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MLS 3 Things: Resurgent Zardes, Toronto up, New England down

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A busy Saturday in Major League Soccer sees three interesting results bolstering the story lines of the final few months of the season.

[ MORE: Unstoppable Josef | Zlatan, too ]

1) Imagine a world with the reigning champs as your reward for finishing first.

With 14 matches to play, Toronto FC has Jozy Altidore back in the fold and has pulled to within eight points of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot after a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Sebastian Giovinco looks like Sebastian Giovinco in scoring another outstanding goal, just his fifth of the season, while Jonathan Osorio also scored in the win.

Before you watch Seba’s goal, picture you’ve won the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now picture TFC as your semifinal reward.

2) New England is well and truly slumping

Brad Friedel‘s Revs are slipping after losing a third-straight league match, and New England has gained a solitary point since the calendar turned to July following a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena.

Fourth through ninth in the East are separated by nine points, and New England is very much in that mix now. Friedel is certainly at the most trying time of his tenure.

Second half goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer did the trick for RBNY, who have claimed 15 of the last 18 points available to them (The lone blemish is the Hudson River Derby).

The Red Bulls are now 8-1-1 at home this season, while New England is 1-4-4 away from Foxboro.

3) Gyasi Zardes’ return to form is surprising and wonderful

Columbus has its second win since May 19, and will be feeling much better about itself following a 3-2 comeback win over Orlando City which included a pair of equalizers.

One of those came in the 88th minute, as Gyasi Zardes completed his brace by converting a penalty won by new arrival Patrick Mullins.

The Crew won late via a rare Wil Trapp goal — the USMNT midfielder has just two in 161 matches — but let’s focus on Zardes.

Zardes’ 13th goal of the season continues an amazing turnaround under striker whisperer Gregg Berhalter. It’s Zardes’ second double-digit season, and his first since 2014. He is firmly in frame for another USMNT look, this time as a center forward, but first there’s plenty to like about the big man.

MLS 3 Things: Unstoppable Martinez grills DC in surge toward record

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Josef Martinez bagged his MLS record sixth career hat trick, and moved to within five goals of the single season goal record as Atlanta United battered DC United 3-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Caps’ Davies nears Bayern move ]

1) The MLS record book better get used to his name: Martinez now has 22 goals in 22 matches this season, and he’s going to break the Major League Soccer single season goal record if he’s at least half as productive over the final 12 matches.

Martinez has goals in nine of his last 10 matches. He got luck to set up his third, but look at this composed finish.

2) Another American milestone: 18-year-old USMNT prospect Andrew Carleton made his first MLS start and helped set-up Martinez’s second goal, which gave Atlanta United its first lead.

3) Rooney fails to find score sheet: England hero Wayne Rooney couldn’t find a goal or assist after picking up one of the latter in his debut. This time it was a start for Rooney, who went 66 minutes and earned a yellow card to go with his second shot.

MLS roundup: SKC roar back vs. HOU; FCD hammered by RBNY

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A roundup of, plus a few quick thoughts about, all of Saturday’s action from Week 16 of the 2018 MLS season…

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Sporting Kansas City 3-2 Houston DynamoFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Peter Vermes’ side fell 2-0 behind by halftime, courtesy of a costly error by reigning Defender of the Year Ike Opara in the second minute and a disastrous midfield breakdown in the 45th — both scored by Mauro Manotas. Sporting KC, who entered the weekend level on points with FC Dallas for first in the Western Conference (and four back of Atlanta United in the Supporters’ Shield race), were read the Riot Act at halftime, per Vermes, and responded accordingly.

Daniel Salloi bagged his fifth goal of the season in the 59th minute, and it was one-way traffic favoring Sporting from that point forward. Diego Rubio’s equalizer (assisted by Salloi, also his fifth) didn’t came until the 85th minute — the same minute in which he entered the game as a substitute — and Khiry Shelton’s winner (also assisted by Salloi) came three minutes later.

New York Red Bulls 3-0 FC Dallas — FULL HIGHLIGHTS

Despite playing with 10 men for more than an hour, the Red Bulls hammered the aforementioned side from Dallas to the tune of 3-0 at Red Bull Arena. The defeat snaps a four-game winning streak for FCD, as well as a seven-game unbeaten run dating back to late April.

Bradley Wright-Phillips opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, followed by Aaron Long (now a man down) in the 39th and Kemar Lawrence in the 48th (assisted by Kaku, making the 23-year-old Argentine-turned-Paraguayan the first player to reach 10 assists this season).

Los Angeles FC 2-0 Columbus Crew SC — FULL HIGHLIGHTS

LAFC did their damage early — Laurent Ciman in the 4th minute and Adama Diomande in the 8th — and Bob Bradley‘s side held on for 82 more minutes while limiting Crew SC to just one shot on target and handing Gregg Berhalter’s side a second straight loss and extending their current winless skid to five games. After riding alongside Atlanta atop the East standings a few weeks ago, Columbus have fallen to fourth and trail the Five Stripes by six points.

