Thirteen weeks into the season has seen the tide turn for many teams in Major League Soccer. Teams that got off to a fast start are beginning to fade away from the top while those that were seemingly destined to finish out of the playoff spots are now pushing themselves further up the table with each point they gain.
Toronto thump Columbus without star strikers
Toronto FC have not lost a game in the MLS since April 15th when their opponents this Friday, Columbus Crew SC picked up a slender 2-1 win at home against Toronto. This time around, the home team gave the fans at BMO Field a performance to remember as they cemented their spot at the top of the Eastern conference with a 5-0 thrashing of the Crew, all without the services of Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. Víctor Vázquez gave Toronto the lead from the penalty spot in the sixth minute after Tossaint Ricketts had been brought down by Jonathan Mensah in the box.
The next goal of the game came in the 39th minute after Ben Spencer won the ball high up the field and played in Justin Morrow who had made the run from deep inside his own half. The wing-back powered his shot past Crew goalkeeper Zach Steffen and gave TFC a two-nil lead going into half time. Víctor Vázquez then made it three in the 59th minute with the goal of the game as he accurately placed his free-kick under the wall and into the near post.
Goals kept coming fast and furious as Jordan Hamilton played Jonathan Osorio through in the 86th minute and the midfielder finished well past Steffen. Hamilton then got his name on the score sheet as well deep into injury time when he met Raheem Edwards' cross at the back post and nodded in from close range.
Toronto FC seem to be on a roll here and yet, their fans feel that they could play even better than they currently have. The Canadian side had come into this match after playing a midweek game in the Canadian Championship but seemed full of energy and a cutting edge, something that Columbus lacked all game long. Columbus did make it easy for Toronto due to their change in tactics which caused confusion in their backline and gave Toronto's attackers far too much space but full credit must go to Greg Vanney's side who put on a show for their supporters and put themselves at the very top of the MLS standings.
Minnesota find a way past a sturdy Orlando team
Much has been said about how good Orlando City SC's backline has been this season and against a team like Minnesota United FC, who have been struggling for form, not many expected the 1-0 scoreline that greeted them at full-time. Orlando had the chance to take the lead right from kick-off but Matías Pérez García sent his volley well over the crossbar. Pérez García then almost turned creator as he found Scott Sutter in the seventh minute unmarked in the box but the defender curled his effort just wide of the goal.
Orlando continued to press and Cyle Larin should have put them ahead in the ninth minute but Bobby Shuttleworth came out quickly to make the save and keep the score at 0-0. García and Carlos Rivas tested the Minnesota goal but Shuttleworth and the post kept Orlando from opening the scoring in the first half. The only goal of the game came when Christian Ramirez made up for his earlier miss in the 56th minute by getting around Joe Bendik and calmly slotted the ball home into an empty net to give Minnesota the lead. Shuttleworth continued to produce some solid saves to keep Orlando out and in the end, allowed his coach Adrian Heath to get the win over his old team.
Orlando should have won this game in the first half but a combination of poor finishing and a fantastic performance by Shuttleworth kept them out of the goal and gave them their fifth loss of the season. Without their talisman, Kaká, Orlando seemed to lack that little bit of ingenuity to create clear cut chances and will need to find solutions for that heading into their next game. Minnesota will take the points any way they can get them and now find themselves off the bottom of the Western conference table and three points away from a playoff spot.
Chicago move into second after win against FC Dallas
A 2-1 win over FC Dallas made it four wins on the trot for the Chicago Fire and moved them into second in the MLS standings, just five away from Toronto FC. This is a new look Fire side and at the head of this side is striker Nemanja Nikolić who is in fine form. The Hungarian gave the Fire the lead in the third minute when he was the first to reach Brandon Vincent's delivery at the near post for his eleventh goal of the season.
FC Dallas answered back three minutes later when Roland Lamah pounced on a loose ball in the box. The third and last goal of the game came in the ninth minute when David Accam cut inside onto his right foot and fired past the goalkeeper to give Chicago the lead again. The home side held on and picked up their seventh win of the season in what has been a great start so far for them.
Nikolić may be scoring the majority of the goals right now but Accam has been just as effective in front of goal for Chicago as well. These two players are seemingly giving the Fire the cutting edge in front of goal that they have been missing for a long time and with the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger behind them providing the right passes, the two forwards should be looking to score as many goals as possible this season. Dallas may have taken their eye off the ball on Thursday due to another game scheduled for Sunday but they were outmatched by a rolling Chicago side. The players put out by Óscar Pareja tried to keep up with the Fire but ultimately, could not keep out the quality up top that Chicago currently has.
Seattle edge out Portland in a tight affair
The matches between Seattle Sounders FC and Portland Timbers FC usually have plenty of goals in them but this time around, all it took for the Sounders to pick up a much-needed win was a solitary Christian Roldan goal. The goal came in the fourth minute when Chad Marshall met Nicolás Lodeiro corner and Roldan was on hand to redirect it right in front of goal. Both goalkeepers were not tested all that much after that goal and when they were, Stefan Frei and Jake Gleeson were up to the task.
