MLS Snapshot

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Vela continues assault of MLS, LAFC trounce Sounders

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The game in 100 words (or less): Let’s get the painfully obvious out of the way right off the top: Carlos Vela shouldn’t be allowed in MLS. It should be considered a violation of league rules — a league with self-imposed parity — for a player to do what Vela is currently doing to MLS. The Mexican superstar bagged another brace on Sunday — his third multi-goal game of the season — to take his season tally to 10 goals (to go with five assists) in LAFC’s first nine games. At this rate, he’ll have enough votes to secure the MVP award by June. His team is benefitting hugely from these performances, by the way. Sunday’s 4-1 demolition of the previously unbeaten Seattle Sounders, the Western Conference’s third-place side, gives Bob Bradley‘s men seven wins to start the season, and a four-point lead on the chasing pack. It should be noted the Sounders were without a number of key starters on Sunday.

[ MORE: Everton pummels Manchester United (video) ]

Three moments that mattered

12′ — Vela finishes Kaye’s jaw-dropping pass — Vela’s finish is stunning and difficult, but Mark-Anthony Kaye’s through ball is, somehow, even better. Kaye had three assists in the game.

55′ — Vela rounds Frei to make it 3-1 — Eduard Atuesta has been a revelation in midfield for LAFC. Let’s take the below pass as just one shining example.

61′ — Ramirez starts, finishes liquid sequence for LAFC’s 4th — The defending is, admittedly, poor and lazy, but let’s not take everything away from Christian Ramirez (backheel and finish) and Kaye (through ball, again).

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Man of the match: Mark-Anthony Kaye

Goalscorers: Vela (12′), Atuesta (39′), Shipp (51′), Vela (55′), Ramirez (61′)

NYCFC shut down Rooney, DCU for first win (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): New York City remedied their rocky start to the 2019 season with a Sunday stroll through Audi Field and three points. D.C. United, on the other hand, looked a sad shell of their former selves, the side hotly picked to represent the Eastern Conference in MLS Cup 2019. Alexandru Mitrita and Heber bagged the goals for Domenec Torrent’s side, which has lost just once in seven games to start the season and suddenly sits a point outside the East’s seven playoff places. Heber stole the spotlight in his first MLS start, bagging NYCFC’s second goal and notching a secondary assist on their first. Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta were mostly held in check, outside of set-piece opportunities, in large part to a formational switch by Torrent: he opted for three center backs including 18-year-old academy product James Sands.

[ MORE: Everton pummels Manchester United (video) ]

Three moments that mattered

35′ — Mitrita scores through a sea of legs — Mitrita gets a bit lucky when his shot deflects off the leg of Frederic Brilliant, but United’s defending as a whole is far too lax to begin the sequence.

45’+4 — Moralez’s penalty smashes off the post, keeps DCU alive — When it happened, Maxi Moralez’s missed penalty kick appeared to be the second chance United needed to get back into the game. Alas…

56′ — Heber rifles inside the far post to make it 2-0 — United’s lifeline lasted all of 11 game-minutes, as they were slow to react to a simple ball over the top. Heber made the most of his first real look at goal, from a tight angle.

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Man of the match: Heber

Goalscorers: Mitrita (35′), Heber (56′)

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)

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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.

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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

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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.

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Man of the match: Nicolas Lodeiro

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