MLS Power Rankings Week 12: Kreis's return, Wondo's 100th, Union's rise
A couple pairs of coaching buddies went head-to-head in Major League Soccer last week, and neither result was particularly close. Jeff Cassar and Real Salt Lake beat mentor Jason Kreis and New York City FC, 2-0, on Saturday, and Jim Curtin and the Philadelphia Union defeated former teammate Jesse Marsch and the New York Red Bulls by the same score Sunday.
Elsewhere, the Montreal Impact won their second game in a row now that the distraction of CONCACAF Champions League is over. Montreal beat two of the Western Conference’s top teams in RSL and FC Dallas, marking the first time since August 2013 that the team won consecutive league matches.
The Union are on a similar surprise tear, beating D.C. United and the Red Bulls consecutively. It took a 93rd-minute goal from hometown kid Zach Pfeffer against D.C., but the Union opportunistically snatched a couple goals at Red Bull Arena to win handily, albeit doing so against the run of play.
The week was capped by Chris Wondolowski netting his 100th career regular-season goal, with the San Jose Earthquakes star joining exclusive company and becoming the ninth player to accomplish that feat in MLS history. His equalizing penalty kick at home against Orlando City brought him even with Edson Buddle at 100 goals, and he sets his sights on passing Taylor Twellman (101), Dwayne De Rosario (104) and Kreis (108) next.
Speaking of Kreis, here are a few more thoughts as the third month of the season draws to a close:
Kreis’s rude RSL homecoming
In its former coach’s return to Rio Tinto Stadium, Real Salt Lake put together one of its most complete performances of the season to defeat NYCFC.
NYCFC hit 10 games without a win and sank to the bottom of the table—the first time Kreis has been anywhere near the bottom since a tough start to the 2010 season at RSL.
NYCFC needs to shore up a back line that frequently gets stretched out of shape and concedes simple opportunities. It has given up over twice as many goals as it has scored, 15-6, in the winless stretch, and the attack seems to lose confidence quickly after conceding.
Again on Saturday, the defense looked porous, with both RSL goals coming off preventable opportunities. NYCFC put just one shot on target, and goalkeeper Josh Saunders needed to make several important saves to keep the deficit where it was.
Seattle misses tough chance to go top of the table
With a home win over Sporting Kansas City, the Supporters' Shield-holding Seattle Sounders would have gone to the top of the Shield standings with one more win than D.C. United. Seattle also would have had sole possession of first in the Western Conference, thanks to Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps’ earlier losses Saturday.
All things considered, it looks like a big missed opportunity to make an early statement with at least one game in hand on every other team within striking distance, even more so with Obafemi Martins still out with a leg injury. It was never going to be an easy win with Sporting KC grabbing tightly onto a scoreless draw from the very start of the game, though.
The Sounders edged possession by 30 percent, but a poor 47 percent passing success rate in the final third showed Kansas City’s strategy, as did Sporting’s 31 clearances to Seattle’s 11. As SKC coach Peter Vermes said after the game, “As much as we’ve been snakebitten at this place over the years … it was a tremendous point for us tonight.”
Philadelphia suddenly beats two good opponents
Despite being largely dominated by the Red Bulls, Philadelphia defeated a top team in the Eastern Conference for the second week in a row with its win in New Jersey.
Perhaps it’s coincidental, but following a fan protest at PPL Park before the match against D.C., the Union have earned their two most impressive results of the season.
Their situation personifies just how fast things can change in MLS: Philly now sits just one point outside the playoff places. Of course, the Union would still be bottom of the West with its 12 points in the standings, and only NYCFC has a worse points-per-game average in the entire league.
Philadelphia still has plenty of work to do before its fans will be happy, but the last two weeks should provide a great starting point.
Alan Gordon still a Goonie at heart
It took more than 90 minutes for the LA Galaxy to find the goal it needed against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, but when it did, it came from one of the likeliest sources. Alan Gordon scored his fourth goal of the season in the second minute of stoppage time to win it, 1-0.