In the end, Portland did not do enough to create chances against a Sounders defense that had struggled to keep clean sheets as of late and gave their fiercest rivals their second consecutive one-nil win.
The Timbers will point at two potential handballs that were not called against the Sounders by referee Mark Geiger but ultimately, will know that they should have created more in front of goal despite Caleb Porter's insistence that his team were the better team in almost every category. The only category that matters is that of goals and Portland did not beat Seattle on that metric.
Seattle themselves will welcome the win but will also know that their offense continues to stutter and will need to pick up their early season form soon if they wish to put themselves back into a playoff spot in the Western conference. Until then, they will savour another home win against their neighbors to the south.
Atlanta's offense comes back to life against NYCFC
Atlanta United FC have been the team to watch this season for the neutrals but they had found that their goal-scoring touch had disappeared over the last few weeks. It returned in some style this past weekend as they got a 3-1 win over New York City FC. Miguel Almirón, who was at his very best once again, pushed Atlanta ahead when he put away Julian Gressel's cut back in the 16th minute. Héctor Villalba made it two in the 19th minute with a great finish that curled into the far corner of the goal. Gressel and Almirón made it three in the 23rd minute when Gressel won the ball off of Alexander Callens and slid the ball to an unmarked Almirón. Jack Harrison pulled one back for NYCFC in the 71st minute when he put Evan White's cross away with a one-touch finish but it was too little, too late for the away side.
Atlanta returned to their early season form by actually putting away the many chances they created during the game and with Almirón in MVP-type form, they should continue to rediscover their winning touch once again. NYCFC's consolation goal does point out an area that Atlanta still have to address, their game management but their young team will only continue to grow as the season progresses. NYCFC will look back to their performance today and realize that they are not as prolific in front of goal as they thought they were. Atlanta put on a show and NYCFC were nowhere to be found.
San Jose and Los Angeles play out the game of the weekend
The San Jose Earthquakes have been impenetrable at home this season but they succumbed to a 4-2 loss against the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy after a wild 90 minutes at Avaya Stadium. The goals started early as Chris Wondolowski gave the home side the lead in the tenth minute after a one-time finish at the far post from Danny Hoesen's cross. The Galaxy were undeterred and got the equalizer though João Pedro who trapped the ball and finished well past David Bingham in the 19th minute. The Galaxy then took the lead when Giovanni Dos Santos converted a penalty in the 35th minute after Kofi Sarkodie had stopped Bradley Diallo illegally from getting past him in the area. It was 2-2 two minutes later when Tommy Thompson found Hoesen at the six-yard mark and the Dutch forward did not miss from that close to goal. The Galaxy took the lead again just before half-time when Víctor Bernárdez put the ball past his goalkeeper and into his own net. Dos Santos then finished things off in the 64th minute when Romain Alessandrini found the Mexican unmarked at the far post and the forward headed home perfectly to put Los Angeles up by two goals.
San Jose will not be happy with how many goals their defense allowed but they came up against a red-hot Dos Santos who has now scored in four straight games for the Galaxy. Not only is Dos Santos gaining consistency but so are the rest of his teammates and this is making Los Angeles a dangerous team once again. They already have picked up more away wins than they did last season and are looking more and more like the Galaxy teams of old with each passing game.
The New York Red Bulls had to come from behind to eek out a 2-1 win over the New England Revolution. Lee Nguyen has given the visitors a ninth minute lead through a penalty and the Red Bulls could not find a goal until the second half. Bradley Wright-Phillips made it one all in the 47th minute with a neat backheel and Daniel Royer got the game-winning goal in the 74th minute when he finished Kemar Lawrence's pass from close range.
In a battle of the goalkeepers, Nick Rimando came out on top as his Real Salt Lake side managed a 1-0 win over a previously rampant Philadelphia Union. Joao Plata scored the only goal of the game in the 36th minute after some good play by RSL and it was the only time that the home side managed to beat Union goalkeeper Andre Blake who was impressive the whole game through.
Kortne Ford's 11th minute goal was enough for the Colorado Rapids to pick up a desperately needed three points against Sporting Kansas City. Once they go the early goal, the Rapids sat deep and dared Sporting KC to find a way past their defense which the visitors could not do. It was not the greatest match to watch for the neutral but Colorado will not care as they look to move away from the bottom of the standings.
D.C. United had to rely on a Lamar Neagle penalty in the 61st minute to find a way past Vancouver Whitecaps FC. It was a fairly dull affair that was only livened up by the penalty incident as the assistant referee was the one who gave the penalty after conferring with referee Sorin Stoica who had initially waved away the calls for a penalty by United. Neagle stepped up calmly and finished well to give D.C. all three points.
After resting players during the midweek game against the Fire, FC Dallas did not justify the change in personnel as they ended their week with a 0-0 draw against the Houston Dynamo. The draw stretched Dallas' winless streak to four games while the Dynamo came away with their first points on the road this season.