When it comes to MLS, things can change on a dime.

 

Since we all spent the weekend undoubtedly recovering from the hellish hangover of Minnesota United FC attacker Darwin Quintero, who had two assists in a 3-2 home win against the Portland Timbers, on Saturday. That performance garnered him the Audi Player Index Performance of the Week, after he racked up 1,393 points, best in MLS.

Quintero had a 50 percent accuracy rate in the game, hit the goalpost once, made four key passes, and completed 50 percent of his take-ons.

Now allow me to give you a tour of the rest of the MLS action that you just couldn’t bring yourself to watch.

 

LAFC 2, San Jose Earthquakes 0

I’ll get this out of the way early: On Wednesday, The Quakes suffered one of the more heartbreaking results of the year as they headed into downtown LA to face one of the top teams in the conference. As well as they played and as good as the moments were, they simply did not have the talent to survive borderline calls, or short-turnaround road games, or a few defensive breakdowns, or shoddy marking on set pieces.

The Black-and-Gold were not “sharp” in any particular sense, and Bob Bradley is still in a little bit of mix-and-match mode in terms of trying to get the best out of his cadre of attackers. In this one it was less of the usual 4-3-3 and more of a pure 4-2-3-1, with Carlos Vela playing directly underneath Adama Diomande.

Those two have no chemistry yet, and while the attack generated a lot of shots, they didn’t generate a lot of good shots.

They didn’t have to, though. Again: their margins are bigger. And in this case it wasn’t the individual, creative brilliance of Vela or Diego Rossi or Lee Nguyen or Benny Feilhaber, but rather the aerial dominance of center back Walker Zimmerman, who rose up and punished San Jose on a pair of corner kicks that led LAFC to a win.

LAFC were able walk with the win and that’s why they’re near the top of the West.

 

New York Red Bulls 2, Toronto FC 0

Alejandro Romero “Kaku” Gamarra and Derrick Etienne scored in the second half as the host New York Red Bulls defeated Toronto FC 2-0 Saturday afternoon, dealing a blow to the defending MLS Cup champions’ playoff hopes.

Toronto entered the day in ninth place, nine points out of a playoff spot and needing some kind of result, which it did not get.

The Red Bulls nearly opened the scoring from a corner kick in the 50th minute, as a header by Tim Parker glanced off the leg of Toronto defender Victor Vazquez and then the left post before goalkeeper Alex Bono corralled the ball.

New York dominated play early in a scoreless first half, forcing Bono into two saves in the opening 10 minutes.

Bono stopped a shot by Wright-Phillips that was headed for the upper left corner in the sixth minute and a Gamarra attempt that was headed for the lower right corner in the 10th.

Bono also thwarted Wright-Phillips in the 43rd minute on a shot from the left side of the 18-yard box.

 

Columbus Crew SC 2, Colorado Rapids 1

The Colorado Rapids dropped another game on Saturday to the Columbus Crew by a score of 2-1. Sadly, this has been the case more often than not in the 2018 season, but at least we scored a goal this time! Speaking of goals, let’s check them out.

Honestly, this is pretty good offensive play with a clever flick, so you can’t really be that mad at the Rapids here.

Once in a blue moon you see a play like this, so what happened here? A player is allowed to take a free kick at any time unless the ref tells him to hold the kick. This typically happens when there is a sub, the ref has to talk to two players being a little rough, or most importantly here, when a player asks for 10 yards.

That is not a red card (below). Period. Sure, it is a yellow, but certainly not a red. Had the Rapids kept 11 men maybe they would have left with a point. We have VAR for a reason, and it is a shame that the ref didn’t consult it when news has come out that apparently not all of the refs even agreed it was a red.

https://twitter.com/HotSpotSoccer/status/1043666939237740544?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1043666939237740544&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.burgundywave.com%2F2018%2F9%2F24%2F17894832%2Fclbvcol-breaking-it-down-columbus-crew-colorado-rapids

Almost just as frustrating, the Crew had a play where Jonathan Mensah took Niki Jackson out in the air while already on a yellow. If Wynne gets a red for what he did, Mensah deserves at least a yellow for his tackle, and that would have been a second yellow.

 

Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 0

This was the best team in the league, at home, just taking care of business against an outclassed opponent.

The interesting aspect of it was Tata Martino breaking out a new formation, opting for a 3-4-3 with Julian Gressel and 16-year-old US youth international George Bello at wingbacks:

This is a network passing map made using Opta data. Each circle represents the location of the corresponding player’s aggregate touch, while the thickness of the lines connecting them represents the volume of passes exchanged back and forth. Bello (21) is on the left, with Gressel (24) on the right.

And yeah, that’s normal midfielder Jeff Larentowicz (18) as kind of a sweeper, leaving Eric Remedi and newly healthy Darlington Nagbe to handle central midfield.

I’m not sure if this is what to expect from the Five Stripes going forward, or if this is just Tata taking another club out of the bag and giving it a swing. My guess is we’ll get to see what he deems to be his A+ lineup next weekend in Harrison.

 

Montreal Impact 1, NYCFC 1

New York City FC’s wait to clinch MLS Playoffs qualification will roll into Wednesday night after the Boys in Blue shared a 1-1 draw with Montreal Impact.

