MLS Roundup: Sounders, D.C. United slip; LA gains ground in the West

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MLS’s seven-match Saturday saw both conference leaders slip on the road, fifth place change hands in the West, and a long winning streak come to an end in Columbus. At this time of year, that’s a typical weekend in Major League Soccer, but the fact that so many games are carrying these types of story lines tells you the home stretch is upon us.

Toward, three players showed they’re ready for that finishing run:

  • Diego Valeri, again making a late charge for Best XI consideration, had a goal and an assist as Portland moved back into the West’s top five;
  • Bradley Wright-Phillips is on course of history after his third hat trick of the season. Sitting on 24, the New York striker is on pace for a league record 29 goals, if he plays the rest of his teams’ games;
  • Robbie Keane recorded his 15th goal and 14th assist of the season, bringing LA back for three valuable points in Carson.

Here’s how Saturday played out across Major League Soccer:

Portland Timbers 3, Vancouver Whitecaps 0

A strong start from the Whitecaps hinted Carl Robinson’s team was ready to make amends for the 3-0 drubbing Portland handed them in Vancouver three weeks ago. Instead, Diego Valeri thwarted that start with a sublime volley in the 28th minute, giving the Timbers the 1-0 lead they’d take into halftime.

In the second half, Valeri took the ball off Matias Laba near the center line, eventually setting Fanedo Adi up for the Nigerian’s seventh goal. Three minutes later, Darlington Nagbe did the same, finding Adi nine yards out for the game’s final score.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaHfI9oVH6k]

Philadelphia Union 0, Houston Dynamo 0 

Two teams that needed three points ended scoreless in Chester, with Philadelphia suffering its second draw in a row at PPL Park.

Holding Houston to no shots on target, the Union threatened to take a first half lead through Conor Casey, who had multiple opportunities to open the scoring. Kept off the board, Philadelphia was left hoping its second half’s chances would come good, but a penalty shout (denied) for Vincent Nogueira and Pedro Ribeiro’s late test of the upright meant the Union would end scoreless.

The draw left Philadelphia in sixth place at night’s end, two points out of the East’s last playoff spot. Houston is seven points back of fourth place Columbus.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zX31TqbtP2k]

Montreal Impact 2, San Jose Earthquakes 0

There’s an unfortunate irony behind Montreal, being MLS’s first team eliminated from postseason contention on the same night they continued their late reason progress. Given how 2014’s transpired, though, the Impact were under no impression they would play into November. Instead, performances like tonight’s two-goal win  are part of a building process toward next season.

That building process was slow going at Stade Saputo, with a team that was resting star striker Marco Di Vaio needing 81 minutes to craft its first goal. That’s when Di Vaio, on as a second half substitute, forced San Jose keeper Jon Busch into a diving stop, one that allowed Jack McInerney to knee-in the rebound.

Dilly Duka’s 87th minute insurance extended San Jose’s winless streak to nine.

New York Red Bulls 4-1 Seattle Sounders

This wasn’t your typical, lopsided Sounder aberration.  For most of the match they were competitive, if not outright better. Unfortunately, none of that competitiveness resulted in a first half goal. Instead, a half-strength team rotated in the way of Tuesday’s Open Cup win was pushed out of the game early it the second half, with Bradley Wright-Phillips’ third hat trick of the season giving New York its one-sided result.

Seattle’s defensive breakdown allowed Wright-Phillips to open his day from close range after 29 seconds, through his second came from the spot. Just before the hour, a counter attack built down New York’s left found the Red Bulls’ striker open in front of goal.

Though Clint Dempsey and Tim Cahill scored over the next 10 minutes, the match settled in after the home side’s final goal. Wright-Phillips ended the match with 24 goals, while Mike Petke’s team moved slightly closer to a postseason return.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrE-3XprOpM]

Columbus Crew 1, New England Revolution 0 

A dominant first half couldn’t get the Crew on the scoresheet before halftime, but that thanks to a piece of Federico Higuain dead ball mastery, Columbus was up three minutes into the second half.

Though New England pressed to find an equalizer, Columbus came closest to scoring the next goal, with A.J. Soares conceding a penalty kick in the 84th minute. With his kindness getting the best of him, Higuain failed to convert the ensuing chance, leaving New England within striking distance.

Moments later, Charlie Davies nearly  made Columbus pay, but thanks to Steve Clark’s breakaway stop, the Crew were able to preserve their 1-0 result. They remain within one point of New York for fourth, while third place New England ends its five-game winning run.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkvHTYtXYrk]

 Chicago Fire 3,  D.C. United 3

A United team without Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson, and Chris Rolfe went down early at Toyota Park, conceding in the 16th minute to Quincy Amirkawa before Jeff Larentowicz doubled Chicago’s lead from the spot. Six minutes before half time, Luis Silva matched Larentowicz’s penalty score, pulling D.C. within one after Bakary Soumare’s foul on Steve Birnbaum.

In the second half, D.C. United began looking like its East-leading self, getting goals from Silva and Bobby Boswell to claim its first lead of the night in the 68th minute. Chicago, however, would quickly respond, with Matt Watson blasting a 26-yard shot inside Bill Hamid’s right post for a 78th minute equalizer.

With his first goal in a Fire uniform, Watson gave Chicago a record-tying 16th draw of the season. United is three points up on Sporting at the top of the East.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQwGR34ae70]

LA Galaxy 2, FC Dallas 1

A dominant start from the home side left the Carson crowd bedeviled as the teams went back into the locker rooms scoreless. Shortly after intermission, however, FC Dallas opened the scoring, using the mismatch of Blas Perez against Dan Gargan to score off an early second half cross.

Eight minutes later, Robbie Keane responded, converting from the middle of the penalty area after Gyasi Zardes forced a Dallas turnover. Six minutes from time, Keane added an assist on the game-winning goal, lofting a cross for Alan Gordon that the substitute striker headed home.

The win moved LA even with Seattle atop the standings, and while the Sounders maintain a game-in-hand, the Galaxy made up ground. With the teams having a home-and-home to end the season, LA has moved close enough to control its own Supporters’ Shield destiny.