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MLS Monday Rewind: Week 12

Wondo the Magnificent

There will be more about him further in the post, but I want to open by acknowledging the remarkable achievement of San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski. Wondo has been a world class striker and phenomenal goal scorer that feels like he has been the face of San Jose forever. Congratulations on setting the record for most career goals in MLS.

Unfortunately, he put on quite the performance against to Chicago to make it happen, putting a damper on a good stretch of games for the Men in Red.

Elsewhere in the league, Colorado picked up their first win of the season, Atlanta couldn’t find a way past the ten-man Red Bulls, Orlando opened the floodgates to the tune of five goals in their beat-down of Cincinnati, and Sporting KC dropped more points at the buzzer to continue their month-long agony.

Trending Up: Chris Wondolowski. I know I opened with him, but the man deserves all the praises this week. Wondo worked his magic yet again en-route to becoming the all-time MLS scoring leader. He left no doubt about it with a stunning four goal performance against Chicago, once again proving his brilliance that has spanned well over a decade.

Trending Down: Predictability in the eastern conference. Right now, the east feels like a WWE style royal rumble with everyone just throwing haymakers at each other, but no one is able to really string together a number of good results in a row. Toronto had a rough week, Atlanta had a chance to stay hot but were stymied by New York, Chicago looked like they turned a corner before running into a San Jose buzz saw. There will be lots of movement in the standings until the final week of the season. Buckle up, it’ll be a fun ride.

LAFC

Beat Dallas 2-0 at home Wednesday, Drew 1-1 with Dallas in Dallas Sunday

Another set of games, another opportunity to watch the masterclass that Carols Vela puts on each week this season. Vela’s speed and positioning were a constant nuisance for Dallas, and his runs into the box resulted in two penalty kicks and a red card as defenders were forced to make desperate lunges to stop him. Vela was the goalscorer in both games, coming close a number of times before finding the back of the net to bring his goal total up to fourteen. In the first game, after nearly shattering the crossbar on a gorgeous free kick, Vela got his goal with a great sequence of touches. His first touch was able to both settle and control the pass into him, then was able to take a a subtle second touch to get the ball away from his body before rocketing it into the far netting. In the Saturday game Vela again had a wonderfully struck free kick that was destined for the upper corner if not for the intervention of goalie Jesse Gonzalez, who has had a fantastic season for Dallas thus far.

Dallas looked like a deer (or in this case, steer) in the headlights for the majority of their midweek game, getting overrun frequently and succumbing to LAFC intense pressure, which resulted in a number of good looks at goal. However, in the last twenty or so minutes they began to come into their own and had a few really good passing sequences. That comfort level carried over into the weekend matchup as they were able to take control and scored the opening goal through a good sequence of play. However, they were only able to hold the floodgates shut for so long, and a Matt Hedges red card for a tackle on Vela made the task that much more difficult. Gonzalez did everything he could to keep Dallas in the game, saving a Vela penalty attempt and making a sprawling effort to tip a Diego Rossi rocket off the bottom of the bar and out of goal. This man absolutely deserves a Gold Cup look.

Toronto FC

Drew 0-0 with DC United Wednesday, Lost 3-0 at Real Salt Lake Saturday

Toronto began their double game week by breaking a record they wanted no part of, as they set the new MLS standard for most shots without a goal in their 0-0 draw with DC United. Toronto came out aggressive from the opening whistle, finding great space and creating many shooting chances. On the night Toronto attempted thirty-six shots to DC’s three.

Time and time again Toronto’s best opportunities were created through the sublime play of their midfield maestros, Alejandro Pozuelo and Michael Bradley. Early on Pozuelo created one of their best chances of the game as he curled an absolutely gorgeous ball into the six-yard box, that had eyes to avoid and split two defenders to find Jordan Hamilton’s outstretched boot, but Bill Hamid made himself large to deny the effort.

Just look at this shot chart, with so many quality opportunities as Toronto peppered the goal of Hamid. To their credit, DC’s defensive unit came to play, and finished the night with eleven blocked shots and Hamid turning in another star performance with twelve saves. But too much opportunity was afforded to the hosts to send in crosses, play passes in the attacking third, and attempt that staggering shot total. DC needs to rotate quicker on defense and limit those shooting lanes, as most nights Toronto or any other MLS side they face will make them pay for that many opportunities.

When it came time for the weekend fixture, Toronto came out flat, possibly a result of their frustration from their midweek disappointment. The absences of Nick DeLeon, Jozy Altidore and Alex Bono from the starting lineup were absolutely felt by the visitors, and Pozuelo’s red card in the second half certainly didn’t help things. Regardless, Real Salt Lake still needed to do their part to earn a result, and they were able to take advantage of some fortunate bounces that resulted from their hustle and determination to win every 50-50 ball possible.

Sebastian Saucedo produced the goal of the week for RSL, cutting in from the touchline and as the defense didn’t pick him up, kept cutting in further and further before unleashing a shot from about 28 yards out that evaded the reach of goalie Quentin Westberg. With the result RSL finds themselves in playoff position once again in the tough western conference.

Houston Dynamo

Drew 1-1 with Portland on Wednesday, Won 2-1 against DC United Saturday

What is special about this Dynamo team is that they can beat you so many different ways thanks to the quality of their attacking players. Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis, Memo Rodriguez and Romell Quioto form a deadly strike force capable of getting past defenders with individual dribbling efforts, moving defenses out of position with their great passing and speed, and able to finish aerially on crosses into the box.

Against Portland, it was the great combination play of their attackers, with Rodriguez sending in a corner that Elis was able to head towards the back post to the awaiting Manotas. Elis in particular was a menace all game, using his speed and athleticism to put himself into great scoring positions. Portland was able to tie things thanks to a questionably offsides run, but great finish from their new record DP signing, Brian Fernandez. Fernandez looks like he is very eager and excited to take this league by storm and if his performance in this game is any indication, he could be a force to reckon with for the rest of the season and should help Portland climb the western conference table.

Meanwhile, against DC, with Elis out, it was Memo striking first and super-sub Tommy McNamara rescuing all three points for the host after an early Wayne Rooney goal. Rodriguez showed off his dribbling skills as he danced and worked around two defenders to fire a shot into the bottom corner that Hamid never really had a chance to get eyes on thanks to the cluster of players inside the box. Then less than two minutes later, McNamara got a goal as a result of determination and hustle, making a thirty yard run to get arrive at the back post and drive home a crossed ball, willing the ball through a diving Hamid.