Kind of quiet around here this weekend, with a short list of games due to the international fixtures. No Fire and a very poor result from the USMNT make for a long work week this week, but the Fire will be back before you know it, contending with St Louis in the Open Cup. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the display Ilsinho put on this weekend for the Union.
Toronto FC 2-2 Sporting KC
Toronto fought back twice from questionable penalty calls to rescue a point at home and temporarily move back above the playoff line in the east, but lost ground on the conference leaders by failing to pick up all three points.
As mentioned, both goals for Sporting KC came from the penalty spot, as Felipe Gutierrez left no doubt, burying both his penalties in the back of the net after sending goalie Quentin Westberg the wrong way. Sporting’s first penalty came as Gerso was adjudged to have been brought down by the arm of inside the box while settling a long ball. After a VAR session, the right call was made, as the defender’s arm started on Gerso’s chest but quickly rose to his neck while pushing him down.
The second penalty seemed quite harsh for Toronto, as Westberg came sliding out to block as shot after Gutierrez was played in, and seemed to successfully stop the shot, before sliding into the shooter, but the referee deemed it a penalty after once again consulting with the video review.
On both of Toronto’s goals, beautiful passing sequences started by Alejandro Pozuelo led to Toronto being able to get the ball wide, and play a flat ball to a late runner that simply got himself ahead of his defender and was able to slot the ball easily past Sporting goalie Tim Melia. For Toronto, credit to Nick DeLeon and Hamilton for making the smart run and putting in the effort to get behind their defender and having the composure to make sure they got on the scoresheet.
Also concerning is Sporting’s developing habit of giving up goals late in the game. In each of their last six games, Sporting has conceded in the 63rd minute or later, which has cost the team at least seven critical points as they attempt to climb back into the playoff picture.
This game featured the good, the bad and the ugly for the Earthquakes, as both sides can feel both happy to get a point, and discouraged they did not leave with all three.
The good for San Jose comes from the fact that Chris Wondolowski has emerged in a big way for the Quakes. It looks like a game against the Fire was just what the doctor ordered. Having not scored in his team’s first eleven games, MLS’ all-time scoring leader now has eight goals in his last four games.
The bad for San Jose came less than ten minutes after VAR determined Magnus Erikkson’s strike fully crossed the line to give the hosts a lead. The Quakes defense gave too much space to a number of Dallas players, allowing them to comfortably pick out the right pass. In particular too much room was allotted to debutant Francis Atuahene, with a pair of defenders too slow to close him down, allowing him to unleash an outside of the boot strike to level the match.
The ugly was truly hard to watch, as goalie Daniel Vega took his eye off the ball on a routine back pass, allowing the ball to roll past his foot and trickle into the goal to give Dallas a 1-0 lead early in the game. Vega has made a number of great saves this season for San Jose, but the number of silly, unfortunate errors are starting to pile up in a concerning way.
What a stretch for Colorado, who pushed their unbeaten streak to five games. The Rapids now have thirteen points from their last five games after only picking up two from their first eleven.
Kei Kamara played the hero in this one, doing what he does best by rising up for a towering header off a set piece. But it was truly a full team effort that got the points for Colorado, as the team has enjoyed more creativity and energy during their run, and in turn have applied more pressure and threats during their games.
For Minnesota, it seems much of the offensive creativity has gone away in recent weeks, coinciding with a dip in play from sparkplug Darwin Quintero. The Loons were able to generate only two shots on goal, and never were able to sustain prolonged pressure on the goal of Tim Howard. Minnesota has now gone nine straight games scoring one goal or less, an alarming trend in today’s goal-heavy MLS.
Minnesota will need to change things up in the coming weeks in order to remain in the playoff positions and get back in the win column and end their current three-game slide.
Let’s start with the positives for the Red Bulls in this game. Former black sheep Kaku bagged the opener for the visitors, flying into the box and driving a side-footed volley past Luis Robles. That was followed by an absolutely terrific ball over the top from Alex Muyl that Brian White was able to get on the end of, holding off Jack Elliott and just barely chipping Andre Blake to double the advantage. The visitors were firing on all cylinders and looked poised for triumph.
Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, Ilsinho was subbed into the game in the 53rd minute and delivered a master class, completely turning the game on its head. The sublimely skilled Brazilian began his massive second half comeback charge by skipping past defenders during a romp down the sidelines before driving a ball across the box to find an open Jamiro Monteiro to open the scoring.
Skillsinho then took the goal scoring duties on his own shoulders, delivering the winner from the penalty spot in the 72nd minute, but not before delivering an incredible goal to level the match just one minute after assisting the opener. Ilsinho was able to masterfully get through a Red Bulls double team attempt, putting Daniel Royer and Conner Lade in a turnstile, before nutmegging Sean Nealis and eluding the diving Robles.
For Ilsinho, the magnitude of his performance may not have fully sunk in, but he was quick to commend his full team for the win, stating that “tonight was a special night. Even in my best dreams I can’t think about that against Red Bull, our derby. The three points was the best thing.”
With the win, the Union now have a four-point cushion at the top of the eastern conference standings.