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Around the League: MLS Weekly Recap, Power Rankings, and Player Awards

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The best of the weekend's Major League Soccer action, power rankings, and player awards.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday was a glorious night for the Houston Dynamo, as they sent the LA Galaxy and all their shiny new toys home after a 3-0 spanking. But that wasn’t the only game that took place this weekend; there was a ton of exciting soccer.

I understand not every American soccer fan watches every MLS game, you’d have to be crazy to do so. There’s 8-10 of them every week, they’re like 2 hours long, there’s so many other things going on, it’s just not feasible. But I got your back. While you were out playing shuffleboard, grilling burgers in the back yard, and dancing with pretty girls, I was sitting in a dark room, mainlining all the soccer that MLS has to offer. Because I’m weird. And I have a problem. Here’s what went down;

Real Salt Lake 2, Sporting Kansas City 1

Real Salt Lake picked up 3 points at home against their burgeoning rivals Sporting Kansas City. If you didn’t already understand how competitive the Western Conference is, consider this fact; at the time this game was played, SKC was in 4th place, but with a win, they would have taken over the lead for the Supporter’s Shield. RSL took a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute when Javier Morales threaded his way through the Kansas City back line and netted his 5th goal this season. KC struck back to tie the game when halftime sub Benny Feilhaber delivered a world class strike from outside the box, bringing his season stats to 7 goals and 10 assists. Feilhaber is making quite the name for himself as an MLS MVP candidate, yet continues to be excluded from the USMNT by Jurgen Klinsmann because…uh…well, you know, not German enough? RSL sealed the victory when Joel Plata converted a PK given when Olmes Garcia made a run into the box and was tripped up by the goalkeeper.

Columbus Crew 3, Toronto FC 3

Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew battled their way to a 3-3 draw to kick off Saturday’s action. Kei Kamara opened the scoring at 17’, looping in a leaping header. Tony Tchani doubled the lead in the 36th, banging in his 4th of the season from outside the box. Ethan Finley put the game seemingly out of reach just after halftime, finishing a right-footed shot to put Columbus up 3-0. But Toronto was having none of it, and Sebastian Giovinco started TFC’s retaliation just two minutes later, blasting the ball into the lower right corner to bring TFC to within 2. Collen Warner dared to dream of a TFC comeback when he slipped one just under the crossbar in the 55th minute to cut the previously insurmountable lead to just 1. With only two minutes left in the contest, Gold Cup outcast Jozy Altidore dove in the box to draw a PK, which he converted to drive the dagger of disappointment deep into the hearts of the Crew supporters.

Montreal Impact 1, Seattle Sounders 0

Montreal squeaked up into the playoff picture with a win over Seattle, who continue to struggle in the absence of Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans, Obafemi Martins, and Marco Pappa. The only goal of the game came courtesy of Laurent Ciman, who broke the Sounders’ hearts in the 88th minute with a brilliantly timed header off of a set piece. Seattle still remains above the red line in the West, but they need their stars back bad if they want to stay there.

Chicago Fire 2, New England Revolution 2

The Fire are still the worst team in Major League Soccer on total points, but they managed to avoid another loss against the MLS Cup runners-up New England Revolution. Lee Nguyen opened up the scoring in the 28th minute by tapping in a rebound off of the goalkeeper for his 4th of the year. Just before halftime, Shaun Maloney tied it all up after a PK that he nestled into the lower right corner. Chicago thought that they might have a chance to come out with 3 points after a Fire corner bounced around the box and was tacked in by product of Romania Razvan Cocis. But their hopes were dashed immediately by the right foot of Kelyn Rowe, whose equalizer was the final goal of the match. Their 1 point gained in this game brought Chicago’s point total all the way up to 19.

FC Dallas 4, Portland Timbers 1

FC Dallas scored a lot of goals in this game. Other than that, all I have to say about them is ‘give us back our goddamn cannon.’

