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MLS Wrap: What we learned

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Here’s what we learned from MLS’ jam-packed action on Saturday.

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NYCFC rally to edge San Jose, remain first in Eastern Conference 

Dominating possession and taking a healthy amount of shots, it seemed like the San Jose Earthquakes were going to pull off a Matias Almeyda-era victory in New York City on Saturday.

But in just the span of three minutes, NYCFC changed the landscape of the game completely, scoring twice right before halftime. Keaton Parks recorded his first league goal in the 40th minute. In the 43rd, the Eastern Conference leaders put together this (yes, the covered half the field just like that):

Like in the sequences that led to the home side’s goals, the Quakes’ confidence to overtake the scoreline took a hit, failing to finish a number of chances following attack-heavy substitutions in the second half. As a result, San Jose, who are fighting for a playoff spot, dropped their fourth straight game on the road.

Speaking with media after their 2-1 loss, Almeyda – despite praising NYCFC as being one of the league’s best – took shots at Yankee Stadium’s field size. Should the league care? Absolutely. NYCFC? Not at all, just look at their record.


FC Cincinnati win first game under Ron Jans

FC Cincy supporters can finally rejoice, even their 1-0 win in Montreal wasn’t ideal.

The league’s youngest team ended up with 10-men late in the game. Kendall Watson was shown a straight red card, but Ron Jans earned his first three points at the helm. Early in the game, Allan Cruz’s goal foreshadowed what was to come for the Ohioan side following the final whistle: a celebration.

 

The Impact (37 points) remain three points behind New England, while Cincinnati (21 points) look to finish strong in order to avoid the ugly side of the history books. 

Carlos Vela rejoins LAFC, scores

There’s no way around it: LAFC is a completely different team with (or without) Carlos Vela, who can’t stop scoring.

The Mexican recorded his 28th goal of the season (six behind Jose Martinez’s single-season record) in the Supporter Shield favorite’s 1-1 draw in Philadelphia. It wasn’t a Vela-esque sequence at all, but it was enough to change the score.

The Union, who played without Marco Fabian because of his absence in the team’s meeting on Friday, opened the scoring. Three minutes in, Kacper Przybyłko’s floating header surprised Tyler Miller, giving the home side a perfect start in front of a noisy Talen Energy Stadium.

Just a couple of months ago, these were the two best teams in the league. LAFC remain atop of the Western Conference. The Union, however, are now five points behind NYCFC.


Crew trounce Atlanta United 3-1 despite Josef Martinez’ goal

Caleb Porter’s Columbus Crew, arguably, play the most effective soccer out of all the teams that are on the outside looking in when it comes to qualifying for the playoffs this season.

On Saturday, despite being statistically outdone by Atlanta United, the Crew managed to execute their chances, scoring three goals on only four shots on target. Gyasi Zardes, a pivotal piece of their attack, scored his 12th goal of the season. Costa Rican Luis Diaz added one of his own in the second half, before Miles Robinson’s own-goal 25 minutes later sealed three points for Columbus.

No goal, however, had as much significance as Josef Martinez’s.

The Venezuelan scored for a 14th consecutive game, making it the third longest streak in the history of the sport. The 26-year-old is now seven games away from Lionel Messi’s world record set in 2014.

Third in the Eastern Conference, nine points away from NYCFC with six games to go, don’t count the single-season scoring king to hold back from wanting to break the record.

Elsewhere in MLS

Chicago Fire 4-0 FC Dallas 

Orlando City 3-3 New England Revolution

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Houston Dynamo

Crew make statement in ‘Hell is Real’ derby win over FC Cincy (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  The “Hell is Real” derby is young, but the Columbus Crew are the first to win it since FC Cincinnati joined MLS at the start of the season. In other words, the bragging rights belong to the Crew, who routed the home side 3-1 in a game that Gyasi Zardes proved to be the difference maker. Coming in one goal shy of double digits, Zardes bagged a double in true Zardes fashion – holding up the ball, before darting into the box for a routine tap-in. Cincinnati, who have yet to win under Ron Jans, have lost six of their last seven and are dead last in the league’s overall standings. The season couldn’t end sooner for the expansion side. With six games left, three points might be too little, too late for Caleb Porter’s side. On a moral level, though, nothing comes close to a win against your biggest rival.

Three moments that mattered

22′ — Zardes’ first of two — The hold-up play, the run, the finish. Bravo, Zardes.

