Best and Worst from MLS Week 16
The MLS action in Week 16 was as awe-inspiring as it was disgraceful...and that’s just Kenny Miller.
FC Dallas goalkeeper Raul Fernandez put forth a Herculean effort in a 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers on Saturday. The Peruvian international exhibited his world-class ability in each of his seven saves.
Steven Lenhart returned to his 2012 form for the San Jose Earthquakes. The 26-year-old forward scored his first goal of the season in emphatic fashion.
But neither player was able to make the list of best and worst from MLS Week 16.
Read on to find out who did.
Best: Darlington Nagbe's Game-Winner
As sensational as Fernandez was on Saturday, it wasn’t enough to stop Darlington Nagbe.
American soccer fans should be familiar with Nagbe’s game-winner in the 52nd minute. Brad Evans scored a similar goal for the United States earlier this month.
But while the two goals are similar in approach, they are also different in quality.
There was no awkward slip-and-fall from Nagbe on Saturday. Nothing but pure power and pristine precision left the right foot of the Liberian footballer. It was his fifth goal of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The 1-0 victory closed the gap in the Western Conference. The Timbers now sit just two points behind Dallas for first place.
Worst: Atiba Harris' Red Card
How did the Colorado Rapids respond to Lenhart’s scorcher? Like any playoff team would...with a brutal red card in the 18th minute.
The culprit for Colorado in Week 16 was Atiba Harris. The Kittitian footballer dangerously connected with Alan Gordon’s right leg in the 18th minute of Colorado’s 2-1 loss to San Jose. Referee Jorge Gonzalez had no choice after consulting with his assistant. Harris was shown his first red card of the season.
The foul proved to be costly.
The Rapids nearly completed a miraculous comeback in the second half. Nathan Sturgis’ header in the 67th minute cut Colorado’s deficit to one. But the man advantage was too much for the Rapids to overcome.
The fireworks didn’t end there.
The physicality of the match transferred into the post-game handshake. Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja had a few choice words for his San Jose counterpart, Mark Watson. The two would be separated, but that didn’t stop Chris Wondolowski from joining the festivities shortly after.
Both teams would eventually enter the locker rooms unscathed.
The 2-1 loss ended Colorado’s six-game unbeaten streak and kept the team out of playoff position in the Western Conference.
Best: The Crew Put in Work Against Montreal
They’re not dead yet.
The Columbus Crew’s 2-0 victory over the Montreal Impact breathed new life into a team amid a downward spiral. Doubt surrounded the Crew following a three-game winless streak. Being eliminated in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup by the Chicago Fire didn’t help, either.
But Columbus rebounded and captured a signature win in Week 16. Goals from Matias Sanchez and Dominic Oduro secured the team’s fifth win of the season. They are now just two points behind the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Oduro shared his thoughts on the team’s official website following the win:
We really needed this win...Everybody was motivated to win this game because of the fact that we haven’t won many games at home. We had decided to come out and prove to ourselves that we are a better team than we thought, and we knew that from the get go after getting the two goals in the beginning. That being said, we still need to make our winning a habit now.
Winning wasn’t a habit entering Week 16. But after Saturday’s victory, that could change for the Crew moving forward.
Worst: DC United
Congratulations, DC United. You’ve made history. Team history to be exact.
The Black and Red extended its club-worst winless streak to 13 games on Saturday. United finally hit rock bottom with a 2-1 loss at home to Toronto FC.
Thanks to a Dwayne De Rosario penalty in the 19th minute, DC led early in the match. The lead was a miracle in and of itself. According to Steven Goff, it was the first time United led in a match since the second week of the season.
United showed why just 11 minutes later.
A Robert Earnshaw header in the 30th minute erased Toronto’s deficit. A Daniel Woolard own goal—the team’s third own goal of the year—sealed United’s fate in the 41st minute. As if the own goal wasn't bad enough, Woolard took a late elbow to the head and bled profusely for several minutes.
Fifteen games into the season, DC is 1-11-3. You would think it can’t get much worse than this. But according to Goff, it has.
Head coach Ben Olsen reportedly “went nuts” in the locker room at halftime and again after the match.
The defeat on the scoreboard is beginning to transfer into the locker room. Brandon McDonald’s comments on the team’s official website echo that sentiment:
“After you lose so many, it’s natural [for heads to drop]. In this group of guys that we have in this locker-room, no one’s pointing fingers at each other and putting the blame on each other. It’s something that we’ve got to turn around. At this point, we’ve got to keep moving. I think everybody’s just shaking their heads at this point.”
Don’t worry, McDonald. Everyone in the entire league is shaking their head too.
Best: Kenny Miller
There is no better way to describe Kenny Miller’s clinical performance in the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 4-3 victory over the New England Revolution. The 33-year-old striker netted the first brace of his MLS career in spectacular fashion.
An equalizer in the 39th minute sparked a four-minute span that allowed the Whitecaps to enter the half with a one-goal lead. But his game-winner in the 68th minute stole the show at BC Place.
A half volley from just outside the box seared the net and secured Vancouver’s fifth win of the season. Goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth was helpless—his feet fastened to the turf—as Miller’s shot soared above his head.
It was the Scotsman's fifth goal of the season.
But Miller’s performance extended beyond the stat sheet on Saturday.
Worst: Kenny Miller
Yes, you read that title right.
No player was more divisive in Week 16 than Miller. Vancouver defeated the Revolution on Saturday. But thanks to the Scotsman, the match was not devoid of controversy.
The Revolution dominated play and held a deserving 2-0 lead in the first half. The Whitecaps responded by playing inspired football following the 23rd minute. But there’s no denying Vancouver’s onslaught came in the wake of the most egregious red card of the season.
If anyone deserved a red card on Saturday, it was Miller, not Andrew Farrell.
Miller’s half volley in the 68th minute was impressive. But it paled in comparison to his masterful dive in the 23rd minute. In a three-second span, Miller managed to whiff on the ball, kick himself in the heel and cry foul.
Now, that’s impressive.
Proponents of the red card argue that Farrell initiated contact with an elbow to Miller’s lower back, and that he denied Miller a clear goalscoring opportunity. But the only person who denied Kenny Miller a clear goalscoring opportunity was Kenny Miller.
Here is the definitive angle. You can clearly see Miller throw his hands in the air after he initiates contact with himself.
Farrell didn’t even have a finger on Miller at that moment.
The Whitecaps took control of the match and rallied with the man advantage. The Revolution’s youthful inexperience showed.
Playoff teams respond. New England collapsed.
Lee Nguyen had the opportunity to equalize in the final seconds of stoppage time. But his free-kick was safely tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Brad Knighton.
In the end, the story of the match was the decisive red card. MLS teams are allotted two red-card appeals each season.
It would behoove the Revolution to exercise one of them this week.
Follow Eduardo on Twitter for more insight on a variety of sports topics. Follow @Mendez_FC
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