Best and Worst from MLS Week 33: FC Dallas, Jack McInerney and More
Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sport
The best action in MLS Week 33 was highlighted by Jack McInerney and the Portland Timbers, but what about the worst?
Even after extending their winless streak to five matches, the Montreal Impact failed to meet the criteria. A 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution forced the Canadian side toward a muddled red line in the Eastern Conference.
But a greater storyline emerged from that match.
Some tough competition also kept Osvaldo Alonso's elbow from making the list of best and worst from MLS Week 33.
Read on to find out why.
Best: Portland Rises to the Top
In the end, this was all the Timbers needed.
Look who sits back atop the Western Conference.
A goal in the 45th minute from Kalif Alhassan allowed the Timbers to capture an all-important three points against their fiercest rivals on Sunday. The 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders propelled Portland to 53 points and a share of the Supporters' Shield lead.
The New York Red Bulls own the tiebreaker with two more victories.
According to the club's official website, the result was never in doubt for head coach Caleb Porter:
Your heart goes into your stomach, but I believed we would win the game. There are times – I'm not trying to sound like I predict things – but there are times where you just know you're going to win. It was just one of those days where you knew we were going to win the game. We dodged some bullets for sure, but in the end, I just think it was our game to win. I said to the guys before the game, “the evidence is there over the 31 games that we've played that we could and that we should win the game.”
The Timbers should be in line for their first-ever playoff appearance.
The 1-0 win comfortably pushed Portland six points above the dreaded red line in the Western Conference. The Timbers can finally make the playoff achievement official when Real Salt Lake visits JELD-WEN Field next Saturday.
Worst: Down Goes Sene...Again
You know it's bad when the opposition is calling medical assistance for you.
There are worse things in life than losing a match...even if its four of the last five.
Just ask Saer Sene.
Like most players entering the final stretch of the season, the 26-year-old was asked to give his all in search of three points. That and more was taken after 18 minutes of play in Saputo Stadium. A challenge from Montreal Impact defender Davy Arnaud forced Sene out of the match with a dislocated ankle and broken left fibula.
It was the second major injury suffered by Sene in consecutive seasons.
A torn ACL in 2012 ended his debut season. Now, the Frenchman is forced to face another road to recovery. But resiliency remained a factor for the young New England Revolution side.
Even with his absence, the club managed to capture the victory.
With the result the Revolution remain relevant entering the final two weeks of the season. Only one point separates the club from postseason play.
Best: McInerney Equalizes
One goal. One point. One massive monkey off a man's back.
It was all lost for the Philadelphia Union.
The club entered Week 33 in need of three points but was instead met by a 1-0 deficit. A loss to D.C. United meant a loss of playoff dreams. The Union would no longer have a say in the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Then, a player lost on his own trail struck the debilitating goal.
It took more than forever, but Jack McInerney finally saw his skill be rewarded. After finishing 14 matches dry to the bone, the 21-year-old charged into the box and connected on a Kleberson cross that allowed Philadelphia to salvage an important point on the road. The Union—tied on 46 points—still have a share of the final playoff spot in the East.
For McInerney, the equalizer halted countless minutes of frustration.
Dave Zeitlin posted his comments on MLS' official website following the match:
It's been tough, and the longer it goes the more frustrating it gets. But you've just got to keep fighting and pushing. I've proven I can score and I just had to keep my head up and keep going. Now that I got this one, hopefully they can keep coming.
They'll need to "keep coming" if the Union hope to reach postseason play.
Philadelphia entered the weekend in desperate need of more than just points. The club only managed to strike three goals in the last seven matches. Thanks to McInerney, the Union can now boast a fourth.
D.C. United haven't scored very often this season, making Nick DeLeon's shocker in the 36th minute that much more special.
Worst: Another One Bites the Dust
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
A desperate club. A desperate club at home. A desperate club on the verge of being mathematically eliminated from postseason play.
That was you, FC Dallas.
This is how you responded: A 3-0 deficit entering the 63rd minute.
Thanks to a Herculean effort from striker Kenny Cooper, Dallas scraped and clawed its way back into the match. Just 12 minutes after finding his club's first tally of the night, Cooper struck another.
But it wasn't enough.
The final whistle blew. FC Dallas fell 3-2 to the Chicago Fire. They have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. A club that once opened the season at 8-2-3 and sat atop the Supporters' Shield will be watching from home come November.
According to Matt Barbour on MLS' official website, head coach Schellas Hyndman blames complacency for this drastic collapse:
We had such a wonderful start, one of the best starts in the history of the franchise, and then things just didn't click for us for whatever reason. We were scoring a lot of goals early, a lot of them on set pieces, and then when things started getting really difficult, we took our foot off the pedal and we got a little bit complacent.
A little bit complacent?
Sorry, coach. A 12-match winless streak that stretched from June 1 to August 18 isn't a "little bit" of complacency. It's a "little bit" more than that. The club's current five-match winless streak didn't do it any favors, either.
Two 90-minute sessions remain. The Hoops are in danger of finishing the season with just three wins in their final 23 matches.
Congratulations, D.C. United, Toronto FC and Chivas USA.
You finally have company worthy of your stature.
New rule: That's how you open your season account from now on. Take a bow, Jalil Anibaba. But one with great panache worthy of your strike.
Follow Eduardo on Twitter for more insight on a variety of sports topics. Follow @Mendez_FC