MLS Round-up: Seattle and Nashville remain unbeaten as both conferences remain tight heading into the international break

MLS Round-up: Seattle and Nashville remain unbeaten as both conferences remain tight heading into the international break

Let’s parley!

Any MLS weekend where Vancouver Whitecaps don’t lose can be considered a good weekend. Yes, they weren’t playing and had a bye week, but still. Well, there was the 0-0 friendly against USL2 side Ogden City, but let’s not talk about that, let’s just focus on what action did take place in MLS this past weekend.

It was the weekend where the league’s latest Parlay jerseys got a run out, meaning every match looked to be between the same teams and if you were late tuning it, good luck immediately working out who was who. I mean it’s a great cause. Who doesn’t want to clean up the oceans and the planet from the plague of plastic? But jerseys more in the team’s colours is surely a more preferred choice by most. I guess it’s the ultimate in MLS parity.

From the action that did take place, it was another mixed bag of matches veering from the meh to the magnificent, with Seattle Sounders and Nashville left now as the only unbeaten teams standing. Let’s see how the weekend played out, starting as always in the Western Conference.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

LAFC 1 -2 NYCFC – The first of two East v West match ups this the weekend threw up three goals, a sending off, and some late drama, but I still came away from it all feeling it was a little flat. A lot that of that I feel was down to less than enthusiastic, or enjoyable, commentary. They didn’t exactly breathe life into a game that badly needed it at times.

All the action came in the second half. Malte Amundsen had a great effort for NYC turned away by Pablo Sisniega in the 50th minute before LA opened the scoring six minutes later from a Corey Baird close ranger. A funky cold Medina, the Jesus variety, tied things up in the 70th minute after Anton Tinnerholm pounced on a loose pass in the box from Mark Anthony Kaye, before NYC crashed one off the post and Nicolás Acevedo saw a second yellow and then a red for a tackle with four minutes plus stoppage time left on the clock.

You thought that might lead to one last concerted push by the home side but in the end it was the ten man visitors who left with all three points, after some shocking LA marking left Ismael Tajouri-Shradi free at the back post from a corner and he had the simple job of firing home the winner. Bad loss for LA here, who are still not firing on all cylinders it would appear.

LA GALAXY 1 – 0 SAN JOSE – The heated California rivalry continued in a match that felt close to boiling over at times in the first half, but never did, and ended up being a bit of a damp squib for much of it. The Galaxy were the far better team in the first half, seeing efforts cleared off the line, scrambled clear, saved, and even one crash off the post. But it all stayed scoreless at the half. And continued to do so until the 70th minute, when finally the deadlock was broken when San Jose’s Tanner Beason deflected the ball into his own net when trying to deal with a low cross into the six yard box. And that proved to be the winnner, to make it 5 wins out of 7 for Greg Vanney at his new club.

It wasn’t that San Jose hadn’t had chances and attempts on goal, they did, they just found Jonathan Bond in the LA goal in fine form, the best of his 12 saves coming from a double stop of two fierce shots in the 82nd minute. At one point I was wondering if Max Crepeau’s 16 save game record may be challenged, interesting which was also set against San Jose. They seem to keep coming up against strong goalkeeping performances!

KANSAS CITY 3 – 2 HOUSTON – It was a battle between the last two teams to beat the Whitecaps! Houston were clearly in a good mood after their win last weekend, and despite being second best to start this one, they pounced on sloppy KC defending to set up Matias Vera to fire home the opener in the 13th minute. Roger Espinoza had an acrobatic effort turned away for KC and then Khiry Shelton had a strong header saved as the half ticked down and the home side pressed but they couldn’t get back on level terms before the half.

Despite all their failures to convert in the first half, KC dominated the second and finally found their shooting boots. Gianluca Busio curled a stunning free kick in off the post in the 51st minute, before Alan Pulido picked himself up after being tripped in the box to fire home a penalty on the hour mark to put the home side ahead. Houston should have been back ahead just before that spot kick when Maxi Urruti wasted a quick two on one breakaway and they were punished further when Gadi Kinda fired home a nice finish in the 65th minute.

KC had chances to add more, but it was Houston who were to get the only other goal of the game when another breakaway in the dying seconds saw Urruti convert this time, but that was to be pretty much the last kick of the game and Kansas City remained in second place in the West.

COLORADO 3 – 0 DALLAS – How this one only ended up just a three goal victory for Colorado will puzzle the Rapids as this was a dominating performance from start to finish. Keegan Rosenberry got the night off to a fine start for Colorado, firing home a low long ranger 13 minutes in. Diego Rubio cracked one off the post in the 26th minute, before Nicolas Mezquida was tripped in the box seven minutes before half time, giving the Rapids a chance to double their lead from the spot, but Rubio’s effort was saved.

Colorado did end up going two up a minute later, however, with Tanner Tessman being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the ball deflected off him and into his own net. Michael Barrios made it three in the 71st minute, to complete a good night at the office for Colorado.

RSL 1 -1 MINNSOTA – The home side went ahead 13 minutes in when Damir Kreilach swept the ball home from eight yards out and they were the better team for much of the match, with Minnesota showing very little. Justin Meram had a chance to add to their tally well saved in the second half before the visitors unexpectedly found themselves level in the 78th minute when former Whitecaps keeper Zac MacMath tried too punch a cross away but it hit off the side of Niko Hansen, who had missed connecting with the cross in the first place, and trickled into the net. Another former Whitecap, Michael Boxall, had a header to win it for Minnesota go just wide, and that was that, a share of the points.

