Decision Day draws regular season to a compelling conclusion
MLS piled all of the fixtures into the final day of the regular season and watched the chaos unfold. There were a few natural hiccups -- including the largely defined playoff field and the staggered start times -- in the first edition, but the idea added a little intrigue to the last round of fixtures. There two important takeaways: New York celebrated the Supporters’ Shield triumph in Chicago, while Columbus edged past Portland to earn hosting rights for MLS Cup.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY SportsMike Dinovo
Clint Dempsey makes his dramatic exit from the Open Cup
Frustration consumed Clint Dempsey. He chose to express it in a particularly peculiar way: He grabbed referee Daniel Radford’s notebook and ripped it to shreds. The act placed his CONCACAF Gold Cup participation in peril (a three-match ban salvaged it) and sparked controversy for a week. United States teammate Jermaine Jones prompted a similar reaction when he manhandled Mark Geiger in New England’s 2-1 defeat to D.C. United in October.
Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY SpoJennifer Nicholson
Red Bulls stand tall at town hall to lay foundation for success
Ali Curtis and Jesse Marsch walked straight into the fury and laid out their plan for the New York Red Bulls. They soaked in the anger and the discontent of diehard supporters after Curtis sacked beloved club icon Mike Petke and appointed Marsch in his place. They talked about their plans for the future and tried to focus on the long term. That January night served as the starting point for a club in search of a new, post-Henry direction. It led to a second Supporters’ Shield in three years and some vindication for their plans.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
Orlando City, New York City FC debut on Opening Weekend
The two expansion sides clashed at the Citrus Bowl to punctuate opening weekend. The purple-clad crowd offered an atmosphere worthy of the occasion, even if the fare reflected the nascent state of both teams. Kaka provided the highlight-reel moment with his equalizer in second-half stoppage time to secure a 1-1 draw. Both teams eventually meandered through their expansion seasons and missed out on the playoffs.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY SportsReinhold Matay
Didier Drogba turns back the clock in Montréal
Any lingering doubts about the signing of Didier Drogba dissipated on his full debut. The former Chelsea legend hit a hat trick in a 4-3 victory over Chicago on Sept. 5. The outburst amplified the excitement surrounding the signing and served as a harbinger of Drogba’s success. He scored 11 times in 11 appearances to fire the Impact into the posteason. The only downside for Montréal: Drogba flirted openly with the possibility of returning to London instead of playing for the Impact in 2016.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY SportsGreg Bartram
LA Galaxy land Giovani dos Santos
The sight of Mexico midfielder dos Santos holding up a Galaxy shirt represented the culmination of a protracted chase. Several MLS sides expressed interest in his services over the years. It took a while to persuade dos Santos, but he accepted the Galaxy’s lucrative overtures and joined Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane in southern California. Galaxy supporters did not see the best from dos Santos this season, but his signing still represented an important step for the club and for a league trying desperately to tempt younger international players into the fold.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
MLS, MLS Players Union strike Collective Bargaining Agreement
The negotiations went down to the wire. The start of the season hung in the balance. In the end, MLS and MLSPU reached a five-year pact that included modest increases to the salary budget and the introduction of limited free agency for the first time. The early stages of the first offseason -- plus the injection of Targeted Allocation Money -- suggested the final details ultimately favored MLS’ ability to temper salary growth for middle-class players.
Jason Mowry-USA TODAY SportsJason Mowry
Sebastian Giovinco completes historic season with MVP award
There were no doubts about the destination of this trophy. Giovinco arrived with fanfare in January and backed it up with perhaps the best regular season in MLS history (22 goals, 16 assists). His heroics propelled him back into the Italian national team and spurred Toronto FC to the playoffs for the first time. And this moment enshrined the magnitude of his success during his debut season.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY SportsDan Hamilton
Montréal Impact advance to the CONCACAF Champions League final
By just about any logical measure, the Impact should have exited the Champions League in the quarterfinals. It took a moment of brilliance -- Cameron Porter’s goal for the ages -- to prevent their exit in the dying embers against Pachuca and started the improbable march to the final. Everything culminated with a dramatic second-leg defeat to Club América at Olympic Stadium in April. América emerged victorious in the end, but the Impact -- the first MLS team to reach the final since Real Salt Lake in 2011 -- won admirers and plaudits nevertheless.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY SportsEric Bolte
Portland Timbers win first MLS Cup
Forty years of heartache ended with a flourish in central Ohio. Portland waited through several leagues and several decades for the chance to win a title. Their beloved Timbers finally delivered with a 2-1 victory at Columbus to win MLS Cup. The revelry in Portland upon the Timbers’ return underscored the importance of the accomplishment in the Rose City.