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Roundtable, Part 2: Club vs. country

United States Nov 16, 2014
Read
Jun 3, 2014

Seattle sitting on top of MLS, Landon's on fire, Revs stunned

Four different Sounders players got on the score sheet in a 4-0 rout of Real Salt Lake on Saturday at CenturyLink Field.

MLS still exists in the World Cup's preparation shadow, chugging along for this and one more week before stepping aside for a break in play during the group stages in Brazil. Luckily for those still paying attention, the league is delivering some incredible goals and entertaining matches, even without all of its international stars.

Let's review the weekend in MLS, starting with the end of a streak.

No more streaking

Did it have to end this way? Real Salt Lake's record-tying unbeaten run to start an MLS campaign came to a spectacular end at the hands of the Seattle Sounders on Saturday. The Sounders not only blanked RSL, they dropped four goals on their Western Conference rivals, leaving no doubt who has the upper hand in the conference at the moment.

The loss in Seattle comes at a strange time for RSL. Despite the streak, cracks in the club's form were showing, related directly to a rash of injuries and international absences. It was an especially rough day for center back Aaron Maund, stepping into the lineup in the place of Chris Schuler. With Jeff Cassar resting Schuler on Century Link's turf, Maund struggled to handle the speed and movement of Seattle's attackers. He committed the foul that led to Gonzalo Pineda's penalty and gave away the free kick that Marco Pappa converted 10 minutes into the second half.

Ultimately, RSL should be fine. For now, Seattle is just better.

Of comebacks, completed and otherwise

Two teams tried their hand at big comebacks. One succeeded, giving the home fans a reason for raucous celebration and providing one player a chance to bask in the glow of redemption. The other came up just short, falling to the whims of the referee and their own defensive failures while giving MLS one of the best goals it will see this year.

The comeback completed belonged to Toronto FC, who rebounded from two one-goal deficits at BMO Field before earning a win over Columbus via Doneil Henry's added-time header. The match was a "feel good" moment for the Reds, a confidence-building win that was their third positive result in a row -- during a stretch without Michael Bradley. Jermain Defoe continued to justify his signing for Toronto, scoring a stunning goal, drawing a penalty and converting the spot kick.

The comeback unfulfilled belonged to the Portland Timbers. Caleb Porter's side couldn't maintain their winning streak in an entertaining, if sloppy, match at Providence Park against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Two penalties and a rampant Pedro Morales were too much for the Timbers to overcome. The fight Portland showed to make a game of it was admirable, but admiration can't be exchanged for the points the Timbers desperately need to get back in the Western Conference playoff race.

Landon rolls on

Since being snubbed from the USMNT, Landon Donovan has been on fire in MLS with three goals in two games.
Since being snubbed from the USMNT, Landon Donovan has been on fire in MLS with three goals in two games.

Landon Donovan was cut from the USMNT World Cup roster on May 22. In two MLS games since, he has scored three times. The latest tally came in a 1-1 draw between the Galaxy and Fire at Toyota Park on Sunday. Donovan's MLS record goal total now stands at 137. An entire soccer nation is counting along.

This is not another argument that Donovan's rediscovered scoring touch means he should be on the plane to Brazil. Instead, it's simply acknowledgement that the Galaxy star hasn't let the disappointment of his surprising omission rule his mental state back with his MLS team. Maybe the shock of missing out on his fourth World Cup is the reason Donovan looks like his old goal-scoring self, or maybe a return to the scoring sheet was always going to happen eventually. Regardless, it's the Galaxy that are benefiting from his good play.

In between his customary gripes about the MLS schedule, Bruce Arena can at least be thankful for that.

When last beats first

The number of leagues in the world where a last-place team beating a first-place team would elicit little more than a collection of raised eyebrows is small. Thanks to the joys of parity, MLS just so happens to be one of them. When the Montreal Impact took down the New England Revolution 2-0 on Saturday at Stade Saputo, it was somewhere between "mildly surprising" and "par for the course."

The Impact are talented, at least at the attacking end of the field. Andres Romero and Jack McInerney hit the back of the net for Montreal against the Revs, capably aided by the play of Marco Di Vaio and Issey Nakajima-Farran. More encouraging than the goals, however, was the clean sheet the Impact earned against a team coming off a period of explosive scoring form. Troy Perkins and the Montreal defensive line did strong work to stifle the Revolution's gaggle of offensive weapons.

That's how last beats first in MLS, where last beating first isn't all that big of a deal.

Chivas USA: Slump busters

There's nothing quite like playing Chivas USA to cure what ails a struggling team. The Philadelphia Union found that out firsthand this weekend when they throttled the Goats 3-0 at StubHub Center. The Union entered the game laboring under the weight of unmet expectations and amid pervasive rumors that head coach John Hackworth's job was in jeopardy; they left L.A. with three points and reason to be hopeful about a turnaround.

Admittedly, it took a bit of luck for the Union to get the win. A series of bizarre sequences -- including a six-second call on Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy that led to an indirect free kick, which then led to a handball, and then to a penalty slotted home by Conor Casey -- conspired to hand Philadelphia a relatively easy win that did little to quell concerns about its form. Casey did go on to score a second goal through excellent team play, displaying what the Union are capable of when all areas of the field click.

Whether beating Chivas USA gives Philadelphia any momentum and perhaps saves Hackworth's job is a question with an answer in the future. At least the slump is busted.

Team of the Week

Goalkeeper: Jon Busch

Defenders: Marvell Wynne -- Amobi Okugo -- Jeff Parke -- Chris Klute

Defensive midfielder: Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi

Attacking midfielders: Pedro Morales -- Diego Valeri

Forwards: DeShorn Brown -- Fanendo Adi -- Jermaine Jones