45′ — Diaz seals three points for Columbus  — As smooth as counter-attacking soccer gets.

89′ — Manneh scores one in front of the home crowd, scuffle breaks out — It isn’t rivalry week for nothing…

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Man of the match: Gyazi Zardes

Goalscorers: Zardes(22′), Zardes (33′), Diaz (45′), Manneh (89′)

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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Three unanswered goals from FC Dallas to earn a draw, a late Jozy Altidore goal and Chicago cruises past Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union: Saturday’s early slate of games had it all. Here’s what we learned from the busy action.

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Montreal, Dallas split points in six-goal thriller

The Montreal Impact, up 3-0 in the 56th minute, probably thought they had the game in the bag. Dallas said, ‘not so fast.’

With three unanswered goals – one of those in stoppage time – Dallas did the unthinkable, stunning the Impact and flying back home with a point that tastes like three.

Dallas, like practically everyone else in the West this season, is dreaming of cracking into the final seven. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. What was palpable on Saturday, however, is that Dallas played with a lot of determination on the road and with all the odds against them.


Chicago gets by Philadelphia with ease

The Philadelphia Union are good but not good enough to beat the Chicago Fire, apparently.

It could have been the league’s well-known parity, or the fact that the Union were on the road, but the Fire were able to squeeze out the three points, winning 2-0 with 10 men. Nicolas Gaitan earned a straight red right before halftime.

The Union, a proven side time and time again this season, alternatively, have questions to answer and a set of defects that were unearth Saturday (including finishing) to polish up on. But as they shown several times this season after suffering loses, they’ll bounce back under Jim Curtin.

The Fire (33 points) sit one point behind Montreal, Toronto and Orlando, while Philadelphia (45 points) remain clear leaders in the Eastern Conference.


 

NYCFC too much for Cincinnati 

NYCFC had quite the showing.

With Valentin Castellanos and Heber recording a brace each, Allan Cruz’s goal stood no chance. City, who are now third in the Eastern Conference with 41 points (one behind Atlanta), are clearly in midseason form, while FC Cincinnati is yet to win under Ron Jans.

With a defense that has allowed 61 goals – like the one above – Jans’ rest of the season is looking bleaker than brighter. But then again, it’s with a team he purely adopted. It worth noting that New York’s attack has produced eight goals in the last three games, so maybe that was the determining factor.

 

 


 

Altidore earns last-minute draw for Toronto

Like in many other instances, it was Altidore to the rescue for Toronto FC.

Its goal No. 10 for the 29-year-old goal, making it his fourth season with double digit goals. Jonathan Osorio, too, pitched in a goal in the 42nd minute. 26 games in, this is exactly when Greg Vanney needs his big-time players to step up.

The Columbus Crew, in contrast, can’t catch a break. Once again the superior team, a lack of finishing and defensive concentration make it three-straight draws for the Caleb Porter’s men. With seven games to go and seven points out of playoff contention, even a late run might not be enough for a postseason regular.

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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The first-ever “Hell is Real” Derby, a back-and-forth battle in Seattle, and an eight-goal fest between Dallas and Minnesota: Saturday’s early slate of games had it all. Here’s what we learned from the jam-packed action.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New England, Seattle split points

In the first game of the weekend, the Seattle Sounders and the New England Revolution set the bar high, putting on a show with six goals and three lead changes in their 3-3 draw. But spectacle aside, neither Bruce Arena nor Brian Schmetzer will be pleased with missing out on two, vital points.

Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil keep paying dividends for a Revs team that is night and day to what they once were under Brad Friedel. The Revs’ discipline and work ethic appears to improve as the weeks go by. It’s small details on the defensive side that is costing them points, however. With nine games to go and a playoff bid far from secured, Arena has no choice than to address the elephant in the room.

With a clear path to surge as the second best in West, splitting points was arguably worse for the Sounders, who’ve picked up a meager point in the last three home games. Talk about missing out on home-field advantage.

 


Toronto fail to jump above playoff line 

Toronto FC, healthy and all, had the pristine opportunity to jump above the red line in the Eastern Conference.

Orlando, however, had other things in mind.

A goal from substitute Benji Michel was enough to earn a draw for James O’Connor’s side, who found themselves outpossessed and outshoot throughout the stretch of the game.

And despite not reaping the benefits from their control, there was a silver lining for The Reds. Patrick Mullins, who joined from the Columbus Crew this summer, opened his scoring account, finishing a ball that was set on not leaving the box.

