Jozy Altidore serves up a reminder; others find scapegoat in woodwork
With another round of Major League Soccer in the books, here's who fired and who failed this weekend:
Not everyone thrives playing second fiddle. The egos involved when the paychecks are big and the spotlight is bright can upend team dynamics even in what seems to be a good situation.
Jozy Altidore clearly doesn't have a problem playing Robin to Sebastian Giovinco's Batman. The American international won't get recognition as TFC's best player as long as Giovinco plies his trade in Toronto, but when the level of talent is that high, there's really nothing wrong with being number two. Especially when being number two means scoring goals in bunches the way Altidore is at the moment, or when working in combination with a talent like Giovinco means getting the benefit of the Italian's creative abilities.
Altidore's two goals against Houston in a 2-0 win Friday night served both as a reminder that he ranks among the league's elite forwards and that Toronto's dynamic duo is nearly unstoppable when in form.
No home team ever likes to have to make furious comeback to salvage a point, but when it happens, it invariably feels like a win. When the Sounders found themselves down 3-0 to the Revolution at CenturyLink Field with less than 20 minutes to go, getting anything out of the game would represent a victory.
Brian Schmetzer's club deserve credit for their resilience. It would have been easy for the Seattle Sounders to fold after everything went wrong in the first half. A goalkeeping error, bad marking and their own wastefulness put the home team in a hole that looked insurmountable. But it's hard to keep talent like Seattle possesses down, and rather than accept that they couldn't get something from the match, Nicolas Lodeiro, Will Bruin and Osvaldo Alonso willed their team to an emphatically earned point.
Midfielder Andrew Jacobson is no one's first idea of a game-changing player. He's a grinder, a defensive midfielder who can do the job but rarely stands out. The fact that Jacobson has played for five teams in his MLS career might look like an indictment of his talents, but no player sticks around that long or keeps getting the opportunity to play if he doesn't have something significant to offer.
And Jacobson is, in actual fact, capable of changing a game on occasion. That's exactly what he did for the Whitecaps at Montreal on Saturday, where Vancouver found themselves down a goal to the Impact. Jacobson brought his team level with a well-taken volley after Laurent Ciman attempted to clear a Vancouver corner, then played a well-weighted pass into the path of Cristian Techera for the winner.
Needless to say, heroes are not always who you expect them to be.
Returning heroes, however, don't always return triumphant. Dax McCarty was rightly feted by the Red Bull Arena faithful in his first game back after being traded to Chicago in the offseason, but the Red Bulls themselves failed to play into any narrative that made the midfielder a winner on the day.
A couple of recurring themes emerged for clubs that failed to take advantage of their circumstances and dropped points on the final weekend in April.
First up, marking, something that was lacking on a number of goals across the schedule. Whether through lack of communication, a misunderstanding of assignments or a system that failed to account for a goal-scoring threat, more than a few teams were guilty of lax defending that resulted in tallies that damaged their chances to take full points from an otherwise excellent effort.
FC Dallas fought back to earn a draw and maintain their unbeaten record at home in 2017, but Oscar Pareja won't be happy when he watches back the set-piece defending on Fanendo Adi's opening goal. The tallest player on the field, and one with the scoring ability of Adi, should never be able to get up for a free header.
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The New England Revolution will be reviewing their marking as well after losing a three-goal lead in Seattle. Will Bruin managed to get goal-side of two Revs players and connect with a Joevin Jones cross to make it 3-2 and encourage Seattle to push for more.
Not that the Sounders themselves get off the hook just because of the comeback. Juan Agudelo victimized Seattle for his first goal of the day by easily slipping between the Sounders center-backs and heading home a ball from Kelyn Rowe.
Defenders complicit in giving up soft goals: villains. Goal frames that keep good shots out and prevent goals: also villains.
Just ask the LA Galaxy. Desperate for win at home against the worst team in the league, LA missed out in part thanks to a shot off the foot of Joao Pedro that hit both posts and stayed out. Thankfully for Curt Onalfo's team, the Union are toothless at the moment and couldn't create any real danger on the attacking end.
It might be a little ridiculous to chalk up LA's problems to a bit of back luck or the intervention of inanimate objects, but when things are going as bad as they are at the StubHub Center, finding a scapegoat is about as positive as things get.
And while we've pointed a finger at poor marking having a hand in Seattle's 3-3 draw with New England, there's also the woodwork at CenturyLink Field to blame. Seattle cranked out an insane 25 shots over the course of 90 minutes, with three of them striking the goal frame bouncing back.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.