Chicago's Nemanja Nikolic padded his league-leading goal tally, but it was his work on the other end that preserved a win; plus more heroics from Alan Gordon, David Villa, Ignacio Piatti and more.
MLS came back from the international break with aplomb in Week 16, as a packed weekend slate saw all 22 teams in action. Over the course of those 11 games, we saw plenty of things we’ve seen plenty of times before, but this time around some of them seemed just a little different.
We’ll cover those and many of the league’s other notable events in this week’s edition of the MLS XI:
I: Alan Gordon is still Alan Gordon
Alan Gordon has become a cult hero in Major League Soccer for a few reasons, but one of them is his propensity for late, game-winning goals. After highlighting one such play in the last edition of the MLS XI, Gordon delivered again this week for the Rapids against the Portland Timbers with the winner in a 2-1 triumph:
II: Defense to offense
Miguel Almiron scored another stunner for Atlanta United, but the point of this item is to heap praise upon Atlanta United defender Leandro González Pírez.
The defender's tackle on Columbus’ Niko Hansen was sublime, his recovery afterward admirable, and his enterprising ball forward set Almiron to perform the magic we’ve all become used to seeing in MLS so far:
That was the winning goal in Atlanta’s 3–1 triumph.
III: Nikolic scores...and saves
Nemanja Nikolic didn’t just hit his league-leading 13th goal of the season against the New England Revolution (albeit on a totally empty net):
He also provided not one but TWO headed goal-line clearances in the game’s closing moments to preserve Chicago’s 2–1 win:
Not bad for the league-leading striker.
IV: The Piatti Show
Ignacio Piatti seems to do something eye-catching every single week, and though he had two goals in the Impact’s 3–3 draw with Orlando City, we’d like to spare special mention for the wonderful assist he earned on Montreal’s opener, which combined hard work and his trademark guile in the box:
Alas, Montreal settled for the draw after a rare Jonathan Spector goal deep into stoppage time salvaged the point for Orlando.
V: Altidore and Giovinco: Still a good partnership
What a ball and what a finish:
Giovinco added another assist off a corner kick in Toronto’s 2–0 win over D.C. United
VI: Tifo of the week
Orlando City supporters’ tribute to pride month and the Pulse nightclub victims was simple, but carried out on a grand scale. Wonderful work here from the Purple Wall:
VII: Pick that out
Cristian Techera is in the midst of a great season for the Vancouver Whitecaps, with the latest big moment being his late, perfectly-hit freekick to salvage a 1–1 home draw against FC Dallas:
VIII: Happy Father’s Day
The San Jose Earthquakes’ scoreless draw with Sporting Kansas City may not have had any goals, but it did have a whole lot of appreciation for dads:
IX: Alessandrini the offside
The LA Galaxy scored late to earn a 2–2 draw vs Houston...but should they have? Probably not.
X: Villa at 50
David Villa scoring goals for NYCFC isn’t anything new at this point. However, it’s worth noting that Villa scored his 50th goal with the club over the weekend, netting it on a penalty kick and then scoring this classy winner in a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders in a rain-soaked Yankee Stadium later in the match:
XI: Jesse Marsch has a flight to catch
Jose Mourinho has been known to prematurely head from the technical area back to the locker room, but Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch wasn’t trying to mimic one of the world’s best when he did this after Bradley Wright-Phillips’ second goal against Philadelphia on Sunday:
Rather, Marsch just needed to get to the airport as soon as possible.
Really? He couldn’t have booked a slightly later flight?