The MLS XI, Week 14: Center backs dominate, Real Salt Lake capitulates

Monday June 5th, 2017

MLS vacation mode: activated. After a jam-packed schedule in the past few weeks, this past weekend’s slate of MLS games will be the last action most teams will see for a while as the FIFA international break takes hold (save for three games on June 10, the regular season goes on hiatus until June 17). In Week 14 of MLS, some teams went into the break on a high, while others looked like they already had one foot out the door. Regardless, and as always, there were plenty of highlights.

Here's what stood out the most:

I: Big men, big impact

And thus the soccer gods decreed that MLS Week 14 be known as The Week Of The Center Back. A single weekend of league action featured six goals from five defensive specialists, including two from a single player and one apiece for both of NYCFC’s men in the middle. 

However, the most unexpected may have from from Sporting Kansas City’s Ike Opara, who opened the scoring in a 3–0 win over Minnesota United with this worm-burner from long range. The way he celebrated, you’d think he scores this kind of goal all the time. He doesn’t. 

Another particularly unusual center back goal came from Vancouver Whitecaps bruiser Kendall Waston. Check out this striker-like bit of strength and finishing from the Costa Rican to get the first non-headed goal of his career:  

That wasn’t enough for the big man. Later that half he scored a much more conventional center back’s goal: 

Meanwhile in the Bronx, New York City FC came back from a 1–0 deficit against Philadelphia thanks to goals from center backs Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens, both of whom scored their first MLS goals in the 2–1 win: 

The Revolution’s Benjamin Angoua might have had the easiest job of any goal-scoring center back in the league, seeing as he had to out-muscle precisely nobody to get his head to this ball. That Toronto defense was pretty indicative of the rest of the game. The Revs won 3–0. 

Want to know the really crazy thing about all those goals? That’s every goal scored by a center back over the weekend of Week 14, and all of them were either equalizers or winners.

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II: This just about sums up RSL’s week

Real Salt Lake lost 5–1 at Houston on Wednesday, then followed that up with a 6–2 loss at Dallas on Saturday. If one were to sum those results up in a shot attempt, it would be this: 

III: Reds in a sea of purple

Ordinarily a 0–0 draw at home wouldn’t get a rousing ovation from the fans, but ordinarily a team isn’t playing that game down a man for 40 minutes, then down two men for an additional 24 minutes. 

Were Orlando’s fans cheering bad sportsmanship? No. They were applauding their team’s resolve after one of the worst red card decisions you’ll see in the league this year.

Check out Rafael Ramos’ innocuous collision with Brandon Vincent, and wonder what referee Ted Unkel saw that made him issue a straight red: 

The second ejection came in the second half, and it’s a little more understandable than the first (which isn’t saying much)

IV: Tifo of the week

This two-pole banner isn’t technically a tifo but it’s too well-placed to overlook. Somebody actually thought to bring this to a game before two red cards were handed out in that game.

V: Back in Goonies mode

Speaking of scoring winners, that’s something Alan Gordon knows how to do quite well. The forward made a habit of scoring late goals in previous stops around MLS (especially in San Jose), and he took that habit to Colorado this week with a late winner in a 2–1 result against Columbus:

VI: Three touches from Diego Valeri

Here are two exquisite ones: 

And here is a fortunate one: 

Together, they equaled both goals for Portland in a 2–0 win over San Jose on Friday. 

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VII: What were you doing at 16?

Were you scoring goals in a professional soccer league? Well, Jesus Ferreira has you beat. The FC Dallas homegrown talent bagged his first goal at the age of 16 years and 161 days, the second-youngest in the history of the league (it’s safe to assume that the record, belonging to a 14 year and 320-day old Freddy Adu, will likely never be beaten):

If the name Ferreira looks familiar on the back of an FC Dallas jersey, it’s because Jesus’ father David played for the team from 2009-2013, winning MLS MVP in 2010. 

VIII: Just like they drew it up 

Two posts and bundled home. What a weird, weird way to score a goal.

IX: Free kick of the week

It may not be direct, but you better believe that Montreal’s decision to take this free kick quickly helped open up Blerim Dzemiali for his first MLS goal in the Impact’s 1–0 win over the New York Red Bulls:

X: Where there’s a Will there’s a way

Will Bruin scored 50 regular season goals in six seasons with the Houston Dynamo, but he made his former team pay with a typically gritty finish in Seattle’s 1–0 win on Sunday night. 

XI: Woodwork strikes again

Here’s how close D.C. United was to three points against the LA Galaxy: 

The game ended 0–0 despite some excellent chances from both sides (like that one).

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