Going into the week I felt like it was a big one for a few of the Eastern conference teams in particular. As I mentioned last week, Columbus and Orlando had been underwhelming recently but both responded with midweek wins. Columbus destroyed a depleted Seattle team and Orlando beat a lackluster DC side. NYCFC drew at home with New England after the Revs scored real late to make it level. Here is what happened to the Eastern conference teams over the weekend.
NYCFC 2-1 Philadelphia
Philadelphia dropped their second straight game following their loss in Yankee Stadium. Although there were chances at both ends, NYCFC had the majority of the ball and controlled the pace of the game through the first half but each team had to wait to until late when the key events unfolded. Fabrice-Jean Picault scored a 69th minute goal for Philadelphia against the run of play after getting through the NYC defense and slotting the ball into the net with a nice controlled effort. NYC could have folded at that point but they did everything but that. Although Villa and Moralez were dangerous as they typically are, it was two NYC defenders who pushed city to the win. Maxime Chanot scored an 80th minute header off a corner and Alexander Callens followed with an 85th minute goal also after an NYC corner. Allowing to two late goals off of corners says a lot about the current state of Philadelphia. Jim Curtin will be really frustrated that they couldn’t protect a lead or at least walked away with a draw after taking the lead.
Vancouver 3-1 Atlanta
For the first five minutes of this game it looked like Atlanta arrived in Vancouver with a point to prove. There were a number of streamlined attacked early on with several red shirts getting forward quickly. The early pressure paid off when Atlanta’s 8th pick from the MLS Super Draft, Julian Gressel rolled an inch perfect ball across the box where Greg Garza finished nicely. The German, Gressel, is having an excellent season. While many of his teammates are getting a lot of hype he is consistently performing in the midfield. The early goal seemed to wake up Vancouver who started to put more pressure onto the visitors. Vancouver captain Kendall Waston scored a first half brace to put the Whitecaps into the lead before halftime. Both were nicely done but you have question the Atlanta defending very much so. This game was really interesting and in many ways sums up Atlanta so far this season. These teams essentially had conflicting strategies. Atlanta dominated possession and completed a healthy number of their passes, however the failed to take many shots and create clear-cut chances. Vancouver on the other hand was much more direct and tried to pepper the Atlanta goal, it paid off. Incidentally it seems as if Atlanta is actually best when they break out from their defensive end quickly and storm at their opposition with pace. When the ball slows down and they move it more slowly teams are able to get men back behind the ball and that’s when they will struggle to unlock defenses. Will a returning Josef Martinez help them? Sure, but the defensive struggles on the road also have to be looked at.
DC United 0-0 LA Galaxy
Well, we how many times have we seen this before? Another game passes where DC was not able to find the back of the net. I counted eight games in which DC has failed to score. They have managed only ten goals this season, the lowest return in MLS. We still do not know who will score goals for this team and that is not a good problem to have as we near the halfway point of the season. It is a shame really to see a talent like Luciano Acosta go unnoticed and he deserves some praise. In very difficult circumstances thus far the midfielder is still creating chances and trying to set up his teammates with goal scoring chances. DC really did come out firing and they were pretty feisty on the day overall. But again, you can’t win if you don’t score and I am not sure where DC goes from here. The Galaxy weathered the storm and as a result picked up a nice point on the road.
Both teams had their chances in the first half but after the half-time whistle blew the game remained goalless. It was a very hard fought game overall where every chance really had to be earned. Eventually the game was decided with a bit of quality from the Montreal midfielders. Newly acquired Swiss international Blerim Dzemaili scored after a lovely give and go assisted by Ignacio Piatti. When Montreal signed Dzemaili I was a bit surprised. However, this was Dzemaili’s best game so far for Montreal. It wasn’t just that he scored either. He covered ground and was quite creative as well. He comes over from Serie A in Italy and brings a lot of experience and quality to the team. If things start clicking between he and Ignacio Piatti Montreal may become a bit more formidable. New York on the other hand has now lost six straight on the road following the loss to Montreal. Something still seems to be amiss in Sacha Kljestan’s play this year. Turning his form around has to be top priority for the Red Bulls.
New England 3-0 Toronto
In the shock result of the weekend, the Revolution took it to Toronto picking up a huge three points against an Eastern rival. Benjamin Angoua opened the scoring with a nice header off of a corner. Later in the first half Toronto had some golden opportunities to level. They wasted a chance pushing a shot off of the post and later on Armando Cooper struck the cross bar from long distance. It wasn’t to be for TFC in this one. Diego Fagundez scored a really nice second half goal rifling the ball into the net from the top of the box. Fagundez later could have had a second when he clipped the cross bar from close range. The ball bounced off the cross bar a second time and Juan Agudelo was in the right place to head in New England’s third. This was certainly the most disappointing game I have seen Toronto play in quite a while but these things happen. I certainly don’t feel there will be any panic for them. New England on the other hand must be ecstatic. It was a resounding win; they took their chances really well and competed with the leagues best team. It is a really good weekend for the Revs who are sitting just below that red line.
Colorado 2-1 Columbus
Columbus nearly went to the Rocky Mountains and picked up an away win. They led for the majority of the game then allowed two late goals to the Rapids. Higuain’s shot from the top of the box was perhaps a bit lucky as its direction changed mightily after deflecting off of a Colorado midfielder. Kevin Doyle leveled around the 80th minute after a nice run by Marlon Hairston who assisted the goal. Colorado then took the lead late after Alan Gordon scored from a header at the back post. Gordon has made a career of coming off the bench to score late goals and Columbus should have known that. Josh Gatt swung in a really nice ball and Gordon lost his marker at the back post. The Crew had a number of chances to go up by two goals and kill this game off. Credit has to be given to Colorado for fighting to the last whistle to get this result. Although they are on the right side of it the loss pulls Columbus closer to that red line. Columbus has had a mixed bag of results lately. They destroyed Seattle midweek but have now lost three of their last four games.
Hot (Time) Take
The big winner’s this week are New England and Montreal. Both are chasing the pack and both picked up big wins against conference opponents who sat above them in standings. This is animal that is the Eastern Conference right now. The table is tight and teams will be desperate to grab points against a conference rival, that is what will matter come playoff time. The scoreline of the New England v Toronto game certainly jumps out but I don’t expect there to be any lingering effects for TFC who has simply been better than everyone in MLS so far. Toronto’s loss however certainly helps those top teams gain a little ground on top spot and the supporters shield. Teams like NYCFC, Orlando, Kansas City, Dallas and yes, the Fire all may get a little boost from seeing the top team drop points in this fashion. Toronto is not unbeatable.