It hasn’t been a great couple weeks for Eddie Johnson, who was excluded from Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans for the 2014 World Cup and now has been suspended from Major League Soccer for his unsportsmanlike displays against the Montreal Impact this weekend.
Unable to reach a pass before Montreal keeper Troy Perkins, Johnson dragged his back leg to make contact with the netminder’s face. In the ensuing scrum, Johnson poked Wandrille Lefevre in the face as well.
MLS said Tuesday that the MLS Players Union unsuccessfully appealed the penalty for the reckless challenge, which occurred in the 60th minute. Johnson also was fined for making contact with the face of Montreal defender Wandrille Lefevre following the challenge with Perkins.
It’s hard to tell on the video whether Johnson was attempting to get Perkins, or just refused to get out of the way, but he deserves some discipline. Whether it was all just an on-field eruption of frustration after a tough week or just a questionable moment, it’s not a good look for the striker.
In the absence of some key players, Seattle’s Lamar Neagle was the pivotal man as Seattle picked up its second win of the season while keeping Montreal winless in a 2-0 victory in Quebec.
Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey were unavailable for the Sounders, who fended off a shot-ready attack from Montreal. The Impact were credited with 25 shots in the match to Seattle’s nine, though just six were on frame.
Troy Perkins made some big saves as usual, but it was his misfortune that got Seattle on the board. Gonzalo Pineda’s free kick was headed off the frame by Neagle, but the ball hit Perkins and entered the goal to give Seattle a 1-0 lead in the 8th minute.
Perkins got his body on the second goal as well, this time a hand, as Obafemi Martins headed home a Kenny Cooper cutback cross to double Seattle’s lead. And yes, he went flip city in celebration.
Frank Klopas is now staring at an 0-3 start to his time in Montreal. The only other team without a point this season is DC United, which has only played twice.
Seattle improves to 2-1-0, their lone loss coming against Toronto FC. Stefan Frei was strong between the sticks for the visitors, who also got several impressive moments from DeAndre Yedlin.
Let’s take a look at the best men between the sticks as our season preview continues with the Top Ten goalkeepers in MLS.
1. Nick Rimando – Real Salt Lake
It was difficult to separate the top half of this list, but it’s difficult to make a list of the league’s best keepers without putting Rimando at No. 1. When it comes to finishing a game strong and being where he needs to be, Rimando passes the smell test. His advanced stats also show a pretty telling figure, as he’s considered the top keeper for an attack according to Squawka. If I’m starting a team for this season only and need a no-doubt keeper, it’s Rimando.
2. Julio Cesar – Toronto FC
Yes, he’ll have to adapt to a new league and no, it’s not like goalkeeping was a problem for TFC last year, but Cesar’s resume speaks for itself. The Brazil goalkeeper may have fought for playing time this year behind former English international Robert Green, but how many keepers in this league have finished Top 25 in Ballon d’Or voting in their career? Now that’s loaded — I realize MLS players aren’t going to get votes there — but Cesar has five Serie A title, two Confederation Cups and a UEFA Champions League title this is okay.
3. Donovan Ricketts – Portland
Ricketts has a knack for the outlandish “How did he do that?” save, and I’m not sure a week has gone by where he wasn’t at least in the discussion for the Save of the Week award. The numbers say he’s very, very good.
4. Troy Perkins – Montreal
This will require a lengthy diatribe, because I continue to read lists of top MLS goalkeepers that don’t include the 32-year-old Ohio native, which is baffling. Montreal hemorrhaged shots on net in 2014, and advanced stats say Perkins was very good on a team that didn’t defend well. In fact, Perkins posted the highest Squawka score in MLS last season, with only one negative performance in the bunch to drag him down.
He had the top defensive score and best possession score of all MLS keepers in 2013. Advanced stats aren’t everything, so he’ll sit fourth… but perhaps it’s his location in Quebec that’s keeping him out of the discussion.
5. Clint Irwin – Colorado
Ten clean sheets last season, and will be counted on to provide stability as Colorado transitions from Oscar Pareja following the coach’s departure for Dallas.
6. Tally Hall – Houston
Athletic and strong in defense, Hall is just that little bit away from being atop this list. The knock on Hall is consistency, as he’ll post just as many negative performances as positive… though the highs aren’t so high and lows aren’t howlers.
7. Luis Robles – New York
Robles probably deserves more consideration for a higher spot on this list considering his resurgence from real woes early in his season. He’s a shot-stopper who sees the field well and can benefit the attack.
8. Jaime Penedo – Los Angeles
Impossible to ignore how he put the Galaxy on his back at times last season, but one season does not a career make and I’m wary to put him high on the list.
9. Raul Fernandez – Dallas
The Peruvian has plenty left to prove, but should benefit from the arrival of Pareja as his head coach. Plenty to like about Fernandez.
10. Jon Busch – San Jose
He’s a feast or famine keeper who is capable of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but gets the nod over Chivas’ Dan Kennedy, Philadelphia’s Zac MacMath, New England’s Bobby Shuttleworth and others.
With Toronto already eliminated from playoff contention, the Montreal Impact were good as dead last weekend down 1-0 to Philadelphia.
Then two players rescued hopes for a Canadian team to make the postseason – one dependable and one surprise.
Marco Di Viao brought himself back to the top of the league’s goals tally with a 64th minute equalizer, and Karl Ouimette got his first MLS goal in the 84th minute, none too late to save Montreal’s hopes.
Now, the Impact are in fantastic position to play on after this weekend – but it’s not done yet.
A win would clinch the first ever playoff berth for Montreal, while a draw could leave an opening for Chicago, New England, or Houston.
And it couldn’t come against a more fitting opponent. It’s a chance for redemption – redemption for a late season slide that very nearly grasped the Impact in its gravitational pull downwards.
Before last Saturday, Montreal had dropped five of their last six matches, and hadn’t won since a 4-2 road win over New England on September 8. But they’re not done yet, not thanks to last week’s heroics.
The Impact will be without defender Alessandro Nesta, who picked up a calf injury against Philadelphia. He will be retiring at the end of the season, whenever that may come for Montreal.
On the flip side, it’s been a struggle of a season for Toronto, but they could play spoiler against one of their biggest rivals. They’re coming off their fourth consecutive road loss, but coming home will provide a bit of a boost.
But Montreal’s ready for the rivalry matchup. “If they can knock us out of the playoffs, or even knock us down to that fifth spot where we have to play an extra game, it’d be great for them” said Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins. “For them to get a result, the way they’ve had this whole season, would be a huge relief for them going into next year.”
The Impact have a serious test Saturday, one that will tell the world whether Montreal are truly over their late-season slide, or if last weekend wasn’t enough to escape the black hole.