Best and Worst from MLS Week 27: Real Salt Lake, Bobby Boswell and More
The best action of MLS Week 27 was highlighted by Real Salt Lake, Benny Feilhaber and Luis Robles, but what about the worst?
The Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact failed to meet the criteria after a scoreless draw at PPL Park. Despite a man advantage, the Columbus Crew couldn't capitalize and fell 1-0 to the Seattle Sounders. It was the club's 13th loss of the season.
They won't be featured, either.
Some tough competition also kept the Los Angeles Galaxy from making the list of best and worst from MLS Week 27.
Read on to find out why.
Best: Luis Robles Saves the Day for New York
The task here is to find one storyline to retell the New York Red Bulls' 2-1 victory over D.C. United.
Somehow, both clubs managed to fit 18 years' worth of intensity, hate and wildness into 90 minutes of play.
But let's look at some contenders.
Kyah Cahill—son of Tim Cahill—kicked off the festivities with a well-versed version of the "Star-Spangled Banner." His father followed suit with a spectacular performance of his own. Cahill finished the evening with an assist and the match-winner. The Australian landed the decisive blow in the 38th minute with his signature header.
How about the biggest pre-match storyline?
Thierry Henry and head coach Mike Petke were reportedly separated during a heated exchange at practice on Thursday. The incident, coupled with five consecutive scoreless performances, pushed Henry out of the starting XI. The benching opened the opportunity for others to leave their mark.
Lloyd Sam jumped on his.
In his first home start of the season, the Englishman performed admirably. Was it a cross? Was it a shot? Who cares. Sam opened the affair in the eighth minute with a stunning finish that squeaked past goalkeeper Bill Hamid. His 51 touches and 84 percent pass accuracy—this according to the match centre on WhoScored—is enough to justify increased playing time moving forward.
But the defining moment of the match came in the 72nd minute.
In only his fifth start of the season, Ibrahim Sekagya made another ill-advised challenge in the box. This time, the Ugandan was given his marching orders by referee Juan Guzman. Dwayne De Rosario stepped to the spot. United's equalizer was imminent.
Or so we thought.
A low dive to his right allowed goalkeeper Luis Robles to deny De Rosario.
With 10 men, the Red Bulls emerged victorious.
Despite all the madness, the club now sits tied atop the Eastern Conference.
Worst: Caldwell Is Denied by Referee
Toronto FC captured an improbable 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution on Saturday. Defender Steven Caldwell flicked on the match-winner in the 88th minute. Somehow, the Reds managed to steal a full three points from the playoff-contending Revolution.
Oh, wait. Never mind.
Referee Fotis Bazakos ruined that storyline.
When watching the replay of Toronto's 1-1 draw with New England, Caldwell clearly leaps to meet the ball and places his left hand on the shoulder of defender Jose Goncalves.
That part is true.
But no advantage was gained.
Where's the foul, Bazakos?
Goncalves' defense of the ball was never affected one way or another. Despite a hand on his shoulder, the 27-year-old still managed to leap higher than Caldwell ever dreamed of. So, where's the foul? Is every challenge for a 50/50 ball from here on out supposed to be completely hands off?
Simply put, Goncalves mistimed his jump. He was subsequently bailed out by Bazakos.
The match-winner was no more.
According to Toronto head coach Ryan Nelsen, the decision was clearly a "mistake." His comments were posted on the club's official website following the match:
I think the referee knows he has made a mistake. Unfortunately, it has cost us a really well deserved win. We've have to live with it. That's life. People make mistakes. We all make mistakes.
The real "mistake" came from the Revolution.
The club failed to separate itself from the Houston Dynamo for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Both clubs will enter Week 28 tied on points with 37, but the Dynamo still have one game in hand.
Best: Benny Feilhaber Delivers a Dream Strike
Graham Zusi's goal meant more.
In the end, it was he who propelled Sporting Kansas City to an all-important 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
But all you need is one look at Benny Feilhaber's wonder-strike to understand this selection.
