Playmakers shine in Week 20 as MLS gears for busy final stretch
Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things to take away from Week 20:
So is it strange, then, that this round came and went as one of the skinniest ones yet in terms of scoring. Five matches finished 1-0. Two others were 1-1. Only one match, in fact, produced more than two goals.
In the weekend's high-profile encounter, the Galaxy's
FC Dallas offensive engine
(The only thing Montero doesn't seem to have at the moment is enough chemistry with
Newly signed Jamaican
"There's more to him than we saw tonight," Yallop said of Stephenson to reporters, "but what we saw tonight was a clean player."
Finally, Real Salt Lake playmaker
When he wasn't arranging RSL's tidy possession, he was striking great goals. Morales' first was especially beautiful, a long-range shot inside the far post when Columbus fell asleep defensively. Later, his free kick was perfectly placed to beat Crew 'keeper
Morales hasn't officially been named MLS Player of the Week. But the engravers can probably feel OK about getting a head start on this one.
The Red Bulls weren't especially bad -- outside of
Red Bulls winger
On the other side, Los Angeles shook off some recent flimsy performances, turning up a classic Galaxy win under
Juninho, who seems to figure out a little more about the league each week, was strong. And
Four MLS sides begin group play this week in the regional tournament. So in addition to the final third of the long MLS campaign, Real Salt Lake, Columbus, Seattle and Toronto face six Champions League tests over the next two months. And there are some serious frequent flier miles involved.
Seattle will travel to Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico, with a contest in the Honduran city San Pedro Sula up this week. Columbus' upcoming itinerary includes stops in Trinidad, Mexico and Panama. RSL and Toronto have it easy by comparison, with visits to Mexico City and Panama in addition to facing one another.
If an MLS team or two doesn't get out of group play -- and only Columbus did last year -- it will be add yet another talking point as important discussions move forward on roster sizes and reserve leagues.
Meanwhile, the best MLS teams can do for now is rotate the lineup, leaning on some reserves. RSL had six starters on the bench for the midweek tie at Philadelphia. It worked, as the side looked fresh for Saturday's win over Columbus.
"All of these games are going to affect every decision," RSL coach
Kreis was also surprised at how receptive they were to the notion. No sales job involved, he said, as they realized how important Champions League could be to the club.
About a month ago,
But ties at home recently against New England and Real Salt Lake, along with a loss at Columbus, made Saturday's contest an absolute must-have. Le Toux set up another one, with talented rookie
On the other hand, speaking of next year, Saturday's game finished for Philly with 18-year-old