The 2018 MLS regular season is heading toward its final month, meaning time is running out for some teams to secure playoff position, and time for some other teams to solidify their lofty place in the standings.
Toronto FC’s playoff hopes took a big hit on Saturday after a 2-0 loss to the Red Bulls. The defeat has pushed the reigning champions to the brink of playoff elimination while keeping the Red Bulls in the picture for the Supporters’ Shield.
Los Angeles FC kicked off Saturday’s action with a comfortable 2-0 win against the lowly San Jose Earthquakes. That win has pushed LAFC within a point of West-leading Sporting Kansas City, which plays in Philadelphia on Sunday.
Elsewhere, the points were shared between the Montreal Impact and NYCFC while Atlanta United and the Columbus Crew grabbed wins.
Here’s a closer look at all of Saturday’s MLS action:
LAFC 2, Earthquakes 0 (Final)
Walker Zimmerman scored a pair of header goals off assists from Carlos Vela to help LAFC secure a comfortable victory at Banc of California Stadium.
Zimmerman opened the scoring in the 41st minute when he headed home a Vela corner kick from six yards out.
The Earthquakes didn’t learn from that defensive lapse, as Zimmerman scored on a similar streaking run in the 68th minute, heading home a perfect Vela cross from six yards out.
Though LAFC scored on a pair of headed corner kicks, the expansion side was the deserved winner, having dominated play, out-shooting the Earthquakes 18-4. Earthquakes goalkeeper James Marcinkowski made six saves on a busy night to keep it from being a blowout.
The win pushed LAFC to the 50-point mark, good for a tie for second place in the West with FC Dallas. The loss extended the Earthquakes’ losing streak to four matches.
Man of the Match: Zimmerman’s two-goal performance helped secure the victory, though Vela gets credit as well for two excellent corner kicks.
Moment of the Match: Tyler Miller only had one save to make on the day, but it was an important one, keeping the Earthquakes off the board with a one-handed stop on a tricky bouncing shot from Jackson Yuiell.
Match to Forget: The Earthquakes deployed zonal marking on corner kicks, and Guram Kashia looked to be at fault on both Zimmerman goals, failing to step out and challenge him on either occasion.
Red Bulls 2, Toronto FC 0 (Final)
TFC’s playoff hopes took a big blow as second-hal goals from Kaku and Derrick Etienne stood up in a 2-0 Red Bulls victory at Red Bull Arena.
After a fairly even 70 minutes, the Red Bulls finally broke the deadlock with Kaku scoring his fifth goal of the season. Etienne sent a cross into the box, and the ball eventually found Kaku, who scored from close range.
Etienne was able to cap off an impressive appearance off the bench with a goal of his own, as Bradley Wright-Phillips won the ball and passed to him. From close range, the finish was easy for the Haitian international.
At the end, a poor finishing day for both sides ended with two goals that bring the Red Bulls closer to a bye in the first round of the playoffs and Toronto further away from a chance to participate in the post-season.
It was a bittersweet night for the Red Bulls because of a yellow card issued to Wright-Phillips for dissent, a card that will now keep him out of next week’s Supporters’ Shield showdown against Atlanta United.
Man of the Match: Despite a general inability to score, the Red Bulls did not lack chances and that is once again down to Kaku. Perhaps more importantly, though, he managed to score the game’s lone goal, adding to an impressive debut season in MLS.
Moment of the Match: Etienne’s insurance goal seemed like a commentary on Toronto’s season, as a defender fell to relinquish possession. Eventually, Bradley Wright-Phillips teamed up with Etienne to put the match — and Toronto’s season — to bed.
Match to Forget: Eriq Zavaleta came on as a second-half substitute to help solidify things defensively, but he badly misplayed the pass to Etienne on the insurance goal, providing a grim, but fitting end to another frustrating night for TFC.
Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 0 (Final)
Atlanta United returned home on Saturday and eased their way to another three points.
Atlanta opened the scoring in the 37th minute off of Julian Gressel’s rocket to the far post who capitalized off of a cross from Miguel Almiron.
Crew 2, Rapids 1 (Final)
Colorado’s Shkelzen Gashi pulled the Rapids even just nine minutes later, scoring on a quick free kick while Columbus was still getting ready.
