MLS Week 20 – Upsets, Surpises, and Disappointments

FC Dallas v New England Revolution

Well it was another rough week as far as MLS predictions go, but there was some good action to be seen in Week 20.  Some of the Elite in MLS decided not to show up this weekend, while 2 of the bottom sides showed up with goals galore.  The most exciting game of the weekend took place in Houston, where the Dynamo took on D.C. United, and the most boring game of the bunch to watch took place in Chicago against the visitors from Salt Lake.  Four clubs stayed steady in their league standings and 2 have started a push towards a playoff spot, though those spots will still require a lot of work to gain.  I have also decided to pick a man of the match for each match and end with a player of the week for something new to do, so watch out for it and sound off if you do not agree. And starting it off, my horrible record for the weekend will speak for itself, although not too loudly.

This Weekend: 2 – 4

All-Time: 4 – 9

Player of the Week: Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas) A four goal performance earns Cunningham the top slot this week.

FC Dallas  6 – 0  Kansas City Wizards

This match was probably one of the most shocking displays of the weekend, after seeing Dallas’ poor record this season and the fact that they just sold Kenny Cooper, who has provided most of their goals this season.  I am not convinced of this side yet, as I think it is more likely KC had a bad week, but I will be anxious to see if there is a turnaround coming.  Jeff Cunningham scored goals for Dallas in the 38th, 65th, 75th, and 89th, becoming only the 9th player to score 4 goals in a match and moving him up the all-time leader board for MLS goals with a total of 112.  David Ferreira chipped in with 2 goals in this match in the 42nd and 78th minutes to help propel Dallas to this massive win.  Hopefully this is the turnaround point for Dallas, but do not get your hopes up or book your playoff spot quite yet.

Man of the Match: Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas) Four goals! Enough said.

Houston Dynamo  4 – 3  D.C. United

This would have to be my match of the week as the pace and play was intense from the start.  I originally wanted to call this game, “3 goals in 3 minutes”, but D.C. decided to come back so I did not see it proper as Houston had to score one more for the victory.  Brian Ching pitched in with 2 goals in this match in the 38th and 39th, while Brad Davis put a laser shot past D.C. keeper Josh Wicks in the 36th to open up the scoring.  Starting out the second half though, the match would become very interesting.  D.C. brought on Luciano Emilio at the half and he would make an impact quick in the 49th, as he put a shot on goal that would deflect off of Houston’s Julius James and find its way over Pat Onstad, bringing D.C. into the match.  Stuart Holden would score on a penalty in the 66th after Dominic Oduro drew a penalty in the box, being taken down by United defender Jakovic.  D.C. would strike back though, when Fred struck a ball from around 25 yards out to beat Onstad in the 74th.  Later Emilio would put D.C. within one when a corner got loose in the box and Houston failed to clear, eventually finding Emilio who put it in the back of the net.  D.C. was a bit late though, as they would come up short as the time ran out.

Man of the Match: Dominic Oduro (Houston Dynamo) Oduro played a strong match all the way through, drawing two defenders many times that opened chances for others and drawing the penalty that led to the game winning goal.

New England Revolution  1 – 1  Toronto FC

Coming off of a string of poor matches, TFC looked to get back on track in New England against the Revolution.  Toronto looked dangerous early with many chances on goal but without a breakthrough to speak of.  The opening shot would take place in the 34th minute though when Dwayne De Rosario found a ball from a shot that deflected off of Ali Gerba, and took it with his first touch, placing it past keeper Matt Reis and into the side netting.  TFC looked primed for the win during much of the rest of the match until Chad Barrett picked up his second yellow in the 49th minute, earning him a trip to the locker room and New England an advantage.  New England still did not look like getting back into the match until the 76th when a ball sent into the box by Jay Heaps found the head of Shalrie Joseph.  Joseph then flicked the ball across the box to Edgaras Jankauskas who put the ball in the back of the net to equalize for New England.  From there, TFC would lock down and play defense not allowing the charging Revolution to find the winning goal.

Man of the Match: Kevin Alston (New England Revolution)  This kid played hard and looked dangerous when coming forward.  He also drew both fouls that saw Chad Barrett sent off in the second half.  He played tough defense for the Revs and looks promising for the future.

Chicago Fire  1 – 0  Real Salt Lake

Chicago pulled out another one as the boys from Utah came to town.  This was a defensive battle from the start and proved to be one of the most boring matches of the weekend.  Neither side looked very dangerous, but Chicago would find the goal that sealed the match in the 76th.  The goal would come as Tim Ward pushed forward from his left back spot and sent a towering cross into the box, finding the head of Patrick Nyarko and the back of the net past RSL keeper Nick Rimando.  Though RSL had many chances in this match, they could not find the finishing touch to put anything on the board in this match.  Chicago put on a defensive clinic for much of the match though, squeaking out the win in the end.

Man of the Match: CJ Brown (Chicago Fire)  I seem to be picking mostly defenders for MoM this week, but Brown did his job shutting down the attacking chances of RSL on many occasions.  He showed strong and steady veteran play throughout and filled the left by Wilman Conde admirably.

Colorado Rapids  0 – 1  Columbus Crew

Playing in Colorado is a hard prospect for many sides in MLS.  Columbus, while missing many of their key players, showed up and handled business as the top team in the East.  Only one goal would be found in this match in the 39th minute, and it would come from a set piece around 27 yards out.  Robbie Rogers would roll the ball over to an oncoming Chad Marshall, who would strike the ball low and hard past the Rapids defenders and into the net before Matt Pickens knew what happened.  The ball was close enough for Pickens to stop the shot, but slow reflexes or blind spots caused by his own defenders prevented him from keeping the Crew off the board.  After this the Crew would pack it in and survive an onslaught from the Rapids in the second half, securing the 3 points to increase their lead in the East.

Man of the Match: Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew) After a strong performance with the USMNT, Marshall comes back and scores a goal from distance and then shuts down the opponents to hold on to a 1-0 win on the road.

San Jose Earthquakes  4 – 0  Seattle Sounders FC

This could be called a match Seattle would like to forget, and I would not blame them one bit either.  The scoring started in the 2nd minute when a ball sent into the box by Ryan Johnson deflected off of Osvaldo Alonso and past SSFC keeper Kasey Keller into his own net, giving SJ and early lead.  To make matters worse, in the 33rd James Riley would be sent off for a challenge on Bobby Convey that in most cases would have warranted only a yellow.  This put Seattle in more of a bind and would not help matters any as they continued in the match.  In the second half SJ would start the scoring again, this time through Cornell Glen from the top of the box in the 54th.  The defensive blunders would continue for Seattle though in the 78th, when Darren Huckerby put a ball in on goal that was bobbled between Keller and his defenders before being put back by Huckerby.  To add insult to injury, SJ would cap off the match with one last goal in the 84th, as Chris Wondolowski would find himself the recipient of a ball played on to him by Shea Salinas on the break, leaving him an easy shot past Keller to all but finish the match.  The time left was no more than formality as San Jose had sealed the match early, claiming the biggest upset of the weekend.

Man of the Match: Cornell Glen (San Jose) Glen was everywhere in this match, setting up in the midfield, scoring a goal, and helping out on defense.  He has had a good showing of late with SJ and only seems to be improving with each match.

So the week is wrapped.  San Jose and Dallas impress, while Houston, Chicago, and Columbus continue their dominance.  With many sides getting into their tournament season, it will be interesting to see who can keep stride and who can continue to make the push towards the playoffs.  The field is still open and the season is winding down, so now is the time things will really start heating up.

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