After a record-setting weekend of goalscoring, how does MLS shape up? Liviu Bird sets the scene in his Week 22 MLS Power Rankings.
An explosive Saturday set the record for most goals in one day in Major League Soccer. It included a 6-4 win for D.C. United over Real Salt Lake and a 5-2 victory for Orlando City SC against Columbus Crew SC.
United States national teamers didn’t have much to do with it, though, as Clint Dempsey’s return couldn’t stop the Seattle Sounders’ losing skid. Jozy Altidore saw a straight red card in Toronto FC’s 3-1 loss to the New England Revolution, which Michael Bradley missed through injury. DaMarcus Beasley did have a good game, but the Houston Dynamo couldn’t pull out a win against Sporting Kansas City, and Kyle Beckerman managed to score for RSL in a losing effort.
Sunday began a little less excitingly with a goalless draw, but the week closed out with a 2-0 victory for the Chicago Fire over FC Dallas. It was a team at the bottom of the table beating a team at the top, reinforcing once again that anything can happen in MLS.
Here are a few thoughts on a high-scoring round of games:
Crunching goal numbers after crazy Saturday
The 39 goals in MLS play on Saturday set a new high mark for a single day, surpassing the 30 scored on May 28, 2011. Don’t jump to any conclusions based on that one day about the quality of attacking or defending in the league just yet, though.
MLS games have averaged 2.65 goals per game in 2015 after last week’s play. According to numbers provided by the league to SI.com, goalscoring had actually been trending negatively until the past few weeks, but it’s now exactly as it has been the last 11 years—in which MLS has seen an average of 2.65 goals per game.
Strangely, with 7.7 percent of all games ending in goalless draws so far (17 of 220), 2015 would have the second-highest mark in league history in that category if the season ended now. The shutout rate is slightly higher than last season’s at the moment, with 123 of a possible 440 blank spots—remember, both teams can finish a match with a clean sheet.
What does it all mean? In terms of qualitative analysis, these numbers have to be put in the proper context. But quantitatively, it would appear this is just another average season in a league that produces consistently wild results due to its parity.
D.C. shows resilience in wild 6-4 win
In the result everybody will be talking about after this week, D.C. won a 6-4 slugfest against RSL that just kept producing goalscoring opportunities. The shot count finished 22-17 in United’s favor, with RSL clearing 29 balls to D.C.’s 23.
Those are crazy numbers, and anybody who’s a fan of defensive, tactical soccer should skip the game tape on this one. Neither team tracked runners or took care of individual assignments very well, and the level of chaos couldn’t have been much higher.
Conceding four also ruined D.C.’s record of being close to the best in the league in terms of goals against—but the team also scored six, including three straight after going down 2-0 in the first 21 minutes.
No team in MLS history had come back from consecutive 2-0 deficits to win before D.C. did it the past two weeks.
Ben Olsen’s coaching philosophy seem to mostly emphasize grit and work rate, but his team has some of the best mental fortitude in the league. D.C. doesn’t often play attractive soccer, but until opponents figure out how to beat its head-banging style consistently, it has little impetus to change besides the heartburn-inducing stress that style inflicts on the technical staff.
Larin ties rookie goalscoring record with plenty of games to go
Canadian international Cyle Larin scored twice on Saturday after his hat trick the previous week, tying Damani Ralph’s 12-year-old record of 11 goals in a rookie season. Ralph won the Rookie of the Year award for his efforts, and Larin seems to be on track to do the same.
Just as importantly, Larin’s outburst ended Orlando’s three-game league losing streak as the Lions’ expansion season continues its up-and-down trajectory. The team went winless in all competitions in July, but a packed August schedule means a repeat this month would be tragic for its playoff hopes.
To keep winning, Orlando will rely on its No. 1 SuperDraft pick to maintain his good form. Only twice when he has scored has the team lost (strangely, one of those was last week, when he scored three), and he now leads the team in scoring over Kaká.
For a franchise that struggled to get production out of its front line early, Larin’s emergence will be a welcome sight.
Sounders’ tailspin continues despite Dempsey return
In his return from CONCACAF Gold Cup duty, Dempsey had very little say in a 3-0 Seattle loss to Cascadia rival Vancouver. However, manager Sigi Schmid said after the game that he never expected a full selection of players to magically fix his team’s problems.
“It’s never going to be that easy,” Schmid said. “I think I tried to caution people who thought, 'OK, everybody’s back, so then it’s a snap of the fingers and it’s going to all happen again.' That’s not the way it works.”
And he’s right. With Seattle’s current lack of cohesion and execution, it would be difficult to expect results no matter which players are on the field.
If the Sounders aren’t careful, the season could quickly slip away—they’re already in sixth place in the Western Conference, having lost eight of their last 10 games, and a match at LA comes next.
A skid like that in itself isn’t tragic: New England lost eight in a row and nine of 10 in midseason last year only to make it to the MLS Cup final. The Revs only lost once in their last 12 to close out 2014, though, and the Sounders only have 11 games to pull together some semblance of momentum before the playoffs.
Week 22 Best XI
GOALKEEPER: Adam Kwarasey (Portland Timbers)
DEFENDERS: Corey Ashe (Orlando City SC), Pa Modou Kah (Vancouver Whitecaps), Jeff Larentowicz (Chicago Fire), Taylor Kemp (D.C. United)
MIDFIELDERS: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Sacha Klještan (New York Red Bulls), Chris Rolfe (D.C. United)
FORWARDS: Charlie Davies (New England Revolution), Cyle Larin (Orlando City SC)