MLS Five Points: RSL punishes out-of-sorts Galaxy

Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales converted the second goal from the spot as the Claret-and-Cobalt produced a convincing performance to defeat LA Galaxy 3-0 on Saturday.

Jeffrey Swinger/Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake punishes out-of-sorts LA Galaxy to maintain playoff push

The best illustration of LA Galaxy’s miserable night in Utah arrived when Steven Gerrard committed a foul in the late stages of the 3-0 defeat on Saturday. Gerrard walked away, turned around and hunched over his knees. The scene — captured here — illustrated the perils of allowing Gerrard to spend his midweek offering Champions League commentary in London and summed up the poor performance across the board from his teammates.

RSL opened with intent and vigor and summarily played the Galaxy off the park after Devon Sandoval’s opener inside the first five minutes. The state of play — RSL controlling the cadence of the game, Galaxy trying somehow to match the endeavor displayed by the home side — led to poor decisions (Juninho’s wild lunge on Juan Manuel Martinez to conceded the penalty for the second, for instance) and underscored the sloppy technical work on the night. RSL benefited by nudging back into the playoff race, while the Galaxy traveled home to catch their breath.

Red Bulls cinch postseason berth by playing Portland off the park in Portland

RSL received yet another boost in its playoff quest when the Red Bulls secured a comfortable 2-0 victory in Portland on Sunday. New York coach Jesse Marsch demanded a response from his players after the midweek defeat in New England and received it from a group freshened up by several changes and strengthened by the decision to fly immediately to Oregon on Thursday.

The core commodities of industry, possession and pressure remained through all of the upheaval, though. Portland responded to those challenges by playing too directly through midfield and shuttling around in a bid to close down the inevitable gaps in the shape. The remedial measures simply didn’t take. Felipe benefited from a quick Kemar Lawrence throw and some shoddy closing in midfield to rifle home the first. Damien Perrinelle snatched the second to set the Red Bulls on course just before halftime.

New York’s wonderful response in a difficult situation ensured a playoff berth and plunged the Timbers into further trouble. It is now down to Timbers to issue their own response and ward off potential incursions by RSL and San Jose over the next few weeks.

Sounders find safe ground with another resounding victory in Vancouver

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There is one steadfast rule for any team slated to visit B.C. Place: Do not allow the Whitecaps to stretch the game under any circumstances. Seattle adhered to the cardinal directive and reaped the benefits in a 3-0 victory at Vancouver on Saturday.

Sounders FC navigated through an occasionally nervy first half by retaining the ball (the visitors enjoyed more of eight out of the nine five-minute intervals in the first half, per Opta statistics) and managing the tempo in the process. Those efforts paved the way for Andreas Ivanschitz’s critical goal just before halftime and ushered in a more conservative approach after the break.

Vancouver presents some problems when operating in possession, but those issues usually arise when Pedro Morales is able to switch the play quickly from flank to flank. Morales’ absence limited the Whitecaps’ approach play, while the Sounders reduced the space afforded to Kekuta Manneh to blunt the threat on the break. The pressing desire to secure equalizer eventually created opportunities for Sounders FC to combine quickly and use their ability to exploit gaps in the Vancouver shape. Gonzalo Pineda and Obafemi Martins secured the deserved rewards in the late stages to underscore the utility of discipline and incisiveness given this particular assignment.

Union loom as awkward Open Cup final opposition for Sporting Kansas City

Philadelphia is essentially focused on one task at this stage of the season: the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final against Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 30. It is why form is such an important matter for the Union. And it is why this thorough 2-0 victory over Houston on Sunday matters so much.

Sporting KC has already taken note of several defensive flaws to test during that one-off fixture (and their own might in the vital win over FC Dallas on Friday bodes well), but they must also weigh the injection of mobility into the Union attack. Tranquillo Barnetta provides most of the movement. His intelligent running allowed Philly to grab an early foothold and ensured Cristian Maidana always found a necessary outlet when he located the ball. C.J. Sapong’s persistent running does not always yield the end product, but it does open up space for Barnetta and Sebastien Le Toux to pose a threat.

Whether Philadelphia can bring those strengths to bear at PPL Park next week remains an open question. Sporting KC makes life uncomfortable for the opposition by pressing high and then punishing teams who flounder under that duress. Jim Curtin’s side now boasts an alternative to those issues, but this group must figure out a way to mask their deficiencies on the night to secure the Open Cup.

Chicago needs course correction after Yallop departure

The dismal performance against Orlando City on Saturday illustrated the difficulties facing Frank Yallop during the course of his time with the Fire. There were evident personnel concerns through the spine of the team. There were issues trying to keep simple possession or threaten Orlando City with any coherence. Bryan Rochez’s late winner merely exacerbated the problems by highlighting the Fire’s tendency to give away goals cheaply.

Fire investor/operator Andrew Hauptman assessed the deteriorating situation and parted ways with coach and director of soccer Yallop on Sunday. Yallop did some of the difficult work of clearing up the awful salary budget mess left by Frank Klopas and immersing potential cornerstones like David Accam, Joevin Jones, Matt Polster and Harry Shipp. Those measures cleared the deck a bit and provided a modest foundation, but new general manager Nelson Rodriguez and his eventual hire as coach — whether it is technical director and interim boss Brian Bliss or someone else — must impart a style on the team and strengthen on every line to accelerate the recovery process.