It was the third time he scored in the final 15 minutes of a game this season and the second time later than the 90th minute. Five of the nine total goals he has scored in his second stint with LA have come in the last quarter-hour of games.
That’s the same amount as Gordon scored in that time frame in his most productive MLS season, with the 2012 Supporters’ Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes when he put away 13.
That team, marshaled by Wondolowski's record-tying 27-goal campaign, had a penchant for scoring late, summed up by the ever-antagonistic Steven Lenhart’s declaration that “Goonies never say die.” The Hollywood classic lives on in Carson.
Week 12 Best XI
GOALKEEPER: Evan Bush (Montreal Impact)
DEFENDERS: Fabinho (Philadelphia Union), Jámison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy)
MIDFIELDERS: Lucas Pittinari (Colorado Rapids), Benoit Cheyrou (Toronto FC), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact)
FORWARDS: Krisztian Németh (Sporting Kansas City), Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC), Álvaro Saborío (Real Salt Lake)
Jairo Arrieta pulled out an 80th-minute equalizer against the Revs, but D.C. couldn’t take three points despite playing up two men for a long stretch at the end of the game.
The Sounders failed to score for the first time in five games, and Clint Dempsey missed his chance to tie the MLS regular season record for consecutive games with goal or assist as a result.
The Red Bulls more than doubled Philly’s shot output but only put three on target and also couldn’t take advantage of a possession disparity of more than 30 percent at home on Sunday.
A bizarre call from referee José Carlos Rivero on Pedro Morales’ late free kick left Vancouver players and coaches miffed and resigned the Whitecaps to a loss against the Rapids.
Dallas outshot Montreal 21-12 and 8-3 on target, but the Impact took better advantage of its opportunities in attack while goalkeeper Evan Bush locked down the defensive end.
Joao Plata and Javier Morales both appeared off the bench as RSL defeated NYCFC, which includes 11 of the Utah franchise’s former players, coaches and staff members.
Robbie Keane finally made his return from injury, and Alan Gordon scored again in stoppage time to secure a 1-0 win over Houston despite Oscar Sorto’s red card in his first MLS start.
After a tough trip to Kansas City in midweek, the Revs went down to nine men just before the hour mark against D.C. but still managed to hold on for a point.
Dom Dwyer kicked off a four-point week for Sporting with one of the season’s best goals, taking a ball down with his chest before turning and half-volleying a shot into the bottom corner against New England.
Chris Wondolowski scored his 100th regular-season goal a week after his 99th—and his 93rd goal since the start of the 2010 season after managing just seven in the six prior years—to help the Quakes to a draw vs. Orlando City.
Led by Sebastian Giovinco, the Reds have now won three of their last five games, including two in a newly renovated BMO Field, where they will play four of their next five matches as well.
After two more goals against the Fire, Kei Kamara jumped into the MLS lead with nine on the season, but Crew SC let a two-goal lead slip away and had to settle for a draw.
The expansion Lions remain just above the red line separating playoff teams from those on the outside with a draw at Levi's Stadium on Sunday.
Houston couldn’t hold out for a point at the StubHub Center despite succeeding on the defensive end for 90 minutes, conceding the only goal of the game in stoppage time to lose.
After a lightning delay at halftime, Colorado won for the first time at home since July 2014 as 23-year-old Argentinian Lucas Pittinari scored his first MLS goal.
A second consecutive loss for the first time this season ties Portland at the bottom of the West on points—but its 13 points would be good for a playoff spot in the East.
Dallas became Ignacio Piatti’s latest victim in North American soccer, as the Impact playmaker scored on a penalty and assisted Jack McInerney to seal a win.
C.J. Sapong returned to score the second goal against the Red Bulls after completing MLS’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, and the Union rolled to their second straight win.
The Fire scrambled back for a point against Crew SC on Friday, with Jason Johnson scoring the equalizer deep into stoppage time to prevent a second consecutive loss.
NYCFC sits at the very bottom of the MLS table after its fifth loss in the last six games and another poor defensive performance in coach Jason Kreis’ return to Rio Tinto Stadium.