Best and Worst from MLS Week 26: Landon Donovan, Blas Perez Dives and More
The Seattle Sounders won’t be diving in the standings after Week 26. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Blas Perez inside the box.
Toronto FC and D.C. United continued their winless ways on Saturday. The two played to a 1-1 draw at RFK Stadium. The Chicago Fire had no issues in that department.The club captured an all-important 1-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City at home.
But some tough competition kept all of the aforementioned parties from making the list of best and worst from Week 26.
Read on to find out why.
Best: Seattle Doesn't Disappoint
Still don't believe soccer is growing in America?
In front of the second largest stand-alone crowd in MLS history, the Seattle Sounders didn't disappoint.
A capacity crowd of 67,385 packed CenturyLink Field on Sunday. The fervent faithful in Seattle witnessed an all-important 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers. A goal from Eddie Johnson in the 60th minute was enough to propel the Sounders to victory.
According to Portland's official website, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid isn't taking the three points for granted:
Obviously we are happy with getting the win. It was a hard-fought game. It was an exciting game, for sure, for the fans. I thought it was a little more physical than it needed to be. That took a little a bit away from the quality of the game, but obviously we are pleased with being able to get a clean sheet. We are pleased the one goal was enough to give us the three points, because that was the most important thing.
With the victory, the Sounders now hold the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The club has still played the fewest amount of matches (23) in the league. The opportunity is still there for the Sounders to make a run at the Supporters' Shield.
But the story remains the 67,385 that were on hand Sunday night.
According to Soccer America Daily, the Cascadia clash between Seattle and Portland was the third-most attended match on planet football this weekend.
Looks like they're building more than bonfires in the Emerald City these days.
Worst: New York's Fail
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY
With first place on the line, the New York Red Bulls failed once more.
A 3-2 loss to Chivas USA kept the Red Bulls in second place in the Eastern Conference. With 39 points, the club remains two points behind Montreal's pace. It was the ninth time this season the Red Bulls failed to get a result.
The loss, however, was not due to a lack of quality.
New York had the opportunities to strike early and often, but it was Dan Kennedy who played the hero on the day. The American made the most of his four saves, including one from point-blank range to deny Fabian Espindola the opening goal.
It would turn out to be that kind of night for the Red Bulls.
Just before the half, an ill-advised challenge from Ibrahim Sekagya forced referee Kevin Stott to point to the spot. Erick Torres buried the penalty with relative ease. The 20-year-old continued his burial in the 81st minute with a game-winning strike that propelled the Goats to their fifth win of the season.
According to MLS' official website, head coach Mike Petke was apologetic following the match:
I apologize for that loss. We lost to one of the worst teams in the league. We had many chances, we didn't capitalize on them, made some mistakes and had no creativity in the second half. We looked like we were confused out there.
The loss about sums up New York's season.
For the third time this season, the Red Bulls have a winless streak of at least three games.
No other club currently in playoff position carries that dubious honor.
Best: Una Manita in Montreal
It was that kind of night for Marco Di Vaio.
Una manita. A little hand. Five goals.
The Montreal Impact captured a comprehensive 5-0 victory on Saturday. Goals from Marco Di Vaio, Felipe Martins, Jeb Brovsky and Andrea Pisanu forced the Houston Dynamo to exit Stade Saputo bewildered and defeated.
According to the league's official website, it was the worst loss in club history.
Surprisingly enough, the result could've been worse for the Dynamo.
Despite the club having difficulties hemorrhaging chances, it was Di Vaio who had difficulty staying onside. The Italian was whistled for the offense five times on the evening. Unfortunately for Houston, it wasn't seven.
The 37-year-old veteran made the most of his two opportunities.
The floodgates opened in the 35th minute after Di Vaio delivered a world-class finish left-footed. His sterling night didn't end there. Unselfish play allowed Montreal’s No. 9 to record his 15th goal of the season and sit atop the MLS Golden Boot race. Patrice Bernier dished it. Di Vaio buried it with relative ease.