Toronto (33 points) sit one point behind Montreal and New England, while Orlando (30 points) stand right behind the Canadian side in the Eastern Conference table. Dropping points for either side from here on out will hurt, there’s no way around it.


 

So far, the “Hell is Real” Derby lives up to the hype

MLS has a new derby, and it lives up to its name and hype.

The “Hell is real” Derby between the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati got off to a dramatic start with league newcomers scoring two in 23 minutes. Darren Mattocks and Emmanuel Ledesma gave FC Cincy and their supporters every reason to believe that the first derby – which happened to be Ron Jans coaching debut – was theirs.

But then Gyasi Zardes answered with one of his own from the spot.

And then in the 62nd minute, Pedro Santos did this:

A stunning rocket from at least 20 yards out, it marked the Portuguese’s seventh goal of the season. He leveled the score and salvaged his team a point, but, most importantly, the Designated Player let everyone know that Ohio’s rivalry is as competitive and entertaining as they get.

 


 

Dallas and Minnesota partake in a wild game

Not having picked up three points at home since early July, FC Dallas were in a dire need to overturn that as they hosted red-hot Minnesota United.

They did it in soul-stirring fashion, edging Adrian Heath’s side 5-3 at home. Poor defending came in bunches, specifically from the Loons, causing for six lead changes and a red card with minutes to spare. It was the type of environment that was destined to give someone the opportunity to stand out.

With the score level, Dallas Homegrown Brandon Servania delivered, scoring a brace in less than ten minutes and giving his side the three points.

Dallas are now seventh in the Western Conference, only three away from second-place Seattle. The West cannot be overlooked.

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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There were many takeaways from a busy night of MLS matches. Here’s some of the biggest lessons we learned from the early slate of games.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]


New England is good? New England is good

Most teams get a bump when there’s a coaching change, but few could have expected what we’re witnessing in New England over the last two months.

With a 4-1 win over a hapless Orlando City side, the New England Revolution improved to 11 games unbeaten and would qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs if the season ended today. That’s an incredible change in fortunes, considering the Revolution were dead and dusted just two months into the season under former coach Brad Friedel. For whatever reason, Friedel didn’t work out but hiring Bruce Arena has made the Krafts look like they made a brilliant decision.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt either that new signing Gustavo Bou has been terrific, Carles Gil has been outstanding in midfield and everyone has taken their games to another level. Antonio Delamea at centerback alongside Andrew Farrell have been lockdown, with Luis Caicedo and Wilfried Zahibo protecting in front of them. That’s allowed Edgar Castillo, Brandon Bye and the Revs attackers more freedom to attack.

The Revs are arguably the hottest team in MLS right now, and there’s no sign that they’ll slow down any time soon.


Union, Red Bulls miss out on chance to advance

The New York Red Bulls had a chance to stay ahead of New York City FC and even move ahead of D.C. United in the standings with a win on Saturday, yet they couldn’t capitalize in their match.

Defensive miscues led to the New York Red Bulls coughing up three goals in a surprising 3-2 win for the Columbus Crew at Red Bull Arena. That’s left the Red Bulls in fifth-place, just one point above the red line and in danger of potentially dropping out of the playoff picture. With razor-thin margins, this defeat at home was a big black eye for the Red Bulls.

At the same time, the Union had a chance to extend its lead atop the MLS Eastern Conference. Instead, a shell-shocked Union got crushed, 4-0 by the Montreal Impact. New Impact signing Lassi Lappalainen scored a brace in his debut with the club, while Orji Okwonkwo scored again off an Ignacio “Nacho” Piatti assist. The Union backline of Matthew Real, Auston Trusty, Jack Elliott and Ray Gaddis were completely overrun by the Impact’s speedy attack.


Seattle gets 3 big points on road

With Raul Ruidiaz out injured with a concussion and other nagging injuries to star players, the Seattle Sounders would have been happy to come away with just a point from its trip to Houston.

Instead, the squad will be bringing back all three.

There weren’t many quality chances, but Jordan Morris scored a wonderful goal, first looping the ball over two defenders into a goal-mouth scramble before finishing into the far corner. In addition to Morris’ goal, U.S. youth international and 16-year-old Danny Leyva started and went the full 90 in midfield for the Sounders, and was quite clean on the ball throughout.

With the win, the Sounders move for the time being into second place, though still 11 points back of Los Angeles FC.