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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

FC Cincinnati’s Ledesma honors deceased father after penalty

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Buried deep in a blowout loss is an emotional story involving Emmanuel Ledesma.

FC Cincinnati fell 5-1 to Toronto FC on Saturday, another home loss in what’s become a miserable debut season in MLS.

[ RECAP: FC Cincy 1-5 Toronto FC ]

The lone FCC goal came in stoppage time, as Ledesma scored a penalty.

But the consolation goal carried many times the meaning: Ledesma’s father died in Argentina this week.

The 31-year-old Argentine almost didn’t play in the match. Left out of the Starting XI, Ledesma had asked coach Ron Jans to consider using him off the bench as he bid to honor his father.

A late penalty gave him the chance to score, and Ledesma converted before lifting his shirt to reveal a message for his father and crossing himself before pointing to the heavens.

Ledesma planned to bring his father to the United States for a match next season.

From Cincinnati.com:

“I was thinking about bringing him over next year so that he could see me play for the first time, but that happens when you play with time,” Ledesma said. “You don’t play with time. Time has taken him away from me and today. I mourn him.”

 

Toronto outclass helpless FC Cincy (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Toronto played a near-flawless game, but the reflectors are on a wounded FC Cincinnati. Saturday’s 5-1 loss is a fourth straight for the expansion side, who haven’t won a regular season game since mid July. Over the course of the season, FC Cincy have conceded 72 goals, tying the league record set by Orlando City last season with five games left to play. Thus far, there are no sings of improvement under coach Ron Jans, who was appointed over the summer. The Reds, on the hand, benefited from a poor opponent and from having the likes of Michael Bradley and Omar Gonzalez on the field, who were denied to join the USMNT by Toronto in order to focus on the team’s playoff push. It worked this time around, but they’ll need similar shifts from them – and Jozy Altidore – moving forward with the Reds just four points above the red line.

Three moments that mattered

10′ — Mullins opens the floodgates  — Superb finish by Mullins, horrid defending from Cincinnati.

28′ — Delgado headers it home   — Again, where are the defenders?

63′ — Bradley scores Toronto’s fourth  — This is exactly why the Reds didn’t allow Bradley to join the USMNT.

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Man of the match: Marky Delgado

Goalscorers: Mullins (10′), DeLeon(21′), Delgado (28′), Bradley (63′), Benezet (85′), Ledesma (92’+2)

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.