PHILADELPHIA 3 – 0 PORTLAND – You don’t often see Portland dismantled as clinically as this, but Philadelphia were very impressive in this, Kacper Przybylko in particular. The Polish striker has proved to be very dangerous in MLS. You certainly don’t want to leave him unchecked to run in and meet a free kick six yards out. The Timbers did just that though and found themselves 1-0 down 26 minutes in. Five minutes later and Przybylko was again unchallenged to flick on a corner and Sergio Santos turned it in from close range. Leon Flach thought he’d added a third for Philly on the stroke of half time, but VAR ruled it out for hitting his arm.

Portland came more into it in the second half and had a few looks on goal, but Andre Blake was in fine form, pulling off a few saves including a couple from Jeremey Ebobisse to make it three clean sheets in a row. Philadelphia did get their third three minutes past the hour mark when Jack Elliott pounced on a loose ball in the box, after a Cory Burke header was saved at close range, to fire home.

SEATTLE 0 – 0 AUSTIN – Only two more road games for Austin before they actually get to play at home for the first time next month and I worried for them heading into this one against the unbeaten and in-form Sounders. But the visitors held their own in the first half and the teams went in scoreless, with very little goal threat shown by either side.

And they continued to do so in the second half, having the better of the opportunities. Seattle though thought they had taken the lead in the 77th minute when Fredy Montero stretched to turn the ball in at the back post, but VAR ruled it out for an offside on Raul Ruidiaz. And that was that. Two points dropped by the Supporters Shield leaders and another valuable road point picked up by the new kids on the block.

******

Those results, saw Seattle keep their unbeaten record and stay top of the West with a five point lead over second placed Sporting Kansas City, who are one point ahead of the LA Galaxy in third.

It was a relatively good set of results for the Whitecaps on their bye week, and Vancouver still sit two points back of the playoff places in 10th place, but very much in touch with those above them a fifth of the way through the season.

With three points separating the eight teams from 6th to last in the West, any team that can string together a set of results will soon start to climb the table after the international break. Whether that can be the Whitecaps, who have a brutal schedule coming up, which includes games against the Galaxy and the Sounders in June and seven games in July when the Gold Cup is on, remains to be seen. The danger is some teams will soon find themselves cut away from the rest, as we may be starting to see in the East.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

The two Canadian teams were in early action on Saturday.

CHICAGO 0 – 1 MONTREAL – Montreal left it late to pick up all three points, but also nearly fell to another late goal, before technology came in and gave them a little helping hand. They were fortunate to get the win, but Montreal won’t care a jot about that and they now not only head into the break with a spring in their step, but they do so joint third in the East (technically fourth). It wasn’t really a game to write home about and seemed destined to finish scoreless before Mason Toye popped up unmarked to head home the 87th minute winner. But grinding out wins from playing like this is what gets you success in this league.

It could have been a different story, with Chicago, who came away with their first victory of the new season last weekend, peppering the Montreal goal with 19 shots. Their downfall really came with the fact they were caught offside nine times, as they played right on the line for the entire match. And it provided the final nail in their coffin when Wyatt Omsberg thought he’d earned a point for the home side in the dying seconds of stoppage time, only for VAR to rule it out for offside in the build up.

COLUMBUS 2 – 1 TORONTO – Columbus said farewell to their Historic Crew Stadium in style with one of three matches scheduled to take place during the UEFA Champions League final. Although this match provided much more talking points than a game between two English sides battling it out despite not actually being champions as they began the tournament. Anyway, enough of my pet peeve.

The home side were well up for this from the start and took the lead in the 12th minute on a quick counter from a corner, with Luis Diaz leaving TFC players trailing in his wake as he powered forward. It was an impressive break, but the finish was also sublime. Very coolly tucked away past Alex Bono. Gyasi Zardes thought he’d doubled their lead minutes later when he had the ball in the net, but the flag went up for offside, but the American international wasn’t to be denied his first goal of the season and he did make it 2-0 in the 21st minute, despite Allen Chapmen looking at VAR, and we know how much he loves that. Not really sure what there was to review and it was looking home and dry for the home side at the half.

But not so quick, Toronto, who had looked pretty poor in the first 45 minutes and on the verge of a heavy defeat, pulled one back six minutes after the restart when the Columbus defence let Ayo Akinola collect and rebound and go unchallenged to fire home. TFC then brought on their talisman Alejandro Pozeulo for his first appearance of the season. He brought an immediate fresh spark but there was to be no way back for Toronto, who head into the break outside of the playoff places looking in, along with dealing with the fall out from the midweek clash between Jozy Altidore and head coach Chris Armas.

******

In other Eastern Conference action of note, Orlando City lost their unbeaten record as they fell 2-1 at New York Red Bulls, with the home side’s second being my goal of the weekend, a free kick stunner from Cristian Casseres Jr on the hour mark.

New England Revolution still sit pretty at the top of the East, three points clear of second placed Philadelphia and five clear of Orlando in third, but they made hard work of it against bottom side Cincinnati. Despite having 26 shots, it took a 70th minute header from Adam Buksa to win it, although they did hit the woodwork twice in the first half.

Atlanta looked like they’d moved into a share of second after being seemingly coasting and two goals up with 10 minutes to play at home to the unbeaten Nashville. But then up popped Hany Mukhtar to hit two in three minutes to give the visitors a share of the points. And they nearly won it minutes later, with Dominique Badji being denied by a good save from Brad Guzman.

Three points separate the eight teams from 3rd to 10th, and like the West, a few run of good or bad results will make a huge difference to the standings. Unlike the West though, two teams already feel cut away from the pack in Chicago and Cincinnati. Toronto sit third bottom, but you still feel they have the personnel there to change that soon.

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Authored by: Michael McColl

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