Mauro Diaz

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MLS: FCD hitting their stride; Dempsey scores twice in SEA win

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FC Dallas 4-2 D.C. United

The game in 100 words (or less): We’re only just beginning to see anything resembling the very best FC Dallas have to offer, now that Mauro Diaz, the magical unicorn no. 10, is back. The Argentine playmaker returned to the starting lineup a week and a half ago, and Oscar Pareja’s side have two wins and a draw (combined score of 8-4) to show for their efforts. Tuesday’s 4-2 victory over D.C. United had Diaz’s fingerprints all over the film, as he tallied an assist for the third straight game and masterfully dictated tempo for an FCD side so happy to have its midfield metronome back in tow. Roland Lamah has been the biggest beneficiary of Diaz’s presence, scoring twice more on Tuesday to take his season tally to eight goals, including seven in his last five games (four while playing with Diaz). The victory pushes FCD level on points (31) with Sporting Kansas City atop the Western Conference, and ahead on goal differential. Ian Harkes and Deshorn Brown scored DCU’s goals on the night, the first for each player this season.

[ MORE: Dwyer, Acosta power USMNT to win over Ghana | Three things ]

Three Four moments that mattered

41′ — Harris rises above, heads home for 1-1 — Victor Ulloa’s corner kick found Harris atop the six-yard box, and it was all pretty straightforward from there.

45+3′ — Lamah pounces on a loose ball, 2-1 — Failing to clear the ball from inside your own penalty area, on multiple occasions, will cost you every single time.

47′ — Urruti forces Worra into a blunder, and it’s 3-1 — Travis Worra should do something — anything — else here.

55′ — Lamah bundles home from close range for 4-1 — Diaz started the entire move (shocker, right?), Michael Barrios picked out Lamah inside the box, and it would have been tough to miss from there.

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Man of the match: Roland Lamah

Goalscorers: Harkes (30′), Harris (41′), Lamah (45+3′, 55′), Urruti (47′), Brown (57′)


Colorado Rapids 1-3 Seattle Sounders

The game in 100 words (or less): The key to winning in Colorado, or against any other side that sits ultra-deep defensively, is to score early and force them out of their defensive shell, wait for the spaces to open up when they creep forward in search of the equalizer, and strike on the break. Seattle executed that particular game plan with aplomb on Tuesday, thanks to Clint Dempsey‘s 6th-minute opener, Will Bruin’s 30th-minute tally to make it 2-0, and the icing on the cake from Dempsey in the 85th minute — the latter two of which capped off quick counter-attacking moves. The victory pushes Seattle past Vancouver Whitecaps and LA Galaxy as the defending champions move into the sixth and final playoff place in the Western Conference (for the time being).

[ MORE: Dwyer, Acosta power USMNT to win over Ghana | Three things ]

Three Four moments that mattered

6′ — Dempsey finds some space, makes it 1-0 — The invisible forcefield around Dempsey not only prevented anyone from closing to within five yards of him, but seemed to actively push everyone wearing a burgundy shirt farther and farther away.

30′ — Bruin pounces on a mistake for 2-0 — Route 1 soccer is rarely pretty, but it’s often effective — especially when the would-be clearances are this poor.

78′ — Badji pokes home Hairston’s cross for 2-1 — Marlon Hairston delivered the inch-perfect ball for Badji, and there was no missing from there.

85′ — Dempsey beats Howard in spectacular fashion for 3-1 — Tim Howard will be having a word with Dempsey post-game after beating hit this first-time, left-footed lob to ice the game.

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

Man of the match: Clint Dempsey

Goalscorers: Dempsey (6′, 85′), Bruin (30′), Badji (78′)

MLS Snapshots: Fire in 1st; FCD coast past TFC; SKC extend streak

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Sporting Kansas City 1-1 Portland Timbers

The game in 100 words (or less): Sporting KC extended their home unbeaten streak in MLS play to 18 games with a 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, but only just by the skin of their teeth. The visitors controlled and dominated in every aspect for the game’s opening 55 minutes and held a 1-0 lead before Sporting came to life just before the hour mark. Diego Valeri fired Portland ahead with a long-range striker in the 26th minute, but Daniel Salloi’s first MLS goal pulled the home side level after 60 minutes. Tim Melia saved his third penalty kick (he’s faced only four) of the season in the 75th minute, denying Valeri after Fanendo Adi won the spot kick in controversial fashion.

