Games are starting to come in droves for Major League Soccer teams. A full weekend schedule awaited after all 17 American teams played U.S. Open Cup matches in midweek, and next week’s fixtures don’t get any lighter.
The league has been trying to cut down on midweek games because of poorer attendance numbers, but Wednesday features seven league games, followed by nine on the weekend. This will be the first time the majority of MLS teams will be in action twice in one week.
Before then, though, MLS returned to full swing after a light week to prepare for Open Cup participation. The new competition helped some teams build momentum—including the LA Galaxy, who won two games by wide margins—but it seriously hurt others, such as the Seattle Sounders.
Here are a few thoughts after Week 16 of the MLS season:
MLS dominant in Open Cup, with two exceptions
Only Seattle and the Portland Timbers’ Open Cup kerfuffle featured two MLS teams; the rest of the round’s 16 matches pitted one of the country’s top-tier teams against a lower opponent. On all but two occasions, the MLS team emerged as the winner.
Those two exceptions are notable, as both one United Soccer League and one North American Soccer League team defeated an MLS opponent. The expansion Charlotte Independence, its team stocked with a good number of players who played in MLS and coached by former MLS coach Mike Jeffries, defeated a second-string New England Revolution lineup.
The biggest noise came from the Big Apple, though, where the New York Cosmos continued their bid for NYC dominance with a shootout win over New York City FC despite Kwadwo Poku’s two goals.
The Cosmos set up another all-New York matchup with the Red Bulls in the round of 16.
The Independence and Cosmos are trying to become the first non-MLS team in an Open Cup final since the Charleston Battery made it in 2008—and the first to win the competition since the Rochester Rhinos in 1999.
Tough week for Seattle, but Portland rising
Portland’s big week in two competitions came partly at the expense of its biggest rival in the Emerald City. A comfortable 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo followed two extra-time goals in a wild game featuring three Seattle red cards–including one to Clint Dempsey that rules the U.S. national team captain out of action through the end of the month.
Seattle's miserable week continued on the weekend with a 2-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes. The Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps still sit higher in the standings, but since a disappointing 1-0 loss in Toronto in late May, the Timbers have quietly climbed the table.
“I challenged them that things needed to change—things needed to be better,” manager Caleb Porter said after defeating Houston.
The Timbers have outscored their opponents 10-2 in the five games since then, heading into a tough week at LA and against Seattle again.
Galaxy making their annual climb?
Perhaps it took going down an early goal to an amateur team to wake up the Galaxy. PSA Elite, the last remaining non-professional team in the Open Cup, jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute on Wednesday, but LA responded mightily and won 6-1.
Robbie Keane bagged a hat trick, and the team could consider itself satisfied despite the early blip. Considering the continuation of the goalscoring frenzy over the weekend, maybe LA owes its SoCal neighbor a hearty thank you.
The Galaxy hadn’t won a league game in three efforts, and besides consecutive wins over the Dynamo and Real Salt Lake, had hardly won since mid-April. On Saturday, five players scored to give LA a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Union and announce that the team might be ready to start its annual run toward the top of the table.
Ousted, displaced Whitecaps get it right
After stumbling in the first match of their monthlong exile from B.C. Place for the Women’s World Cup, the Whitecaps have won two tough road tests in MLS. They defeated LA, 1-0, two weeks ago before dispatching the Red Bulls, 2-1, on Saturday.
This latest match was the wildest of the Week 16 slate, featuring two penalty saves by David Ousted and two misses by reigning Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Cuban-born 19-year-old Kianz Froese capped it with his first professional goal that proved to be the winner.
Vancouver’s isn't quite as long as Toronto FC’s road streak to start the season while it waited for BMO Field renovations to finish, but TFC did offer a valuable lesson on how to handle such a stretch. If you can come away with a decent record, the reward of playing several important matches at home late in the season could be worth it.
Week 16 Best XI
GOALKEEPER: David Ousted (Vancouver Whitecaps)
DEFENDERS: Jorge Villafaña (Portland Timbers), Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), R.J. Allen (New York City FC)
MIDFIELDERS: Baggio Husidić (LA Galaxy), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Matías Pérez García (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabián Castillo (FC Dallas)
FORWARDS: Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), David Villa (New York City FC), Chris Rolfe (D.C. United)
1. Vancouver Whitecaps
RECORD: 9-6-2 | This week 2-1 at Red Bulls
On the other side of BWP’s ignominiously historic misses, Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted became the third in MLS history to save two penalties in a single match.