Houston Dynamo 3, LA Galaxy 0

On paper, this matchup didn’t look great for Houston. LA had only 1 loss in their last 6 matches compared to the Dynamo’s 3 losses over their last 6. The addition of former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard coupled with Houston missing several of their impact starters could have meant a long night for the Dynamo. But Will Bruin started the game off in fantastic fashion in the 9th minute, finishing a beautiful cross from the skipper Brad Davis, who doubled the damage in the 27th with his lethal left leg. With two minutes left in the match, Leonel Miranda joined in on the fun with shot in the top corner to drive the final nail into the coffin.

New York City FC 5, Orlando City SC 3

Wow, what a game. The goals came fast and furious in a match that was already intriguing for featuring the MLS debut of Italian national team legend Andrea Pirlo. Spanish national team star David Villa had a fantastic day, scoring twice in the 45th and 61st minutes, and assisting on the fifth and final goal. Villa’s teammate Kwadwo Poku proved invaluable, assisting on 3 of the 5 goals. NYCFC’s scoring was rounded out by Javier Calle in the 53rd, Thomas McNamara in the 71st, and USMNT player Mix Diskerud in extra time. Although his team lost the contest, the real gem of a performance here was by Orlando forward Cyle Larin, who compiled a hat trick in just 35 minutes. It’s unfortunate for Orlando that they couldn’t keep up with NYCFC, because it was a brilliant effort by the Canadian. This game was also really exciting to watch and imagine the future of MLS. I know a lot of them are past their prime, but still, look how many stars were in this game; Andrea Pirlo, David Villa, and Kaka. Good lord.

DC United 3, Philadelphia Union 2

This game started off disastrous for DC United, when Philly took a 2 goal lead just 4 minutes into the match with goals from C.J. Sapong and Sebastien Le Toux. In the 37th minute Alvaro Saborios scored in his first game for DC, and in the 66th Nick DeLeon tapped in a rebound off of a shot by Fabian Espindola to tie the game. Espindola completed the comeback in the 79th with a leaping header.

Vancouver Whitecaps 3, San Jose Earthquakes 1

Vancouver continued their march up the table in the Western Conference with a dominant 3-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes, who were passed up in the standings by Houston and now reside in 9th place. Mauro Rosales put the Whitecaps up 1 just minutes into the game, and they doubled the lead in the 32rd minute when Kendall Watson headed in a corner from Rosales. In the 56th minute, Octavio Rivero buried a penalty kick to seal the victory, and Quincy Amarikwa’s strike in the final minute proved fruitless for San Jose.

What All of This Means for the Houston Dynamo

The best thing to come out of the Houston-RSL game would have been a draw or RSL loss, and it really sucks that RSL got the 3 points. Without them, Houston would move up into the 7th spot in the West, but as it is we sit 2 points behind RSL in 8th.

As much as I hate FC Dallas, their win against Portland actually helps the Dynamo. Houston is never going to catch FC Dallas, but two wins for Houston and two losses for Portland would push Houston up into the playoffs, as long as RSL doesn’t move up.

The same situation is true for the Vancouver – San Jose game. The Dynamo cannot hope to catch the Whitecaps, but a Quakes loss keeps them in our rear view mirror.

Updated Standings: http://www.mlssoccer.com/standings

Noteworthy News

Alex Morgan became the first woman to appear on the cover of EA Sports’ FIFA, gracing the cover of FIFA 16 alongside Lionel Messi. This move wasn’t without some controversy. Many USWNT supporters, especially Houston Dynamo and Dash fans, felt Carli Lloyd was a much more deserving candidate, and Alex Morgan was chosen simply for her good looks. While it would be a mistake to say her selection had nothing to do with her being easy on the eyes, it’s equally as short-sided to say that was EA’s only motivation. The cover of FIFA isn’t the Ballon D’or, it’s about branding, and while she had an unforgettable tournament performance that’s gotten her a lot of media attention, Lloyd just isn’t anywhere near the superstar Morgan is. Instead of bemoaning Alex Morgan’s selection, I prefer to look at the glass as half full, and just appreciate that a USWNT player finally got the recognition that the women deserve.

