Best and Worst from MLS Week 31: Tim Cahill, Mike Magee and More
The best action in MLS Week 31 was highlighted by the Philadelphia Union, the Columbus Crew and Tim Cahill, but what about the worst?
The New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo failed to meet the criteria after a 1-1 draw at Gillette Stadium Saturday night. Chivas USA also failed to capture a victory at home this past weekend. The club fell 1-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes.
They won't be featured, either.
Some tough competition also kept Toronto FC from making the list of best and worst from MLS Week 31.
Read on to find out why.
Best: The Union Finally Score
Congratulations to the Philadelphia Union.
It only took 346 minutes, but the club finally executed the purpose of football: Getting the ball in the net.
One goal. One massive result in Week 31.
The Union traveled to Sporting Park on Friday with the burden of three straight scoreless performances. That 0-1-2 stretch dropped the club below the dreaded red line in the Eastern Conference. In order to rectify that, Philadelphia faced the daunting task of stealing three points in Kansas City.
The Union were 0-2-1 all-time in Sporting Kansas City's cauldron.
Make that 1-2-1 after a stunning 1-0 upset.
Even better, Philadelphia reclaimed the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Conor Casey's rebound strike in the 36th minute gave the Union an insurmountable 1-0 lead. The club finished the final 54 minutes scoreless en route to an all-important three points.
Fingers crossed this drought doesn't take another life of its own.
Worst: Vancouver Lets One Slip Away
The stage was set for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
A U.S. Open Cup final forced most of Real Salt Lake's first-choice 11 out of the lineup. In addition to an added home-field advantage, the Whitecaps didn't have to concern themselves with talent the likes of Nick Rimando, Javier Morales nor Kyle Beckerman.
After a 1-0 defeat, the time to worry is now.
The shocking loss prevented the Whitecaps from cutting their playoff deficit to one point. Instead, the Colorado Rapids still boast a four-point cushion over their neighbors from the North.
Goalkeeper David Ousted understands it's an uphill battle the final month of the season.
His comments were reported by Martin MacMahon on MLS' official website following the match:
I think we had a great opportunity today, at home, to beat a team that had maybe their mind elsewhere. I can't explain why we're not there and not taking an opportunity like this, but we need to get back and try to win the next three or four games, and see if we can fight our way in there.
The biggest bout in Vancouver's playoff hunt is yet to be seen and won't be until the final two weeks of the season. A home-and-away series against the Rapids will serve as the club's final saving grace. A six-point swing can reverse the current four-point deficit.
But should they fail to win those late rounds, the club will spend an entire offseason lamenting a wasted opportunity.
Best: Columbus Responds in Frisco, Texas
FC Dallas. The Columbus Crew.
Both clubs entered Week 31 in desperate need of three points. One played with a complete understanding of what was at stake. The other...didn't.
At home—sitting five points beneath the dreaded red line—Dallas responded like any club would: By giving up two goals in the opening 17 minutes. Just for good measure, Columbus delivered a third in the closing minutes of the first half to carry a 3-1 lead into the locker room. Bernardo Anor buried the exclamation point in the 86th minute to deliver a comprehensive 4-2 victory in Frisco, Texas.
The Crew now sit just one point behind the Union for the fifth and final playoff spot in the East.
According to the club's official website, Anor understood the importance of Saturday's match:
It's giving us confidence. The more we win, the more confidence we have. We know for sure that this team is full of talented players. We've just got to take advantage of each of us, try and do our best and try to provide the team with our different qualities. If we go out there and play our best, I think we're going to keep winning games.
The Black and Gold will need to continue winning games in order to reverse their fortunes.
Only three matches remain for the Crew to cut a one-point deficit to none.
Worst: You Were Wrong, Robbie
If Robbie Keane is this angry when he's wrong, just imagine his reaction when he's right.
Down a goal in stoppage-time, the Galaxy were in such of the equalizer.
They got it.
Just one minor detail: Robbie Keane was offside.
What ensued was a peevish outburst from the 33-year-old Irishman. The assistant referee was berated by at least three Galaxy players. Even head coach Bruce Arena spouted obscenities and forced the announcers to apologize on live television. Referee Ismail Elfath had to come to his assistant's rescue and intervene.
But the Galaxy's tune changed in their post-match interviews. Especially Coach Arena's.
His comments were posted on the club's official website following the match:
If the referee is right, more credit to him. We've been in a lot of games this year where the plays aren't even close and they don't have them right. So, if they had it right, more credit to them.
Every now and then, it's okay to credit MLS officiating.
Best: Tim Cahill Keeps New York on Top
The New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders went blow for blow in Sunday's 1-1 draw at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders boasted a lion's share of the possession (61.2 percent) and attempted shots (15), but only managed to land three on target.
The Red Bulls matched that total with three of their own.
None bigger than Tim Cahill's curling shot in the 76th minute.
Trailing 1-0, amidst a chaotic scramble in the area, the ball landed at the Cahill's feet. Rather than take a touch, the Australian opted to strike it first-time. His world-class technique curled the ball past the Seattle rain and into the back of the net.
As reported by Franco Panizo on MLS' official website, it was the kind of moment the 33-year-old veteran lives for:
That's what I said to the lads, "You play for moments like this, defining moments that change games." My whole career, I've looked to try and make a difference in front of big crowds and against the best teams in the leagues everywhere I've played. And tonight, that was it so it's pretty special, but not for me. For my team.
The result was even more "special" for the Red Bulls. The draw allowed the club to remain atop the Supporters' Shield standings with 52 points.
At least someone knows how to play football in New York.
Worst: Magic Mike Fails to Deliver
He's considered by many to be the leader in the MLS MVP discussion.
Before his arrival, the Chicago Fire were a woeful 2-7-1. In dire straits, the club decided to bring home its hometown hero. The Fire would respond with some fire on the pitch of their own, posting a 9-5-6 record in the process.
He has brought them legitimacy.
But he also may have sealed Chicago's fate in one fell swoop Saturday night.
He is Mike Magee.
There's no denying the impact Mike Magee's had on the Fire this season. The 29-year-old veteran has put the entire city of Chicago on his shoulders since he arrived in late May. His 12 goals and 30 shots on target are a club-best.
The Fire needed a 13th in the 78th minute of Saturday's 2-2 draw with the Montreal Impact.
In search of his hat-trick, Magee walked to the spot. His third goal of the night would seemingly seal an all-important 3-1 victory for Chicago. The victory would propel the club to 42 points and a share of the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
His thunderous strike rattled off the frame. Montreal would equalize just nine minutes later.
Now, the Fire find themselves two points out of the playoff picture. With four matches remaining, the opportunity is still there for Magee to lift his city into the promised land. According to Anthony Zilis on MLS' official website, the man they call Magic Mike says it's already a forgone conclusion:
We've got to put them away one of these games and take that pressure off the defense. There's no time to cry or feel bad for ourselves or whatever. We've got four games left, and we're going to make the playoffs.
A bold statement from the 11-year veteran.
But should he fail to deliver that promise, remember this moment. Remember this miss. It could prove to be the decisive two points in a ridiculously tight Eastern Conference race.
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