MLS Power Rankings Week 14: Road teams, reds, Giovinco take spotlight
Teams on the road in Major League Soccer won five of seven matches on Saturday–including New York City FC winning away from home for the first time–although the weekend balanced out at 6-5-2 in favor of the home sides. However, two long home unbeaten streaks fell before two draws wrapped up the week on Sunday.
D.C. United held a 20-game run of matches at RFK Stadium without a loss, and the LA Galaxy went 29 matches at home without losing before both lost narrowly on Saturday.
What Sunday’s follow-up lacked in goals, the second match in particular made up for in controversy. Three straight red cards in the nightcap followed a late penalty in the first game of the day to cap a crazy finish to Week 14 of the MLS season.
A few thoughts on the latest set of games across MLS:
Giovinco proves his worth
With speculation swirling about Juventus regista Andrea Pirlo joining MLS, it’s the club’s former trequartista Giovinco who’s been showing across the league that he still has the skill to compete. His two goals in D.C. give him seven on the year and his second two-goal game of the season after scoring both in a 3-2 loss to FC Dallas in April.
Watching Giovinco offers an insight into the slower, more cerebral thought that veteran signings from Europe bring to the league. He can disappear for long stretches of time before popping up in just the right attacking spaces to strike his team’s deadly blows. Giovinco pulled his DP weight in the key victory, especially considering that Michael Bradley was away on national team duty and Jozy Altidore was limited to a role off the substitute's bench.
He also has six assists to go with his goal tally, and he’s failed to score or assist in just three games this year (and just once in the last nine). Looks like the major money Toronto has thrown at Designated Player signings may have paid off big time in Giovinco.
Toledo hands out multiple cards—not for the first time
Referee Baldomero Toledo went card-happy in the San Jose Earthquakes’ 0-0 draw against FC Dallas on Sunday, and the match finished 10-vs.-9 in favor of the away team. Two of the straight reds, the first to San Jose’s Mark Sherrod and the second to Dallas’ Je-Vaughn Watson, looked pretty soft before J.J. Koval definitely earned his with three minutes left.
It’s not the first time Toledo has handed out three red cards in this matchup, as he matched his pattern—two for San Jose, one for Dallas—in a 2-2 draw on Aug. 24, 2013. In that game, all three came in the last 10 minutes and were probably the right call, first to Justin Morrow for a vicious tackle before Kenny Cooper and Víctor Bernárdez got in each other’s faces.
In his 194-game MLS career, Toledo has now shown 72 red cards. He’s not helped by the league’s directives to encourage maintaining a fast speed of play, but the fact that Toledo is notorious for these kinds of antics should be a red flag for those in the Professional Referee Organization.
Home streaks end
Before Toronto FC came away from the American capital with three points. D.C. had last lost at RFK Stadium against the Seattle Sounders, 1-0, on June 28 of last year. That’s almost a year between losses at home.
The Galaxy did go more than a year without losing at the StubHub Center. The last loss came in the first game of the 2014 season, when Real Salt Lake took a narrow 1-0 win on March 8.
With those two streaks over, the New England Revolution and Sporting Kansas City own the longest home unbeaten streaks in the league at eight and 18 matches, respectively.
Sporting KC is 5-0-3 after losing its last home game of the 2014 season, while the Revs have posted an 11-0-7 record since their 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew on July 26, 2014.
Rocky Mountain stalemate
After some thrilling games in the past few years—two one-goal games in 2014 and an exciting 2-2 tie in August 2013 come to mind—the Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry has suddenly turned into a battle between the Western Conference’s bottom two teams. Sunday’s product matched that level of hype in a 0-0 draw that didn’t really get exciting until the last five minutes.
When it did, the execution still left fans shaking their heads. Dillon Powers missed the target with his penalty attempt in the 89th minute, perhaps fazed by Nick Rimando’s stellar record in the situation as he came up woefully short.
The miss saved RSL the embarrassment of losing at home, but it hasn’t defeated a Western Conference opponent at Rio Tinto Stadium in 2015 and only has two wins out of seven at home. As for the Colorado Rapids, with their eighth tie, they are already almost halfway to topping the Chicago Fire’s 18-draw 2014 season that broke the league record.
Week 14 Best XI
GOALKEEPER: Tim Melia (Sporting Kansas City)
DEFENDERS: Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS: Tommy McNamara (New York City FC), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Andrés Romero (Montreal Impact)
FORWARDS: Fanendo Adi (Portland Timbers), Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Jairo Arrieta (D.C. United)
After beating LA for just the second time earlier this season, the Whitecaps added their first victory against the Galaxy in California on Saturday to cap a stretch of three games in eight days that also included two trips across the continent.
Benny Feilhaber’s late penalty lifted SKC over the shorthanded Sounders, and controversial as it may have been, it ended Kansas City’s nine-game winless streak against Seattle.
With Clint Dempsey (birth of his child), Obafemi Martins (broken nose) and Chad Barrett (hamstring) out injured, the Seattle attack couldn’t generate much power, although it did put all six of its shots on target against Sporting.
After extending its unbeaten streak at RFK Stadium to 20 games on Wednesday, D.C. saw that same run ended on Saturday against Toronto.
Sebastian Giovinco’s double on the same day his former club, Juventus, lost in the Champions League final put him in a three-way tie for third place atop the MLS goalscoring chart. Jozy Altidore's early return from a hamstring injury is good news for both the Reds and the USMNT.
From leading the league in mid-April, the Red Bulls have fallen precariously close to the red line in the Eastern Conference with three consecutive losses and just one win since being in first place.
Despite Robbie Keane’s return to the starting lineup, the Galaxy saw its 29-match home unbeaten run ended by Vancouver on Saturday.
Two goals in the last three minutes from Fanendo Adi gave the Timbers a dramatic home win over New England, which also marked the first time in the MLS era the team has won three in a row.
Dallas hasn’t won in four matches and only took a point from the Earthquakes after playing much of Sunday’s game up a man, first 11-on-10 and then 10-on-9.
In just his second appearance since tearing his ACL as a rookie, Mark Sherrod picked up an unfortunate straight red card as he tried to avoid contact with Dallas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy—though J.J. Koval’s later red was merited.
The Revs’ loss in Portland pushes their winless streak to six games; Jermaine Jones missed the match through injury, and Juan Agudelo is in Europe on national-team duty.
The Lions are unbeaten in four games, sandwiching two draws between two victories, including its latest against the Fire that only came courtesy of two goals in the last 10 minutes.
Will Bruin scored what proved to be the game-winning goal and an insurance marker as the Dynamo lifted its record against Eastern Conference opponents in 2015 to 4-1-2.
Nick Rimando has faced five penalties in 15 matches this season, including one in the waning moments against the Rapids, but opponents have scored on just two of those efforts.
Two more wins brings the Impact to .500 and continues its sneak up the standings as it makes up for matches postponed during its Champions League run; on points per game, Montreal is already a top-half team.
The Union showed its maddening inconsistency again this week by handily defeating one struggling team—albeit still one in a playoff place—before losing to the team in the worst form in MLS.
Columbus hasn’t won in a month but still sits just inside the playoff places despite another two-loss week against conference opponents.
Adailton ignominiously became the first player to score two own goals in an MLS game to cap off a rough week in which Chicago conceded six goals and lost twice.
Appropriately for the team with the highest number of draws in the league, Colorado is averaging one point per game so far in 2015—the second-lowest in the league ahead of just NYCFC.
Patrick Mullins scored his third goal of the season, and Tommy McNamara scored on a gorgeous strike, to end NYCFC’s oppressive winless streak with its first road victory in franchise history.