2. D.C. United
RECORD: 9-5-4 | This week 2-1 vs. New England
Chris Rolfe scored twice in the last 20 minutes to give D.C. a win over the Eastern Conference’s second-placed team, extending United’s lead to seven points.
3. Seattle Sounders
RECORD: 9-5-2 | This week 0-2 vs. San Jose
Following Clint Dempsey’s suspension, a seriously shorthanded Seattle edged possession but couldn’t convert it into scoring chances against the Earthquakes on Saturday.
4. Portland Timbers
RECORD: 7-5-4 | This week 2-0 vs. Houston
After a wild Open Cup win at Starfire and defeating the Dynamo, the Timbers have won five in a row in all competitions, sneaking into the top five of the Supporters’ Shield standings.
5. Sporting Kansas City
RECORD: 6-3-6 | This week 1-2 at Real Salt Lake
A loss at RSL was only Sporting’s third all season, still the lowest number in the conference, but six ties means it’s only fifth in the West.
6. Los Angeles Galaxy
RECORD: 6-5-7 | This week 5-1 vs. Philadelphia
The Galaxy won its two matches this week by a combined 11-2 score, although its midweek Open Cup opponent was the last remaining amateur team in the competition and its weekend league opponent sits in 18th place in MLS.
7. Toronto FC
RECORD: 6-6-1 | This week 0-2 vs. NYCFC
The Reds statistically dominated Saturday’s match against NYCFC without getting anything to fall in the final third.
8. Montreal Impact
RECORD: 5-5-2 | This week 2-0 vs. Orlando
After five wins in seven games and a 2-0 victory over Orlando, Montreal climbed into the top spot of a four-way logjam for fifth place in the East by virtue of its five wins.
9. New York City FC
RECORD: 4-7-5 | This week 2-0 at Toronto
David Villa, who has scored in all but one game of NYCFC’s current four-game unbeaten streak (in league play), scored two more to take down Toronto FC on Saturday.
10. San Jose Earthquakes
RECORD: 6-5-5 | This week 2-0 at Seattle
After a shootout win in the Open Cup, San Jose won in Seattle for the second time this year behind good goals from former Sounder Sanna Nyassi and Matías Pérez García.
11. Orlando City SC
RECORD: 5-6-5 | This week 0-2 at Montreal
Orlando followed an Open Cup win over the Charleston Battery by losing against the Impact in league play just three days later, continuing the ups and downs of its expansion season.
12. New York Red Bulls
RECORD: 4-5-5 | This week 1-2 vs. Vancouver
Bradley Wright-Phillips became the first player in MLS history to miss two penalty kicks in the same match as the Red Bulls’ losing streak extended to four against Vancouver.
13. Real Salt Lake
RECORD: 5-5-6 | This week 2-1 vs. Sporting Kansas City
With his two assists against Sporting Kansas City, Javier Morales has been involved in over half of the team’s 15 goals in 2015 with three goals and five assists.
14. FC Dallas
RECORD: 6-5-6 | This week 1-1 at Colorado
Dallas finished a franchise-record five-match streak on the road in league play without a win, dropping from top of the league to eighth place and barely still in the playoff places.
15. New England Revolution
RECORD: 6-5-6 | This week 1-2 at D.C.
The Revs are still second in the East despite a slump that has seen them win just once in the last eight games, but Orlando and Toronto are quickly closing the gap.
16. Houston Dynamo
RECORD: 5-6-5 | This week 0-2 at Portland
After defeating Portland by two goals just a month ago, Houston lost to the Timbers by the same margin on Saturday after having an early goal called back for a foul.
17. Columbus Crew
RECORD: 4-6-5 | This week Off
Columbus won its Open Cup match, 3-1 at the Richmond Kickers, ahead of league matches next week against New England and at RSL.
18. Colorado Rapids
RECORD: 2-4-9 | This week 1-1 vs. Dallas
In his first MLS start since the season opener, Dillon Serna ran the show for Colorado and scored an 88th-minute equalizer against Dallas.
19. Philadelphia Union
RECORD: 4-10-3 | This week 1-5 at LA
Adding onto a thumping from the Galaxy on a cross-country trip in which it conceded three goals (and even scored one) in a nine-minute span, Philadelphia became the first MLS team to 10 losses.
20. Chicago Fire
RECORD: 4-8-2 | This week Off
The Fire needed a friendly deflection in extra time to get past Louisville City FC in a fairly miserable Open Cup match, 1-0.