Another MLS Rivalry week has come and gone. There was also seven midweek games last Wednesday night. It was a great time to watch some summer soccer. Most MLS teams played their 17th league match this weekend, meaning that we are officially at the half way point of the season. It goes by so fast!
Portland Timbers 4 – Seattle Sounders 1
Lets start the MLS Wrap-Up with Rivalry weekend’s crown jewel. Seattle and Portland have been battling for Cascadia dominance for over 40 years now. This was the 93rd all-time meeting between these teams and their second regular season MLS match of the year.
Portland began this game on their toes. The Timbers pressed for an early goal and were rewarded with a special strike from Darlington Nagbe. The former Akron Zip collected a one time pass from Diego Valeri in midfield. Nagbe took a soft first touch and struck the ball from 23 yards into the back of the net for his first goal in eight months.
The Timbers found plenty of space in their offensive third of the field. Four shots on goal in a eight minute span were relatively saved with ease by Seattle’s Stefan Frei. Frei would end up with seven saves on the evening. Frei raised his league leading save mark to 70 on the season.
Seattle was able to make the most of their single shot on goal all game. From a midfield set piece, Tyrone Mears played a defensively challenging ball to the back post. Lamar Neagle ended the Sounders three game goalless drought when he found the cross that had dropped behind the backline and into his lap.
After 74 minutes the teams were still tied until Darlington Nagbe made a darting run through the midfield and attracted the presence of four Seattle defenders. Nagbe pushed the ball forward and found the Timbers leading goal scorer Fanendo Adi. The Nigerian took the pass first time and placed the ball perfectly in the top right corner like a postage stamp to give the Timbers a 2-1 lead and ultimately the win.
As play resumed after the go-ahead goal, Portland dispossessed Michael Azira in midfield and found Adi again. The striker wasn’t closed down in transition and found himself free to shoot and fired a rocket past Frei.
Portland would not stop haunting the Sounders backline. Substitute Rodney Wallace scored his first goal of the season in extra time to put the nail in the coffin. The Timbers won this match 4-1. This match will give Portland a major boost with all of their pieces finally coming together to create a fantastic team performance.
Seattle was without their DP superstars Obafemi Martins (injury) & Clint Dempsey (suspension). Earlier this season, Seattle captain Clint Dempsey’s goal was the only difference between the two teams. Dempsey missed this regular season match due to a comical suspension that he brought onto himself in Seattle’s US Open Cup 4th Round fixture against the Timbers.
Portland will have another shot at beating the Sounders, in Seattle, for the first time during a MLS regular match on August 30th. These matches are must watch for any MLS fan or future supporter of the league.
Next week: Portland host San Jose & Seattle hosts DC United
New York City FC 1 – New York Red Bulls 3
Just over a month ago these two teams met for the first time ever. The New York Derby has become a major selling point for the growth of the league and ESPN even moved the match over to its flagship channel to increase viewership on Sunday evening. Despite this rivalry having been born as a commercial rivalry, it is beginning to blossom into the forefront of the mainstream sports sections of the New York news and most importantly carry significant weight and pride to the supporters who claim to be red or blue.
The match was off to a roaring start after Thomas McNamara scored in the 6th minute. The New York City winger brought down a recycled corner kick and struck it into the far post. Yankee Stadium was just short of a sell out and erupted with the goal.
Sasha Kljestan drove down to the goal line and played a dipping ball down to the penalty spot where Bradley Wright-Philips side footed a brilliant finish to equalize the match at 1-1.
Five minutes later, in the 52nd minute, the Red Bulls grabbed the lead. A wide set piece was knocked down into the goal area. Mike Grella collected the loose ball and crossed it back into the mix. Anatole Abang redirected the cross with his head to fall for second year defender Chris Duvall who absolutely smashed in the volley from a few yards out. New York City was not able to respond with any teeth. The Red Bulls however were letting the shots fly in from all angles.
Kljestan picked up his second assist of the game off of a set piece to Matt Miazga. The Red Bulls homegrown center back talent has been praised for his long term potential to solidifying New York’s backline. This time Miazga helped on the offensive end after stretching to head down the service down and into the back of the net.
New York City had a fantastic opertunity to get themselves back into the game. That was until Luis Robles swatted away Kwadwo Poku’s strong shot on goal in the 74th minute. The Red Bulls would take away their second win against new cross-town rivals New York City, 3-1.
The loss was New York City’s first in over a month. It ended their three-game winning streak that helped them climb out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference table.
Next week: New York City visit Montreal & NY Red Bulls visits Columbus
Toronto FC 3 – Montreal Impact 1
Montreal has not beaten Toronto in MLS play since March of 2013. The Impact were looking to continue their run of good fortune after taking five wins from their previous seven league matches. Toronto also look to be in good form as well. Their seven-match unbeaten streak was halted by a 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake. TFC looked to regain momentum at home with a fully fit Jozy Altidore.
Montreal got off on the front foot first. Ambroise Oyongo scored a special goal for the Impact. Oyongo brought down a difficult pass from Ignacio Piatti at the top of the goal area, turned and volleyed his opportunity into the low corner.
A deep ball from the ball by Eriq Zavaleta opened up the backline of Montreal. Giovinco turned experienced defender Laurent Ciman and set up Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley for the simple finish.
Jozy Altidore marked his return to the starting lineup with a go-ahead goal in the 56th minute. A minute after under hitting a pass inside the goal area to dampen their attack, the US international took a brilliant long ball from Bradley in stride and expertly place inside the far post.
Giovinco thought he made it 3-1 for Toronto in the 59th minute. The Italian was in on goal, but just hit the outside of the post. Giovinco would score later in this match after being brought down in the goal area. A penalty was called after Bakary Soumare’s early challenge swiped the feet from underneath Giovinco. Evan Bush guess the right direction, but was not able to save the penalty.
With the win, Toronto FC is now above .500% winning percentage mark this season (7-6-2). With the loss, Montreal is now below a .500% winning percentage mark with an early record of (5-6-3). These two meet again on October 25th, the last day of the regular season.
Next week: Toronto visit LA & Montreal host New York City
Other scores in MLS Week 17:
Philadelphia 1 – Seattle 0
Columbus 2 – New England 1
NY Red Bulls 1 – Real Salt Lake 0
Orlando City 2 – Colorado 0
Chicago 0 – DC United 1
LA Galaxy 5 – Portland 0
FC Dallas 2 – Houston 0
Toronto FC 0 – DC United 0
Philadelphia 2 – Montreal 2
New England 1 – Vancouver 2
San Jose 3 – LA Galaxy 1
Sporting Kansas City 2 – Colorado 0
Real Salt Lake 2 – Columbus 2
There were a lot of great goals this week. Only a few made it into the Goal of the Week competition. Real Salt Lake’s set piece play was my favorite because you see this from time to time and it never seems to work out. The passes were inch perfect and made the Columbus defense look like statues.