MLS Five Points: Earthquakes hand Galaxy reality check

BY Kyle McCarthy • August 31, 2015

Earthquakes hand Galaxy reality check in Cali Clasico

Not even the star-laden LA Galaxy can win by three or four goals every weekend. The visit to San Jose on Friday never looked likely to fall into that category, but the Supporters’ Shield favorites expected to figure out a way to procure a result nevertheless. The Earthquakes harbored other plans with a defiant approach to blunt the Galaxy attack and a mobile front two capable of exploiting the potential weaknesses in the Galaxy defense. Quincy Amarikwa and Chris Wondolowski prodded and pulled apart the rearguard with good movement and tempted Omar Gonzalez and Leonardo into poor decisions time and time again. The lack of cover from midfield and the willingness of the fullbacks to push forward exacerbated the concerns. Leonardo eventually received a suspect red card for hauling down Amarikwa as the Earthquakes forward darted in behind, while Shea Salinas notched the winner after more movement left Amarikwa unmarked at the back post. The reigning MLS Cup holders are still favorites to retain their title, but this defeat underscored some potential cracks to monitor over the next few months.

Sounders buckle down to ride out Timbers’ march

Seattle left the must-win match against Portland with three points in the bag and a return to the playoff places in hand. This 2-1 victory lacked any sort of artistic flourish: Sounders FC labored in possession until Osvaldo Alonso arrived in the second half and showed considerably frailty on set pieces. But this beleaguered outfit desperately needed to figure out a way to cope with the Timbers’ direct approach and secure the only acceptable result despite the visitors’ superiority for most of the afternoon. Their application on Obafemi Martins’ opener -- a flurry of tackles eventually punished the Timbers for some truly awful defending -- offers a reflection of their work on the day. It didn’t look particularly tidy, but it proved effective enough in the end. That sort of spirit -- noticeably absent in the meek 2-0 defeat at Real Salt Lake a weekend ago -- is crucial to ensure this star-studded team copes with Clint Dempsey’s return to fitness and sidesteps the potential embarrassment of missing out on the postseason.

Desperation takes root as NYCFC falls to Columbus

NYCFC coach Jason Kreis lambasted his players and questioned their commitment in the wake of the 2-1 defeat to Crew SC on Saturday. Those comments reflected a last ditch gamble from a manager with few strings left to pull and a whole host of expectations still left to meet. Whether this amount of prodding yields the desired response is another matter entirely. NYCFC continues to flounder defensively (both Crew SC goals were aided by a considerable inability to close down the man with the ball or retain proper shape) and struggle with its composition in midfield. If those problems persist, then the focus might inevitable shift from the players to the man tasked with organizing them.

Red Bulls bring the pressure to unsettle D.C. United

Every stray pass out of the United defense reinforced the value of the New York Red Bulls’ approach on Sunday. Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch asked his players to press high (as usual) and rely on energy and endeavor to create opportunities by winning the ball in good areas. United spent the entire night trying to carve out a foothold, but the visitors could not build out of the back, clear the ball reliably or overcome the 3v2 disadvantage in central midfield. The resulting 3-0 victory -- a margin reduced by Bill Hamid’s sterling performance in goal -- proved a deserved reward for a Red Bulls side with a good tactical plan and a group of players capable of implementing it.

Impact must contemplate identity after Klopas firing

Give credit to Frank Klopas: He held on longer than most people expected in Montréal. Klopas received some extra latitude from a club grateful for some semblance of stability and mindful of the CONCACAF Champions League run earlier this year, but he inevitably departed early Sunday morning after a fallow run over the past few weeks threatened the Impact’s playoff hopes. The continued absence of Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti hindered those efforts, but the stark admission from Laurent Ciman about the lack of tactical identity undermined them completely. It proved a salient point given the lack of tactical ambition under Klopas’ regime. Overt reliance on the counter yielded continental success, but they also left Klopas with little recourse when the results slipped and the sideshows started. The next man in charge -- whether it is interim boss Mauro Biello or another figure tasked with this challenge -- must figure out how to lead the club forward in a more progressive direction.

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