MLS Five Points: NYCFC keeps hope alive in Vancouver
Chaos leaves New York City FC dreaming of a playoff push
New York City FC coach Jason Kreis labeled the denouement of his side’s 2-1 victory at Vancouver on Saturday as “mania, pure mania.” Kreis’ analysis encompassed a pair of dubious penalty decisions -- including David Villa’s winner in second-half stoppage time -- and the improbably stretched conclusion to the game. There is little to glean from such a peculiar sequence, but NYCFC can take heart from the display on the whole. The visitors produced a performance worthy of the points in the end against an out-of-sorts Whitecaps outfit. Their ability to conjure a tidy opener for Frank Lampard and maintain a more composed shape bodes well for their improbable playoff chase. Kreis said he and his players believe they must win out to have a chance. If they can repeat this showing a few more times, they might just figure out a way to manage the feat.
Drogba, Giovinco deliver again as Montréal and Toronto FC set sights on playoffs
Even a trio of victories might leave NYCFC -- and Orlando City, for that matter -- on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff places given the advantage held by Toronto FC and Montréal at this point. TFC finally subdued a willing, if limited, Chicago challenge with Sebastian Giovinco once again at the heart of the 3-2 victory. Giovinco’s sublime clip for the opener captured why the Italian international continues to impress week after week and underscored his new perch as the most productive player in any single MLS season. Didier Drogba mustered a similar exclamation point with his vicious free kick to send the Impact on its way to a 2-0 victory over D.C. United. Drogba’s double increased his haul to seven goals in six MLS appearances and moved the Impact even closer to sealing that precious playoff berth. It is abundantly clear at this stage that both teams will proceed as far as their star men carry them.
Rotation policy bolsters Philadelphia, Sporting Kansas City before Open Cup final
Pragmatism carried the day as Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin devised his plans for the 1-1 draw at New England on Saturday. He assessed his options ahead of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday and responded accordingly. He fielded a couple of starters -- Fabinho and Cristian Maidana -- at the outset and rotated a couple of more through after the break in a bid to keep his players fresh for the final in midweek. The adjustments paid off after the Union -- inspired by Andre Blake’s 10 saves -- secured a rather unexpected result.
“You look at the table and you see where we’re at,” Curtin said after the match. “The turf was a factor, too. Coming in on the astroturf with the football lines -- it was like a throwback to MLS 10 years back. We thought long and hard about it. We put a team out on the field that we thought could get a result, but also keeping in mind rest and saving guys’ legs. The majority of the starters who will start in the final did not play more than 45 minutes. We accomplished that goal -- [getting through with] no injuries was key. And we’re happy with the performance.”
Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes adopted a similar approach and reaped an identical result in the 1-1 draw with Seattle on Sunday. Vermes faced a more complicated situation -- his side desperately needs points to qualify for the playoffs, but his club still wants win the Open Cup -- and reached a similar conclusion. His reserves performed admirably and snatched a point in the late stages when late substitute Dom Dwyer equalized.
“At some point I’ve got to make a decision to give some guys some rest,” Vermes told reporters after the game. “On the precipice of the Open Cup, it just seemed like there were some guys who needed it. And some guys are banged up, to be frank. I’ve always said to the guys to trust in me all the time. I’ve got to trust in them as well.”
Imprecision leaves Real Salt Lake’s playoff hopes in tatters
The root of Real Salt Lake’s problems in San Jose on Sunday started in the CONCACAF Champions League victory over Santa Tecla on Thursday. RSL dithered in its duties against the limited Salvadoran side and shipped a goal in the second half against the run of play. The surprisingly desperate situation prompted Jeff Cassar to insert Kyle Beckerman, Burrito Martinez and Javier Morales to rescue the points. The trio played their part in the 2-1 victory over Santa Tecla, but Morales aggravated a hip flexor complaint in the process and missed out against the Earthquakes.
Morales’ absence stripped away RSL’s fulcrum and stymied the Claret-and-Cobalt’s ability to create much of anything in midfield. The disjointed display ceded too much ground, forced Nick Rimando to produce several saves -- none better than this stop on Chris Wondolowski -- to maintain parity and provided Shea Salinas with too many opportunities to run at the isolated Jordan Allen.
RSL navigated through those challenges in a scruffy game and produced one chance of considerable merit. Joao Plata drifted free at the far post and found himself wide open to turn home a low cross from six yards. His scuffed effort ultimately frittered wide. Matias Perez Garcia compounded the misery moments later when his deflected effort paved the way for the Earthquakes’ 1-0 triumph.
Not even Perez Garcia’s misguided celebration and subsequent dismissal offered RSL a reprieve. This unraveling started a few days ago and spiraled out of control from there. It now leaves the Claret-and-Cobalt to pick up the pieces and wonder what might have been.
Galaxy attack potent as always, but defense raises postseason questions
The response to the dismal 3-0 defeat at Real Salt Lake last Saturday arrived in the opening quarter of an hour in LA Galaxy’s 3-2 victory over FC Dallas on Sunday. Giovani dos Santos and Robbie Keane struck in quick succession to punctuate a bright and devastating start to the game. The buildup in both goals -- flowing from side to side with the tempo necessary to carve open the ragged opposition -- exposed FCD’s weaknesses at fullback and reflected the sort of menace the Galaxy presents in full flight.
If only the cohesion at the back matched the chemistry going forward. FC Dallas scored the first goal cheaply after Michael Barrios exploited the unkempt line, latched onto Mauro Diaz’s ball over the top and nodded over the puzzlingly adrift Donovan Ricketts. Atiba Harris placed the result in danger when he shuffled home the remnants of a corner after the Galaxy failed to clear the lines. There were positive signs on the whole as FCD struggled to hit top gear for most of the affair, but these moments of sloppiness nearly undermined the whole lot.
FCD lacked the organization and the solidity to truly punish the Galaxy on Sunday, but Oscar Pareja’s side offered a worthy take-away point nevertheless. This Galaxy outfit carves open teams at will. It must establish a firmer base to ensure those efforts reliably yield the corresponding results.