10 Things We Learned from MLS Week 20
Major League Soccer had a full slate of action-packed games this weekend in MLS Week 20, but the biggest news of the week came off the field with the league re-signing stars Matt Besler and Graham Zusi.
On the field, MLS Week 20 had plenty of highlights, including three separate goals that could end up as Goal of the Year candidates.
Here are 10 things we learned.
Matt Besler and Graham Zusi Are Staying
Shortly before Sporting Kansas City’s matchup with the LA Galaxy on Saturday, it was announced that Sporting defender Besler and midfielder Zusi would be staying in Kansas City.
Besler, especially, had drawn significant interest from Europe after his performance with the United States men’s national team in the 2014 World Cup. Now, Major League Soccer will be keeping two of its best and most well-known players.
Perhaps Besler said it best at the press conference announcing the news. Leaning into the microphone as he stood up to leave, he said simply, “SKC for life.”
Sporting KC Kept Things Rolling
Sporting Kansas City have had things going their way recently. Last week, they overcame some poor officiating to find a win on the road in Columbus. Midweek, they learned that Aurelien Collin’s red card suspension would be reversed, and then, shortly before their game with LA, they announced the re-signing of Besler and Zusi.
Against the Galaxy, Sporting kept things rolling with a 2-1 win that kept them firmly at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Portland Timbers Are Still Kicking
Heading into this season, no one would have predicted the Portland Timbers to be stuck in the bottom half of the table this late in the year.
However, heading into Week 20, there they were, sitting in eighth place in the West. On Friday night, the Timbers earned a big three points against the Colorado Rapids, coming back from a 1-0 deficit to tie the game in the 72nd minute, before going on to win it with a Diego Valeri strike in the 77th.
They’re still currently out of a playoff spot, but with the heart they showed Friday night, the Timbers are a team to be feared heading into the home stretch.
The New York Red Bulls Let 1 Get Away
The New York Red Bulls led 1-0 in the 85th minute on Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes before Steven Lenhart equalized. Backed up by solid goalkeeping from Luis Robles all game, the Red Bulls should have been leading by two or three goals as several golden opportunities for MLS’ leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips were missed.
For their part, the Earthquakes are still rooted in last place in the Western Conference.
The Montreal Impact Are in Real Trouble
The Montreal Impact fell to the Columbus Crew on Saturday night and now only have 14 points from 18 games and are in last place in the East.
The Crew were backed up by two outstanding goals from Bernardo Anor, including a screamer in the second half that could be a Goal of the Year candidate.
Erick Torres and Bradley Wright-Phillips Stayed Hot but from the Spot
The New York Red Bulls’ Wright-Phillips and Chivas USA’s Erick “Cubo” Torres, who lead MLS with 17 and 14 goals respectively, both continued their recent hot streaks this weekend.
But not to get too excited, both scored their goals this week from the penalty spot.
Try Not Tying the Chicago Fire
The Chicago Fire lead MLS this season in one very unflattering category: ties.
In 20 matches in 2014, the Fire have remarkably tied 11 times, including this weekend against the Philadelphia Union.
On Saturday, the Fire and the Union tied 1-1 after the Fire were called for a rather unfortunate handball in the 89th minute, and the Union equalized on the ensuing penalty.
For their part, the Union have 12 points in their last seven games.
Goal of the Week: Candidate No. 1
Valeri not only helped his team to a 2-1 win this weekend, but he may have helped saved the Portland Timbers' season. The camera shots of frustrated Timbers coach Caleb Porter were visible just before the goal, and Valeri's blast from distance was a thing of beauty—and relief.
Goal of the Week: Candidate No. 2
Benny Feilhaber, who helped Sporting Kansas City to a win last week against the Columbus Crew with a late goal, was at it again this weekend against the LA Galaxy.
His goal may have lacked Valeri's drama, but it was a perfect free kick nonetheless.
Take a bow, Benny.
Goal of the Week: Candidate No. 3
Anor scored both goals in the Columbus Crew's 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact this weekend, but his second was a stunner.
In the 77th minute, Anor took the ball near midfield, carried it to just outside the box and drilled home the winner.
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