The Red Bulls are in the playoffs, the Sounders are champions of Cascadia and the Fire have a new coach. Liviu Bird on MLS Week 29.
The pressure’s on in Major League Soccer, which just saw its second managerial firing since the 2015 season began. Frank Yallop is out as Chicago Fire head coach, joining former Montreal Impact boss Frank Klopas on the ignominious list.
Funny things happen when the playoffs come into view on the horizon. Not many are stranger than Steven Gerrard taking off a couple days of training and flying about 10 hours each way to sit in the Champions League studio for BT Sport in England, though.
Some of the results on the field over the past week have been just baffling. Struggling expansion team New York City FC pulled off a two-win week. The New England Revolution got a big win over the New York Red Bulls, then turned around and lost by three goals to the Impact. The Red Bulls bounced back from the loss to win at Portland and become the first team to clinch a 2015 playoff berth. Finally, all three teams at the top of the Western Conference lost by two or three goals.
That’s parity for you.
With just over a month remaining in the 2015 MLS season, here are some thoughts:
Pirlo, Giovinco meet again; Gerrard goes back to England
Andrea Pirlo and Sebastian Giovinco, who once played for Juventus together, found themselves on opposite sides as NYCFC defeated Toronto FC, 2-0, on Wednesday. After a slow start to his MLS career, Pirlo turned in two assists to outdo Giovinco in his MVP-candidate debut year (Giovinco bounced back nicely with two goals and an assist against the Colorado Rapids over the weekend).
Meanwhile, another former European star turned some heads by returning to England in midweek to commentate on Champions League games. Gerrard then returned and played 90 minutes as the LA Galaxy lost to Real Salt Lake.
It’s not a great look for one of the most important players on a team chasing the Supporters’ Shield title to take time off from his team and make such an arduous return trip.
It probably would have been explained away easily if the Galaxy pulled out the result, but a 3-0 loss to RSL only makes that decision look more baffling.
Yallop fired after poor season in Chicago
It seems like it’s been a long time coming, but the Fire parted ways with Yallop and his assistants after another loss on the weekend and installing Brian Bliss as head coach for the time being. Yallop won just 13 of 63 league games with the team, which has come under a lot of scrutiny this year.
Nelson Rodríguez, a former MLS executive currently working for U.S. Soccer, was also announced as the team’s new general manager. His last MLS job was running Chivas USA after MLS acquired the team, so he has some experience in dire situations.
Chicago has won just twice in the second half of the year, and it currently has a three-game losing streak and four-game winless run going.
Whoever comes in as Yallop’s permanent replacement is going to have a tough task of reversing this year’s results.
Cascadia Cup never fails to provide entertainment
For the first time since 2011, the Seattle Sounders took home the Cascadia Cup after a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. It’s been a crazy season series between those two, with Seattle winning 2-0 and 3-0 on the road and Vancouver defeating the Sounders 3-0 at CenturyLink Field.
Of course, this mini-competition has plenty of quirks within it. No team has clinched the trophy at home in the Pacific Northwest’s MLS era; it’s been won primarily on the road, except when the Whitecaps won it in 2013 after a game in which the team wasn’t involved.
In any case, the win leaves Seattle firmly within the playoff picture and perhaps with an outside chance of catching Vancouver at the top of the overall league table, with Sigi Schmid guiding the club through its summer doldrums and back toward its best form.
For the Whitecaps, it was a missed opportunity to climb farther above LA and FC Dallas, both losers on the weekend.
D.C.’s decline presents opportunity for others
The Columbus Crew defeated D.C. United in the nation’s capital on Saturday to temporarily jump to the top of the Eastern Conference with its fifth win in the last seven games. Meanwhile, D.C. has been moving the exact opposite direction, with four losses in the last five with the postseason fast approaching.
Since winning a wild 6-4 match against RSL on Aug. 1, D.C. has only managed to score four goals in six games. In that span, Kei Kamara alone has scored six for the Crew and keeps creeping toward the single-season goalscoring record.
Columbus seemed like a dark-horse candidate to make noise in the East since the start of the year, especially with Kamara’s lethal ability in the penalty area.
The Red Bulls have been the obvious best team in the league in the second half of the year—and clinched a playoff spot with their win on Sunday—but Columbus isn’t far behind, meaning their game in two weeks could be one of the best of the season.
Week 29 Best XI
GOALKEEPER: Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)
DEFENDERS: Damien Perquis (Toronto FC), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders), Damien Perrinelle (New York Red Bulls)
MIDFIELDERS: Gonzalo Pineda (Seattle Sounders), Andrea Pirlo (New York City FC), Tranquillo Barnetta (Philadelphia Union), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Juan Manuel Martínez (Real Salt Lake)
FORWARDS: Devon Sandoval (Real Salt Lake), Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders)