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The MLS XI, Week 13: Rivalry week controversies, Nikolic stars, Plata finally scores

There were plenty of questionable calls to go around in MLS this week, whether they took place in an old-time rivalry or a budding one.

Clearly, MLS decided that golazos are *so* last week. After a Week 12 slate that saw no shortage of impressive strikes, Week 13 was a much more muted affair, though there were still plenty of interesting results to go around—even if they were interesting for how uninteresting they were; FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo’s Sunday night match was the first 0–0 draw in the league in almost a month. 

Let’s get to some of the more memorable moments in Week 13’s other matches: 

I: Handball or no?

The Seattle-Portland rivalry added another match to its history on Saturday but the major talking point won’t be Christian Roldan’s first-half goal that gave Seattle a 1–0 win. 

Instead, it’ll be this non-handball call on Chad Marshall, denying the Timbers a penalty. 

Lots of ways to interpret this one. Was referee Marc Geiger right to judge that Marshall’s arm was in a natural position and that it was unintentional? Or does intention not matter so much in this case, what with the handball denying a shot on goal? It’s one of those debates that will always make for heated arguments, regardless of which way Video Assistant Refereeing may call it in the future. 

II: Tifos of the week

Week 13 happened to be one of MLS’ semi-regular “rivalry weeks,” which don’t always bring out the best games but often bring out the best tifo banners from MLS supporter groups. There were a bunch to choose from this week, but here are two of the most impressive ones.

This one, from Atlanta United’s game against NYCFC, is produce-themed. Georgia Peaches vs. the Big Apple. Of course, to them, there’s only one winner.

This one, from Seattle Sounders supporters in honor of coach Brian Schmetzer, is royalty-themed.

Schmetzer himself got a bit emotional just thinking back on it – enough to specifically thank the supporters in his post-game press conference.

III: Hello, Kortne Ford

A tough, rugged center back, Kortne Ford signed a Homegrown Player contract with the Rapids before this season and has immediately logged major minutes along the backline. This week, though, Ford scored his first professional goal against Sporting Kansas City on a well-struck freekick service from Shkelshen Gashi. It turned out to be the winner as the Rapids held on, 1–0.

Any pro’s first goal is going to be memorable, but Ford scoring his first against Kansas City, where he lived until he was 12, might mean a bit extra. Read this excellent Denver Post feature for more on Ford’s heavy heart. 

IV: Oh noooo, Cody Cropper

Bradley Wright-Phillips scored a back-heel goal. Normally that would be the headline, but none of it would have been possible without the “services” of Revolution goalkeeper Cody Cropper. 

Still, though...what a nice bit of improv from Wright-Phillips. That was the equalizer in a game the Red Bulls would go on to win, 2–1. 

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V: Cue up “Yakety Sax”

Atlanta United scored three fine goals in a 3–1 win over NYCFC on Sunday. Miguel Almiron was superb again. But we’ve written about Atlanta and Almiron a lot recently here at the XI. So instead...just look at this hilarious sequence. 

VI: Yep, that’s a dive

Hoooooooo boy. 

That’s Jose Guillermo Ortiz, diving for a penalty, and earning one that was eventually converted to put D.C. United up 1–0 on the Vancouver Whitecaps. That was frustrating enough for Whitecaps fans, but the worst was still to come. Vancouver hit the woodwork an astonishing four times in this game, but the final one came via a stoppage-time penalty kick that was pretty much the last play of the game. 

Look away, Whitecaps fans…

That’s a very loud silence that falls over the stadium. 

VII: Sneaky, sneaky Vazquez

The “shoot the freekick low at the wall hoping everybody jumps” trick doesn’t work very often. But when it does…

That was Vazquez’s second of the game, and the third in what would become a 5–0 rout for Toronto FC over Columbus Crew SC. 

VIII: Nemanja Nikolic remains on fire

Nemanja Nikolic is without a doubt the frontrunner for MLS Newcomer of the Year, and his performance in Thursday’s 2–1 win over FC Dallas is another reason why. Not only did Nikolic display is trademark scoring touch to bury his league-leading 11th goal of the year..

...But his run into space opened a lane for David Accam to score the winner just minutes later (pay attention to No. 23 in red): 

In addition to all of that, Nikolic might have the best team-made celebration GIF in the league: 

IX: A flick and a finish 

Christian Ramirez scored the winner in Minnesota United’s 1–0 win over Orlando City. But the real star of this goal might be the highly-unorthodox, but very effective assist from Johan Venegas. 

X: Finally, a goal from Joao Plata

Joao Plata’s scoreless 2017 was one of a few surprising things about Real Salt Lake’s disappointing season so far, but the exciting Ecuadorian finally got off the mark on Saturday thanks to some impressive interplay with new acquisition Jefferson Savarino. 

XI: Alessandrini can run

And he can deliver a mighty good cross at the end of that run, too. 

That was the capper in the Galaxy’s 4–2 win over the San Jose Earthquakes - the latest edition of the California Clásico.