MLS Week in Review: Round 28

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Two big routs

Don’t be fooled by the ‘close’ score out of Kansas City, where Peter Vermes’ team blew through the potential stop sign of all those missing pieces. Graham Zusi and Matt Besler were just settling into Columbus with the national team as SKC was passing comfortably in and around the visiting Crew from, yes, Columbus. It finished 3-0 but really wasn’t that tight, as SKC had 11 of the game’s first 14 shots and claimed nearly 60 percent of the first hour’s possession.

Portland was similarly in control of matters at Jeld-Wen Field, surviving a couple of early Toronto threats before putting their foot on the game in a meaningful way. Things have gone a bit loose for Caleb Porter’s team over the last few weeks, so a resounding 4-0 win (that did include a couple of late strikes, in fairness to the visitors) will go a long way to restoring some confidence and good feeling.

The weekend’s most shocking result

Not so far back, the Houston Dynamo had this showy streak going, never beaten in their mew home ground, which opened in 2012. Man, that thing is gone, gone. And how.

Sporting KC was the first to wrestle a win out of BBVA earlier this summer. But that was a close one, with the visitors giddy about tiptoeing away 1-0 victors. That’s why Sunday’s 4-1 loss to New York at BBVA Compass Stadium was such a head spinner.

If we weren’t convinced by Houston’s recent 5-0 loss at Montreal (the proud club’s worst defeat to date) that defense has gone all pear shaped for the Orange, maybe we all believe it now. The Dynamo can still make the playoffs, especially as fellow Eastern Conference aspirants New England, Chicago, Philadelphia and even New York still have issues of their own. But Kinnear had better turn up a striker who can reliably find goal, and then restore the back line to usual Dynamo standard. This is certainly not how the club pounded its way into the last two MLS Cup finals.

(MORE: As bad a game as Houston has ever played?)

Vancouver still experimenting

Nigel Reo-Coker, long a midfielder, took another rare turn at right back, while promising young defender Johnny Leveron was pushed ahead into the midfield for Vancouver. Later, one of the league’s top outside backs, Y.P. Lee, was inserted as a midfielder. Sure. Why not? It smacks of more over-thinking from manager Martin Rennie, who has been accused of this before.

On one hand, Vancouver had never won in Texas, so a little tinkering might have seemed reasonable. It would have, that is, if this were Round 8 or even Round 18. But it isn’t. It is Round 28! These things need to be sorted by now. They do, at least, for teams planning on playing past Round 34, which approacheth with speed.

None of it worked, by the way. FC Dallas won, 3-1, collecting three big points and vaulting past Vancouver in the standings.

The missing men

Dallas, Sporting Kansas City and Seattle all survived without substantial lineup pieces, as important types were away for international duty. (I must resist the urge to write once again about MLS plowing through the international fixture windows, but that drum has been banged all to heck, hasn’t it?)

But the Galaxy didn’t survive unharmed. Without Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan, the Galaxy DPs three, they fell at home to Colorado’s young buckaroos. Edison Buddle’s stinger was the difference in a 1-0 Rapids win.

Weekend’s worst moment…and a controversial moment

It had to be New England goalkeeper Matt Reis getting ejected just five minutes into his team’s home match against Montreal, leaving the Revs to deal with a 10-vs-11 for almost an entire match. Referee Sorin Stoica was absolutely correct as he pointed to the spot, but considering the early minute and enough doubt about whether Montreal striker Marco Di Vaio was actually going to reach a loose ball before being tripped, a red card was a controversial choice – and potentially a season altering one. It certainly was a bad moment for the Revs, so desperate to get back into the playoffs after an extended absence. They could not overcome it in a 4-2 loss.

Mike Magee is back

The Chicago Fire playoff hopes are on the skids, but Mike Magee’s bid for a Golden Boot prevails anew. The Fire attacker had been stuck on 14 for most of August and then into September. So Magee’s 15th on Saturday in Seattle temporarily put the league leadership solely in his Chicago pocket.

Now, about that league MVP bid that could easily find its way to Magee if the Fire can find its way into the playoffs: a late own goal at CenturyLink Field prevented Chicago from taking a point, as offensively depleted Seattle won, 2-1. So those post-season hopes are, as we mentioned, on the skids.

