The needle may have dipped a bit last week with some scrappy, low-scoring games, but make no mistake: This week jolted it back, all the way to the red.
Teams went at it full throttle, there were late heroics, controversies and goals - loads of goals, from golazos to total flukes. There were two hat-tricks and six two-goal performances spread across the week. A couple superstars showed why they deserve that tag, some new players opened up their MLS accounts and a goalkeeper bagged an assist.
There was also a player-coach confrontation and … wait for it … wait for it … No. Scoreless. Draws!
Let’s run it all back.
Off with a Bang
This round began with a pair of 1-0 games, and while that may not seem like a sign of highlight reels to come, there was a moment in the second of those two games that set the tone for the week.
It came in the 48th minute of the Toronto FC - FC Dallas match at BMO Field when Hoops winger Brek Shea sidestepped new TFC Designated Player Torsten Frings in midfield and launched a run at the Toronto backline. Before the Reds could get their bearings, Shea uncorked a left-footed drive, banging it in off Stefan Frei’s right post from 35 yards.
Toronto’s other new DP, Danny Koevermans, called the strike “a magnificent goal,” and the Dallas defence stood up for a 1-0 win.
There was no way to know at the time, especially given the earlier result that night - New England’s 1-0 squeaker over D.C. United - but Shea’s rocket was the opening salvo in a week full of fireworks.
Colorado's Sanna Nyassi followed Shea’s strike by exploding for three goals and an assist to lead the Rapids to a stunning 4-1 rout of New York Red Bulls at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Moved up from winger to striker to compensate for the absence of the injured Conor Casey, Nyassi made an immediate impact, scoring off a one-two with Omar Cummings in the second minute.
By the 30-minute mark, he’d scored again and set up Wells Thompson to stake the Rapids to a stunning 3-0 halftime lead.
Nyassi completed his hat-trick just past the hour mark (after a third assist from Cummings), before Thierry Henry pulled one back for New York.
Nyassi was also in the thick of things in Colorado’s second game of the week, a 2-2 draw with New England Revolution on Saturday night that featured Benny Feilhaber’s first MLS goal, two penalties, a red card to the Revs’ Chris Tierney (the first of his career), and a fluky 65-yard goal from Colorado right back Kosuke Kimura (assist: Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens).
Seeing Red at Rio Tinto
While the red card and the penalties in the Colorado were pretty straightforward, an ejection and penalty kick at Rio Tinto later that night were anything but.
In the 60th minute of a scoreless game between Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes, RSL striker Álvaro Saborío took a pass from Will Johnson, cut into the box between Quakes defenders Bobby Burling and Brad Ring and went down as if he’d been spun out by a hip-check.
The referee called a penalty and showed Burling a red card. Unfortunately, replays indicated that there was little-to-no contact.
Unconcerned with replays, Saborío buried the spot kick, and the Quakes, who were racked by injuries and suspensions to begin with, and playing their third game in eight days, came undone. RSL pumped three more past Jon Busch to win 4-0.
After the match, Busch vented his frustrations about the whole episode at RSL coach Jason Kreis, who had to be restrained from going after the goalkeeper.
Vancouver and Toronto are having rough seasons. But Whitecaps FC, the Western Conference cellar dwellers, are a better team - or at least a more entertaining one - than their 2W-10L-9D record suggests.
Their match against San Jose on Wednesday, for example, may not have done much for them in the standings, but it was a cracking good game, one of many they’ve been involved in this year.
After the two teams’ big guns, Chris Wondolowski and Eric Hassli, traded two goals apiece, the sides kept getting after it. For the Quakes, Wondo hit the bar with a header, Steven Lenhart missed a breakaway; for the ‘Caps, Camilo glanced an open header wide, and, in the 89th minute, Gershon Koffie hammered a shot off the crossbar.
Toronto FC share a similar record (3W-11L-9D) and an identical place in the Eastern Conference standings (last) with their Canadian fellows, and the rebuilt team looked pretty lively in the early stages of their game against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night, creating several chances, including one by Koevermans (who would later bag his first MLS goal).
But their biggest flaw, a leaky defence, was exposed in a nine-minute span before halftime, as KC struck for three unanswered goals to blow the game open before holding on to win 4-2.
Leaving it Late
The defence is anything but leaky for Columbus Crew, who experienced both sides of 1-0 score lines this week, losing midweek at LA Galaxy on Sean Franklin’s 70th-minute winner, then edging visiting Portland Timbers on Eddie Gaven’s 76th-minute strike.
The latter result lifted the Crew into a tie for first in the East with Philadelphia - though the Union, who hung tough with Real Madrid in the World Football Challenge FC on Saturday night, have two games in hand on Columbus, and four in hand on third-place New York.
The Red Bulls’ week went from bad (the 4-1 drubbing at Colorado) to nearly awful (they were a man down and a goal down at home to Dallas with five minutes left) - until Thierry Henry struck a brilliant 85th-minute equalizer against FCD on Saturday night. It was Henry’s league-leading 11th goal of the season.
Trust in Braun
Justin Braun knows about scoring big goals at Red Bull Arena. The last time he was there, he bagged three, leading Chivas USA to a surprising 3-2 win over New York.
On Saturday night, facing Houston, a team the Goats have not beaten since August 2006, Braun came up big again, producing his second hat-trick of the season, as Chivas routed the Dynamo 3-0.
The win pushed the Goats’ record to 6W-7L-8D and moved them into sixth place in the Western Conference. Indeed, if the playoffs started today, the once-hapless Chivas USA would be in.