Week 14 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is in the books, and it did not disappoint for the most part (the obvious exception being that whole business of a scoreless Sunday, but who’s really keeping track?).
This week’s MLS Team of the Week is full of gaudy goalscoring and assisting numbers. The midfield alone contributed 6 goals and 4 assists in Week 4, while the two forwards chosen each bagged a brace over the weekend.
Without further comment, I present to you my Week 14 MLS Team of the Week.
Thoughts? Questions? Agreements? Disagreements? (Of course not.) Leave them in the comments section, as always. I’m not afraid to defend my picks.
The Houston Dynamo rode its early dominance to an easy 2-0 victory over the Montreal Impact on Thursday. Houston advanced to the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference semifinals and will play two legs against the New York Red Bulls.
Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark pressed high often, including on the first goal of the game. Forward Will Bruin dropped deep to find the ball and played a one-two combination with Clark, whose skillful back-heel pass set Bruin up with an easy finish in the 16th minute.
Houston’s impressive streak when scoring first continued, as the Dynamo has not lost in 15 matches when going up a goal in 2013.
Ten minutes later, the result was sealed. Impact midfielder Hernán Bernardello took down Oscar Boniek García just inside the penalty area despite support from two other defenders, and García finished what he started to give his team a two-goal advantage.
The Impact could not get much offensive momentum, even though Houston dropped off slightly in the second half. Forward Marco Di Vaio was caught offside four times, and he received little attacking support when he found the ball in a legal position.
His best chance came in the 61st minute, when Tally Hall dove to his right to parry wide Di Vaio’s shot from outside the penalty area.
Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear’s playoff train kept rolling with the result. In 2012, the Dynamo finished in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and advanced all the way to the MLS Cup final before falling to the Los Angeles Galaxy. Houston proved last year, and look to do so again, that playing the extra game is not an insurmountable task for playoff success.
Kinnear’s opposite number, Marco Schällibaum, gambled by starting Nelson Rivas at center back after he saw no action during the regular season. Like much of what Montreal did on Thursday, it didn’t pay off, as Rivas was sent off after two similar fouls, getting his hands in Giles Barnes’ face in the 35th minute and jumping with a high elbow on Will Bruin in the 70th.
Bruin added the final goal of the game soon after Rivas left the field. He outran Matteo Ferrari to a loose ball and cut inside on Jeb Brovsky before lifting an easy shot into the open net.
The Impact wasn’t done getting red cards, though. Substitute Andrés Romero received one after he kicked out at Kofi Sarkodie on the ground after the whistle in the 88th minute, and Di Vaio received one in the aftermath for putting his hand on Corey Ashe’s neck-and-face area twice.
Houston hosts the Red Bulls in the first leg of their series on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, broadcast on NBC).
Houston Dynamo (4-4-2): Tally Hall — Corey Ashe, Eric Brunner, Bobby Boswell, Kofi Sarkodie — Brad Davis (Andrew Driver, 82), Warren Creavalle, Ricardo Clark, Oscar Boniek García — Will Bruin (Cam Weaver, 79), Giles Barnes (Omar Cummings, 79)
Unused substitutes: Tyler Deric — Mike Chabala, Servando Carrasco, Alexander López
Montreal Impact (4-2-3-1): Troy Perkins — Jeb Brovsky, Nelson Rivas, Matteo Ferrari, Hassoun Camara — Hernán Bernardello, Collen Warner (Felipe Martins, 61) — Andrea Pisanu (Andrés Romero, 54), Andrew Wenger (Daniele Paponi, 61), Justin Mapp — Marco Di Vaio
We all know that Houston Dynamo striker Will Bruin (pictured) has suffered this season, just not quite unable to free up the hand brake.
Also on the subject of Dynamo attackers: considering all the skill in the Oscar Boniek Garcia’s feet, no way the Honduran international should be well into September with zero goals in league play this year. (And just four assists, too; his bottom-line production really must improve.)
English veteran Giles Barnes? He’s been up and down this year, sometimes not even in Dominic Kinnear’s starting 11.
So when all three of those Dynamo attackers get goals, as they did in a confidence-building 5-1 win over Chivas USA, that’s a big night.
It’s just Chivas USA, the last-place team in the West. But Chivas is a better version of the little Goats than we saw in May and June and then into the summer. Plus, this was a completely dominant performance, the 5-1 score fairly accurately portraying how thoroughly the visitors were out-played.
