41′ — Hedges cleans up the mess, and it’s 2-1 — Clement Diop couldn’t hold on after making the initial save, and Matt Hedges was more than ready for the rebound.

49′ — Lamah makes it 3-1 — The rout has officially begun.

68′ — Barrios adds to LA’s misery with a fourth — LA’s 2017 season was over in May (maybe June, if we’re being kind). Every one of these defenders is on a beach right now.

73′ — Diaz makes it 5-1 from the spot — The season just will not end for LA.

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

Man of the match: Roland Lamah

Goalscorers: Cian (2′), Lamah (37′, 49′), Hedges (41′), Barrios (68′) Diaz (73′ – PK)


Houston Dynamo 3-0 Chicago Fire

The standings: Dynamo clinch the West’s 4-seed; Fire clinch the East’s 3-seed

The game: No one wanted to win the West, just like no one ever really wanted to claim a home game in the knockout round. In the end, the Houston Dynamo beat Sporting Kansas City to the 4-seed and the right to host the two sides’ opening-round game this week. Leonardo, Romell Quioto and Mauro Manotas bagged the goals for Wilmer Cabrera’s side which finishes the regular season unbeaten in its last six game (three wins). Chicago, recently resurgent, lose for just the second time in eight games, but in doing so fail to take advantage of New York City FC’s Decision Day draw with Columbus Crew SC. A win would have sent Chicago second in the East, allowing them a week’s rest and preparation before the start of the conference semifinals. Instead, they’ll host the New York Red Bulls this week.

[ MORE: MLS at Week 34 — it all comes down to this ]

The goals

2′ — Leonardo heads home from a long throw — They don’t have to be pretty (especially on Decision Day), which is good, because this one was anything but.

68′ — Quioto goes it alone to make it 2-0 — At some point, someone should probably drag Quioto to the ground rather than let him carry the ball 40 yards into the penalty area. It never happened, and Richard Sanchez couldn’t make the save.

75′ — Manotas adds the insurance a few minutes later — Andrew Wenger’s cross found Manotas at the back post, and the finish was easy for the Colombian.

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

Man of the match: Leonardo

Goalscorers: Leonardo (2′), Quioto (68′), Manotas (75′)

MLS Snapshot: NYCFC, HOU play to 1-1 draw… in Connecticut

Photo credit: New York City FC / @NYCFC
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The game in 100 words (or less more): New York City FC entered the weekend having dropped just 12 points (two losses, three draws) at home all season. That, of course, is their record within the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, the third-year MLS club’s temporary home for the foreseeable future. In truth, it was a minor miracle NYCFC hadn’t been forced from their home in the Bronx before Saturday’s clash with the Houston Dynamo, which ended a 1-1 draw at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn. Attendance suffered, rightfully so. With the Yankees scheduled to play a make-up game Monday night, NYCFC were made to work out alternative stadium arrangements due to the amount of time required to convert Yankee Stadium into a baseball field once again. Anyway, Maxi Moralez and Mauro Manotas scored the goals, each inside the game’s opening 16 minutes. The point does very little for NYCFC (52 points), who remain 10 points off the pace of Eastern Conference- and Supporters’ Shield-leading Toronto FC, and just four points clear of third-place Chicago Fire; Houston (39) are buoyed a bit more, as they move ahead of Real Salt Lake for the Western Conference’s sixth and final playoff place (for the time being).

[ MORE: MLS weekend preview — ATL host MTL; RSL desperate vs. SEA ]

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Moralez rises up, heads NYCFC ahead — Chances are, when the shortest player on the field scores from a header, somebody missed their marking assignment.

16′ — Manotas beats Johnson off the quick FK — Chances are, when the opponent scores from a quick free kick, somebody fell asleep and wasn’t paying attention.

89′ — Deric protects the upper-90 to preserve a point — Jack Harrison probably thought he’d beaten Tyler Deric into the upper-90, but the Dynamo goalkeeper kept his side level with a stunning Save of the Week nominee.

