MLS recap: Week 2

Photo: Earl Gardner

We’re introducing a new weekly column looking at the week that was in MLS.

Of course, this is still the Philly Soccer Page, so this piece still will slant toward the Union here and there.

We’re asking for a little help from our readers in the comments. Think of today’s piece as a beta test. Is this something you want to read? Is it too long? Is it too short? What about the formatting? What features would you like included in a weekly recap?

Without further ado, here’s the inaugural MLS recap:

CONCACAF contenders

No team from MLS has ever won the CONCACAF Champions League. In fact, no team outside of Mexico’s Liga MX has ever hoisted the most prestigious club trophy in North America. It’s been a sour note for the U.S. and Canada’s top domestic league, and the biggest reason their continental counterpart can claim supremacy.

This year features three quarterfinal matchups between MLS sides and clubs from their biggest rival. In the first legs of those games, MLS went 3-0, giving commissioner Don Garber cause to celebrate.

Toronto FC came back from an early deficit at home, beating Tigres 2-1 after midfielder Jonathan Osorio’s game-winning goal in the dying moments of the match.

U.S. international Clint Dempsey’s 78th minute goal saw Seattle Sounders beat Chivas de Guadalajara 1-0 at CenturyLink Field. Stout defending prevented the visitors from recording a crucial away goal.

The most impressive result, however, came from New York Red Bulls. A Bradley Wright-Phillips brace secured a 2-0 scoreline against Club Tijuana. Unlike the other contests, this one came south of the border.

It’s only one leg, and there is plenty of reason to temper expectations for the second leg of the quarterfinals. Tigres hasn’t lost at home since Sep. 17, going 11-0-3 at Estadio Universitario. And in the entire history of the competition, MLS teams have only advanced against Liga MX clubs three times in 30 tries.

But at this moment, Mexico’s dominance is wavering. Now MLS just needs to land the knockout blow.

Fantastic finishes

Saturday’s matches brought the weekend off to a dramatic start, with both early Saturday afternoon games decided on the final kick.

Columbus Crew raced out to a two-goal lead in the opening 15 minutes, before Montreal Impact stormed back after halftime. Whatever Impact winger Raheem Edwards gaveth, he tooketh away. Edwards arrived in Montreal from Toronto (by way of LAFC), and looked to have volleyed home the equalizer in the 85th minute. Then, in the final minute of stoppage time, he tripped in his own box and took Columbus’ Luis Argudo down with him. Up stepped Gyasi Zardes, who buried the the game-winner from the spot to secure a perfect start for the embattled franchise.

About a half hour later, it was New England’s turn to steal three points from what looked to be an assured draw. With the game deadlocked at 1-1, the Revolution’s Chris Tierney stepped up to take a free kick from just outside the box. His shot caromed off the Colorado Rapids’ wall and left goalkeeper Tim Howard standing helplessly in net.

The game of the week — and of the fledgling season so far — took place in Chicago. The visitors, Sporting Kansas City, jumped out to a 2-0 first half lead from the feet of first-year players Felipe Gutiérrez and Johnny Russell.  Then the game went nuts.

Chicago Fire scored in the 70th and 74th minute to tie up the match. The final ten minutes were even more chaotic. Reigning Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic scored his second of the game in the 82nd minute to give the Fire the lead. It lasted 54 seconds. After defender Jimmy Medranda slammed home a rebound, Gutiérrez broke the deadlock with a brace in the 86th after a lung-busting run by Russell and a back-heeled flick by Dániel Sallói for a 4-3 Sporting victory.

It’ll be tough to top a game with seven goals, three in the final ten minutes, and three lead changes.

Brace for impact

While it still might be winter, it seemed that the scoring shoes were on fire. The number of goals scored rose from 26 to 38, despite one fewer match being played than the prior week.

Six different players registered braces in a weekend with only nine games. They came from Nikolic, Gutiérrez, Zardes, LAFC’s Diego Rossi, New York Red Bulls’ Carlos Rivas, and Minnesota United’s Ethan Finlay.

One thing stands out among these players. Four of the six are enjoying their first seasons with their respective clubs. Only Nikolic and Finlay are the exceptions.

Overall, out of the 38 goals scored, 19 came from fresh faces. Before you break out your calculator, that’s exactly half. For comparison, that number was at 31% in week one.

Best of the rest
  • After losing Justin Meram and Ola Kamara, was I wrong to think Columbus would struggle this year? Lesson learned. As long as Gregg Berhalter is the coach, the Crew will be fine.
  • The Union were leading the #playyourkids movement last week. Of course the Red Bulls had to one-up them, smashing Portland 4-0 while featuring four homegrowns 25 years or under. Oh, and a 17-year-old — Ben Mines — scored the opener.
  • Speaking of Portland, tough start for the Timbers and Orlando City. The latter was the preseason darling, but a single point from two home games is not very good— especially considering the opponents.
  • Wasn’t LAFC supposed to struggle as an expansion side? Well that’s pretty much impossible given how well Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi are playing. They’re the players of the week, in that order.
  • With the Union bye week,  there’s no PSP “player of the week.” If there was, it’d be tough to go against Wyndmoor, Pa. native and Montreal left back Daniel Lovitz. Dude was a monster up the left flank combining with Ignacio Piatti.
  • Anyone else scared that nobody is talking about how good NYCFC look?


  1. I, for one, welcome the new edition.
    Great wrap and will go back and recheck highlights of games I did not pay much attention to the first time around. Hope this helps to bring in more Patron dollars. Save the money you would typically spend on dollar dog night (and the antacids after the game) and send it to these guys and gals.

  2. Great recap. Missed this kind of recap in the past. One thing I would like to see is more mention of local players that do well, such as Lovitz who you did mention. Another highlight was Zack Steffen’s save that was very special. Columbus has a great coach and a great keeper. Lovitz actually used to play for LMSC Velez.

  3. Zizouisgod says:

    Enjoy this new feature, Nick. Thanks.

  4. pragmatist says:

    Love it. Thank you. I know I don’t have enough knowledge outside of our team, so any extra info on players and teams is welcome. MLS is decent, but I’m here much more often than I’m over there!
    Maybe a “Player of the Week” for the league. Or a “Young Player of the Week,” since that’s relevant to so many teams.
    Great job, as usual.

  5. Pete Mazzaccaro says:

    Yeah, great job. Good read, too.

    On CCL, Red Bulls should get through. Toronto really got the short end of the qualifying stick, having to get by Tigres AND Club America. As good as Tornoto is, I think they’re the most likely to get eliminated. Tigres can go through with a 1-0 win.

  6. David Prohaska says:

    Excellent stuff, Nick! Keep it coming!

  7. Like it too! Nice job as always.

  8. Definitely like the new addition. Between this and the news roundup, is there any reason I need to visit another soccer site first?
    One note – might be nice to add a few links to highlights or key moments. Just a thought.

  9. John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

    Good read. You might also mention until ESPN takes over streaming of MLS, games are free to watch on MLS Live.

    • John Harris says:

      I went to the MLS site and MLS live site but could not find games for free. It said log in to Live.

      • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

        Interesting. For me it tells you this is temporary until ESPN takes over and hit ok.

  10. Thumbs up on the new recap feature!

  11. Like it. Brief but good info. And yes about NYCFC. I thought they were Villa or nothing. Didn’t think their D would be any good.

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