New York Red Bulls fans hold a banner that states in support of Boston before Wednesday's match.
Rich Graessle/Icon SMI
MLS showed its support for Boston, Landon Donovan got back to doing what he does best and FC Dallas remained on fire in an action-packed MLS Week 8 ...
1. MLS supports Boston. New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution supporters typically don't find a lot of common ground. The same goes for New York and Boston fans across the entire sports landscape. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, though, Red Bulls and Revs fans stood together supporting Boston, highlighting a week of touching fan tributes and signs of respect across the league.
Red Bulls and Revolution supporters marched together to Red Bull Arena for Saturday's match, one in which the Red Bulls ran rampant and bounced back from a deflating midweek defeat with a 4-1 victory. The on-field happenings took a backseat to the humanity in the stands though. The "New York Stands With Boston" tifo that stretched across the South Ward for both home matches last week was especially moving. The "Boston Strong" signs scattered throughout the crowd displayed unity between rival cities, and The Standells' "Dirty Water" -- the Red Sox victory song -- blaring over the loudspeakers as opposed to the typical MLS anthem during the processional was a special touch of class from the Red Bulls organization.
There were signs of solidarity across the Atlantic Ocean as well. On Tuesday, Arsenal and Everton players and supporters observed a moment of silence and donned black armbands in honor of the marathon bombing victims and the 96 victims of the Hillsborough tragedy on the 24th anniversary of that incident. At Anfield on Sunday, Liverpool and Chelsea supporters provided a minute-long applause for the same causes.
Sports may bring out the worst in fan behavior -- more so overseas, but recent isolated incidents at matches in Dallas and Portland have shown that American fans are not immune to lunacy -- but there may not be a more unifying force as well, evident across MLS at a time when the American people, specifically those in Boston, needed all the love they could get.
2. Donovan gets back to scoring. He was smiling. He was juggling the ball to himself before corner kicks. He was showing raw emotion, giving props to teammates out of joy and frolicking around the field unabated. Yes, Landon Donovan is enjoying himself again.
Donovan notched his first goal since the penalty kick that wound up winning the 2012 MLS Cup, icing the Galaxy's 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City Saturday night at the Home Depot Center and turning in his best showing since his hiatus expired late last month. Donovan's assist to Marcelo Sarvas also accounted for the goal that snapped Sporting KC's shutout streak at 546 minutes -- whether Sarvas handled the ball in the buildup is another story -- and his liveliness and spry runs were obvious signs of his extended break having served its purpose.
The crescendoing rate at which Donovan has been working his way back into the fray and improving his sharpness on the field should bring a smile to the faces of all Galaxy (and U.S. national team) supporters. Donovan may yet have to prove himself over a sustained period of time before Jurgen Klinsmann calls him back into U.S. camp ahead of upcoming friendlies against Belgium and Germany and three June World Cup qualifiers, but as Donovan, 31, told reporters Saturday, "Don't count the old guy out just yet."
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3. Toronto FC's late show. Say one thing for Toronto games this season: You'd better not turn them off or leave the stadium early.
The Reds endured another last-second collapse and settled for a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo after appearing to close in on an important victory over the 10-man side Saturday afternoon. The match marked the fourth straight Toronto FC game in which a team scored in the 90th minute or later to level the score. Unfortunately for Toronto, three times it has been the opposition.
On one hand, that Toronto is even in games against the likes of L.A., FC Dallas and Houston is a sign of great growth and maturity. Coach Ryan Nelsen seemingly has his improving side on track. On the other, late-game breakdowns tend to have a snowball effect and create a mental obstacle that defenders have to combat for the long haul. If Toronto can't lock up its late-game defense -- or impersonation of defending evidenced by the horrid attempt to lock down Houston off its late set piece -- then the recent sample size becomes a big-picture issue.
Toronto won't have long to wait to test its late-game mettle. The Canadian championship kicks off this week. Toronto drew the Montreal Impact in the semifinals of the four-team tournament that determines the Great White North's representative in the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League. Toronto won the Canadian title the last four years -- getting the best of Vancouver in the final every time -- but given the sharpness gap between the Reds and Impact in the opening weeks of the MLS campaign, it will be anything but easy to capture title No. 5.
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4. Bieler developing a two-sided reputation. Claudio Bieler has proven a shrewd Designated Player signing for Sporting Kansas City, scoring four goals in the club's first eight games and displaying a clinical touch in the final third while he integrates into a new squad. He is also developing a bit of a reputation as a cheap-shot artist, though.
