Monday Postgame: Goals aplenty, as playoff races heat up
Have we mentioned that scoring is up in MLS this year? If that message failed to get through, Week 25 drove the point home, as teams pumped in 41 goals in 11 matches for a hefty 3.7 goals per game.
There were 27 goals in Saturday’s six games, including a seven-goal thriller in Columbus and an eight-goal drubbing at The Home Depot Center.
On Wednesday, there was a six-goal, six-pointer between Chicago Fire and D.C. United, and the deluge even extended to the CONCACAF Champions League, where LA Galaxy rolled over El Salvador's Isidro Metapán 5-2 on Thursday.
Sure, some shaky defending played a part in the onslaught, but there was also plenty of quality, along with some virtuoso individual performances and a dash of controversy.
Let’s take another look, as the playoff picture clarified in the West and got more crowded in the East.
Columbus Crew entered the week on a three-game winless streak, licking their wounds from a pair of back-to-back, hard-luck ties.
But the men in yellow, and their fans, had several reasons to be optimistic about a playoff run. They have several games in hand on the teams above them in the standings, and they’d just introduced their new Designated Player signing, Federico Higuaín of Argentina, who figured to boost their offence along with another recent acquisition, in-form Costa Rican striker Jairo Arrieta.
HIGHLIGHTS: Crew take down Revs in wild match
Last Wednesday, both men were involved in a 2-1 win over Toronto FC, with Higuaín setting up Eddie Gaven for the opener, and Arrieta feeding Higuaín for the game winner.
Turned out they were just getting warmed up. On Saturday night against New England Revolution, Higuaín struck two stunning free-kick goals, and Arrieta buried two in the run of play — including the 86th-minute match winner — leading the Crew to a wild 4-3 comeback win.
Higuaín has three goals and two assists in three games with the Crew, while Arrieta has five goals in eight games since signing in mid-June. The pair of wins put the Crew within four points of the fifth and final playoff berth in the East with 10 games to play.
Seattle Sounders FC are also on the rise and they also have productive attackers leading the way: Fredy Montero scored his first MLS hat-trick to spark Sounders FC's 6-2 rout of Chivas USA on Saturday night.
MLS assist leader Mauro Rosales set up each of Montero’s three goals to help the Pacific Northwest club lock down a fourth win in five games and pull into second place in the West.
With the Argentine playmaker threading passes to Montero and his strike partner Eddie Johnson, both of whom now have 11 goals for the season, Seattle are hitting their stride, as the stretch run gears up.
Crowding the Picture
It may prove to be a bit late for Montreal Impact, but Jesse March’s men are also peaking as playoff time approaches.
GOAL: Di Vaio and Bernier combine
The Impact extended their winning streak to five games with a 3-0 shutout of D.C. United on Saturday night. Marco Di Vaio scored the opener and Patrice Bernier had two goals and an assist, as the expansion side crept to within a point of D.C., and the last playoff berth, with six games to go.
D.C. United, who have three games in hand on Montreal, began the match with Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius on the bench, resting the duo after they had starred in a 4-2 win over Chicago on Wednesday.
That win pulled United to within one point of the fourth-place Fire in the congested East standings.
Against the Grain
It’s a testament to the number of goals scored this week that the schedule yielded a scoreless draw and two 1-1 games — yet still came out with a nearly four-goals-per game average.
There were other ironies: The Eastern Conference’s highest scoring team, New York Red Bulls, didn’t even put a shot on goal against Sporting Kansas City, and the league’s leading scorer - San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski - was left out of the goalscoring festivities altogether (more on San Jose shortly).
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC, NY battle to 1-1 stalemate
Despite the lack of offence, though, the Red Bulls escaped LIVESTRONG Sporting Park with a valuable point. Playing without DP Thierry Henry, who stayed in New York following the birth of his son, the Red Bulls capitalized on an own-goal from Kansas City’s Kei Kamara (who also scored at the other end) to rally for a 1-1 tie. The result kept them within two points of East-leading Kansas City.
Three points behind New York in the standings sit Houston Dynamo, who missed an opportunity to gain ground after a disappointing 1-1 draw with Toronto FC on Saturday night.
Reds midfielder Terry Dunfield tied it up late, after Will Bruin had staked Houston to a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.
Philadelphia Union and Real Salt Lake led the low-scoring contingent, battling to a 0-0 stalemate at PPL Park on Friday night.
HIGHLIGHTS: Quakes run rampant vs. Rapids
Wondolowski may have been blanked on Saturday, but, much to the delight of San Jose fans, his teammates covered for him, comfortably, in a 4-1 rout of Colorado Rapids. Simon Dawkins and Alan Gordon each scored two goals in the win, which ran the Quakes’ unbeaten streak at Buck Shaw Stadium to 14 games.
Energized by his recent call-up to the United States national team, Gordon is having a career year. He’s scored 11 goals, and on Saturday, the burly striker showed another side to his game, creating Dawkins’ first goal by settling the ball under pressure and leading the streaking midfielder with a perfectly weighted cross-field pass.
Finding their Levels
Trailing San Jose in the standings, but looking increasingly like a group no one wants to face in the postseason, are LA, who clipped FC Dallas 2-0 on Sunday night.
GOAL: Dunivant finishes off FC Dallas
They caught a break when Todd Dunivant was shown only a yellow after fouling Fabian Castillo as the last man back in the 11th minute, but the Galaxy did enough after that controversy to grab the points.
LA are 9W-3L-2D since mid-June and have leap-frogged Vancouver Whitecaps FC into fourth place in the West.
Whitecaps FC dropped their third straight, a 2-1 decision to Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers. With a 2W-6L-2D record in their last 10 games, Vancouver may have tinkered too much with their roster in a series of mid-summer transactions.
Portland, for their part, nabbed their first win since July 3 and first under interim coach Gavin Wilkinson. They also halted an eight-game winless streak. The playoffs may be out of reach, but Portland currently top the Cascadia Cup standings.