The financially challenged athletes on HBO’s Ballers weren’t the only ones making it rain this week (get it together Reggie, you’re a cancer). British comedian Simon Bodkin, posing as a member of the media for the People’s Republic of North Korea, showered Sepp Blatter with $600 of cash at a press conference this week in Zurich (ostensibly to secure the 2026 World Cup for North Korea). Although all the money was given back to him by the polite Swiss police officers, he was charged with criminal trespassing. In Mr. Bodkin’s words "I can say that it would be the greatest irony of all if I was the first person to go to prison over events in FIFA HQ."

Blatter then hopped on a plane to St. Petersburg, Russia to meet with the man voted Most Likely to Start World War 3 in high school, Vladimir Putin. Putin then told a Swiss news agency, and I swear this is true, that Sepp Blatter deserves a Nobel prize for his leadership of FIFA. To be fair, counting his bribes does take a lot of counting, so a Nobel Prize for mathematics would seem appropriate. The greatest part of this story is that Reuters apparently now and hopefully for eternity, is using the picture below of Blatter being showered in money as their standard Sepp Blatter picture.

Not long after being named captain for the MLS All Stars in their upcoming tilt against Tottenham Hotspur, Orland City forward Kaka stopped by the MLS office in New York. Guys, make sure your wife or girlfriend see this, because if Kaka taking cuddle selfies with a rescue puppy doesn’t make her love soccer, then nothing will.

Ivory Coast and Chelsea superstar Didier Drogba signed Monday with the Montreal Impact for $3 million per year for the next 18 months. This week also saw the MLS debut of Andrea Pirlo and the second week of play for Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard. It’d be nice to see a 26 year old superstar choose to come to MLS, but regardless, Major League Soccer is starting to look like a very exciting league.

Power Rankings

I love to rank things. Greatest QBs of all time, best Will Ferrell movies, hottest celebrities named Kate, I don’t care, I just love a good list, and the inevitable righteous indignation that surfaces when the author ranks something wrong. Which I would never do, of course. These rankings are all determined using a complex mathematical algorithm with 99.73% accuracy. I’d explain to you how it works, but then I’d have to kill you. It’s very Top Secret stuff.

1. FC Dallas

I hate this team, but they’re 1st in the West and winners of 5 straight, so it’s hard to argue with their results. Choke on it, Dallas.

2. Sporting Kansas City

Even though they lost this week, Feilhaber is a beast, Dwyer is solid, and they’re getting Zusi back. Ugh.

3. LA Galaxy

They got shown up by Owen Coyle’s men Saturday, but they still won 4 of the last 6, and added Steven Gerrard and GDS. Just imagine how good we could be if AEG knew that the Dynamo existed.

4. DC United

Being first in the East is like winning the East in the NBA, you want a cookie, or a parade? But they’re still tied with FC Dallas for highest point total, and won this week, so there you go.

5. Vancouver Whitecaps

2nd in the West is no joke.

6. New York Red Bulls

We’ll see what happens when the playoffs start, but solidly in the playoffs, and Dax McCarty is having a great season.

7. Toronto FC

Only scraped out a draw this week, but still in the playoffs, and it takes some real mental fortitude to come back from a 3 goal deficit.

8. Columbus Crew

They’re still 2nd in the East, but blowing that 3 goal lead, ouch.

9. Portland Timbers

Still in the Western Conference playoff hunt, but they got owned by FC Dallas, and I hate FCD, so that is not acceptable.

10. Real Salt Lake

Winners of 2 straight, and Javier Morales seems to not have heard about the cliché that Father Time is undefeated.

11. Seattle Sounders

Hopefully everything will start to click when their stars return. Otherwise, they might slide a few more spots.

