Road teams made news in MLS Week 14, while referee Baldomero Toldeo got red-card happy and Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco put on a show. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Whitecaps rise to the top of SI.com's MLS Power Rankings.
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)