The goal from Bruin was huge, as Dominic Kinnear’s team badly needs its young American scorer to gain some confidence before the playoffs – assuming the Dynamo and can hang on and get into the post-season. There is a tough, huge match coming up next week New England.
Bruin did, in fact, look more confident after his solid finish Saturday past Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. Barnes and Garcia had two apiece.
Two other things worth noting:
First, new midfielder Servando Carrasco got his first minutes at BBVA Compass Stadium since coming over last week in a trade with Seattle. He got in the game late.
Also, with Adam Moffat now gone, Warren Creavalle played alongside Ricardo Clark in Houston’s midfield, flanked by Brad Davis and Garcia. So, you have to wonder if this is Kinnear’s top 11, now that everyone is healthy?
Subs make the difference as Houston Dynamo outlasts Arabe Unido in Champions League
Houston manager Dominic Kinnear would surely have preferred to keep his main men on the bench for tonight CONCACAF Champions League match down at BBVA Compass Stadium in Texas.
The opportunity factor was high – but the games are coming fast and furious and MLS playoff positioning is the priority, and rest for the regulars is paramount.
So he left Oscar Boniek Garcia, Brad Davis and Will Bruin in the bench to start, but did turn to his top trio of attackers as second half subs. And they made the difference, helping to create a late goal as the Dynamo seized control of Group 1 with an important 2-1 win over Panama’s Arabe Unido.
The Panamanians scored early on penalty kick and only a big save from Tally Hall kept the Dynamo from going down 2-0 at home. Remember, in the new, smaller group format of this annual tournament, points are especially precious because there are fewer group stage matches. Thus, just one loss at home would do serious damage chances of advancing into next year’s elimination rounds.
But Cam Weaver scored after 22 minutes as the Dynamo fought off injury-stall theatrics from the bunkering visitors, not to mention Unido’s fairly dangerous counter attack.
Boniek Garcia came in at the half for Alex Dixon. Davis was soon on for Jason Johnson, and Bruin came in for the final 13 minutes in place of young forward Alexander Lopez. Houston was more assured in the second half, and it was the veteran Davis who fed Weaver for the game-winner.
The win was especially important to cinch off any lingering hurt from the franchise’s worst loss to date, a 5-0 spanking from Montreal in Canada last weekend.
Houston is back into MLS play Sunday at Chicago.
Opportunity, but still a tough spot for Houston Dynamo
A team that has appeared in the last two MLS Cup finals faces danger of not even making the 10-team playoff field in 2013. The Houston Dynamo is sixth at the moment, although armed with the advantage of a game in hand on most clubs higher in the Eastern Conference standings.
That added opportunity for matches will not matter, however, if Kinnear’s team cannot fix the problems that have risen through the summer, primarily the lack of scoring from forwards and some atypical leakiness in the back.
The simmering issues came to boil in last weekend’s 5-0 loss in Montreal, the worst loss in club history, and these problems are exacerbated by the schedule; Houston is in the middle of its busiest stretch of 2013. Try this for a brutal schedule: Seven matches over 23 days, with six plane trips in between.
And it’s not like Houston is training – when they get to train, that is – in some cool climate. Houston’s perennial sultry summers can have a debilitating effect if not carefully and dutifully managed.
With a match coming up this weekend in Chicago, against one of the clubs scrapping with the Dynamo for a playoff spot, Kinnear probably doesn’t have a choice but to line up several reservists.
Expect something similar to last week’s lineup as the Dynamo drew with W Connection down in Trinidad; First-choice men such as Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe, Adam Moffat, Giles Barnes, Brad Davis, Oscar Boniek Garcia and Will Bruin were all on the bench to start that one. (Ricardo Clark, now injured, was also missing.)
Remember, passionate MLS supporters want teams from our part of the world to rise in Champions League, some believing the league will take a giant leap forward once an MLS teams claims the regional trophy. That may or may not be true.
But this is definitely true: Major League Soccer clubs and coaches are judged primarily on two things. First, did they make the playoffs? Second, how far did they go in the playoffs?
That’s it. Idealism where CCL is concerned is grand and all, but the reality is that league play dominates the narrative for an MLS club.
That’s why the Dynamo reservists will most likely be on the spot tonight at BBVA Compass Stadium.