Best goal

For novelty, technical craft and for gravitas, it was Jair Benitez’s goal from almost 60 yard,the insurance effort in Dallas’ 3-1 triumph over Vancouver in the Texas swelter. Nicely done, sir.

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Chicharito says Mexican team “always feels welcome” in the United States

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Mexico will take on Wales on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA as they warm up for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Playing in the United States is nothing new for the USMNT’s southern neighbors, and it doesn’t phase them. In fact, they love it.

Star striker Chicharito told reporters that he and the rest of the squad is more than happy playing north of the border, because according to him, apart from a pair of venues, they can’t even tell they’re on the road.

“We always feel welcome here,” Chicharito said. “It’s like our second country, if we can say that, apart from Columbus [Ohio] and apart from the stadium in Miami when we played Colombia…those two stadiums, that’s the only time I’ve felt that we were the away team.”

Chicharito knows that the high population of his countrymen and women in the United States helps the Mexican team feel close to home when they play over the border. He’s all for the melting pot of the US.

“We feel at home [in the United States],” Chicharito said. “We have plenty of Mexicans here, so I don’t know what else to tell you, we feel welcome, we feel glad, happy to be in touch with those people here. They are sacrificing a lot of things, and they are all enjoying their lives that they decide to live in the USA…it’s great. It’s great when you come to another country and you feel like you are home. You see all the stadium green, shouting and screaming your names, screaming your goals, so yeah, it’s great.”

Mexico will play Wales on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET, and will return home to take on Scotland at Azteca on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

England international Delph expecting child in middle of World Cup

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England international Fabian Delph could face quite the dilemma if England advances past the group stage of the World Cup.

Delph’s wife Natalie is expecting the couple’s third child on June 30, which is two days after their pivotal group stage match against Belgium, and two days before the squad would take the field July 1 for its Round of 16 game should they win Group G. If they finish second in the group, they would play their Round of 16 game on July 3.

When asked what his plans are, Delph joked that his wife would manage on her own. “She’s tough, she’s a Yorkshire lass so she’ll deal with it,” Delph said with a smile.

He then coughed up the truth: they’re not quite sure what the plan is.

“We’re not 100% certain, with a game on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast,” he said. “[England manager] Gareth [Southgate] has been fantastic. There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

There’s another dilemma that Southgate must navigate involving Delph. The 28-year-old is a natural winger, but played wing-back in Pep Guardiola‘s title-winning system for much of the year and saw a massive uptick in form in the new role, playing in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Southgate must decide where he wants to deploy Delph – if at all – and if he wishes to fit his formation and tactics to mold Delph’s season under Guardiola.

Authorities drop assault charges against Hope Solo

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KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state have dropped domestic violence charges against former U.S. national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in 2014 after police said she assaulted two family members at a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle. The case was delayed by appeals.

KING-TV reports that city prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday, saying the witnesses in the case wanted to move on with their lives and did not want to participate in a trial. An attorney for Kirkland, Melissa Osman, wrote in court documents that the circumstances were unlikely to be repeated.

The longtime national team goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist recently ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She has called for equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women’s team.

Mark Hughes signs new long-term contract at Southampton

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Mark Hughes has gone from Stoke City outcast to Southampton savior in little under six months time.

The Welsh boss was let go from Stoke City with the Potters 18th in the table and headed towards eventual relegation, but he was picked up by fellow relegation candidates Southampton after the departure of Mauricio Pellegrino. He steered the club to safety, finishing three points above the drop in 17th.

With the Saints in the top flight for another season, the club has announced the signing of Hughes to a new three-year contract.

“Mark, Eddie and I are thrilled to have signed long-term contracts with the club. It was the only option we considered, having spent the last eight weeks with the club,” Hughes said of himself and his assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. “Now it is vital that we take the unbelievable support we received from the fans during the last few games into next season. The staff and the players will work hard every day to deliver the success this club deserves, and with everyone pulling together we will achieve our goals.”

Hughes guided Stoke City to three consecutive ninth-placed finishes, the highest the club had ever finished in the English top flight, but they finished 13th last year and regressed even further this campaign. The sale of playmaker Marko Arnautovic was particularly damaging, and the club scored just 35 goals in 38 games as a result.

At Southampton, Hughes took over a club that sat in 17th with just eight matches to go. He lost three Premier League games in a row to start his tenure and only won two league matches with Saints the rest of the way, but managed to keep the club barely afloat.