Seven match days in and the conferences in Major League Soccer are still as close as ever. The west saw some big results in the Pacific North-West while in the east, the top and the bottom of the table features some interesting names.
Sporting KC topple the Timbers
Portland Timbers FC were riding high coming into this weekend and at home, most people thought they would see off Sporting Kansas City in a battle of one of the best offenses in the league against one of the best defenses in the league. Dom Dwyer and his teammates were not most people however and they helped themselves to all three points. Portland had no answers for Sporting KC's tactical measures in this game whereas the away side found the right moments to attack. In the 53rd minute, one such move gave them the winning goal.
A returning Benny Feilhaber found Jimmy Medranda out wide near Portland's penalty area. The right back then sent in a low cross for Dwyer to meet and put away from close-range. After that, it was down to goalkeeper Tim Melia to keep his fourth clean sheet of the season as he repelled all of the Timbers attacks late on as they searched for an equalizer.
Dom Dwyer and subsequently, Sporting KC, are on the rise again after a slow start to the season. He now has two goals in two matches and along with an impressive Sporting backline, has helped push the team into second in the Western conference. They will need him to keep his streak going next week as they head over to face FC Dallas in search of another win.
After this result, the Timbers have lost at home for the first time since July 2016 and they have a home game against Vancouver Whitecaps FC coming up next. Portland will need to recover quickly from this setback if they are to prevent Vancouver from coming away from Providence Park with any points.
NYCFC pile on the misery for Philadelphia
It was the David Villa show on Friday night as he scored an absolutely magical goal from 50 yards away right at the end of the game to give New York City FC a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union. Jack Harrison broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute when he was picked out by Ronald Matarrita with a lovely ball inside the box. Harrison finished past the goalkeeper with a one-time finish and gave NYCFC the platform to see out the game.
His goal will be overshadowed by Villa's effort but it was still a great pass and run to give the away side the lead. Philadelphia were disappointing and could only fashion one or two genuine chances at goal. The rest of the match, they were not creative and slow in their build up, giving the NYCFC backline the opportunity to stand strong and clear away any passes that came their way.
After this weekend, the Union are in trouble with no wins, four losses and two draws to their season so far. Even a change in personnel did nothing for Philadelphia as they were unable to craft any genuinely good chances all game long. They now head to Montreal with confidence low and needing to find some way of turning their season around before it becomes too late for them. As for NYCFC, next up for them is a tough away match against Orlando City SC. It will not be an easy match for them but if Villa keeps scoring goals like the one he did on Friday, they have it in them to pick up another win.
Real Salt lake make in two in two after late game heroics
It's still early days in Mike Petke's time at Real Salt Lake but two consecutive wins after a poor start to the season for RSL cannot be ignored. This time, it was a 2-1 win over a Tim Howard-less Colorado Rapids team in Colorado. The game started well for the Rapids as they took the lead in the 29th minute thanks to Kevin Doyle who was on hand to finish from Marlon Hairston's cross.
Colorado led for most of the match but threw it all away as the game was winding down. Yura Movsisyan converted a penalty in the 85th minute after a handball was called on Rapids' defender Jared Watts and then Liverpool FC loanee Brooks Lennon scored the game-winning goal in the 88th minute after a great run and bottom corner finish from outside the box. It sent the visiting RSL supporters into pandemonium and their side was able to hold on for all three points.
RSL will now meet with Atlanta United FC in Atlanta and will know that they will have to be at their very best to keep the potent Atlanta frontline away from their goal. Colorado, who are slipping further and further down the table, have Minnesota United FC next on their schedule. Minnesota are not faring any better than the Rapids right now so this may be a chance for the team to pick up three much-needed points, even with the suspended Howard.
Columbus Crew go on top in the East
Columbus Crew SC picked a great time to go top of the Eastern conference as they found a 2-1 win over their fellow conference team, Toronto FC. Federico Higuaín was at his very best against TFC and alongside Niko Hansen, helped the home side recover after Jozy Altidore had given Toronto the lead from a corner in the 21st minute. Higuaín found Niko Hansen making a run down the right hand side in the 37th minute and the winger squared the ball to an unmarked Ola Kamara who slotted the ball home from close range. Higuaín and Hansen combined again to create the game-winner in the 44th minute, when Hansen's header from Higuaín's corner kick fell to Justin Meram who then slotted the ball in for the second Columbus goal.
