Monday Postgame: Vintage DeRo, but a congested East
We haven’t seen a week this exciting since Eric Hassli singed Kasey Keller’s eyebrows with that famous volley back in June.
In fact, there are several parallels between Week 28 and that moment in late spring: Week 13 had several great goals, some stunning late drama, a stadium transition, and multiple star turns.
Week 28 had all that - and the bag of chips that is the playoff chase.
Let’s dig in.
The runaway player of the week was D.C. United attacker Dwayne De Rosario, who, after failing to convert a penalty in a 2-2 draw with Chivas USA on Wednesday, single-handedly dismantled a depleted Real Salt Lake side with three goals in a nine-minute blitz on Saturday night.
It was the fastest hat-trick from kickoff in MLS history - and it might’ve been the best: All three strikes were terrific. The first came in the 22nd minute, on a move De Rosario started. He laid the ball off in his own half and charged upfield, getting behind center back Nat Borchers in the RSL box.
That’s where United winger Andy Najar found him with a perfectly flighted cross, and De Ro directed a header past Nick Rimando for his first goal.
Five minutes later, Josh Wolff teed him up from the top of the box for a 25-yard strike, and De Rosario crushed it into the top right corner past a flying Rimando.
The 33-year-old capped his outburst with a flourish in the 31st minute, bending a free kick inside the near post from 35 yards to make it 4-0 D.C. (Álvaro Saborío pulled one back for RSL in the 86th to produce the 4-1 final scoreline.)
Add De Rosario’s surgical through ball to set up Najar for the game’s first goal in the 13th minute, and you’re looking at a first half for the ages by the Canadian international, who, with a league-leading 13 goals and 11 assists, is now squarely in the MVP conversation.
New York Red Bulls fans may have been wondering why Salt Lake left six starters on the bench for their game with New York’s wild-card rivals D.C., but the question uppermost in their minds had to have been, Why did we let DeRo go?
Of course, New York fans had plenty of other questions to ponder in Week 28.
On Wednesday night, in the most important game of their season to that point, the Red Bulls suffered a catastrophic start against Real Salt Lake, giving up three soft goals in the first 21 minutes.
In the locker room following the embarrassing 3-1 defeat, New York's Designated Player Rafa Márquez added insult to injured playoff hopes, openly criticizing his teammates to reporters.
The timing and tenor of his comments could hardly have been worse, and Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said as much by suspending Márquez for the next game, Saturday’s critical tilt against Portland Timbers.
The Timbers had tied San Jose Earthquakes 1-1 on Wednesday and clung to the 10th and final playoff spot by one point over the Red Bulls.
It felt like a sink-or-swim moment for New York’s season, and amazingly, they responded, offering hope to a sell-out crowd at Red Bull Arena with a 2-0 win over Portland, and leapfrogging the Timbers into the final playoff berth.
New York’s first home win since July 6 left them in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but they are only three points behind first-place Houston Dynamo.
Indeed, only four points separate the top six teams in the East, and seventh-place Chicago Fire, which downed New England Revolution 3-2 on Sunday night, are still in the hunt.
In a result that typified the conference, Sporting Kansas City and Philadelphia Union met at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on Friday night with a shot at first place in the East at stake - and tied 1-1.
Omar Bravo hit a 'golazo' in the 56th minute and Sébastien Le Toux answered with his eighth of the year to tie it seven minutes later.
That left the door open, and Houston slipped through into first place with a 1-0 win over FC Dallas in the Texas Derby. Geoff Cameron scored an 87th-minute winner, heading home Brad Davis’ corner kick.
It was Houston’s first win on the road in 16 attempts this season, and it was FC Dallas’ third loss in a row - a tough one to take, as the Hoops hit the woodwork three times in the match.
While the East only got more muddled this week, the West has never been clearer.
The LA Galaxy strengthened their grip on first place (and on the MLS Supporters’ Shield) by traveling to Columbus Crew without the services of Robbie Keane and David Beckham - and with Landon Donovan starting the game on the substitutes bench - and pulling out a 1-0 win over the former East frontrunners.
Chad Barrett hit the winner in stoppage time, burying the rebound of a shot by Donovan.
Keeping pace behind LA in the West were Seattle Sounders FC, who vaulted RSL in the standings with a 3-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC. It was the last game played at Empire Field before Whitecaps FC move to BC Place next week.
Fredy Montero scored two goals four minutes apart in the second half to complete a rally from a 1-0 deficit and deliver the inaugural MLS Cascadia Cup to Sounders FC with one game to spare.
Montero’s first was sensational: He settled a Vancouver clearance attempt at the top of the box, used a slick Cruyff turn to shed two defenders and stuck the ball in the top left corner of the net before a third could close him down.
Not to be outdone by players such as Montero, Le Toux and Richards, who are heating up after slow starts, San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski and Chivas USA’s Juan Pablo Ángel got into the act this week.
Wondolowski scored his 11th of the season in the Earthquakes’ 1-1 draw at Colorado Rapids. (The Rapids, who got a goal from defender Drew Moor, ended their three-game losing streak with the draw, but remain winless in five straight and are now just three points clear of the 10th and final playoff spot.)
Ángel bagged two on Wednesday to lift the Goats to a 2-2 draw with D.C. United, then hit two more on Saturday during Chivas USA's 3-0 blanking of Toronto FC.
The Rojiblancos may not make the postseason - they are four points off the pace with three games to play - but if Ángel keeps this up, they will not go quietly.