Best and Worst from MLS Week 6
The CONCACAF Champions League limited this week’s MLS action, but it did not limit the amount of mind-blowing and face-palming moments that have become synonymous with the league.
Ryan Johnson’s brace propelled the Portland Timbers to their first win of the season. The 37th consecutive sellout at JELD-WEN Field witnessed a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo—cementing MLS’ position as the most competitive and paradoxical league on the planet.
Due to a week off, the Seattle Sounders remain winless. Rave Green have the distinct honor of being the only MLS team to bear that title.
Neither Portland nor Seattle made the list of best and worst of Week 6 in MLS. Read on to find out who did.
Best: Darel Russell's Equalizer
Toronto continues to impress. This time it was an enthralling comeback that allowed the Reds to capture their fifth point of the season.
An absolute howitzer from Darel Russell placed an exclamation point on Toronto’s 2-2 draw with FC Dallas Saturday afternoon. After controlling a cross from Luis Silva, Russell fired a right-footed shot from just outside the box.
Russell faced criticism for his last-minute blunder that cost the Reds a full three points against the Los Angeles Galaxy on March 30. For Russell—as he told reporters following the match—his late equalizer was a chance at redemption:
I made a mistake last week and we ended up drawing. This week, I redeemed myself and it almost feels like a win after being 2-0 down. There was only one thought in my mind when I saw the ball coming over and that was to control the ball and have a go at it late in the game.
Russell had more than a “go at it” and will look to build on his renewed confidence in Philadelphia on April 13.
Worst: FC Dallas' Late Collapse
As impressive as Russell’s goal was, there is still no excuse for FC Dallas’ collapse in the closing minutes of the match.
The Hoops still sit atop the Supporters’ Shield standings—albeit narrowly—but dropping points after holding a commanding 2-0 lead is a recipe for disaster come late October. Every point counts in a late-season playoff race, even the ones accumulated at the beginning of the season. Just ask the Columbus Crew, who missed the playoffs last season by just one point.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Dallas.
Blas Perez continues to find the back of the net for the Hoops. His volleyed strike in the 59th minute—his second goal of the season—would have left a lasting impression if not for Russell’s equalizer.
True, a point on the road is not the worst possible result. But it is a stinging one after holding a two-goal lead for 84 minutes.
Dallas must rebound quickly. The true test for the Hoops’ quality will be in the coming weeks against the L.A. Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps.
Best: Chad Marshall Hits 20,000
Goals are celebrated. Strong defensive efforts are revered. But durability is widely overlooked.
Columbus Crew defender Chad Marshall recorded his 20,000th MLS minute in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union. The 10-year veteran became the fourth player in MLS history to achieve that milestone with the same club. He is now amongst the company of other MLS greats C.J. Brown, Logan Pause and Cobi Jones (as reported by Tim Miller of thecrew.com).
Marshall has played in at least 24 matches in seven of his previous nine seasons. A concussion injury-riddled 2007 forced him to play a career-low 12 matches.
Don’t let the wear on his tires fool you, though. The 28-year-old is more than capable of tracking down the opposition. His sliding clearance on Jack McInerney’s shot in the first half is proof.
Worst: Alvaro Saborio's Forgettable Night
There’s inconsistency, and then there’s Alvaro Saborio.
The Costa Rican international entered Saturday’s match in scorching form, leading Real Salt Lake with three goals. He was less than stellar in Real’s 1-0 defeat at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Saturday night.
Saborio finished the match scoreless, but it wasn’t due to a lack of opportunities.
A poorly taken penalty erased what would have been an early equalizer. Costa Ricans everywhere suffered traumatic flashbacks of his costly missed penalty in the 2011 Gold Cup quarterfinals.
So it wasn’t the first time Saborio missed a penalty kick, but it was the first time he did so donning the the Claret and Cobalt (per the team’s official Twitter account).
There’s no telling which version of Saborio will show up at BC Place next Saturday. Fingers crossed it’s not this one.
Clint Irwin was sensational. The rookie made key saves to capture the Rapids' first win of the season—and, of less importance, possibly its first Rocky Mountain Cup since 2006.
Best: Sporting Kansas City's Defensive Prowess
Sporting Kansas City have scored a pedestrian three goals in the last five matches. But with a stout defense, it doesn’t matter.
Sporting earned its third victory of the season over D.C. United Friday night. The 1-0 win was Sporting’s fourth consecutive shutout. The team has now gone an absurd 429 minutes without surrendering a goal. As impressive as that is, it is only the second-longest shutout streak in club history (per SKCgameday).
Friday’s 1-0 victory was chippy. It was muddled. It was everything Sporting wanted it to be.
Matt Besler continued his ascendancy over MLS competition and looks to be in prime position for another national team call-up. His timely challenges left a disjointed United attack with only one shot on target and only four attempts on goal all night.
The victory launched Sporting to second in the Eastern Conference. The team sits one point behind first-place Montreal—who fell victim to Sporting’s defensive prowess just last week.
Worst: Haunting Performances at Toyota Park
Toyota Park continues to haunt the New York Red Bulls. Sunday’s 3-1 loss added to an all-time winless effort at Toyota Park. A pair of farcical performances highlighted the action.
It’s allergy season. With 10 shots, zero goals and squandered chances like his outlandish, stumbling-effort in the 63rd minute, Peguy Luyindula is clearly allergic to the back of the net.
As if that wasn’t enough, his dramatic portrayal of a “diving soccer player” in the 66th minute was of award-winning standard. Unfortunately for Luyindula, he was awarded a yellow card for simulation.
Credit is due to the 33-year-old striker for creating a multitude of chances—chances not every striker is capable of creating—but finishing is what matters. The Red Bulls underestimated the value of 18 goals when they traded Kenny Cooper to FC Dallas in the offseason.
It’s reasonable to assume Cooper would have finished at least one of Luyindula's chances.
With a savvy veteran awaiting an opportunity to start, a timid Luis Robles did not help his cause at Toyota Park. Robles failed to close in on a 50/50 ball that led to Chicago’s first goal. (To be fair, a better clearance from Jamison Olave would have kept Robles out of a compromising position.)
Robles did not do himself any favors after allowing Maicon Santos to leak in his second goal of the match.
Chris Rolfe’s comical penalty kick failed to hit the target. Luckily for him, the Red Bulls decided to delve further into the absurdity.
Best and Worst: Chris Wondolowski
Chris Wondolowski was a roller coaster of emotions late Saturday night.
Wondolowski’s clinical finish in the 18th minute opened up the scoring in San Jose’s 1-1 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps. It was the kind of finish that justified his newly signed four-year, $600,000 contract.
Wondo looked revitalized with the inclusion of Alan Gordon in the Earthquakes’ lineup. After combining for 40 of San Jose’s 72 goals last season, the duo picked up where they left off.
It was a chaotic finish at Buck Shaw Stadium. Sam Cronin’s strike ricocheted off the post and fell right to Wondo's feet. Credit to Wondo for controlling it, but that's all he was able to do. That potential game-winner has to find the back of the net, especially when you bear the title of “designated player.”
A slight hesitation from Wondo at point-blank range—among a flurry of defenders—was the difference between a 1-1 draw and a potential 2-1 victory at home.
You can never give the opposition a voluntary two-man advantage, especially an attack as potent as Vancouver's. Credit the Whitecaps for taking advantage of Gordon and Victor Bernardez’s absence as each player decided to swap their cleats.
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