MLS Five Points: Timbers overwhelm Galaxy
Timbers swarm Galaxy to grab control of playoff future
Portland produced one of the best halves in MLS this season to secure a 5-2 victory at LA Galaxy on Sunday. The five-goal outburst after halftime started with complete dominance in midfield — the trio of Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri played Steven Gerrard and Juninho off the park after the interval — and thrust the Galaxy defense under stern examination. Fanendo Adi led the inquiry with his robust play up and overwhelmed Omar Gonzalez and Leonardo in the process, but he reveled in the service provided by the Galaxy weakness at fullback. The combination of deft work in the center of the park and the willingness to commit numbers forward carved open the Galaxy shape. Galaxy manager Bruce Arena cited a lack of energy as the primary reason for the dire second half, but that assessment glosses over the issues there. Portland romped by returning to its ambitious roots and daring the Galaxy to stop them. The home side’s inability to do so offers a cautionary tale as the postseason approaches.
Sounders lack impetus and suffer the consequences
Seattle enters Decision Day in need of a result to secure a place in the postseason. It is a curious predicament for a team with enough talent to coast into the playoffs, but the drab 1-1 draw at Houston on Sunday neatly captures some of the lingering issues within the side. The dearth of urgency and the lack of sharpness led to a subdued performance at BBVA Compass Stadium. Sounders FC required a late equalizer from Obafemi Martins to rescue a point against a flawed Dynamo side with a makeshift and ragged back four. The failure in Houston leaves Seattle in need of a win at home to Real Salt Lake on Sunday to ward off a calamitous exit from the postseason picture. There is still time for this side to rectify matters with a deep playoff run, but there are increasingly few signs of its likelihood at this stage.
Montréal rides familiar formula back to postseason
Most of the credit for Montréal’s resurgence falls squarely upon Didier Drogba’s broad shoulders. Drogba deserves an ample share of the acclaim for his goals, but he constitutes just one part of the resurgence. The acclaim on Saturday fell squarely on the revamped defensive shape required to grind out a 1-0 victory at New England and secure a playoff berth with one round left to play. Montréal interim coach Mauro Biello altered the defensive calculus when he took charge and focused intently on shoring up some of the lingering concerns. The well-drilled shape exhibited at Gillette Stadium — including the rugged Marco Donadel and Nigel Reo-Coker to shield the back four and a defense encouraged to stay connected at all costs — paved the way for Ignacio Piatti’s sumptuous winner after halftime. New England created little even with Laurent Ciman suspended yet again. This performance — combined with the 1-0 shutout at Colorado on Oct. 10 — offered a testament to the strides made at the back under Biello’s guidance.
Columbus finally locates firm footing in Toronto
Crew SC spent much of this season trying to stop the crippling leaks in defense. This group proved too malleable for much of the campaign and squandered the exploits of Ethan Finlay and Kei Kamara too often in the process. The return of Gaston Sauro over the past few weeks address those concerns and paved the way for necessary improvement. The firmer base of operations reaped considerable benefits at BMO Field on Saturday. Gregg Berhalter’s side produced more swashbuckling displays earlier in the campaign, but the alliance of precision and steel displayed in the 2-0 victory over Toronto FC might prove more useful with the postseason on the horizon. The only sour note: Kamara and Federico Higuain triggered one-match suspension for caution accumulations ahead of the Decision Day clash against D.C. United on Sunday (5:00p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Sports GO).
D.C. United, New York muster refreshing romps over laggards
The top two sides in the Eastern Conference entered this weekend with straightforward assignments at home and marched through them with the corresponding ruthlessness. New York Red Bulls scored twice in the first four minutes on the way to a comprehensive 4-1 triumph over Philadelphia Union. D.C. United mustered three goals after halftime to ease past Chicago 4-0. In a season littered with examples of teams failing to take proper care of their business, these two sides at least presented timely examples of how to sort out matters properly in favorable circumstances.