Best and Worst from MLS Week 34: Tim Cahill, D.C. United and More
The best action in MLS Week 34 was highlighted by Tim Cahill, playoff-clinching draws and the MLS Golden Boot race, but what about the worst?
There were plenty of candidates that met the criteria this weekend. Titans floundered. Seasons ended. So for the first time in this column's history, no club's performance will be neglected.
Each of the nine matches scheduled will be featured in the best and worst from MLS Week 34.
Read on to find out why.
Best: A Three-Man Race for the Boot
...and down the stretch they come.
The race for the MLS Golden Boot intensified in MLS Week 34. The chase for the most goals in 2013 has dwindled down to three participants, with each of the three contributing to their club's result this weekend.
Marco Di Vaio increased his season total to 20 goals early on Saturday afternoon.
With 49 points, the club is now in position to clinch its first-ever playoff berth.
Not to be outdone, Mike Magee also contributed goal No. 20 in 2013. His Panenka in the 64th minute also helped propel his club to an all-important victory. The 1-0 result over Toronto FC moved the Chicago Fire back above the dreaded red line in the Eastern Conference.
But don't forget about Camilo Sanvezzo.
His season is over—more on that later—but the Brazilian is still very-much alive in the MLS Golden Boot race. A penalty in the 75th minute increased Camilo's tally to 19 on the year. Unfortunately for the 25-year-old, no victory followed.
The story on that disappointment continues on the following slide.
Worst: Start Planning for 2014
The Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew had to suffer a harsh realty in Week 34: Their season is over. Both clubs were eliminated from playoff contention after failing to capture a much-needed three points during the weekend.
For the Crew, it was always going to be a steep mountain to climb.
A must-win in New England didn’t help matters, either.
The Black and Gold finally went down for the count. The 3-2 defeat sealed their fate.
The Whitecaps had a bit more hope entering Saturday night. A home-and-away series scheduled against the Colorado Rapids could've potentially saw the Canadian side erase a six-point deficit. Gabriel Torres ensured that would not be the case in the 77th minute.
Vancouver was forced to suffer a 3-2 defeat of its own.
But no worries, Vancouver and Columbus. At least you weren't relegated.
Best: A Playoff Party in the Western Conference
Move over New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City. You have company.
Four more clubs punched a postseason ticket in Week 34....some with more class than others.
Cough. Seattle Sounders. Cough.
The Portland Timbers secured their first-ever playoff berth on Saturday afternoon.
They didn't even have to play a second in order to do so. A floundering performance from the Sounders—more on that later—ensured the Timbers would be playing playoff football before their scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake even took place.
But the match carried an added level of importance for RSL. They needed a result to clinch a sixth consecutive playoff appearance.
That's exactly what they got.
The Los Angeles Galaxy were the last to join the playoff party. A scoreless draw of their own in the California Clasico pulled double duty in the Western Conference. The result ensured the two-time defending champion would return to the postseason. It also ensured the San Jose Earthquakes would not.
The Quakes will now need a win, a Rapids loss and a minimum of 13 goals in Week 35.
Good luck with that.
But in the end, it was four clubs, four berths...and not a single goal was scored.
Only in MLS.
Worst: The Sounders Flounder
Congratulations are in order.
The Seattle Sounders clinched yet another postseason berth in Week 34, and they didn't even have to do anything for it.
For a fourth consecutive match, the Sounders floundered. The 2-0 loss to FC Dallas—an FC Dallas eliminated from playoff contention mind you—extended the club's winless streak to six games. Even worse, Seattle has been outscored 14-4 in the process.
According to Jeremiah Oshan, head coach Sigi Schmid assumes full responsibility for this deplorable stretch.
His comments were posted on MLS' official website following the match:
It rests on my shoulders that we haven't been able to come up with combinations that work for us. We've had some chances but haven't been able to convert those chances. Guys are trying, they're fighting and battling. The combinations on the field just haven't been able to produce the goals that we wanted and needed at this point. The guys are obviously disappointed.
Sorry, coach. But your guys are going to have to try harder.
If the chances are created, the onus is on them to "convert those chances." Especially if that exuberant payroll is to deliver an MLS Cup title.
Best: Tim Cahill Makes History
It took all of eight seconds for Tim Cahill to secure the New York Red Bulls’ 16th victory of the season. The remarkable half-volley strike bested Dwayne De Rosario’s record-setting goal in 2003 by three seconds.
A 3-0 victory over the reeling Houston Dynamo allowed New York to retain the Supporters’ Shield lead with 56 points. The fastest goal in MLS history has the Red Bulls 90 minutes from tasting a glorified title.
But as reported by Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Cahill is aware the job is far from finished:
We control our own destiny. If we want to win it, it’s up to us. If we want to throw it away, we’ve only got ourselves to blame. We’ve got a lot of leaders in this team, and the main thing is we stick together. I’m proud of the boss and the fans and all the staff and the players. [But] the job’s not done. It’s a fantastic win today, but next week’s going to be a pivotal moment in New York Red Bulls history.
A pivotal moment indeed.
Three points—maybe less—separate the New York Red Bulls from eradicating 18 years of persistent disappointment.
Worst: A No.23 That Would Make Michael Jordan Cringe
Head coach Ben Olsen was right. This was a better year.
After all, D.C. United captured a trophy and made MLS history in 2013.
Now, this slide is prefaced with the notion that any loss accumulation prior to the 2000 season is appallingly irrelevant. Not only was MLS' decision to adopt the nonsensical shootout in its early existence egregious, it bastardized the beautiful game and all of its purity.
Once the rule was abolished, a true sub-par standard was set.
No club in MLS history has truly ever lost more than 22 matches in a season. Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA had the honor of setting a pitiful benchmark in 2005. Both clubs faltered on 22 different occasions that year.
D.C. upped the ante Friday night.
The 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City was embarrassing moment No. 23 in 2013.
A horribly played back pass in the seventh minute was enough to bury the worst club in league history. But perhaps no play encapsulated United's season more than Daniel Woolard's unsuccessful touch in the 87th minute.
No ball. All dirt. You don't even see that in U6 competition these days.
Not all trophies are created equally, Coach Olsen...and neither are all seasons.
DCU proved that in 2013.
As previously mentioned, Real Salt Lake clinch yet another playoff berth after a scoreless draw Saturday night. Would you trade a U.S. Open Cup title to be in that position?
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