8 Things We Learned from MLS Week 14: Teams Show Resilience, Speed and Much More

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 9, 2014

8 Things We Learned from MLS Week 14: Teams Show Resilience, Speed and Much More

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    Major League Soccer's 14th full week of play produced plenty of excitement, but it also raised plenty of concerns for teams entering the World Cup break. 

    This weekend's games tested the character of a few teams, who responded in a few different ways to the adversity that Week 14 threw in their face. 

    We also received a clearer picture of who the contenders will be when it comes to the playoff picture. 

    Continue reading for the eight biggest lessons from MLS Week 14.

Sporting Kansas City Has the Will of a Champion

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    Entering Week 14, no team needed the World Cup break more than Sporting Kansas City. 

    After Friday's match with Houston concluded, faith was restored in Peter Vermes' side, as they won 2-0 on the road against the Dynamo in a scrappy, injury-filled match. 

    Sporting received solid contributions at center back from Kevin Ellis and Erik Palmer-Brown, both of whom are far down the depth chart at the position. 

    The team even responded well after losing Benny Feilhaber, one of their best players in recent times, to an injury right before halftime. 

    Now that Sporting has some time to rest up the wounded, they should be fine when play resumes at the end of June. 

The Timbers Are Turning into Road Warriors

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    The Portland Timbers extended their road winning streak to three games Saturday night with a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake.

    During that streak, Portland has defeated New York, Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake—three impressive victories, given the amount of travel the team has done over the past month. 

    Now the Timbers have to focus on their home form; they haven't won at Providence Park since beating D.C. United on May 4. 

Chivas USA Would Be Nothing Without Dan Kennedy and Erick Torres

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    This may be an obvious statement to make, but Chivas USA are nothing without their two stars, Dan Kennedy and Erick Torres. 

    In the team's 1-1 draw with the Galaxy, Kennedy made a terrific double save in the first half, while Torres found the back of the net for the ninth time this season in the 20th minute.

    When the game ended, Kennedy had six saves and Torres took two of the six shots the Goats had against their main rival.

    If you dig deeper in the goal department, Torres has netted nine of the 14 goals scored by the worst team in the Western Conference.

    Like we have said before in this space, Chivas USA need to find other key contributors. 

Cristian Maidana and Conor Casey Love Playing with Each Other

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    In Philadelphia's last two games, a most unusual pair has developed into a partnership that could turn the team's season around. 

    Cristian Maidana and Conor Casey played a part in all three of Philadelphia's goals in the 3-3 draw with Vancouver at PPL Park, a result that came a week after the pair combined on one goal against Chivas USA.

    Maidana has been looking for a player to finish his crosses all season, and up until two weeks ago, he was lost playing with the likes of Andrew Wenger, Danny Cruz and Antoine Hoppenot.

    Since Casey, the best aerial threat on the Union roster, entered the starting lineup, the results have begun to swing in the right direction for a Philadelphia side that was desperate for results. 

Speed Kills

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    In the same game where Philadelphia's pair of Maidana and Casey executed their skills to perfection, the Whitecaps attack showed how quick they can strike.

    All three goals scored by Vancouver were created thanks to the plethora of speed that everyone in its attack contains. 

    Erik Hurtado was able to sneak past the entire Union back line and nod home a Nigel Reo-Coker cross because the Whitecaps were too quick on the counter.

    The same happened on the second strike, with scorer Nicolas Mezquida starting the build-up move from space in front of his own penalty area. 

    The penalty that Darren Mattocks earned in the 80th minute came because his speed forced Union keeper Zac MacMath off his line in an attempt to deny a clear chance on goal. 

    If Vancouver keeps this up for the rest of the season, there is no doubt that it will be the best team to watch in 2014. 

Sleeping on Lamar Neagle Is a Bad Idea

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    The Seattle attack steals the headlines because of the likes of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, but one other player has starred all season in the same role up front. 

    Lamar Neagle, who scored in the 78th minute against Chicago, works well in the attack with a target forward like Martins because he has the versatility to drift out to the wing. 

    If he needs to advance and become the secondary forward to either Martins or Dempsey, the 27-year-old can do that as well. 

    With a such a strong player complementing the superstars in Seattle, the sky is the limit for an attack that has already scored 32 goals in 15 games. 

FC Dallas Found a Perfect Time to Break a Cold Streak

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    FC Dallas found the perfect time to break the eight-game winless streak they had going into Saturday's home match with Colorado. 

    Oscar Pareja's side beat the Rapids, 3-2, in an energetic match that saw the team play with a renewed energy. 

    To be fair to FC Dallas, the team did go through a rough stretch after losing Mauro Diaz to injury and losing a player to a red card in four of those eight games. 

    While the World Cup break has already started for many teams, FC Dallas still has one more chance to boost morale in the camp with a win Wednesday at Providence Park. 

The Eastern Conference Playoff Race Will Be Fun to Watch

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    Heading into the World Cup break, the top three clubs in the Eastern Conference standings are separated by one point. 

    If you look further down the standings, six other teams sit within eight points of Sporting KC and D.C. United, who sit one point behind first-place New England. 

    Of those six teams, Philadelphia and Chicago have been the most disappointing sides during the first few months of play, but both have shown signs of promise lately.

    Toronto and New York will be powered by their superstars, but they will also see key role players step up in times of need. 

    Columbus and Houston are two teams that are always in the mix for the playoffs, and with veterans like Michael Parkhurst, Federico Higuain and Brad Davis manning the pitch for both teams, they shouldn't be counted out either.

    As for the Impact, they may not have a chance after registering just 10 points from their first 12 games. 

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. 

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