Best and Worst from MLS Week 12
If you weren't able to finish all the action in MLS Week 12, no worries. A lot of the players didn’t, either.
There was no shortage of red cards, goals and dramatic finishes in Week 12. Unless, of course, you were in attendance at BMO Field Saturday afternoon.
Toronto FC fell 1-0 to the Columbus Crew, extending their losing streak to four games. Not to be outdone, Chivas USA extended their winless streak to six games and forced goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to start taking free-kicks in the process.
But a temporary moratorium has been placed on the fault-finding for both clubs by this featured columnist. At least for this week.
So, whose performance was worthy of being mentioned in the best and worst from Week 12? Read on to find out.
Best: New York's Rise to the Top
It was a rough start to the 2013 campaign for New York. The pressure of five points through the first six games left many questioning the job security of rookie head coach Mike Petke.
Eight weeks later, the Red Bulls are now tied atop the Supporters’ Shield standings.
Their unbeaten form extended to six games following Sunday’s 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy. Five of those six matches landed Coach Petke's squad in the win column.
They haven’t all been aesthetic results, but they have been effective.
Sunday was no different.
But all that changed in the first minute of stoppage time. Tim Cahill’s header off a Juninho free-kick ignited the announced crowd of 25,219 and sent the Galaxy westward empty-handed.
Bruce Arena will have to settle with the three points secured at PPL Park Wednesday night.
The victory propelled the Red Bulls to a league-best 24 points.
New York has played a congested schedule, however, with more games than any other team in MLS (14). But it's points per game average (1.71) only trails that of Montreal and Dallas. Both teams are averaging two points per game after Week 12.
With three of the next four matches at home, New York will have the opportunity to shorten that gap.
Worst: 'You Get a Card! and You Get a Card! Everybody Gets a Card!'
Everyone remembers Oprah Winfrey’s free car giveaway in 2004. MLS referees went the extra mile in Week 12. Except, instead of a Pontiac G6, it was a red card everyone walked away with.
A total of six red cards were shown in Week 12. The MLS Discipline committee is sure to have their hands full Monday morning.
Futty Danso kicked off the red-card extravaganza by denying Camilio a clear goalscoring opportunity in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Dimitry Imbongo and Bobby Boswell upped the ante with a scuffle that sent both players off the pitch earlier than anticipated. Boswell instigated the incident with a headbutt inside the area. Imbongo retaliated with a headlock/chin toss that belongs in the squared circle, not the pitch.
Though, you would think Imbongo was saint-like with his response according to the color commentary of Brad Feldman.
Shane O’Neill wanted a part of the action in the 90th minute of the Colorado Rapids' 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes. O’Neill was already sitting on a yellow. His denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity on Chris Wondolowski sealed his fate.
But the winner of Saturday’s red-card extravaganza was Blas Perez.
Perez’s mid-air challenge left Leonardo Gonzalez bloodied. And to make matters worse, it left his team down to 10 men.
The word “intent” was abusively thrown around the Twittersphere following the call. It’s funny how the word can always be found in social media, but never the rule book.
“Intent” should not absolve anyone from suffering the consequences of their actions. Perez challenged for a ball with his elbow unnecessarily high, made contact and suffered as a result.
Alexi Lalas said it best on Twitter following the match:
The game has changed. If you jump with your elbows, you risk a red. Evolve or become extinct.
Six MLS players will be “extinct” in Week 13 as a result of their red card suspension.
Best: Seattle's Return
If the Red Bulls have adopted Drake's single as a team anthem, the Seattle Sounders are entering a T.I. state of mind. Sigi Schmid and company are reverberating a message delivered by the Atlanta rapper in his 2010 release: "I'm back."
The team has quickly ascended in the Western Conference standings. Saturday’s 4-2 victory over FC Dallas extended Seattle’s unbeaten streak to six.
The match was as wild as the scoreline suggests.
Six goals, 29 shots, 785 passes and let’s throw in some blood for good measure.
But in the end, it was the Sounders that sent MLS a message.
