MLS was back in action with four midweek games that could help shape the playoff picture as we head into the final stretch of the season.
The Philadelphia Union went on the road to D.C. and earned a huge three points that help solidify their playoff position and keep them a full 10 points clear of the red line.
The Red Bulls welcomed the Houston Dynamo to Red Bull Arena, and while the match wasn’t pretty, RBNY found a way to get the win and earn three points that will be critical in the Supporters’ Shield Race.
Out west the Earthquakes traded goals with FC Dallas but ultimately earned their second victory of the year against the Western Conference leaders, and Portland took care of business at Providence Park, snapping a four game losing streak.
Here’s a closer look at the action.
Red Bulls 1, Dynamo 0 – final
After a slow first half, the deadlock was broken in the 55th minute through Brian White. After a Houston defender kicked the ball away from goal, Alex Muyl slid near the touchline to save it, placing it perfectly in front of the goal line for White to finish for his first career goal.
The second half ended similarly to the first, with two heavily rotated sides lacking the usual cohesion, but finding a few opportunities here and there. Both Luis Robles and Chris Seitz managed to come up big when needed for the most part on another night at Red Bull Arena where the finishing left a little to be desired.
In the end, it was the Red Bulls who recorded another narrow victory and continue to keep pace with league leaders Atlanta United, while Houston Dynamo leave New Jersey with a nine-match winless run.
Man of the Match: Brian White had an impressive first league start, recording the game winning goal and remaining fairly active in attack throughout the 90 minutes.
Moment of the Match: While White gets credit for the goal, it was Muyl’s efforts that were impressive. As the ball headed out for an almost certain goal kick, the midfielder slid to save it and let White do all the work from there.
Match to Forget: Luis Gil had hardly any influence in midfield and was seemingly absent for a majority of his shift, which ended after 59 minutes.
D.C. United 0, Union 2 – final
CJ Sapong opened the scoring for the visiting Union in the 29th minute when goalkeeper Bill Hamid deflected a Cory Burke shot away from goal, but Sapong was there to easily gather the loose ball and send it into the open net from close range to give the Union the 1-0 lead.
The Union doubled their lead in the 60th minute as CJ Sapong sent in a low cross to a wide open Fafa Picault right near the penalty spot. Picault put his laces through the ball and easily fired it into the back of the net to give Philadelphia the two goal lead.
Man of the Match: CJ Sapong contributed on both scoring plays for the Union, scoring the first and earning the assist on the second.
Moment of the Match: It looked as if D.C. United would grab the early lead in the 8th minute as Wayne Rooney fired a shot that deflected nearly into the net, but it bounced off the post and Philadelphia cleared the danger.
Match to Forget: Wayne Rooney did not have a bad game per se, but he couldn’t capitalize on his two best opportunities on the night, and his team was unable to muster anything without him.
Earthquakes 4, FC Dallas 3 – Final
FC Dallas jumped out to an early lead in the 8th minute when Maxi Urruti got on the end of a loose ball in the Earthquakes box off a Michael Barrios cross and easily sent it into the open net.
The lead didn’t last long, though, as San Jose found an equalizer just seven minutes later in the 15th minute. Some good build up from the Earthquakes gave them possession deep in FC Dallas territory, and just when it looked as FC Dallas might clear the ball of danger, a couple of deflected balls eventually ended at the feat of Vako who did well to beat Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer to tie the game 1-1.
Just before halftime, Vako earned a brace and put the Quakes up 2-1 on the Western Conference leaders in the 42nd minute. The midfielder drove toward FC Dallas’ net from outside the box, and once again poor challenges from the Dallas defense led to a deflected ball at the feet of Vako, who just got the ball past Maurer for his second goal of the night.
FC Dallas pulled level just five minutes into the second half thanks to Santiago Mosquera. The Colombian winger, who checked on at the half, sent a beautiful cross-field switch to Barrios, but Mosquera continued his run up the middle of the field. Barrios sent the ball inside to Urruti, who found Mosquera open near the top of the box. The winger gathered himself and put the ball past Tarbell for the equalizer.
Just four minutes after the equalizer, the Earthquakes responded. Forward Magnus Eriksson had a bit of space just outside the top of the box, and the Swedish international teed up a gorgeous that beautifully curled past Maurer into the top left corner to retake the lead for the Quakes.
The back-and-forth continued as FC Dallas waited just four more minutes for the 58th minute equalizer. Maxi Urruti sent a gorgeous through ball to Reggie Cannon, who fired a low cross into the box where Dominique Badji tapped it home to tie the game at 3-3.
Not to be left out of all the scoring, Chris Wondolowski played a nice give and go with Vako to create space for himself in the FC Dallas box. Wondo received the return ball from his teammate, had nothing but the Dallas keeper in front of him, and put the goal away for his 142nd career MLS goal, recapturing the lead for the Earthquakes once again.
Man of the Match: Vako’s brace and assist helped propel a San Jose team that doesn’t have much to play for over the Western Conference leaders. The midfielder showed the kind of effort that the Earthquakes have been lacking all season.
Moment of the Match: A ridiculous back-and-forth second half saw four goals scored in a span of eleven minutes, but it was Wondo’s give-and-go with Vako that led to the decisive goal in the Quakes victory.
Match to Forget: FC Dallas usually has Jesse Gonzalez in goal, but Jimmy Maurer got the nod from head coach Oscar Pareja in what should have been a winnable game for Dallas. Maurer didn’t look comfortable all night, wasn’t convincing in his clearances and let in far too many goals against a lackluster San Jose attack.
Timbers 2, Toronto FC 0 – Final
A scoreless first 45 minutes leaves both teams looking to improve in the second half. Portland was able to find shots, but none of them really threatened as Irwin easily collected the three Timbers shots on target.
Toronto’s chances were fewer and farther between, but they may have had the best chance of the half. A 10th minute shot from new signing Lucas Janson nearly put the Canadian team ahead, but the shot went just wide and bounced off the right post.
After a number of near goals and continued offensive buildup, the Timbers finally broke through in the 64th minute as Sebastian Blanco threaded a gorgeous ball across the face of goal to Diego Chara. The Timbers midfielder did well to redirect the ball on frame to give the Timbers the lead.
David Guzman sealed the victory for the Timbers in the 83rd minute with the Timbers second goal of the night. Michael Bradley received a pass from Clint Irwin, but the midfielder lackadaisically received the ball and didn’t realize Guzman was right behind him. The Timbers defensive midfielder easily stripped Bradley of the ball and sent a powerful shot past Irwin to double the Timbers lead.
Man of the Match: Diego Chara was a force all over the field for the Timbers Wednesday night. He was active in the defensive half of the field, but his go-ahead goal in the 64th minute ultimately gave the Timbers the victory.
Moment of the Match: With less than ten minutes to play, any hope of a Toronto FC comeback was shattered with a brilliant steal and goal by David Guzman. He masterfully pickpocketed Michael Bradley before calmly slotting away his second goal of the season.
Match to Forget: He may not have had his usual supporting cast as both Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez stayed in Toronto, but Jozy Altidore was a non-factor all night. The forward only had two shots total on a night where his team could only muster one on target.