The MLS XI has taken a bit of a vacation these past couple of weeks. It’s been much-needed. Fact of the matter is that the MLS season is long, and without a break in the middle it runs the risk of getting incredibly stale. The two-week Gold Cup break came at the perfect time, and the league responded upon return with no shortage of memorable moments. So many, in fact, that it would be difficult to fit all of them in a single XI.
With that in mind, we’re going to follow usual practice and limit this edition of The MLS XI to things that happened this past weekend, in Week 20. There certainly was plenty.
I: “Trey, hand these out”
For a league continually trying to build the sense of authenticity, it’s inescapable that some things simply can’t be manufactured. They come with time, and timing. They randomly occur, only to be remembered forever. They’re the unplanned moments, beyond the on-field action, that make a competition worth talking about.
With that in mind, I’d like to direct you to Mike Petke’s press conference following Real Salt Lake’s 1–1 home draw with Kansas City.
“Trey, hand these out.”
“The frickin’ printer didn't work.”
No two ways about it, this is an epic presser, perhaps the greatest in the 22-year history of the league. So good that RSL supporters have already made T-shirts about it. It hits all the right notes. Petke's knowledge, even from the very beginning, that he was going to let loose and wanted everyone to know about it. His pure, righteous indignation. The printouts! The shoutout to “Trey,” aka Trey Fitz-Gerald, RSL’s long-serving VP of communications. This is MLS’s “They are who we thought they were,” its “You play to win the game,” its “Playoffs?!?!,” and maybe even its “We’re talkin' about practice.”
In case you’re wondering, here’s the incident that got Petke so angry, along with his reaction which got him tossed from the game. To be fair to him, he has a point.
That was just one of a whole bunch of chippy incidents in that RSL-SKC game, the latest installment of a rivalry that ranks among MLS’s best and most venomous at this moment in time.
...Oh, and the game? RSL and SKC tied, 1–1. In this rare case, a result that is merely a small footnote to history.
II: 17 minutes of hell
Coming into Saturday, the Houston Dynamo had yet to get a win away from home, and D.C. United was just coming off giving up four unanswered goals in a 4–3 loss to Seattle. You might expect that D.C., despite its spot at the foot of the Eastern Conference, would come out flying in an effort to set things right, while the Dynamo’s road woes would strike once again.
Uh, well, that’s not what happened.
That’s right. A 3–0 lead after 17 minutes. Houston would go on to win 3–1, but even with that one consolation goal, it’s fair to say this accurately sums up the mindset of most D.C. United fans at this point:
III: When 10 stops 11
NYCFC vs. Chicago was always going to be one of the league’s marquee matchups, considering that Chicago entered riding an 11-game unbeaten run and NYCFC hot on its tail in the Eastern Conference. Then, within 12 minutes, Yangel Herrera managed to earn two yellow cards and get himself sent off.
What could have been a disaster for NYCFC turned into an opportunity to make a big statement–one that David Villa took with this sublime first-time volley from outside the box to open the scoring and send his team on its way to a shorthanded 2–1 win:
IV: Tifo & laser of the week
The easy choice for this week’s best tifo is this fantastic display from Orlando City fans in their game against Atlanta United:
And this lovely game-winning strike from Atlanta’s Hector Villalba has every reason to be voted the week’s best goal:
V: Hello, Colman
Cristian Colman was projected to be Dallas’ go-to option up top this season, with the reigning Supporters' Shield winners paying to bring in the striker from his native Paraguay. It hasn’t quite gone as planned so far, with Maxi Urrutti having the season of his career, and Colman struggling to make an impact in the time he’s gotten.
That is, until Saturday. The Paraguayan let rip with his first two goals of the season at Montreal, including this very nice bit of control and strength to fire home the winner:
VI: It was hot in Minnesota
If you can believe it, this is the same place where a game was played with an orange ball in the middle of a blizzard just a couple months ago:
That was just about the only situation in which the Red Bulls hid. Jesse Marsch’s side got a solid 3–0 win against the Loons, and Sacha Kljestan made a bit of history. With this assist for Alex Muyl’s capper, he becomes the club’s all-time leader in assists, surpassing the great Thierry Henry.
Anytime you can pass Henry on a records list, you’re probably doing something right.
VII: Justin Meram is not an All-Star?
And, to be fair, his deflected finish in Columbus’ 1–0 win over Philadelphia wasn’t exactly eye-catching:
However, Meram is having himself a heck of a season, and definitely deserved serious consideration for an All-Star spot. His quote afterwards was notable, considering the upcoming festivities:
Interesting (and not entirely unfounded) take!
VIII: Colorado finally gets one away
The Rapids have looked a shadow of the side that turned so many heads last season, and a big reason why is the club’s abysmal away record, which was 0–7–0 entering this weekend. Well, the Rapids took away one of those 0s on Saturday, earning a surprising 1–1 draw at Toronto FC thanks to this fine Dominique Badji strike (which came against the run of play):
IX: NE comes back again, again, again
The most exciting game of the weekend may have been Saturday’s clash between New England and the LA Galaxy, which saw the Revs take the lead three times only for the Galaxy to keep storming back. Finally, it was Teal Bunbury, of all people, that buried the Galaxy with two second-half goals off the bench:
X: Goodbye, Jordan Harvey
That bit of skill was nice, but a 2–1 win away at their Cascadia Rival Vancouver Whitecaps will matter much more to Caleb Porter & Co., especially considering that rookie forward Jeremy Ebobisse got his first goal and an assist in the win.
XI: Roldan keeps rolling
Christian Roldan showed decently in his time with the U.S. national team at the Gold Cup, scored a late winner in his team’s historic 4–3 comeback win over D.C. United midweek, and capped it all off with a two-goal effort in Seattle’s 3–0 win over San Jose in Sunday’s nightcap.
His first was a nice redirected header:
And his second came mere minutes later :
Neither goal was all that flashy, but you have to respect the hustle that went into both.