Eddie Johnson looked every bit the player Jurgen Klinsmann needs ahead of three pivotal World Cup qualifiers. Johnson’s finish on a Osvaldo Alonso’s header in the 16th minute was clinical. His response to an equalizer in the 62nd minute was crucial.
Dallas had less than 60 seconds to celebrate Michel’s rare olimpico. And if not for Seattle’s stellar performance, the 31-year-old winger would garner deserving praise.
But Seattle’s performance is the story here.
Obafemi Martins sealed the victory in the 83rd minute after Raul Fernandez denied Johnson of a hat-trick. The high-octane duo of Martins and Johnson has developed into a trio with the contributions of Lamar Neagle. The 26-year-old scored his third goal in two matches for Seattle.
It was a slow start to the season for the Sounders. But it’ll be an even stronger finish should their recent form continue.
Worst: Houston's Home Losing Streak
After an impressive 36-game unbeaten streak at home, the Dynamo are now two games into another streak at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Just not the right kind.
Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Revolution was the team’s second-consecutive loss before a home crowd. This is the first time Houston suffered back-to-back home losses since 2010.
Boswell’s ejection prompted a defensive response from head coach Dominic Kinnear. Adam Moffat was subbed in for Giles Barnes in the 43rd minute. Houston’s offense would suffer as a result.
Outside of a last-ditch effort from Brian Ching in the 81st minute, the Dynamo were unable to create the chances that led to a year’s worth of dominance at BBVA Compass Stadium. The Orange Crush were crushed in the stat sheet, mustering only three shots on target.
Twenty attempts were made.
Ricardo Clark’s own goal in the 84th minute capped off what was a disappointing effort from Houston and a surprise result from the Revolution.
Coach Kinnear shared his disappointment following the match on the club's official website:
I’m very disappointed with the way we played tonight. It was 1-0 and I thought we had created a lot of chances, but we just could not put the ball in the back of the net. We had to risk going forward and they scored a goal. Other than that, I’m just disappointed.
The Dynamo are now in danger of losing a third consecutive match overall. A grueling trip to Sporting Park awaits Houston in Week 13. But the opportunity is there to avenge a Week 11 loss.
Best: Gershon Koffie's Scorching Bender
Camilo blasted home a free-kick in the 24th minute. Jose Valencia did his best Calvin Johnson impression, inconclusively controlling the ball with his chest in the 84th minute and tickling it past goalkeeper Brad Knighton.
Multiple camera angles hint at a handball from Valencia. A definitive angle is absent from the debate, however.
Vancouver head coach Martin Rennie disagrees. Knighton is even more adamant, according to the official Portland Timbers website:
Yeah, I thought I was the only person in the box that’s allowed to use my hands. It’s frustrating and obviously you can see it on the replay as well, but when it comes down to it, we’ve got to be able to make that play rather than have the referee make the decision.
But it was Gershon Koffie’s scorching bender in the 54th minute that stole the show in Saturday’s 2-2 draw between a pair of Cascadian rivals.
Timbers keeper Donovan Ricketts has made a habit of acrobatically denying the opposition this season. The Jamaican international has already taken home the MLS Save of the Week five times in 2013. Even he stood motionless—his feet fastened to the turf—as Koffie’s right-footed shot scorched the top corner.
It was the 21-year-old’s second goal of the season and first since Week 1.
Unfortunately for Koffie, the title of “game-winner” was removed following Valencia’s late equalizer. But that should not deter him from another sensational performance.
Worst: Ethan White's Own Goal
Some own goals make you scratch your head. Some own goals make you chuckle.
Ethan White’s own goal in the 60th minute of DC United’s 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City was the latter.
Nothing seems to be going the way of Ben Olsen’s squad in 2013—not even the ball. It’s been that kind of season for the Black and Red. The team sits beneath the MLS basement at this point with just five points through 11 games.
The trend continued in Week 12.
A corner kick from Graham Zusi was headed by Ike Opara, deflected off White and slipped past goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Somewhere, Eddie Murphy was standing, smiling and screaming: “Yes! In the face!”
The only silver lining for United in Sunday’s draw was that the match did not result in a loss. But when a point at home is considered an upgrade, your season has already soured beyond reproach.
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