The story for Toronto will again be the inability of Sebastian Giovinco to fine the back of the net. The Italian has one goal and no assists so far this campaign and is visibly frustrated by his lack of production. Toronto welcome the Chicago Fire next week and many TFC fans will be hoping that this will be the moment that Giovinco finds his magic again. Columbus will travel to face the New York Red Bulls in a big game for the Eastern conference and will look to Higuaín to be their main man again.
Vancouver draw first blood in the Cascadia Cup
When looking at both teams' current form, Vancouver were not expected to get anything more than a draw from the game against a rolling Seattle Sounders FC but win they did in front of their home fans and it was all down to former Sounders' hero, Fredy Montero. The Colombian was on hand to finish well in the 65th and 80th minutes after assists by Christian Techera and Kendall Waston, and ended up being the game-winner despite a late goal by substitute Will Bruin.
Whitecaps' goalkeeper David Ousted was also in fine form as he was on hand to deny the Sounders time and time again, and when he could not, he could rely on the crossbar and the post from preventing Clint Dempsey scoring multiple goals in the match.
Vancouver will use this win as a confidence builder, especially as they head down to Portland next week for their second match in the Cascadia Cup this season. The hope is that Brek Shea will be fit for that game and give them an added threat in attack.
If not, Montero has proven that he can win games on his own. The Sounders will reflect on this game as a missed opportunity considering the chances they had to score. The loss also leaves them in ninth place in the Western conference table but if they continue to play the way they have, they will pick up better results and move up the table.
Montreal get their first win of the season against Atlanta
It looked like the Montreal Impact were going to have another draw on their hands as the clock wound down but thanks to a injury time winner by Anthony Jackson-Hamel, the home side got their first win with a 2-1 victory over Atlanta United. Atlanta went ahead first in the game when an on-fire Héctor Villalba played in Kenwyn Jones in space and the target man gave Atlanta the lead in the 40th minute.
Then came the game-changing decision when referee Alan Kelly sent off Leandro Gonzalez Pirez off for an alleged foul on Matteo Mancosu in the penalty area. Ignacio Piatti stepped up and converted the penalty, giving the home side an equalizer at the end of the first half. Even though Atlanta were down to ten men, they remained aggressive and tried to catch Montreal out on the break during the second half. Ultimately, they could not keep Montreal out with the extra man advantage and Jackson-Hamel stepped in to score the winner right at the death.
It was a tough result for Atlanta to take after controlling the game for most of the first half and having the referee potentially change the outcome of the game with one debatable call. However, they remain the team to watch in the East and will not be phased by their away trip to Real Salt Lake next week. Montreal will also take a lot from this result when they go to Philadelphia next week and having Piatti back and seemingly in good health will be a great boost for them as well.
First the New Red Bulls last week and now the Los Angeles Galaxy have fallen to a resurgent Orlando City who picked up a fourth win at in their new home with a 2-1 win. The Orlando backline impressed and Cyle Larin picked up the late goal to win the game for Orlando and send them to the top of the Eastern conference. The Galaxy faltered but Romain Alessandrini continues to show he was worth the gamble.
Nemanja Nikolic was the main man for Chicago once again as they routed the New England Revolution by three goals to nil. Juninho and Dax McCarty were setting the tempo for the midfield and their new teammate, Bastian Schweinsteiger nabbed a goal for himself as well. The 'Revs' tried to change their season by shifting personnel but a first half red card made things even more difficult against a very good Chicago team.
After having difficulties finding the back of the net, the New York Red Bulls scored two goals against D.C. United to breathe life into their season again. Alex Muyl and Bradley Wright-Phillips were the goal scorers on the day as the Red Bulls finally got their offense clicking at the right time. The Red Bulls climb into fifth while D.C. slide down into eighth place.
Minnesota United FC had to come from behind against the Houston Dynamo but they came away with a solid 2-2 draw, making the most of their opportunities in front of goal. Mauro Manotas put Houston ahead in the 14th minute and then Alberth Elis doubled the lead in the 43rd minute. Minnesota used the half-time break well as first Christian Ramirez and then Johan Venegas put them back into the game. The Dynamo will be disappointed with their second half collapse while Minnesota continue to steady the ship after they were dismantled in the first few games of the season.
The San Jose Earthquakes are making a habit of scoring late goals. This time it was against FC Dallas which earned them a 1-1 draw against the visitors. Kellyn Acosta thought he had won it for Dallas when Max Urruti set him up for the finish in the 78th minute but Jahmir Hyka was on hand to snatch a last gasp goal with the final play of the game. The draw leaves FC Dallas in third and the Earthquakes in fifth as both teams continue their good starts to the season.