Week 27 featured two 1-0 games and a scoreless draw. Ho-hum, you say? Don’t let those results fool you: This was another slam-bang round of action in MLS.
Three teams clinched playoff berths, two were eliminated, two all-time records were matched, and the league’s most famous player scored a spectacular game-winning goal in a hot-blooded LA derby match.
Nothing ho-hum about any of that. Let’s break it down:
Despite those three low-scoring affairs, there was no shortage of goals this week—26 in 10 games—but there would have been a surplus of them, if not for some of the weakest finishing we’ve seen since the ending of Lost in Translation. (Yep, we’ve been sitting on that line since 2003.)
[inline_node:306767]At Red Bull Arena, Bouna Coundoul made 12 saves to preserve New York’s 1-0 win over Kansas City. But despite the Senegalese’s impressive stat line, it wasn’t the Wizards who squandered the most golden chances. No, they left that to New York.
Dane Richards alone blew three breakaways (he also scored the winning goal—see last week’s Dane Richards Paradox). Thierry Henry shot wide after a magnificent solo run. And Mehdi Ballouchy put a weak shot on frame after being freed in the box on a New York counterattack.
The Red Bulls won the match to clinch a playoff spot and move to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, but if they had done better with their chances, they wouldn’t have had to defend with their lives in the dying moments to preserve the slim margin.
In the most surprising result of the week, last-place D.C. United knocked off playoff contender Colorado 1-0, in Commerce City, no less, where the Rapids had won five straight.
Colorado rested white-hot striker Omar Cummings for the first hour due to ankle soreness—Cummings also missed last week’s trip to Salt Lake—and coach Gary Smith called his charges “gun-shy” as they were shut out. Things might have been different if Cummings—who has 12 goals, and has never been called gun-shy before—had been fit enough to start.
Columbus and San Jose showed faulty finishing in the rain at Crew Stadium, with Steven Lenhart and Andy Iro both wasting clear chances. Those muffs, and some excellent goalkeeping from Jon Busch and Will Hesmer, combined to keep that one scoreless.
Playoffs: Five In, Five Out
FC Dallas crushed visiting Chicago 3-0 to win their second straight game (a fact worth noting about a team that has 13 ties on the season) and clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2007. FCD were one of three teams to book their tickets, as New York and Columbus also joined LA and Real Salt Lake in the postseason.
Meanwhile, Chivas USA and Philadelphia queued up with D.C., New England, and Houston as teams waiting for tee times.
That leaves Seattle, Colorado, and San Jose on the verge of playoff berths, and Kansas City, Toronto, and Chicago still mathematically alive. KC probably have the best shot of crashing the party; they sit seven points behind San Jose for the final playoff spot with four matches left to play—including what could be a do-or-die season-closing game between the Wizards and Quakes at CommunityAmerica Ballpark on October 23.
If the playoffs ended today, these would be the first-round matchups:
- New York vs San Jose
- Columbus vs Colorado
- Los Angeles vs Seattle
- Real Salt Lake vs Dallas
That picture—subject to change, of course—is not a pretty one for the Western Conference leaders LA and RSL.
Seattle DP Blaise Nkufo has five goals in his past three games, and the Sounders are 8-1-2 in their last 11. They would not be LA’s—or anyone’s—first choice for a first-round opponent at this point.
Dallas have just two losses all season and will be a very tough out—even for the reigning kings of MLS, who showed their championship mettle by grinding out a 2-1 over New England on the road this weekend.
Dallas didn’t just clinch a playoff berth during their 3-0 dusting of Chicago on Saturday. They also extended their unbeaten streak to 18 to tie the Crew’s all-time MLS record for consecutive games without a loss.
[inline_node:315482]Furthermore, FCD striker Jeff Cunningham joined D.C. United legend Jaime Moreno at the top of the career MLS scoring list, burying a 67th-minute penalty for his 132nd goal.
Dallas midfielder David Ferreira, who has 7 goals and 13 assists this year, probably re-seized the pole position in the MVP race by setting up FCD’s second and third goals on Saturday. (Keeper Dario Sala got the assist on the first one—really.)
In Philadelphia, the Union tied Houston 1-1, and Sebastien Le Toux scored a goal—his 13th of the year—that was pretty enough to cement his case as a) the best player not going to the playoffs and b) a legit MVP candidate. The Union have 32 goals this season; Le Toux’s been involved in 23 of them.
Edson Buddle bagged his 15th of the year in LA’s rugged 2-1 win over Chivas USA on Sunday night. That was a solid step toward getting his name back on the MVP list—possibly in place of teammate Landon Donovan, who had a quiet game for the second week in a row after publicly declaring he wanted to win the award.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto didn’t score, but he sent enough deadly balls into the box in Columbus’s tie with San Jose to remind everyone how valuable he is to the slumping Crew’s title hopes.
Becks Is Back
The Galaxy’s 2-1 win in the SuperClasico was a chippy affair. Eddie Lewis received a straight red, and Alan Gordon was spiked across the torso, his jersey shredded.
But all ugliness aside, it was a bit of lovely skill that was the match’s signature moment and its winning margin. David Beckham’s bending 25-yard free kick over the Chivas wall and into the top corner for LA’s second goal showed why he’s still, well, David Beckham.
The Galaxy superstar has had moments in each of his five appearances this year: pinging 45-yard balls right to teammates’ feet, showing flashes of his ever-present (yet somehow always surprising) competitive fire, and bringing a lethal threat to every dead-ball situation.
But with his strike last night, he served notice to the league—and maybe even a certain Fabio Capello: The original DP is back.
John Bolster's Monday Postmortem is a new weekly feature only on MLSsoccer.com.