5 Things We Learned from MLS Week of October 10-12
After a season full of exciting games, things are coming down to the wire in Major League Soccer's regular season.
In the Eastern Conference, Sporting Kansas City, the New England Revolution and the New York Red Bulls all punched their playoff tickets, while in the West, Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas did the same.
There's one playoff spot left in each conference, and there were some great goals to look at.
Check it all out in this week's edition of 5 Things We Learned from MLS.
Vancouver and Portland Continue to Battle in the West
In the Western Conference, the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Portland Timbers continued to fight it out for the last playoff slot, and both teams picked up big wins this week.
After Portland beat San Jose on Wednesday, their fans were put in the awkward position of cheering for the Seattle Sounders, who were taking on the Whitecaps on Friday.
But despite the Timbers' owner, Merritt Paulson, hilariously giving his team's fans permission to do so, the Sounders lost and Vancouver picked up another big three points.
Vancouver leads Portland by one point with two games remaining.
Well, That Escalated Quickly
All throughout this summer and early fall, the Eastern Conference has been a giant free-for-all. Heading into this weekend, seven teams were still vying for four playoff spots.
On Friday night, Sporting KC advanced to the postseason with a win over the Chicago Fire. Early on Saturday afternoon, the New England Revolution advanced with a draw against Montreal.
The big action came Saturday night, with the New York Red Bulls and the Columbus Crew picking up big wins against Toronto FC and the Philadelphia Union respectively.
New York defeated Toronto 3-1, virtually ending Toronto's playoff hopes in the process (TFC could still advance by winning their last two games if the Columbus Crew lose their lost two games). Combined with the Houston Dynamo's loss on Sunday, the Red Bulls have now advanced to the postseason.
The Philadelphia Union watched their season implode when they blew a 2-0 second-half lead over the Crew, who scored three times in the final 12 minutes to steal a 3-2 victory. For the Union, the loss ended their playoff hopes, despite the fact that they had entered the game only down four points with three games to play.
With the wins by New York and Columbus, a playoff race that looked like it would go down to the final game ended two games short of the end of the season.
The Supporters' Shield Race
With the Sounders losing to Vancouver on Friday, the LA Galaxy had a big opportunity to take the lead in the Supporters' Shield race when they traveled to face FC Dallas on Sunday.
However, Dallas overturned a 1-0 deficit to win the game 2-1, meaning the Galaxy and the Sounders remain tied on 60 points in the race for the best team in MLS.
Interestingly, Seattle and LA will play each other head-to-head in the final two games of the regular season to determine the title.
For their part, Dallas' win guaranteed their advancement to the playoffs.
Retiring Marco Di Vaio Is Still Full of Class
Earlier this season, 38-year-old Montreal Impact forward Marco Di Vaio announced that he will retire at the end of the MLS season.
It's been a rough season for Di Vaio and the Impact. In 2013, Di Vaio scored 20 goals and saw the Impact make the playoffs. In 2014, Di Vaio only has eight goals and the Impact are dead last in the Eastern Conference.
But on Saturday, in Montreal's 2-2 draw with the Revolution, Di Vaio showed a glimpse of the skill that has made him such a great goalscorer over the years. He notched both goals for the Impact in the game, the first coming off an exceptionally well-taken half-volley (video here), and the other off an excellent turn and clinical finish.
Goal of the Week Candidates
Unfortunately, there are still too many fans around the world—and even in the United States—who won't recognize the class being displayed week in and week out in MLS.
This week, there were a number of great strikes competing for Goal of the Week honors.
On Friday, Graham Zusi hit a stunner to help Sporting beat the Fire (video here).
On Saturday, Lee Nguyen scored this much-talked about goal against Montreal—although it appeared to be the result of a deflection.
On Sunday, there were two candidates. The first came in D.C. United's win over the Dynamo when Fabian Espindola hit this terrific chip to score the eventual game-winner. The second came from Stefan Ishizaki, who scored a beauty—another a chip—to give the Galaxy an early lead over FC Dallas.
Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloran
Follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/AmericanTouchline