Pisanu finished the burial of the Dynamo in stoppage time with the first goal of his MLS career.
After the impressive result, Montreal now sits atop the Eastern Conference.
The Impact weren't the only ones to drive home five goals this weekend. Thanks to a Kelyn Rowe brace—highlighted by this stunning strike—the Revolution followed suit with an impressive 5-1 victory of their own.
Worst: The Crew Lose More Than a Match
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The Columbus Crew lost the match. Federico Higuain lost his cool.
Real Salt Lake delivered a crushing 4-0 blow at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday. Goals from Kyle Beckerman, Devon Sandoval and Luis Gil propelled the Claret and Cobalt to their 13th victory of the season. The club now sits atop the Supporters' Shield standings with 45 points.
But it was the inexplicable performance from Columbus' designated player that stole the headlines in Week 26.
A foul in the 34th minute ensured that Higuain would miss next Saturday's clash with the Seattle Sounders due to yellow-card accumulation. The call led to some disparaging remarks from new owner Anthony Precourt on Twitter. You can only imagine what his reaction was when Higuain picked up a second yellow for dissent in the closing minutes of the match.
The Argentine will now be forced to miss an additional home game in Week 28.
According to MLS' official website, head coach Robert Warzycha understands what a huge loss this is for his club:
With two games coming up at home, it's a big loss for us. He's our engine, he's scoring goals, and unfortunately for us he got the second yellow in the end; even the first one put him over the top. That's a big loss.
You can overcome a 4-0 loss in MLS. Teams have rebounded from worse.
But losing your best player for an extended period of time—especially when your playoff hopes were bleak at best—is more damaging than any scoreline could ever be.
Best: Landon Donovan...Enough Said
How much is Landon Donovan worth after this strike?
Landon Donovan's price tag just went up.
The former captain entered the weekend amid swirling rumors of his potential departure this coming offseason. Greg Seltzer—a writer for MLS' official website—reported that as many as three Italian clubs were interested in Donovan’s services.
Expect interest to continue rising after Week 26.
The Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 on Saturday. The victory came off the strength of an impeccable strike from Donovan himself. It took all of three minutes for the 31-year-old to bury the Whitecaps on the road.
Johnny Leveron inadvertently created the opportunity. Donovan unleashed it from about 25 yards out.
According to Galaxy insider Adam Serrano, head coach Bruce Arena knew the match was greatly impacted from that moment on:
Landon played a good game and he scored a big goal. Well… it's like starting a game with a one goal lead. It put them under a lot of pressure. At times, our team played real well, we had a couple chances to get a second but give Vancouver a lot of credit; they fought real hard, put us under a lot of pressure. They haven't lost many games here at home, so that's an impressive win for our group.
With the victory, the Galaxy now sit comfortably in the Western Conference with 40 points.
Don't expect to see Carlo Cudicini between the posts anytime soon. Especially after a clean sheet from Jaime Penedo... highlighted by this scintillating save.
Worst: Blas Perez Dives. Kenny Cooper Snaps
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Three red cards. A flop. Grown men fighting.
Just your typical MLS night in Frisco, Texas.
But it was the decision from referee Baldomero Toledo to reward the penalty that marred the match in controversy.
After taking a poor touch inside the area, Blas Perez felt the Earthquakes defense bearing down. Another touch moved defender Victor Bernardez past the Panamanian striker. Then, Blas Perez did...well, what Blas Perez does.
A brush on the shoulder dramatically became a thunderous strike from the heavens.
Embellishment. Dissent. Disgrace.
It all went downhill from there.
A reckless challenge from Justin Morrow ended his evening early. Baldomero gave the 25-year-old his marching orders in the 81st minute. Bernardez and Kenny Cooper followed suit just four minutes later. Apparently, Cooper didn't take too kindly to Barnardez's challenge. His retaliation ended his night after just two minutes of play.
As Matt Barbour of MLS' official website points out, it was the first straight red card of his career.
With the result, neither club was able to make ground in the Western Conference.
Both clubs remain outside of the playoff picture with only eight games remaining.
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