Deklan Wynne saw a straight red card in the 51st minute for Colorado after a nasty challenge on Pedro Santos.
Impact 1, NYCFC 1 (Final)
After an impressive win in Philadelphia a week ago, the Montreal Impact had to settle for a comeback point at home on Saturday.
Remi Garde’s side used a first-half equalizer from Michael Azira to tie NYCFC 1-1 at Stade Saputo.
NYCFC opened the scoring in the 17th minute as Montreal’s Rudy Camacho knocks the ball into his own net trying to defend Jo Inge Berget running in on goal.
Azira knocked in a goal off a back-heel pass from Ignacio Piatti to pull the Impact even 1-1 in the 27th minute.
Evan Bush and Sean Johnson made important saves when they had to, finishing with three apiece.
Man of the Match: Azira’s goal helped the Impact to a needed point at home against NYCFC.
Moment of the Match: Johnson’s most important intervention came in the 84th minute when he kept Alejandro Silva out from point blank range.
Match to Forget: It was another quiet evening for David Villa who had one shot on goal in his 90+ minutes of action.
Revolution 2, Fire 2 (Final)
Chicago’s lead didn’t last long, as Cristian Penilla made it 2-2 just three minutes later. Juan Agudelo took possession of the ball off a Fire free kick and found Penilla on a breakaway. Keeper Richard Sanchez came off his line, but the Ecuadorian dribbled around him and slotted a low shot inside the left post.
Match to Forget: The Revs left back spot continues to be an eyesore as evidenced by the rookie Bye’s performance. The highly-compensated Claude Dielna and Gabriel Somi aren’t even able to make the bench, and coach Brad Friedel’s latest first-choice left back had to be subbed off at halftime for poor form.
Orlando City 0 Dynamo 0 (Final)
Both Orlando City and Houston struggled to find the back of the net in their scoreless draw on Saturday.
Orlando City goalkeeper Adam Grinwis made his MLS debut Saturday night and avoided an early disaster in the 14th minute when Houston’s Romell Quioto seemed to poke the ball away and into the back of the net from him as he brought the ball back into his box. The goal was waved off after it was reviewed that Grinwis still had his hand on the ball as Quioto poked it away.
The Lions earned just their second shutout of the season while the Dynamo enter their U.S. Open Cup Final with just one win in the last seven matches.
Man of the Match: Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis made several key saves throughout the night
Moment of the Match: Orlando City’s Adam Grinwis caught a huge break when Romell Quioto’s goal off his hands, literally, was disallowed.
Match to Forget: Adam Grinwis might’ve gotten the clean sheet, but he also got away with nearly losing a ball at the edge of his box with an open net.
Minnesota United 3, Timbers 2 (Final)
In what might’ve surprisingly been the most exciting match of the night, the Portland Timbers nearly came back from a 3-0 halftime deficit in a 3-2 loss at Minnesota United on Saturday.
The Loons got a pair of goals from Romario Ibarra and one from Michael Boxall in the first half to take a commanding 3-0 lead into the break. Ibarra’s first goal came off of a loose save by Steve Clark on a run in on goal by Darwin Quintero. Ibarra beat Clark again in the 35th minute to the far post.
Clark collected seven saves on the night to help the Timbers’ attempt at a comeback.
Portland roared back in the second half, getting a pair of goals from Alvas Powell in the 55th minute and Sebastian Blanco in the 79th minute. Powell launched a rocket into the upper 90 from just over 20 yards out and Blanco
Minnesota’s Fernando Bob earned a straight red card in the 89th minute for his challenge on Diego Valeri just outside the box. Bob and Valeri were going for a 50-50 ball and Bob elbowed Valeri in the throat on the way down.
Minnesota held the Timbers off throughout the seven minutes of stoppage time to clinch their win since July 22nd.
Man of the Match: Romario Ibarra’s first-half brace sparked the Loons big first half and helped guide Minnesota to their first win in two months.
Moment of the Match: Steve Clark’s save on Ibarra in the 61st minute kept Portland in the match and prevented Ibarra from scoring a hat-trick for the night.
Match to Forget: While Ibarra had a great night with a brace, Minnesota’s Darwin Quintero missed out on what could’ve been a hat-trick on the night. He had two shots saved by Clark in the first half and a chip over Clark hit the crossbar in the 73rd minute.