AP Photo/Nick Wass

DCU win again, look like genuine playoff contenders

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The game in 200 words (or less): No individual — other than Ben Olsen, perhaps — has benefitted from the arrival of Wayne Rooney at D.C. United more so than Luciano Acosta. Through his first 82 games in MLS, Acosta managed to rack up nine goals and 23 assists — a healthy enough haul considering the lack of quality around him since day one in 2016. Still, the frustration and unhappiness were plain to see, every time the Argentine playmaker’s teammates weren’t able to link up or finish one of his brilliant through balls. In United’s last five games (Acosta has played 438 of 450 minutes), including Sunday’s 2-0 win over the 10-man New England Revolution: four goals and three assists. Of course, United, as a whole, have benefitted greatly, too. Their record in Rooney’s eight games: 5W-1D-2L (prior to his debut, the Black and Red won just two of 14 games). Olsen and Co., have risen from last place in the Eastern Conference and reach the dizzying heights of eighth place, where they are now just six points back of fifth and sixth place — a de facto impossibility just a month ago, when they had just 10 points to their name and were 13 off the pace of sixth.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez ties MLS record with 27th goal in 2018 ]

Three moments that mattered

13′ — Acosta finishes with aplomb at the back post — The three Revs defenders, who let the ball run across the face of goal without making any attempt to play or clear it, could have done just about anything else and it would have been preferable to what they did.

73′ — Caldwell gets a second yellow, Revs down to 10 — Scott Caldwell didn’t need to run into Junior Moreno a full second or two after the ball was away, but he did so anyway. No advantage to gain from the “challenge,” and Caldwell’s teammates had to finish the game a man short.

89′ — Stieber gets in behind, makes it 2-0 — Rooney had skied a nearly identical chance just seconds earlier, leaving it up to Zoltan Stieber to put the game to bed.

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Man of the match: Luciano Acosta

Goalscorers: Acosta (13′), Stieber (89′)

Josef Martinez ties MLS record with 27th goal in 2018 (video)

Photo credit: @MLS
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The game in 200 words (or less): Josef Martinez isn’t quite the single-season MLS goals king, though he will be very soon after tying the league’s all-time mark on Sunday. Martinez bagged the opening goal in Atlanta United’s 3-1 win over Columbus Crew SC to take his 2018 tally to 27 goals (tying Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips, chronologically). The calendar still says August, by the way. Atlanta — and Martinez — have played just 25 games this season, meaning Martinez could very well take his tally into the mid-30s. It’s a record that could stand for quite some time, should MLS stick with the current 34-game regular-season schedule. Back to the game itself, Gyasi Zardes brought Columbus level five minutes into the second half, but Hector Villalba and Miguel Almiron — just two of Atlanta’s other dynamite South American attackers — each bagged a goal inside the game’s final 15 minutes to push Tata Martino’s side, which is now unbeaten is six league games (four wins, two draws), back atop the Supporters’ Shield race. Their lead is currently three points, though the second-place New York Red Bulls have a game in hand and would retake the top spot (on the wins tiebreaker) with a win over third-place New York City FC on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Report: David Moyes could become new USMNT boss ]

Three moments that mattered

31′ — Gressel sets up Martinez to tie the record — Martinez is lethal enough as a goal scorer without the opposition lazily giving the ball away inside their own half. When they do that, as Harrison Afful does here, there’s not much sense in trying to stop the Venezuelan.

76′ — Villalba goes and goes, until he scores — No one felt it necessary to step up to Villalba and make a legitimate challenge for the ball as he weaved his way roughly 50 yards across the field before tucking his left-footed strike — the game-winner — inside the far post.

82′ — Almiron hits ATL’s third, from distance — Martinez, hunting the record-breaking goal, could have so easily done the selfish thing and taken the ill-advised shot from 20 yards here, but instead he held the ball up, waited for the late-arriving run of Almiron and teed up the Paraguayan to put the game out of reach.

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

Man of the match: Hector Villalba

Goalscorers: Martinez (31′), Zardes (50′), Villalba (76′), Almiron (82′)

Sounders top FCD for 5th straight win, inch closer to playoffs

AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter
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The game in 200 words (or less): The Western Conference playoff race gets the slightest bit tighter with every game played, it would appear. Coming into the weekend finale, only four points separated second place from sixth place. FC Dallas, who sat atop the West standings had a chance to go six points clear of everyone else, if they could muster a victory away to the Seattle Sounders. Oscar Pareja’s side couldn’t do any such thing on Sunday. As a result, Seattle made the race at the other end of the playoff race that much more interesting, moving to within three points of the sixth and final playoff place. On the whole, seven points separate second from eighth. Chad Marshall opened the scoring before Dominique Badji pulled the visitors early in the second half. Nicolas Lodeiro bagged the game-winner — in somewhat fortunate circumstances — just after the hour mark, and just like that, Brian Schmetzer’s side has won five in a row and still has a game in hand on the two teams currently standing between them and a playoff place.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Weah scores first Ligue 1 goal in goofy fashion ]

Three moments that mattered

41′ — Marshall heads home Seattle’s 10th corner — If you give a team enough corner kicks, the will eventually (presumably) score one of them.

