With all the attention currently on the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Gold Cup, it may have snuck past the casual observer that MLS is back.
Major League Soccer featured a six-game slate over the weekend, with coaches needing to get creative with many of their star players on international duty. In Chicago, the Fire continued their home unbeaten streak with a disappointing draw with Real Salt Lake, Portland thrashed a severely short-handed Dynamo side, and Dallas took all three against Toronto.
Portland 4-0 Houston
There is an old adage that you can only play the team in front of you. It doesn’t matter if they are missing players or not, take advantage and play up to your level, not down to theirs. The Timbers did that well Saturday night, putting together a start-to-finish dismantling of the Dynamo en route to a 4-0 win.
Brian Fernandez continues to look the part of a world-class signing, scoring his fifth goal in four games since joining the team. The Argentinian Designated Player oozed class and composure every time he was on the ball, and demonstrated a masterful job of working the back line for opportunities to get in behind, which led to his goal and almost assisted another, if not for some great goalkeeping from Joe Willis. Portland very much got this signing right as he has been a game changing player since arriving.
Another bright spot for the Timbers is Marvin Loria, who made his MLS debut in this game and made his presence felt quickly. Loria scored the opener for the Timbers with a wonderful, controlled volley in the box as he came flying in to finish a headed ball. The Costa Rican international then earned the penalty that Diego Valeri converted for the Timber’s second on the night, with good positioning and a deft touch to get the ball away from a sliding Damarcus Beasley, getting taken out in the process.
With the win Portland is now three points back of the final playoff spot with two games in hand, and the Timbers look ready to climb the table.
FC Dallas 3-0 Toronto FC
Much like Houston, Toronto came into this game with a depleted line-up due to injuries and international call-ups. Much like Portland, Dallas took full advantage, turning in a strong performance that saw the home side on the front foot for nearly the entire game.
Dominique Badji found the opener for Dallas and completed his brace seventeen minutes later to put Dallas up three and seal this game. Badji did a good job of being in the right spot all night, finding numerous opportunities off late runs, rebounds and crosses. Also important for Dallas on the evening was Michael Barrios, who seemingly started almost every attacking move for his team, causing the Toronto defense fits with his dribbling, passing and speed, finding ways past his defender and setting up his teammates time and time again, contributing to their 22 shots on the evening.
Things could have been much worse for the visitors if not for a sensational game in goal from Quentin Westberg, who made nine saves on the day and was under siege seemingly non-stop. Making his ninth start in the last ten games, Westberg made a number of acrobatic plays to keep the game close. Unfortunately for Toronto, they have been winless in the last eight games, with only three points to show for this current stretch. More changes and players returning should help, but it is cause for worry north of the border.