12. Orlando City FC

This team is fun to watch, but still pretty shaky. Great game for Cyle Larin.

13. Montreal Impact

I’m not blown away that you beat a skeleton crew Seattle Sounders, but still, you’re in the playoff picture and it was a clutch win. Enjoy it.

14. Houston Dynamo

After the RSL loss, this team made me sad. But the addition of Cubo, everybody returning from the Gold Cup, and the thumping of LA have made me dare to dream.

15. San Jose Earthquakes

They’re getting back Wondo, but still, lost 4 in a row. Not good.

16. Colorado Rapids

Didn’t play this week, and they’re in last place in the West. So, yeah.

17. New York City FC

Very fun game to watch this week, and they added Pirlo, but still an expansion team with a lot of question marks.

18. New England Revolution

You couldn’t beat the Fire. You were in the Cup last year, Lee Nguyen was an MVP finalist, and you couldn’t beat the Fire. Dude.

19. Philadelphia Union

I would have had them at 19 last week, and after back-to-back losses, they should move down. But they’re just not as bad as Chicago. So, congrats? You’re not as bad as Chicago…

20. Chicago Fire

They’re bad. They’re really, really, really bad.

Best of the Best

Best Goals

5. David Villa


4. Giovinco

3. Cyle Larin

2. Leonel Miranda

1. Benny Feilhaber

Awards

We measure excellence by awards in this country. Forget all the nerds with their protractors quoting statistics like passing accuracy and positioning on the pitch, you want to know who the best soccer players are? The ones who go home with the biggest damn trophies, that’s who.

Lionel Messi Player of the Week Award

This award is given weekly to the player in MLS who dominated the game like Barry Bonds at a wiffle ball tournament. I’m talking dominate like Joey Chestnut destroying a plate of chicken wings after a 3 week fast. You pretty much have to score a goal to win this award, but you do get bonus points for on-field back-flips or choreographed dance routines. It is named after the greatest soccer player on the planet, Lionel Messi, and anyone who disagrees can troll their ass on back to Portugal with that nonsense.

There’s not even a question here. I don’t care if NYCFC is struggling, the kid scored a hat trick against a back line that included Andrea Pirlo. Cyle Larin, I salute you. As Stephen A. Smith would say, you’re a baaaaaad man.

Alexi Lalas Hair Award

MLS isn’t quite at the same level as the EPL or La Liga, but it just wouldn’t be soccer without players with a solid hair game. Whether it’s green stripes in an afro or whatever the hell Taribo West called what was on his head (Google it, you won’t be disappointed), it has been proven mathematically that unusual hair makes you good at soccer. That’s science people, I couldn’t make that up. You think Alexi Lalas is in the Hall of Fame because he practiced every day? Please, his barber was a Cro-Magnon man, and it gave him magical powers.

Devon Sandoval

What’s happening on your head, man? You got curly hair. If you want to grow it long, be my guest. It worked for Blake on Workaholics. But you can’t pull it back in a ponytail so it’s flat on the dome, and all crazy in the back. But it made me smile, so please accept this award.

Luis Suarez Most Absurd Shenanigans Award

While I don’t condone the behavior, let’s be honest - Luis Saurez taking a chomp out of a guy’s shoulders in the World Cup was pretty damn entertaining. When you stop to think about it (not too seriously), it is a little unfair of us to ask grown men to play a children’s schoolyard game and expect them not to pull some shenanigans every once in a while. Let’s take a moment to recognize the player who most embodied that spirit of absurdity this past weekend.

Diving is an easy way to win this award, and that’s absolutely what Jozy Altidore did in the 88th minute of TFC’s game against the Columbus Crew. A Crew defender grazed his back with a force equivalent to a grasshopper’s fart and Jozy collapsed to the ground like he’d taken a headshot from Chris Kyle. No wonder he got sent home from the USMNT. Americans don’t dive Jozy, they punch, kick, spit, swear, and tear up referee’s notebooks. You’ve lost your way, man.