52′ — Badji gets a goal on his FCD debut — Sometimes you just have to put a chest on the ball to bundle it over the line.

63′ — Lodeiro’s free kick keeps going until it hits the net — Jesse Gonzalez assumed someone would get a head on Lodeiro’s free kick, eventually. No such touch ever came, and Lodeiro was rewarded for putting the ball into such a dangerous spot at the back post.

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

Man of the match: Nicolas Lodeiro

Goalscorers: Marshall (41′), Badji (52′), Lodeiro (63′)

Rooney saves the day defensively, sets up DCU’s stoppage-time winner

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The game in 200 words (or less): Luciano Acosta was the man that scored the hat trick in D.C. United’s dramatic 3-2 win over Orlando City SC at Audi Field on Sunday, but his three goals will fade to an afterthought following Wayne Rooney‘s unbelievable stoppage-time heroics (watch below). United had failed, for more than 35 minutes, to capitalize on their man advantage following Cristian Higuita’s 55th-minute red card and a disappointing draw looked inevitable, but Rooney came through with the best play in the game the season league history to not only save the day on one end of the field, but to then win it on the other end. Now, two points are all that stand in the way of United getting out of the Eastern Conference cellar. Orlando City, on the other hand, couldn’t afford to throw away anymore points if they hope to qualify for the playoffs — for the first time in franchise history — in 2018. James O’Connor’s side certainly can’t afford to throw away anymore points due to self-inflicted wounds — say, for instance, dismissals for petulant conduct. Alas, such was reality for the Lions on Sunday.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Weah scores first Ligue 1 goal in goofy fashion ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

45’+4 — Acosta beats Bendik at the near post for 1-0 — Rooney just sees and reacts to the game faster than anyone else on the field, and it shows most clearly during seemingly innocuous moments. Take, for instance, this simple, first-time lay-off to Acosta. No second touch required, just move the ball on as quickly as possible. Goal.

55′ — Higuita sees red for throwing an elbow — Higuita didn’t need to throw an elbow at the head of an opponent, but he did anyway. Higuita didn’t need to leave his own — and his team’s — fate to be decided by referee JC Rivero, but he did anyway.

64′ — Acosta times his run and finishes at the back post — It was close — like, really close — but Acosta is probably, based upon the best angles available for viewing, onside. The ball from Yamil Asad couldn’t have been played better.

71′ — Dwyer times his run, lifts it over Ousted — Speaking of timing runs perfectly, Dwyer did just that in order to stay onside and get on the end of Rosell’s through ball. The finish over top of David Ousted was emphatic.

90’+6 — Rooney saves the day on one end, wins it on the other — Do you still think Rooney is in MLS just to collect a large paycheck without putting in much effort? Watch his game-saving tackle, followed by the pinpoint diagonal ball from 50 yards, then answer that question.

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Man of the match: Luciano Acosta

Goalscorers: Acosta (45’+4, 64, 90+6′), Ousted (50′ – OG), Dwyer (71′)

NYCFC hold off 10-man TFC to make Shield race even tighter

Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP
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The game in 200 words (or less): In a battle of two teams chock-full of stars, the marquee names made the greatest impact — for better and for worse — in a battle of Eastern Conference titans on Sunday. New York City FC topped Toronto FC, 3-2 at Yankee Stadium, on the back of goals scored by established superstar David Villa and rapidly rising star Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (twice). On the other side, Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez got the goals for TFC, but it was another of the Reds’ highly paid stars, Jozy Altidore, who will go down as the goat for his 11th-minute red card. Altidore, seemingly frustrated after Alexander Callens won a midfield battle between the two players, kicked out at the NYCFC defender with the ball already out of play. Referee Chico Grajeda made the only correct decision, showing Altidore the red card for violent conduct. NYCFC’s victory returns them to level footing (47 points) with the New York Red Bulls (though, still behind on tiebreakers) for second place in the East, one point back of first-place Atlanta United. TFC, the defending champions with largely the exact same roster as last season, sit ninth, now seven points back of the sixth and final playoff place after Montreal and Philadelphia picked up points on Saturday.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Weah scores first Ligue 1 goal in goofy fashion ]

Three Four moments that mattered

11′ — Altidore’s petulance earns him an early shower — Frustrations are becoming very, very visible in Toronto.

15′ — Villa makes it 1-0 minutes later — It doesn’t matter if Anton Tinnerholm hit his shot 90 degrees into the wrong direction (he was still credited with the assist), because Villa clean up the mess and go it alone.

27′ — Giovinco finishes some slick build-up for 1-1 — Up a man or down a man, it doesn’t really affect the brilliance that is Sebastian Giovinco. Michael Bradley and Vazquez weren’t bad in quickly progressing the ball either, and the Atomic Ant made a pretty difficult finish look easy.

[ MORE: Austin MLS stadium vote delayed until next week ]

88′ — Tajouri-Shradi smashes a volley for the winner — From nothing, to something, very quickly.

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Man of the match: Ismael Tajouri-Shradi

Goalscorers: Villa (15′), Giovinco (27′), Tajouri-Shradi (36′, 88′), Vazquez (51′)