There were only three MLS matches on the docket tonight thanks to the international break, but all three of them carried some weight in the playoff race, especially the evening’s opener at Yankee Stadium
A late David Villa goal salvaged a point for NYCFC, which is to keep its hopes for a top-two place in the East alive. D.C. United took the away point to move ever so much closer to a playoff spot of its own.
Elsewhere, Sporting Kansas City moved into second place and within one point of first place in the Western Conference after taking all three points at home against Orlando City. Out west, the Portland Timbers managed to pad their own playoff position with a home victory against the Colorado Rapids.
Here is a look back at Saturday’s MLS action:
D.C. United 1, NYCFC 1
Steve Birnbaum broke a scoreless deadlock 58th minute by barely beating NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson to a 50-50 ball in the air right on the doorstep. The midfielder’s charge at goal got plenty of complaints from his opposition, but the goal stood and D.C. took the lead.
The advantage wouldn’t last, however. David Villa blasted home a majestic free kick in the 86th minute to salvage a home point for NYCFC. He curled a shot around the wall and tucked it inside the near post past a helpless Bill Hamid.
Man of the Match: Bill Hamid was a monster in the D.C. United goal. He made eight saves as NYCFC pelted him with 31 total shots.
Moment of the Match: Villa’s free kick earned a big point for NYCFC in their hunt for a first round bye.
Match to Forget: Sean Johnson will want this match back, especially after he let Birnbaum beat him to an aerial ball right at the top of the six-yard box.
Sporting KC 1, Orlando City 0
A scoreless first half left something to be desired for both sides. Sporting KC seemed to get the better of the chances in the attack as both wingers found space down the sides of the field. SKC couldn’t find the final ball, however, and only put one shot on goal in the half.
Chris Mueller and Will Johnson both received yellow cards in the first half and will have to be on their best behavior to avoid being sent off in the second.
Felipe Gutierrez opened the scoring in the 53rd minute as he received a pass from Yohan Croizet just above the penalty spot. Orlando City’s defense was slow to close in, so the SKC midfielder lineup the shot and sent it past Bendik to give Kansas City the 1-0 lead.
Man of the Match: Felipe Gutierrez was all over the field distributing the ball for Sporting KC, but it was his 53rd minute goal that proved the difference in the one-goal affair.
Moment of the Match: It looked as if Dom Dwyer may have had the moment of his homecoming early on in the match when he snuck behind the SKC back line and had a one-on-one with Tim Melia, but the Sporting KC goalkeeper made himself big and blocked Dwyer’s shot.
Match to forget: While he didn’t play poorly, Dom Dwyer had two one-on-one chances against Tim Melia and was unable to convert either. Both chances were Orlando’s best opportunity at goal, and Dwyer’s inability to score kept them scoreless in the match.
Timbers 2, Rapids 0
After a slow start, the first half belonged entirely to the Timbers. They had the better of the chances, particularly on their four corners and numerous set piece opportunities. They even had a pair of goals off free kicks pulled back by very narrow offside decisions. They finally got a goal to stand in the final minute of the half when Sebastian Blanco managed to pick out a just on side Jeremy Ebobisse at the top of the six yard box for an easy finish and his first goal of the year.
The Timbers maintained control of the flow of play at the start of the second half, but they almost gave the lead away when Steve Clark clattered into Jack McBean in the penalty area in the 57th minute. A lengthy VAR session took the call away, however, thanks to an earlier foul by McBean. Just a few minutes later, in the 65th minute, Diego Valeri provided an insurance goal by heading home a hard Blanco cross into an open net.
Man of the Match: Sebastian Blanco bagged a pair of nice assists and was overall a dominating force on whichever wing he managed to find himself.
Moment of the Match: The Rapids looked to be back in the game when Jack McBean won a penalty, but VAR can be cruel at times and it took his chance away for a shove on Liam Ridgewell in the run leading up to the potential penalty.
Match to Forget: Johan Blomberg was basically a pylon in wide midfield and Blanco had little trouble running right around him.