Sporting were far from their best, playing without Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer (international duty), on the day that their lead in the Western Conference was cut from five points down to three.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Three moments that mattered

26′ — Valeri’s blast from distance makes it 1-0 — No one stepped to Valeri as he approached the 18-yard box (due in large part to Sebastian Blanco‘s full-sprint run to occupy Kevin Ellis), and the Argentine playmaker-turned-sniper made them pay.

60′ — Espinoza sets up Salloi for 1-1 — Everything about Salloi’s equalizer — from Roger Espinoza‘s pass, to Salloi’s first touch and finish — is perfect.

74′ — Melia denies Valeri from the spot — Adi threw himself to the ground and won Portland a penalty with just over 15 minutes left in the game, but the ball simply refused to lie, as Melia atoned for his “mistake” and stood tall as Valeri hit his penalty down the middle and into the goalkeeper’s waiting hands.

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

Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: Valeri (26′), Salloi (60′)


FC Dallas 3-1 Toronto FC

The game in 100 words (or less): The first half of the 2017 season was about one thing for FC Dallas: biding their time until Mauro Diaz returned to full fitness and form after rupturing his achilles last October. Through their first 15 games (before Diaz returned to the starting lineup last weekend), Oscar Pareja’s side managed to tread water and hold onto a top-three place in the Western Conference throughout. On Saturday, making his second start of the season, Diaz was unleashed, and FCD’s sky-high potential was unlocked. Hosting league-leading Toronto FC, the Hoops found themselves 2-0 ahead after 21 minutes (a brace from Roland Lamah, the second of two set up by Diaz), were pegged back by Marco Delgado in the 56th minute, and sealed the victory courtesy of Maximiliano Urruti’s 10th goal of the season in the 78th minute. The win moves FCD, who have two games in hand, to within three points of Sporting KC at the top of the West. TFC, meanwhile, relinquish their hold on the East and league’s top spot, due to results elsewhere.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Three moments that mattered

5′ — Lamah pokes it past Bono for 1-0 — Maynor Figueroa released Urruti into the channel, and Urruti cut it back for Lamah who arrived in the nick of time to poke it past Alex Bono.

21′ — Lamah reels in Diaz’s through ball to make it 2-0 — The brilliance that is Mauro Diaz, on full display.

78′ — Barrios feed Urruti for 3-1 — Totally stretched while chasing an equalizer, TFC were caught out and Michael Barrios set up Urruti, with ease, to put the game out of reach.

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

Man of the match: Roland Lamah

Goalscorers: Lamah (5′, 21′), Delgado (56′), Urruti (78′)


Chicago Fire 4-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

The game in 100 words (or less): The only way to describe Chicago’s current standing as the first-place team in MLS is as rarified air, or unfamiliar territory.

Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing demolition destruction of Vancouver was but the latest in a string of impressive results, spurred on by a string of star performances by newcomer Nemanja Nikolic, who’s presently miles and miles ahead of everyone else in the Golden Boot and MVP races. Nikolic scored two more on Saturday, four minutes apart before the clock read 20:00, taking his 2017 tally to 16 (David Villa and Erick Torres are second, with 11 each). Nikolic turned provider on Chicago’s fourth, setting up Michael de Leeuw to complete the rout. The most impressive part? Dax McCarty and David Accam were away on international duty, and Bastian Schweinsteiger left the game after 43 mintues with an injury.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Three moments that mattered

14′ — Nikolic slams home Polster’s cross for an early lead — Matt Polster’s future is undoubtedly as a right back. A central midfielder up until last season, the 24-year-old still has the patience and vision required to excel in his former position, and showed it off in picking out Nikolic for the opener.

18′ — Nikolic slots past Ousted for 2-0 — Right down Main Street this time, Chicago create scoring chances from every level and every area of the field.

25′ — Alvarez volley’s Polster’s cross for 3-0 — See again: Polster, Matt, above. Arturo Alvarez does incredibly well with the finish, and it was “game over” after 25 minutes.

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

Man of the match: Nemanja Nikolic

Goalscorers: Nikolic (14′, 18′), Alvarez (25′), De Leeuw (84′)

FC Dallas gave injured Mauro Diaz a home champagne shower (video)

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FC Dallas has two jewels of its triple crown all set, having claimed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.

One of the key reasons the club was able to sustain its pace this season was Mauro Diaz, 25, who shone even as Fabian Castillo shockingly left the club before the stretch run.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

A River Plate product, Diaz gave FCD seven goals and 15 assists over 32 appearances before tearing an achilles tendon last week.

