The MLS XI, Week 25: Giovinco Shines, Rivalries Renewed and Goal Line Scrambles Galore
- MLS's Rivalry Week delivered some of the expected, some of the unexpected a lot of the just plain weird–and more sensational play from Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco.
Week 25 wasn't just any week in MLS–it was Rivalry Week. And for as much as that designation can sometimes seem tacked-on or forced, the fact of the matter is there were several spicy encounters around the league this past weekend. You had rivals in Canada, in Cascadia, in the Rocky Mountains and in the Big Apple all playing each other this weekend, and the result was a compelling slate of games as the push toward the playoffs continues.
This wasn't a week full of pretty goals or eye-popping plays. Rather, this weekend's games showed us a bit of the expected, a bit of the unexpected and a lot of the just plain weird.
I: Seba The Inevitable
Right now, so much about Sebastian Giovinco's game in MLS seems to be expected. You just know, watching him play with Toronto FC, that the Italian is liable to do something with extreme skill at some point during the game. As he stepped up to take a first-half free kick for Toronto against Montreal on Sunday, you knew there was a pretty good chance that he was going to score, or at least make Evan Bush work to save it.
And then he does this, and it still manages to be exciting (unless you're an Impact fan):
That goal moves Giovinco into a tie for the most goals off direct free kicks in a single season, with seven. He's scored more goals off direct free kicks in 2017 than 93% of the league's players have scored by any method at all. Oh, and he can also five-hole goalkeepers on the volley like this:
Just another day in the life of Giovinco. That was the nail in the coffin of Toronto's 3–1 win.
II: Greg Vanney Needs a Tailor
As good as Giovinco and Toronto FC were against Montreal, the team's coach had issues. Namely: Wardrobe issues. While vehemently protesting a call, TFC coach Greg Vanney split his pants in a very big, very noticeable way.
Luckily, there was an easy (if hilarious) solution:
The cry/laughing emoji was made specifically for this occasion.
III: We Have Reached Peak Wondo
Chris Wondolowski has built one of MLS's best careers on grit, hustle, and a seemingly preternatural instinct for doing what needs to be done to get the ball in the back of the net. Wondo scores off flicks, taps and little pokes. He finds himself in the right place in the right time too often for it to be an accident. And he's been doing it for years.
So it really says something that FOX commentator Stuart Holden called this "The most Chris Wondolowski finish you're ever going to see."
That's all kinds of cheeky, and it was the final goal in a 3–0 romp for San Jose over the flailing LA Galaxy in the California Clásico.
Get ready for Wondo Watch in 2018. His 132 career goals trail Landon Donovan's all-time MLS record of 145 by 13, and he's likely to pass third-place Jaime Moreno (133) and second-place Jeff Cunningham (134) on the league's all-time list by the end of the season.
IV: Orlando Ordered This Game Over-Easy
But instead it arrived scrambled.
Unfortunately, there's no way for coach Jason Kreis to send this result back to the kitchen. Orlando fell 2–1 to Vancouver at home.
V: Yet Another Goal Line Scramble
This one, though, has a much happier ending for the attacking team.
Cristian Roldan's unorthodox finish put Seattle ahead in a fiery Cascadia Cup clash, but a Diego Valeri PK evened things at 1–1, which is how it finished. That's six straight games with a goal for Valeri, if you lost track.
VI: Tifo of the Week, Part I
There were a lot of worthy candidates for Tifo Of The Week this weekend, so much so that I'll name two. The other one comes later, but this one stands out for how ruthlessly Red Bull New York supporters crushed the softball lobbed to them by the news that NYCFC would need to move a game to Connecticut due to scheduling conflicts with the Yankees:
Of course, we'd be remiss not to mention that tifo was being hoisted inside a stadium in New Jersey...but by the same token, the Red Bulls have never really gone out of their way to insist that they would only play in the five boroughs and nowhere else.
However you feel, it's a nice, friendly jab that preceded a heated 1–1 draw between the Hudson River rivals.
VII: From End to End in Three Touches
Brooks Lennon isn't usually in his own penalty area, but with scrumptious long passing like this, maybe he should be.
That goal gave RSL some separation, but it wasn't the last of the game in a 4–1 win over Rocky Mountain rival Colorado.
VIII: Diving Headers FTD
When the Philadelphia Union took a 2–0 lead over Atlanta United in the sides' first ever meeting on Saturday, Atlanta didn't panic. Rather, it resorted to using one of the most effective tools in its tool shed: The diving header.
Josef Martinez got an assist with one to start the comeback in the first half:
Then Tyrone Mears broke Union hearts with a stoppage-time equalizer on, you guessed it, a diving header (and quite a good one, too!)
IX: Chicago's Recent Form, in One GIF
The Fire suffered the biggest shock of the weekend, losing 2–1 at home to Minnesota. This yellow to Bastian Schweinsteiger certainly wasn't the reason why the Fire lost its fourth straight, but it is emblematic. A leader on the team that should know better, putting himself in a worse position with a needless mistake.
X: Tifo Of The Week, Part II
Justin Meram has enjoyed a career season with Columbus Crew SC, and though he didn't score in his team's 2–1 win over FC Dallas, he did get a wonderful tribute from the Crew SC faithful with this display, which also shows that the fans' ambitions are plenty high (That's an MLS Cup he's holding, of course):
And here's a fun time lapse video on how that tifo came to be:
XI: Three straight for D.C.
D.C. United has been almost uniformly awful all season, so it's nice to see Ben Olsen's side finally string some good results together.
That was the only goal of the game as United won its third straight game, 1–0, over New England. All three wins have been by the same scoreline–though this is the only one in which D.C. didn't benefit from an own goal.