A Jo Inge Berget influenced own goal from Rudy Camacho gave City the advantage on 17′, before Michael Azira’s 27′ equalizer levelled things.

There were chances for both sides in an entertaining match north of the border but NYCFC had to be content with a point.

The Cityzens have now taken just seven points from their last nine games (one win and four draws), their worst run of form since their 2015 expansion season.

This result, though, was much more painful for an Impact team coming off back-to-back three-goal wins and needing to put as much room between themselves and D.C. United as possible.

 

New England Revolution 2, Chicago Fire 2

The Fire earned a 2-2 draw against the Revs; goals from Aleksandar Katai and an own goal from Michael Mancienne for Chicago, and Scott Caldwell and Cristian Penilla for New England.

19’ 0-1 Katai

62’ 1-1 Caldwell

67’ 1-2 Mancienne (OG)

70’ 2-2 Penilla

 

Orlando City 0, Houston Dynamo 0

Orlando City started four deep-lying midfielders and only two attackers. They were clearly playing for a scoreless draw – Houston weren’t, as Wilmer Cabrera ran out something close to his first XI despite having the U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday (8 pm ET; ESPN2, UDN) – and got it.

None of the Lions’ players were under age 26, and head coach James O’Connor, who’s now 1-9-3 in his 13 games in charge (all competitions), made just one sub. If there’s been a silver lining to this miserable year in central Florida it’s been the play of rookie winger Chris Mueller, but Mueller never got off the bench.

Houston weren’t able to break down the bunker, and didn’t really try super hard to do so. They spent the better part of this season trying to use the ball, have finally accepted they’re not good enough to do so, and are now settling back into last year’s identity just ahead of their chance to win a trophy.

It’s the right move, even if it meant a dire draw.

 

Minnesota United 3, Portland Timbers 2

The Portland Timbers fell 3-2 in their Saturday evening matchup with Minnesota United.

79th minute – Goal! Could the Timbers be staging a comeback? Jorge Villafana crossed a ball into the box and Sebastian Blanco ripped a one-time shot past the keeper to cut the Minnesota lead to 3-2.

55th minute – Goal! The Timbers finally find the back of the net on a set piece that finds Alvas Powell at the top of the box who corrals it and fires a shot hard into the back of the net. 3-1 Minnesota still lead the Timbers.

43rd minute – Goal. Timbers give up a corner, then awful marking on the set piece leads to an easy goal for center back Michael Boxall. The Timbers are being absolutely crushed in this game, 3-0.

36th minute – Goal. Romario Ibarra beats a defender to the ball and then puts it past the keeper to record himself a brace and double Minnesota’s lead, 2-0 Minnesota leading the Timbers.

18th minute – Goal. Minnesota strike first on a goal from Romario Ibarra and the Timbers trail 1-0 in the first half.

“The second half, that was our team,” is what head coach Giovanni Savarese said afterward. “We came in with the right energy. We spoke in the locker room and we did the things we know we are capable of. We almost tied the game. I think we had good chances and it was a great effort. This is the team that we have to have. This is the team that can come out and play away and get victories because what we did in the second half was fantastic.”

Of note is that Savarese switched his side to a 4-2-3-1 for the second 45, which is not a look we’ve seen a whole lot of this year. But it really was effective.

 

Philadelphia Union 2, Sporting KC 0

Over the last 25 games across all competitions, Philly are 16-7-2 with a +16 goal differential. Sustain that over the course of a full season and you’re right there in the Supporters’ Shield fight with Atlanta and the Red Bulls.

Jay Simpson scored his first two goals of the season, and John McCarthy made six saves in his first appearance in more than a year as the Philadelphia Union beat Sporting Kansas City 2-0 at Talen Energy Stadium.

Simpson made it 1-0 in the 71st minute when he volleyed from 14 yards a header by Alejandro Bedoya. Bedoya set him up again in the 89th minute, shortly after McCarthy made a lunging stop on Krisztian Nemeth.

Philadelphia is one point behind the fourth-place Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference with four matches left. The teams play in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday.

 

LA Galaxy 3, Seattle Sounders 0

The scoreline was dominant, but the Galaxy weren’t, really. Instead they were just solid and compact and played with a bit of decisiveness in the big moments – moments they’ve habitually lost all season – and that gave the attack (which is legitimately scary at times) enough breathing room to shred a Galaxy backline playing without Chad Marshall as they went on to win by three goals.

Now is not the time to worry about that, though. Now is the time for “get the ball to Zlatan and try not to screw up.” And while it’s still a reach to imagine them making the playoffs (they’d probably need to win three of their last four to have a chance), at least they kept the dream alive for one more weekend.

 

Vancouver Whitecaps FC 1, FC Dallas 2

FC Dallas heads into Canada to go against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. FC Dallas can put themselves top of the Western Conference with a win while the Whitecaps can get themselves closer to the playoff hunt.

What’s Yordy Reyna doing at the near post there? Why doesn’t Doneil Henry keep tracking Matt Hedges?

This win pushed FC Dallas back to the top of the West, and they fully deserved it! They played like a veteran team who’ve been there before, and that’s because they have: many of these guys are holdovers from the 2016 double-winning side.

There’s no silver lining here for Vancouver. The rest of their schedule’s a woodchipper and it’s hard to see them making another appearance in the postseason after this one.