Monday Postgame: Qualifiers shine a light on MLS stars
The MLS schedule slowed to a relative crawl this week, as 49 players departed their clubs to perform for national teams from Albania to Australia and more than a dozen points in between.
There were only four league games on the slate but, appropriately enough, there was an international tinge to the news of the week, beyond the pause for the FIFA dates: We saw a prominent foreign talent join the league, another one visit with an eye toward signing, and a third undergo season- (and possibly career-) ending surgery.
Let’s update our passports for the globetrotting recap:
In the run-up to the United States’ 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Jamaica on Friday night, much was made of the fact that the Yanks had never won a game on Jamaican soil.
In a year that already included unprecedented results for the USA in Italy and Mexico City, here was another opportunity to make history. At least that was the word coming out of the US camp, where head coach Jurgen Klinsmann brought in a phonebook-tearing motivational speaker to fire up his charges (really).
But there was a flipside to the never-won-in-Jamaica coin, and that was the fact that the Americans had never lost to Jamaica, period, in 18 games — regardless of the venue.
So history was made on Friday night in Kingston, but not the kind the US were hoping for: After going up 1-0 on a Clint Dempsey goal inside the first minute, and controlling play for the first quarter of an hour, the US dropped off, producing a listless, error-prone performance and falling 2-1, for their first ever loss to Jamaica.
With nine MLS players on their roster, and four in the starting line-up, Jamaica scored two free-kick goals and battled hard for the landmark victory.
The result should boost their confidence heading into Tuesday night’s return engagement at Columbus Crew Stadium (5 p.m. PT, ESPN2) — a game that is now a must-win for the home side.
MLS in CONCACAF
Joining Jamaica on the winning side of the World Cup qualifying ledger were Canada, who also rolled out an MLS-heavy side (nine roster spots, five starters) and got a one-goal victory, edging Panama 1-0.
Last year’s MLS MVP, Dwayne De Rosario, nabbed the goal, combining with Atiba Hutchinson on a quick restart in the 76th minute. De Ro’s volley was his 20th international goal, making him Canada’s all-time leading scorer, and lifting the Canucks to the top of Group C with three games to play.
With ex-MLSers Marco Pappa and Carlos Ruiz in the starting XI, Guatemala downed Antigua & Barbuda 3-1, tying the USA for second place in Group A. Ruiz bagged two of the three goals.
In Group C, Honduras rolled over Cuba 3-0, getting goals from MLS stars Víctor Bernárdez, Marvin Chávez and Jerry Bengtson, while in Group B, Costa Rica fell 2-0 at home to Mexico despite the best efforts of Real Salt Lake striker Álvaro Saborío and Portland Timbers’ Rodney Wallace, who came on as a late sub.
Finally, Timbers reserve Steve Purdy went the full 90 in El Salvador’s 2-2 draw with Guyana.
Spanning the Globe
MLS players also ranged into CONMEBOL, Europe, Africa, and Oceania on international duty.
In South America, Philadelphia Union center back Carlos Valdés worked a 90-minute shift for Colombia, who nailed down an impressive 4-0 qualifying win over 2010 World Cup semifinalists Uruguay.
In Europe, LA’s Robbie Keane and Toronto FC’s Darren O’Dea both played 90 minutes in Ireland’s dramatic, face-saving rally against Kazakhstan.
Keane scored an 89th-minute penalty to make it 1-1 and avert the worst result in Ireland’s history, and Kevin Doyle punched in a dramatic game-winner one minute later.
Starts and Stops
Back in North America, the four MLS games on the schedule all either extended or ended significant streaks — and in one case, did both.
On Wednesday night in Foxborough, Massachusetts, New England Revolution snapped a club-record 10-game winless skid, beating Columbus 2-0 to claim their first victory since July 8.
WATCH: Dynamo down RSL
The result also snapped Columbus’ six-game unbeaten run (and four-game winning streak), as the fifth-place Crew failed to capitalize on the game in hand they had on sixth-place D.C. United, who trail Columbus by a point in the East.
Colorado broke a four-game winless streak and kept Portland winless on the road (0W-10L-3D) with a 3-0 victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
In Houston, the Dynamo halted a four-game winless run with a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake, courtesy of Colin Clark’s 94th-minute penalty.
The week ended with a thriller in front of 38,934 fans at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, as Sounders FC rallied for a 2-1 win over Chivas USA that extended the Goats’ winless stretch to six games.
Eddie Johnson scored both goals to run his season total to a club-record 13, and the result lifted Seattle into second place in the West, six points behind San Jose, who clinched a playoff berth with Chivas’s loss.
While Sounders FC picked up their fourth win in five games and moved into second place, they also contemplated adding to their already potent attack, as Icelandic international and former Chelsea and Barcelona star Eidur Gudjohnson began a trial with the club.
Sounders FC's rivals from LA did make a signing, as the Galaxy brought in Swedish midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson on Wednesday. The 32-year-old winger was a member of Sweden’s Euro 2012 side, and has made stops at Anderlecht, AS Roma, and Bolton Wanderers FC in his career.
Former German international Torsten Frings played at Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, and Werder Bremen before joining Toronto FC in 2011, and after the events of this week, the MLS side could be the last stop in his career.
On Wednesday, the club announced that the 35-year-old midfielder needed arthroscopic surgery on his hip and would miss the rest of the season. It was yet another blow in yet another difficult season for The Reds, who have never made the playoffs in six years of existence.
TFC lost another Designated Player, striker Danny Koevermans, to a knee injury in July, and currently sit last in the East with a record of 5W-16L-6D.