Elsewhere in MLS

Philadelphia Union 4-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
Orlando City SC 0-2 Montreal Impact
Colorado Rapids 3-2 Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake 1-1 San Jose Earthquakes
Seattle Sounders 1-1 Chicago Fire

MLS roundup: TFC blow 3-0 lead in CLB; SEA lose 3rd straight

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A roundup of, plus a few quick thoughts about, all of Saturday’s action from Week 14 of the 2018 MLS season…

[ MORE: USMNT throws away HT lead, loses 2-1 in Dublin ]

Columbus Crew SC 3-3 Toronto FC

For every instant classic ever played in sports history, there is one fanbase that will rewatch the highlights or full-game replay every time it’s on TV, and one fanbase that will never be able to stomach the sight of such a heartbreaking loss. Despite coming away with a point in the end, Toronto FC’s 3-3 draw away to Columbus Crew SC will haunt fans and players alike as the worst result of the (league) season thus far.

It was 1-0 after 17 minutes (Victor Vazquez, from the penalty spot), 2-0 after 38 minutes (Tosaint Ricketts), and 3-0 after 57 (Sebastian Giovinco’s latest piece of free-kick magic). The three-goal advantage remained intact for nearly 10 minutes, at which point it began to slip away… quickly.

Gyasi Zardes made it 3-1 with his ninth goal of the season in the 67th minute, Alex Crognale halved the remaining deficit in the 81st, and Federico Higuain converted from the penalty spot in the 90th minute to complete the improbable comeback — or, collapse from TFC’s perspective.

The gap between the defending MLS Cup champions and the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, currently occupied by Orlando City SC, is eight points. Crew SC, meanwhile, fall to third in the East due to New York City FC’s resounding win over Orlando.

Real Salt Lake 2-0 Seattle Sounders

The Sounders’ 2018 season is only 11 games old, and already the two-time defending Western Conference champions have lost seven times, including their second three-game losing skid of the year following Saturday’s 2-0 loss away to RSL.

Rookie forward Corey Baird scored his fourth goal of the season in the 57 minute before Luis Silva secure a late insurance policy in second-half stoppage time to extend RSL’s winning run to three games. It’s the first time RSL have won three straight league games since April 2016.

Following a slow start to the season, Mike Petke’s side (22 points) suddenly sits third in the Western Conference, three points behind second-place Los Angeles FC and four back of first-place Sporting Kansas City. Seattle (8 points), on the other hand, must overturn a 12-point deficit separating themselves in 11th place and the Vancouver Whitecaps in sixth.

New York City FC 3-0 Orlando City SC

From winning six in a row to losing four straight, the tide has turned squarely against Orlando. Saturday’s 3-0 thrashing at the hands of NYCFC, who were without David Villa in the starting lineup, was a far more flattering scoreline than the game itself might have deserved.

Ismael Tajouri-Shradi continues to score goals, getting two more in the 35th and 79th minutes, and Maxi Moralez grabbed a third in the 87th.

Elsewhere in MLS

Atlanta United 3-1 Philadelphia Union
Portland Timbers 1-1 LA Galaxy
New England Revolution 2-1 New York Red Bulls
FC Dallas 2-1 Los Angeles FC
Montreal Impact 1-0 Houston Dynamo
Chicago Fire 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes

MLS Things: Dockal leading Philly, Atlanta draws New England

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We have four nice midweek tilts in Major League Soccer this week, broken up nicely into early 7:30 ET kickoffs and a pair of late ones.

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

Here’s what we picked up from the first two.

Philadelphia can factor in the East and Borek Dockal is the real deal

Two assists and a clinical penalty are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Earnie Stewart’s Czech import.

The 29-year-old Dockal doesn’t waste much and is pretty wise about when he takes risks on the pitch, something culled from a series of decent Europa League runs with Sparta Prague and Rosenborg.

Only 12 players are averaging more than Dockal’s 2.4 key passes per game. Philly’s now unbeaten in four, having allowed just two goals in those matches, and right in the thick of the playoff race.

Ilsinho posterizes Schweinsteiger’s ankles

Bastian Schweinsteiger has been very, very good in a disappointing early season for the Fire, but he’ll be rueing his appearance in this highlight for some time.

Ilsinho absolutely cooks the World Cup winner with a lightning quick move just inside the box, then hammers a furious effort into the back of the net that leaves Chicago keeper Patrick McLain clawing for spirits.

What did we learn? Let me just keep watching this to find out.

For every great goal, there’s an equal and opposite

Now maybe I’m not the world’s top guy to analyze defending — nor amongst the top 10,000 — but what in the world is Antonio Delamea Milnar doing as Josef Martinez, who is pretty darn good, waits nine years for the world’s slowest cross to reach him in one of the most dangerous places on the pitch?

[ MORE: Arsenal could sell Ramsey ]

Asking for a friend. A late Teal Bunbury penalty did allow New England to pick up a nice 1-1 draw.