MLS Weekend Review
NYCFC Wins, FC Dallas Dominates, 4 Teams Choke
July 06, 2016
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER was back in full swing for the July 4th weekend—and it was like the league had never left. Robbie Keane and David Villa scored, Nigel de Jong earned a red card, FC Dallas was dominant, Columbus conceded another painful late goal, and the average announced attendance was a very respectable 21,743.
While the familiar storylines returned, there was plenty of new developments too. Tim Howard played his first MLS game since 2003; New York City’s Jack Harrison demonstrated once again that he is a very exciting teenage rookie who was totally worthy of the top draft choice; Crew forward Ola Kamara is perhaps the hottest player in the league with seven goals in just 609 minutes of action; and Seattle is now one of the most boring teams in the league.
Here are my five thoughts from the weekend.
Harrison lifts NYCFC to Derby Win
Coming into the weekend, the New York Red Bulls’ 7-0 humiliation of New York City in May was on everyone’s mind. Early in this game, however, it was clear things were going to be very different as New York City FC scored in the 8th minute to establish a lead and then locked down the win with another goal in the 66th minute.
All three of New York City’s designated players are finally playing well but the emergence of rookie Jack Harrison and the growth of Tommy MacNamara has meant just has much.
Harrison, 19, in particular looks like a potential gem. He missed most of the first half of the season with a hip injury but he is now fit. He scored the first goal and then assisted to Villa for the second in a Man of the Match performance.
“He does a good job for us and obviously he’s been doing it well in the final third,” McNamara said. “He has the ability to get in behind defenses but also to get underneath them and run at them. He is difficult to deal with and it makes other teams stay honest which helps the entire team out.”
What is intriguing about Harrison is that he is so dangerous in the open field, he can finish, and he has an eye to make a dangerous pass. Playing alongside top veterans, the sky is the limit.
Meanwhile, Mix Diskerud is nowhere to be found.
Team of the week: FC Dallas
The best performance in MLS this weekend came from FC Dallas which thoroughly outplayed Orlando City in a 4-0 rout on Monday night. The win extended FC Dallas’ unbeaten streak at home to 15 games.
"It was a very complete performance,” FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja said. “The effort for 90-plus minutes was incredible. Respect for the opponent all the time. We created a lot of situations to score, which was a highlight of the game. At the same time, we had discipline from everybody, decisively, even when leading the game by three or four, we were disciplined, and for me, it shows a lot of respect for the game and respect for what we wanted.
"A complete performance, I would say."
It's hard to argue otherwise as Dallas simply fired on all cylinders. When it does that, it should be the best team in MLS. The Los Angeles Galaxy also have some very good players but when it is on-form, Dallas is younger, more disciplined, and more complete.
In addition to having attackers like Fabian Castillo, Maxi Urruti, and Mauro Diaz—who were all exceptional against Orlando—it also has a young midfield core of Kellyn Acosta and Carlos Gruezo. When the American central defense tandem of Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman chimes in with goals, it's plain to see that FC Dallas is a force in this league.
Columbus continues to struggle late
The most underachieving team in MLS this year by far is the Columbus Crew. On Sunday it lost to Sporting Kansas City 3-2 and now has the second-worst record in MLS. Given that Gregg Berhalter’s team is the reigning Eastern Conference champions, it's quite a reversal of fortune for the Ohio club.
What is particularly bad is that Crew keeps conceding late goals. In addition to this weekend's letdown, Berhalter’s team blew a 4-1 lead in a draw against Montreal, lost to Seattle 1-0 on a very late goal from Jordan Morris, lost the opening game to Portland on Fanendo Adi’s 79th-minute winner, and drew FC Dallas 1-1 after conceding a late equalizer.
Against SKC the club was reduced to 10 players but fought back to equalize the game at 2-2. Then, in stoppage time, Matt Besler (who came on as a substitute) headed home a winner after a defensive breakdown.
There are many reasons why Columbus is having a bad year but its failure at the end of games suggest the team lacks focus.
Howard posts clean sheet in MLS return
The last time Tim Howard played in MLS, he was a top keeper for the Metrostars who had caught the eye of Manchester United. Now he comes back as a senior statesman who had been the United States' starting keeper for the last two World Cups.
He also joins a Colorado team that has been doing very well without him—especially defensively where its 11 goals conceded this year is best in the league by a wide margin.
Against Portland Howard posted the shutout and did well to deny Darren Mattocks in the 54th minute. His toughest save came 11 minutes later when he denied Lucas Melano.
Howard, surprisingly, has a lot to prove. Unlike most other designated players of his caliber, he is not really needed. He has to come in to replace a steady Zac MacMath and continue what the club has been doing. Also, he has to justify that his big salary would not be better spent elsewhere (like goal-scoring options) and that he can help the team draw bigger crowds.
So far, so good.
Four Teams choke
Columbus may squander late goals, but it is not the only team that straight-up choked this weekend.
Philadelphia traveled to Texas to face an uninspired Houston Dynamo team on Friday. The Union were sitting atop the Eastern Conference and a mere draw would have kept it there. Instead, it coughed up a free kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time which Cristian Maidana buried with class.
Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake was up 1-0 against D.C. United in stoppage time and a win would have moved it closer to Colorado for second place. Instead, it let Jared Jeffrey equalize on a corner kick for his second MLS career goal (and first since 2013).
San Jose fans will also be wondering what went wrong this weekend. In the middle of a heated playoff race, any and all points are crucial. Whenever facing a league-worst team like Chicago, hungry teams need to win. Instead, San Jose fell to a Chicago team that has won just three out of 15 games this season. A win would have put San Jose into the playoff picture, now it’s in eighth place.
“We didn’t play good, simple as that,” San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear said. “We just kept giving the ball away; it wasn’t like we were under a tremendous amount of pressure. We just didn’t play good.”
The biggest chokers of the weekend, however, was the New England Revolution which actually had a 2-0 lead on a Didier Drogba-less Montreal squad. Impact attacker Michael Salazar scored in the 40th and 48th minutes to equalize and Ignacio Piatti buried the winner from the penalty spot in the 54th minute for a 3-2 win. A win would have put New England in fifth place but now it is in eighth.