Diaz underwent season-ending surgery, but his teammates made sure he was a part of the champagne celebration by heading to his very nice-looking house for an early morning visit.

[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]

 

MLS Snapshots: FC Dallas 3-1 Fire | Rapids 1-0 Sporting KC (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): When they’ve got 11 players on the field, the prospect of facing FC Dallas is downright frightening. Oscar Pareja’s side, which entered the weekend with a three-point lead in the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield races, held serve and protected that margin thanks to a 3-1 home victory over the Chicago Fire on Saturday. Not only did FCD make it four wins in five games, but they did so in spectacular fashion, scoring a pair of highlight reel goals in the first half. Maximiliano Urruti finished the Fabian Castillo’s ridiculous rabona cross, and Mauro Diaz hit a pinpoint bomb. Which goal was most spectacular? Take your pick. You can’t go wrong.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the MLS weekend ]

Three moments that mattered

23′ — Urruti heads home Castillo’s rabona cross — Castillo is probably ready for Europe was ready for Europe years ago.

41′ — Diaz fires from distance for 2-0 — Diaz is a beautiful, magical unicorn (when he’s healthy).

56′ — Barrios has a wide open net, but can’t finish — There are spectacular misses, and there is what Michael Barrios did in the 56th minute. Oh, my.

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

Man of the match: Fabian Castillo

Goalscorers: Urruti (23′), Diaz (41′), Alvarez (90+1′), Rosales (90+2′)


The game in 100 words (or less): While FCD were (hardly) busy taking care of business in Frisco, Tex., the Colorado Rapids found themselves (somewhat) occupied in securing a 1-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City in Commerce City, Colo. Playing once again without Jermaine Jones (with the USMNT world-beater on the field, Pablo Mastroeni’s side played its way to the Supporters’ Shield lead; without him, they had won just two of their last seven games), the Rapids somehow managed to improve upon their league-best goals-conceded mark (now just 13 in 19 games). The victory keeps the Rapids (37 points) three points back of FCD, while Sporting KC (28 points) remain fifth in the West with the Vancouver Whitecaps, a point behind in sixth, taking on Orlando City SC. The Portland Timbers would also leapfrog Peter Vermes’s side with a victory over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the MLS weekend ]

Three moments that mattered

65′ — Melia rushes out to deny Hairston — Tim Melia found himself sprinting off his line to close down Marlon Hairston’s path to goal in the 65th minute, saving the Rapids’ best chance of the night thus far.

78′ — Hairston curls one far post for 1-0 — Hairston’s second chance was much more difficult than his first, but it was the follow-up effort that found the back of the net.

90+2′ — Rubio hacked down in the box, no call — Sporting KC should have been awarded a penalty in the 92nd minute, but no whistle from referee Drew Fischer. Sometimes life be like that.

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

Man of the match: Marlon Hairston

Goalscorers: Hairston (78′)

MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 2-0 Seattle Sounders (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): FC Dallas moved to within a single point of the Colorado Rapids in the Western Conference and in the race for the 2016 Supporters’ Shield (FCD lost last year’s Shield on goal differential) following Saturday night’s 2-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders at Toyota Stadium. Mauro Diaz opened the scoring with fewer than three full minutes on the clock, and Michael Barrios provided the late insurance goal to give Oscar Pareja’s side its (tied for) league-leading seventh victory on the season (13 games played). The Sounders, meanwhile, continue to tinker with their starting lineup (Clint Dempsey moved back up top in this one, with Jordan Morris deployed on the right wing — Morris’s four-game scoring streak came to an end) and formation, and remain eighth in the West, four points back of sixth-place Real Salt Lake (who play on Sunday).

[ MORE: Previewing the weekend in MLS ]

Three moments that mattered

3′ — Marshall gives away a PK, Diaz converts — Chad Marshall took Walker Zimmerman down inside the penalty area, and Diaz made no mistake on the ensuing penalty kick.

58′ — Frei comes up big to deny Barrios — The through ball from Diaz was a work of art. It’s too bad that Stefan Frei is such a hater of all things beautiful. Barrios needs to finish this one.

80′ — Barrios finishes this time, makes it 2-0 — Mauro Rosales’s chipped through ball might have actually been better than Diaz’s slow roller above. Barrios’s finish certainly was on this attempt.

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

Man of the match: Mauro Diaz/Rosales

Goalscorers: Diaz (3′ – PK), Barrios (80′)