- Atlanta set an attendance record, Diego Valeri set a goal streak record, Josef Martinez made it seven goals in seven days and Toronto FC kept rolling without a pair of stars in MLS Week 28.
Week 28 in MLS was one for streaks to be extended and for records to fall.
The league's longest winless streak and unbeaten streak were both kept alive with a 0-0 draw in Texas, where FC Dallas (winless in nine, slipping more from the playoff places) and the Seattle Sounders (unbeaten in 13, drawn four straight, one of four fighting for first in the Western Conference) failed to entertain up to the standard they've set in their encounters in recent seasons.
That wasn't an issue in Utah, where Real Salt Lake climbed into the playoff places on a night when Portland's Diego Valeri accomplished something no other player in league history had done.
The story of the week, of course, resides in Atlanta–again–where a record crowd witnessed a thrilling event and an absolutely white-hot striker, and that's where we will kick off our look at the best of the weekend around MLS.
I. Atlanta's record crowd
Atlanta United made headlines last week when it opened play at the breathtaking Mercedes Benz Stadium, and it did so again after setting an MLS record for a standalone game, attracting 70,425 to the megadome for a riveting 3-3 draw vs. Orlando City.
From club owner Arthur Blank on the capo stand to a variation to Iceland's Viking clap to Josef Martinez's second straight hat trick, it was yet another day to remember in Atlanta, which, like Orlando, is providing a Southeastern answer to the Pacific Northwest's fervor for the sport.
Atlanta passionate fans have certainly received their money's worth. In three games at the new venue, Atlanta has scored 13 goals (opponents three) and gone 2-0-1, and the possibilities are tantalizing considering five of the club's final seven games are at home. Orlando fans who made the trip north got their money's worth, too. The Dom Dwyer-Cyle Larin partnership combined to score all three goals and is really starting to take off, and while it might be too little too late for this season, that's a substantial building block for next season (provided Orlando doesn't sell Larin, of course).
II. Josef Martinez has had himself a week
Just to recap the Atlanta United forward's last week: Goal vs. FC Dallas. Hat trick vs. New England. Hat trick vs. Orlando City–including an answer for each of the Lions' three goals.
Yes, that's seven goals in a span of seven days at his new home. Think it's safe to say the Venezuelan star is adjusting to the new setting.
Martinez's goal binge, which he has accomplished in a variety of ways, has made for an intriguing race to the Golden Boot. Martinez is one more hat trick away from matching David Villa, who remains atop the goal charts with 19. In between are Chicago's Nemanja Nikolic and Portland's scorching hot Diego Valeri (more on him later) with 18 and Columbus's streaking forward Ola Kamara who, like Martinez, is on 16. Bradley Wright-Phillips, who is seeking an MLS-record third Golden Boot, lurks just behind them with 15. It'll be a riveting race to the finish line.
III. Oh, Canada!
If the season ended today, the top seed in the Eastern Conference would be Toronto FC, while the top seed in the Western Conference would be the Vancouver Whitecaps. Is North American soccer ready for its new Canadian overlords?
IV. Who needs star power?
Speaking of Toronto FC, the Reds have the luxury of resting star players, traveling to California without Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco and absolutely rolling the flailing LA Galaxy 4-0.
Tosaint Ricketts and the criminally underappreciated Victor Vazquez (three goals and six assists in his last six games) led the charge instead, bringing TFC to the cusp of its first Supporters' Shield in the process. The right set of results could send the silverware to BMO Field as soon as next weekend–and it will be wholly deserved. In Toronto's six-game winning streak, the club has scored at least three goals in every match and has outscored opponents 21-3. It doesn't get much more dominant than that–and the overflowing confidence has spread to TFC's social media team, too.
V. An equal trade
It doesn't usually work out like this, but it did on this one day for Columbus and Vancouver.
VI. Andre Blake says no
The Philadelphia Union's goalkeeper remains one of the surest things in the league, and he was on one Sunday afternoon against the New York Red Bulls, leaving the Union's I-95 corridor rivals still searching for answers after their 0-0 draw.
The Sons of Ben haven't had much to cheer about this season, and they won't have playoff soccer to get amped about either, but at the very least, Blake is worth the price of admission. Enjoy him while you've got him, Philly!
VII. Colorado's late-game assassin
Dominique Badji is making a name for himself as a clutch hero for the Colorado Rapids.
After a nine-game winless streak and four-game losing streak, Badji, a third-year pro, is responsible for Colorado's four-point haul over the last two games, following his stoppage-time winner against Houston with an 88th-minute equalizer against NYCFC. Half of his career-high eight goals have come in the final 15 minutes of games this season, and in a season lacking bright spots for Colorado, Badji's emergence in late-game situations is one of them.
VIII. Diego Valeri makes it eight straight
No. 8 is reserved for Portland's No. 8, who set an MLS record by scoring in his eighth straight game. Surely Valeri, the team leader, would have traded the end of his streak for three points, with the club falling to Real Salt Lake 2-1 in a key Western Conference battle, but that hardly takes away from the accomplishment.
He'll look to extend to nine on Sunday vs. Orlando.
IX. No. 1 stunner
Abu Danladi, taken No. 1 overall by Minnesota United in this past year's MLS SuperDraft, came up with a game-winning strike worthy of the selection to give the Loons a 3-2 triumph over Montreal.
What a hit!
X. "The Belgium game was three years ago"
Tim Howard lets his actions speak in an indirect response to Alexi Lalas's pointed remarks.
Besides, he was never stopping this shocker from Tommy McNamara.
XI. You won't make the playoffs if you can't win on the road
New England, that's directed your way. Another road loss for the Revs, this one a 3-1 defeat at Sporting KC, dropped the club to 0-12-3 away from home this season. Three measly points are all Jay Heaps's side have been able to muster outside the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium, where the club is 10-2-2. The road-home success disparity is a problem for clubs across the league, but no one has more of a Jekyll and Hyde mark in that area than the Revs. The club sits seven points out of a playoff spot and has played a game more than the sixth-place Red Bulls, so the outlook is pretty bleak–and there's an obvious reason why.