MLS Power Rankings: Donovan nears history, Bulls claim top spot
Landon Donovan rose to the top of the all-time goal-scoring charts, Colorado and LA posted crooked numbers, Camilo made jaws drop and New York clinched a playoff berth in MLS Week 32:
1. Donovan ties Cunningham's record
A little more than seven months ago, it was unclear when Landon Donovan was going to return to the field. It was even more unclear which version of the player would be returning to the field when his playing hiatus came to an end. A rejuvenated one? One still unsure of his place in the game? As it turns out, it was the best version.
Donovan's storybook 2013 added another chapter with him tying Jeff Cunningham's all-time MLS record for goals scored at 134 with his two-goal showing against Chivas USA. Donovan's performance against the Galaxy's fallen rival included all of his attributes. His -- sometimes to a fault -- unselfishness that set up Robbie Keane's first goal. His lethal capability on the counterattack. His instinctual innovation to chip Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy for the record-tying goal. On the heels of his prolific summer with the U.S. national team, which saw him eclipse 50 goals and 50 assists and win the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at the Gold Cup, Donovan is zoned in. Regardless of the huge multi-year extension he signed with the Galaxy, Donovan has hardly rested on his expansive laurels as he carries forward in his top form. And to think how close we came to potentially missing out on such greatness.
With three games remaining in the regular season (or just two for Donovan, depending on his availability for the Oct. 16 clash against Montreal after the USA's World Cup qualifiers), Donovan will have ample opportunity to break the goal mark and hold it on his own. There's one record Donovan would surely prefer, though. He, Jeff Agoos and Brian Mullan are tied for the most MLS Cup triumphs in league history, with five apiece. An LA Galaxy three-peat, which would be the first such accomplishment in MLS history, would cap his 2013 by not only cementing his place as not just the most prolific scorer in MLS history, but also the winningest player of all time.
2. Colorado states its case
Anybody out there still doubting the Colorado Rapids' credentials?
The Rapids' 5-1 thrashing of the Seattle Sounders said more about the Rapids and their intentions than it did about the state of Seattle. Sure, it was a wake-up call for the Sounders, who had not lost in seven matches and had appeared to be finding its way to consistent greatness. A Seattle win would have kept things on the right track while inching the club closer to the Supporters' Shield. The loss does not make Seattle any less of a title contender, though it must make its supporters a little more weary and guarded.
Colorado's performance, directly off its opening whistle play, though, was the real statement. Its rookies, Dillon Powers and Deshorn Brown, are ready for primetime and can handle the pressure of the spotlight. Its summer signings, Vicente Sanchez and Gabriel Torres, are quality additions finding their comfort zones in MLS at the right time. For all of the injuries that manager Oscar Pareja had to sort through for the opening months of the season, he now has a complete, quality squad. For those who have lost track, after a three-game losing streak in June, Colorado has lost just twice, once to the Portland Timbers and once to Sporting Kansas City, going 8-2-4 in that time while maintaining a low profile in the stacked Western Conference.
The Rapids are not home free just yet, as even with the result, which was one of the top team performances all season, the club is still in must-win mode. In fifth place out West, Colorado leads the San Jose Earthquakes by four points and Vancouver Whitecaps by six with three games to go. Colorado's last three games? At San Jose, at home against Vancouver and at Vancouver. It's all there for the taking, though, and if Saturday's showing is any indication, Colorado has every plan of doing just that.
3. Camilo's wonder strike
Consider the circumstances: A team is in desperate need of points to stay alive in the playoff race. That team just worked its tail off to battle back from a goal down, only to give up another go-ahead strike moments later.
So for Camilo Sanvezzo to be able to pull off his flying, sidewinding scissor kick goal (which was about the only way Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was going to be beaten Sunday night, either that or a deflection), with all of that in play -- not to mention his personal quest to win the Golden Boot -- added even more to the spectacle that was his surefire MLS Goal of the Year.
Camilo's strike was true perfection. It had the awe-inspiring level of athleticism. It had perfect timing. It had perfect technique. It had perfect placement. And most of all, it had a massive degree of significance. Vancouver is still on the outside of the playoff race looking in with three must-win games in the coming weeks, but salvaging that point to stay within six points of fifth-place Colorado (the two teams close the season against each other with a home-and-away series) was of vital importance.
It is also worth noting that in their brief time in the league, the Whitecaps have now accounted for two of the most sensational goals in league history, with both coming in Cascadia clashes no less. Eric Hassli's incredible goal against Seattle in 2011, in which he self volleyed a shot across his body and into the far upper corner over a helpless Kasey Keller coincidentally ensured that game would end 2-2 as well (Portland's Darlington Nagbe took home Goal of the Year honors, though).
4. Open Cup fallout
Real Salt Lake stumbled on the grand stage yet again, and now the question isn't what went wrong so much as it is how will it impact the club -- one with legitimate MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield hopes -- going forward?
The U.S. Open Cup final figured to be a slam dunk for Jason Kreis' side, playing at home against a three-win D.C. United team that had not won an MLS game away from home all season. Instead, D.C. executed its game plan to perfection, past demons rose to the surface and RSL is left wondering if its most clear and best shot at a trophy this season slipped right through its typically sturdy fingers.
The immediate response from RSL was Saturday's 1-1 draw with FC Dallas, in which the club was forced to play a man down for 73 minutes and still managed to eke out a draw against a desperate side. The club showed enough to indicate that it is not on the verge of a meltdown, and RSL's roster is littered with players who are mentally tough and can compartmentalize disappointment. But when the playoffs begin, and if RSL manages to face an adverse situation, will the "not again" mentality that was born in the CONCACAF Champions League against Monterrey return? For a club with so much quality and so intent on adding to its trophy case and returning to the CCL, its propensity to turn out like the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s and 2000s is a major concern.
D.C., meanwhile, is playing with house money the rest of the way. United returned to action Friday night and promptly resumed its MLS form, dropping a 3-0 result to Chicago with a makeshift lineup as Ben Olsen gave a number of regulars some well-earned rest. Despite the club being on the verge of rewriting the record books for regular season futility, the fact that D.C. won a trophy, made major progress toward finalizing a stadium deal and uncovered young prospects for the future makes for quite a successful year. It's regular season woes can't be overlooked without question, but given the financial windfall the club has coming its way from winning the Open Cup and missing the playoffs (non-playoff teams are granted allocation money in a way to achieve competitive balance) in addition to the top overall pick in this winter's SuperDraft, D.C. could be primed for a major makeover, both on the field and in the standings, in 2014.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
Defenders: Drew Moor (Colorado Rapids), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City), Bakary Soumare (Chicago Fire)
Midfielders: Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids), Oscar Boniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo), Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
Forwards: Deshorn Brown (Colorado Rapids), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Camilo (Vancouver Whitecaps)
|Week 32 MLS Power Rankings|