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

Man of the match: Tyler Deric

Goalscorers: Moralez (6′), Manotas (16′)

MLS Snapshot: FCD lose 4-0 at home; HOU fight back to draw POR

Photo credit: @WhitecapsFC
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FC Dallas 0-4 Vancouver Whitecaps

The game in 100 words (or less): Every team in MLS has one or two games each season where absolutely everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps appears to have been the giant hiccup of FC Dallas’ 2017 season. Oscar Pareja’s side entered the contest, which they played with 10 men for the final half-hour, first in the Western Conference; they now sit second, two points back of Sporting Kansas City. Carlos Gruezo got himself sent off in the 59th minute with FCD already 2-0 down after Bernie Ibini-Isei’s opener and the first of two goals for Fredy Montero on the night. Montero added his second eight minutes after Gruezo’s dismissal, and Nicolas Mezquida delivered the dagger seven minutes from full-time. The victory sees Vancouver climb over the Seattle Sounders and into fifth in the West, now just one point back of the Portland Timbers (with three games in hand) for fourth.

[ MORE: SKC trade Dwyer to ORL | Sigi back to LA | LAFC hire Bradley ]

Three moments that mattered

18′ — Ibini-Isei finishes far post for 1-0 — It wasn’t the best-struck ball ever, but you can’t score if you don’t shoot. (Also, Jesse Gonzalez has to do better than this.)

49′ — Montero converts from the spot for 2-0 — Montero beats Gonzalez to score his first of the night.

67′ — Montero beats Gonzalez with ages to pick his spot — If you give a poached this kind of time inside the box, he’s going to make you pay.

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

Man of the match: Fredy Montero

Goalscorers: Ibini-Isei (18′), Montero (49′ – PK, 67′), Mezquida (83′)


Houston Dynamo 2-2 Portland Timbers

The game in 100 words (or less): The Portland Timbers led twice, on the road to the Houston Dynamo, but coughed up the lead on both occasions en route to a 2-2 draw on Saturday. It’s a common theme for Portland, who’ve been their own worst enemy when defending a lead this season. Yet again, it was set-piece defending that was their undoing and cost them what would have been two massive road points. Diego Valeri scored the Timbers’ opener and assisted on their second, but saw his contributions negated thanks to goals scored by Mauro Manotas and Juan Cabezas. The point is enough, however, to keep Portland ahead of Vancouver and the Seattle Sounders (for the time being), in fourth in the West. Houston remain third, but fail to capitalize on FCD’s defeat and go second in the West; the gap to Sporting KC is now three points.

[ MORE: SKC trade Dwyer to ORL | Sigi back to LA | LAFC hire Bradley ]

Three Four moments that mattered

13′ — Valeri sidesteps a challenge, slams home for 1-0 — The speed and fluidity with which Valeri collects the ball, evades the on-rushing defender, and explodes into space before applying the finish…

37′ — Manotas pounces on a loose ball, makes it 1-1 — Jake Gleeson didn’t get enough behind his punch, and the ball wound off free atop the six-yard box, where Manotas was waiting.

43′ — Blanco slots it past Deric for 2-1 — Valeri’s cross eluded Fanendo Adi, but Blanco arrived at the perfect moment to hit it low and hard past Tyler Deric for a 2-1 lead.

81′ — Cabezas scores with his cabeza for 2-2 — Portland struggling with set-piece defending… now, where have we heard that one before?

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

Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Valeri (13′), Manotas (37′), Blanco (43′), Cabezas (81′)

MLS Snapshot: Houston Dynamo 2-3 Colorado Rapids (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Houston Dynamo were severely wounded in the Western Conference playoff standings to begin with, but Dominique Badji put insult to injury with his brace for the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night. The Rapids attacker netted on both sides of halftime to put his club to within two points of FC Dallas in the West with three matches left to play in 2016. Shkelzen Gashi added a third for the visitors with under 11 minutes remaining, while Mauro Manotas notched his second finish of the night to give the Dynamo a lifeline. The Dynamo will take the field on again on Wednesday night against the Seattle Sounders, while the Rapids host the San Jose Earthquakes the following evening.

[ MORE: Klinsmann makes several changes ahead of New Zealand clash ]

Three moments that mattered

12′ – Badji notches the opener — Poor giveaway in their own half, and Dominique Badji made the Dynamo pay early on.

45′ — Manotas levels things up at the break — Despite their standing in the West, the Dynamo fight hard every match. This volley once again proves that.

54′ — Double shot of Badji — The Dynamo can’t like Badji after Saturday night, with the Rapids attacker ruining the team’s slim playoff chances.

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

Man of the match: Dominique Badji

Goalscorers: Dominique Badji (12′, 54′), Mauro Manotas (45′, 81′), Shkelzen Gashi (79′)