SKC entered the weekend looking to avoid a third consecutive scoreless performance in league play. Ironically enough, it was Feilhaber who scored the club’s last goal in Week 24. Thirty-three minutes into the match, the American took matters back into his own hands and ended Kansas City's woes.
Oh, and he did it from about 30 yards out.
Half-volley. Outside of the foot. Bended with pace.
The strike was Feilhaber's third goal of the season.
With the victory, SKC now sits tied atop the Eastern Conference with 42 points.
Worst: The Whitecaps Are Nearly Gutted by the Goats
The result ended in a draw...but that's not what the Vancouver Whitecaps needed.
Chivas USA managed to steal a 2-2 draw at BC Place on Sunday. It took a stoppage-time goal from Tom Heinemann to salvage a point for the Whitecaps in Week 27. The club still sits in the sixth spot in the Western Conference. Vancouver is still two points away from the playoffs.
But it was Erick Torres who nearly stole the show at BC Place.
A brace from the 20-year-old Mexican put the Goats up 2-0 in the first half. A stunning bicycle kick opened the affair in Vancouver.
According to the club's official website, Torres is just thankful for his opportunities.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
He's just thankful:
The ball was there for me, and I decided to do a bicycle kick. These are the kind of goals that you have to see again to understand what happened. Let´s enjoy the streak. I'm thankful to God and with my teammates for the opportunity that they are giving me to score.
The Whitecaps aren't thankful with the result.
Only eight matches remain for the club to rectify its playoff hunt.
Best: Bask in the Glory of Real Salt Lake
The style of play in Sandy, Utah is way beyond a cheap highlight.
This. Is. Football.
(It’s soccer, too...if that’s your thing.)
Real Salt Lake captured an impressive 4-2 victory over the Portland Timbers Friday night. For 90 minutes, the club displayed a clean, cohesive and attractive style of play. According to the match report on WhoScored, RSL completed 529 passes with an average pass streak of six. With 60 percent possession and 453 short passes, the ball remained glued to their feet.
Tactically, the Claret and Cobalt were sound on the evening as well.
The positional reports on WhoScored show the club maintained its diamond shape to perfection throughout the match. With flawless organization, RSL deployed an aggressive attack down the flanks. Only 26 percent of the attack came down the spine of the formation. Forty-one percent of the attack favored the left side. The other 33 percent came on the right.
But those are numbers. How about a visual?
No goal encapsulated RSL’s attractive style more than Luis Gil’s opening strike. No words could possibly describe it. You’re better off just watching the video above.
One pass. Two pass. Three pass. Dagger.
The Claret and Cobalt did more than send a message to the Western Conference with the 4-2 victory.
They sent a message to MLS: Put. Us. On. Television.
RSL are scheduled for one final national television appearance this season. A trip to Seattle in Week 29 will bring their total to three for 2013. The New York Red Bulls had that many in March alone.
After Friday’s performance, that needs to change.
Studs up. No ball. All player. Ben Zemanski deserved his red card. Period.
Worst: Bobby Boswell Makes History
The Houston Dynamo scored two goals in Sunday's 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire.
Unfortunately for the club, one was for the wrong team.
In the 37th minute of the match, Houston defender Bobby Boswell challenged a corner from midfielder Mike Magee. But rather than head the ball to safety, Boswell inadvertently tickled the ball into the back of his own net. It was career own goal No. 5 for the 30-year-old.
According to Peter Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau, that's a new MLS record.
Boswell was previously tied with Jay Heaps and James Riley with four.
Fortunately for the Dynamo, their efforts were not wasted on the evening.
A stunning finish from Adam Moffat equalized the affair in the 90th minute. Not to be outdone, goalkeeper Tally Hall denied Jalil Anibaba in the third minute of stoppage time with a scintillating one-handed save. The stop preserved an all-important point for Houston.
The club remains tied with the Revolution for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Follow Eduardo on Twitter for more insight on a variety of sports topics: @Mendez_FC.