Best and Worst from MLS Week 32: Landon Donovan, Fotis Bazakos and More
The best action in MLS Week 32 was highlighted by the Colorado Rapids, Landon Donovan and Darlington Nagbe, but what about the worst?
D.C. United failed to meet the criteria after a 3-0 loss at RFK Stadium Friday night. The club's 22nd loss of the season is considered old news at this point. Toronto FC also failed to capture a victory this past weekend. The Reds fell 1-0 to the Philadelphia Union.
They won't be featured, either.
Some tough competition also kept Sporting Kansas City from making the list of best and worst from MLS Week 32.
Read on to find out why.
Move over a bit, Jeff Cunningham. You have company.
The Los Angeles Galaxy captured another victory in the SuperClasico on Sunday. The 5-0 victory over Chivas USA was the Galaxy's second against their cross-town rivals this season. But the "super" part of the afternoon came thanks to Landon Donovan.
A picture-perfect goal in the 23rd minute was the 133rd of his illustrious MLS career. An assist from Pablo Mastroeni in the 41st minute allowed Donovan to capture No. 134. A share of Cunningham's all-time goals record came along with it.
Fingers crossed No. 135 is as poetic as its predecessor.
But in typical Donovan fashion, his razor-sharp focus lies elsewhere. Adam Serrano inked his quotes on the Galaxy's official website following the match:
If this had happened earlier in my career, I would have thought about it more, but we're in a playoff race, so for us, right now, it's about winning. But at half time, it hit me and I realized it. I'll sit and think about it at some point, but for now I want to keep going.
The Galaxy are "going" right along with him.
The victory propelled Los Angeles four points clear of the red line in the Western conference.
Worst: Kenny Mansally's Viscous Tackle
You know it's bad when you can hear the tackle.
It's even worse when the attacking player is flipped in the air.
That was the case in Saturday's 1-1 draw between Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas. A reckless challenge from Kenny Mansally viscously forced Dallas midfielder Jackson to the ground. Referee Hilario Grajeda was forced to give the 24-year-his marching orders in the 17th minute.
Even head coach Jason Kreis had no qualms with the Grajeda's decision. But the seven-year head coach believes the incident was an aberration and has faith in his high-character guys.
His comments were posted on the club's official website following the match.
That's an ejection. No, I don't have any issue with [the call]. It was a really rash tackle that was poorly timed, and it really endangered the safety of our opponent. That's a red card for me, and I don't have any issue with it...These guys are such good character guys – they don't hide from something like that. We came into the locker room, and the first thing he's doing is apologizing to all his teammates. We all make mistakes and it was an honest mistake. He was just trying to make an aggressive play. Would I have liked to have him not do that? Sure, but hopefully next time we learn from it.
RSL did some learning of their own the final 73 minutes.
A defensive commitment allowed the club to capture a point down a man. Of Dallas' 10 attempted shots, only two finished on target. The Claret and Cobalt successfully blocked four in the process.
With the result, RSL remains atop the Western Conference with 52 points.
Best: Darlington Nagbe's Shot from Distance
Camilo Sanvezzo's 18th goal of the season is being heralded by many. The tag of MLS Goal of the Year is already being thrown about.
Pump the brakes.
A 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers kept the Vancouver Whitecaps six points out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. How relevant will Camilo's scissor-kick be three weeks from now after the club fails to advance to the postseason?
The answer: Less relevant than Darlington Nagbe's.
The 23-year-old fired a rocket from distance to open the affair in the 41st minute. The right-footed strike was his ninth of the season and carried a weighted significance. Portland remains within reach of the top spot in the Western Conference. The club's first-ever playoff appearance is on the horizon.
For those keeping track at home, that's called relevance.
Davy Arnaud says yes. Bobby Boswell says no.
What say you?
The Houston Dynamo defeated the Montreal Impact 1-0 Friday night. An assisted strike from Ricardo Clark was enough for the Dynamo to capture their 13th win of the season. They remain unbeaten in their last four matches.
But some controversy in the 69th minute brought forth different opinions from two MLS veterans.
With the Impact in search of an equalizer, Arnaud fired a shot inside the area and headed toward goal. Boswell's right arm would have none of that. A tucked elbow from the 33-year-old kept Montreal off the scoreboard.
But it didn't keep either party from letting their opinion be known following the match.
According to Darrell Lovell on MLS' official website, Arnaud believes the call was there to be made:
For me, it's a penalty. I think when everyone reacts like that, it's pretty clear...Things happen quickly. Maybe [referee Drew Fischer] didn't see it.
It was one of those where you make yourself big. I just turned and I had my arm tucked in and it hit me in the shoulder or bicep area. It was tucked...So I know he's screaming for a handball, but there's nothing I can do there, it's tucked into my body. I would've been really disappointed if it was a handball on that one.
No worries, Bobby. Montreal carries enough disappointment for everyone.
The loss dropped the Canadian club to fourth in the Eastern Conference.
Best: The Colorado Rapids
Were the other 89 minutes and 46 seconds even necessary?
The Colorado Rapids put the Western Conference on notice after Week 32. A 5-1 drumming of the Seattle Sounders allowed the club to build a comfortable four-point cushion over playoff hopefuls below the dreaded red line.
It took all of 14 seconds for rookie Deshorn Brown to open the one-sided affair. The second-fastest goal in MLS history bows only to Dwayne De Rosario's 11-second strike in 2003. But Brown wasn't finished there. The Jamaican international continued the Colorado onslaught with a brace in the 31st minute.
Surely, a season-long performance of this magnitude merits some type of reward.
For Brown, it came in the form of a first-ever call-up to the Jamaican national team.
But from a team perspective, the 4-0 lead at halftime became the major talking point following the match. Colorado's dream start was of great importance to head coach Oscar Pareja. As reported by the club's official website, it was the type of performance the second-year head coach envisioned the entire season:
We have preached all year, and talked about trying to get a good start, and trying to be the team that sets the pace and the tone, especially here in our complex. Today was one of those nights that you always envision that you want to have. It's rewarding to see this young group perform the way they did in front of the fans.
The real reward came in the form of three points against a conference power.
Look for the Rapids to continue this momentum into Buck Shaw Stadium Wednesday night.
Worst: Officiating at Red Bull Arena
At what point do you stop beating a dead horse?
Here's a hint: It's not after Week 32.
The New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution played to a 2-2 draw on Saturday. The result kept New York atop the Supporters' Shield standings for at least another week. New England still remains two points out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
Both clubs were in search of a much-needed three points. Both felt wronged following the match. Legitimate arguments can be made for either side.
You can thank referee Fotis Bazakos for that.
Up a goal and entering the 83rd minute, Red Bulls defender Jamison Olave intercepted a Saer Sene cross with the inside part of his shoulder. Not his arm. His shoulder. Even with a decent angle of the play, Bazakos miserably failed to realize it.
The whistle was blown. The penalty was awarded. Lee Nguyen would equalize.
The fun didn't stop there.
A push from Thierry Henry inside the area forced Andrew Farrell's face to collide with his own goalkeeper. A solid strike from Matt Reis' knee left the 21-year-old rookie bruised, battered and bloodied.
The match—extended thanks to Henry's foul—moved past the sixth minute of stoppage-time. Bazakos only allotted four. Seconds later, Tim Cahill leveled the affair after Diego Fagundez had given New England a late lead. Farrell, still bloodied at the face, was unable to be on the pitch for the match's final sequence.
New England finished the match with nine men. New York finished with one point.
Bazakos finished with even less credibility than that.
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