Bieler's elbow to Galaxy defender AJ DeLaGarza's head that drew no card or call is the second time the Argentine striker has connected above the shoulders on an opponent, and it's something worth monitoring going forward. That typically mild-mannered DeLaGarza went off the handle and could barely be restrained by Sporting KC's Graham Zusi -- the best man at his wedding -- after the altercation suggests replays were not misleading and that Bieler indeed delivered a well-placed elbow to DeLaGarza's noggin.
On April 5, Bieler got away with what appeared to be a pretty blatant arm to the throat of D.C. United center back Brandon McDonald, who told the Washington Post that "If he doesn't get suspended, Kansas City has turned into the Lakers," insinuating that SKC players get treated above the law. As noted last week, the MLS Disciplinary Committee has been surprisingly silent on incidents that were suspension- or fine-worthy a season ago, but it will be interesting to see if the committee acts on Bieler's latest controversial incident and whether he becomes a marked man for referees going forward.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: Austin Berry (Chicago Fire), Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), George John (FC Dallas)
Midfielders: Jonny Steele (New York Red Bulls), Marcelo Sarvas (LA Galaxy) Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), David Ferreira (FC Dallas), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls)
Forwards: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union)
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|Week 8 MLS Power Rankings|
||FC Dallas (6-1-1)
The top team keeps on rolling. Dallas silenced Vancouver to win its league-best sixth game (no other has more than four). The well-oiled machine continues to get timely contributions from vital pieces. It's no wonder the club is back to playing its best when integral midfielder David Ferreira is, too.
||Los Angeles Galaxy (3-1-2)
The defending champions turned in one of the performances of the season, silencing a Sporting Kansas City side that came in on a roll, albeit short rest as well. Landon Donovan scored his first goal, big news for a team highly likely to add another Designated Player in the coming months. L.A. bounced back from its first loss in fine fashion.
||Sporting Kansas City (4-2-2)
It was a bit much to ask Sporting Kansas City to play on each coast in a four-day span and come away with six points. That the club took three off the New York Red Bulls was important for conference standings purposes, if nothing else. Auerlien Collin dominated the proceedings in New York, but with Peter Vermes opting to go with the same starting XI in LA, it's little surprise the club was not as effective.
||Montreal Impact (4-1-1)
The Impact sat back on its bye week and watched Sporting KC take the Eastern Conference lead. Montreal, despite losing the head-to-head matchup, has a couple of games in hand on Sporting KC, though, and will be well-rested for the first leg of its Canadian championship semifinal with Toronto FC. The club eyes a place in this summer's CONCACAF Champions League group stage.
||Houston Dynamo (4-2-1)
Warren Creavalle's last-gasp equalizer salvaged a point for the Dynamo, down a man after Jermaine Taylor's red card. The Jamaican center back will miss the club's next chance to add to its record home unbeaten streak when Houston welcomes the Colorado Rapids to BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday.
||Real Salt Lake (3-3-2)
There's probably not another goalkeeper a coach would want facing a penalty kick than Nick Rimando. That point was hammered home Saturday night when the U.S. national team backstop denied Edgar Mejia's spot kick for his 18th PK save en route to clean sheet No. 101 of his career. He's closing in on Kevin Hartman's league record 112.
||Philadelphia Union (3-2-2)
The Jack McInerney hype train is gaining serious momentum. After his first-half brace and assist against D.C. United, McInerney leads the Golden Boot standings with six goals. The Union improved to 3-0-2 when he scores. On top of that, the young, but growing, Union held on to take three points off a regional rival on the road, another step forward.
||Portland Timbers (2-1-4)br>
The Timbers wanted to walk away from Buck Shaw Stadium with a second straight 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, but the club conceded a stoppage-time equalizer and settled for a draw. Even so, through three games away from home, the Timbers are unbeaten (0-0-3), a far cry from the road woes that plagued them the last two seasons.
||Columbus Crew (2-2-3)
Columbus' four-game unbeaten streak is over after the club conceded a late winner to the Chicago Fire's Jeff Larentowicz, which overshadowed another standout showing in goal from Andy Gruenebaum. A return to Crew Stadium will surely be welcome after five of its first seven games away from home. Columbus welcomes lowly D.C. United this weekend to begin a three-game homestand.
||Vancouver Whitecaps (2-3-2)
The road struggles continued for the Whitecaps, who have been trending down since opening the season with two straight wins. They'll have a golden chance to rebuild momentum this week. The first leg of the Canadian championship against NASL side FC Edmonton precedes a rematch with FC Dallas, this one at BC Place.
||New York Red Bulls (3-4-2)
The Red Bulls bounced back from a toothless midweek showing against Sporting Kansas City with an all-encompassing 4-1 win over the New England Revolution, continuing the club's inconsistency. New York faces a Toronto FC side that will be on short rest following its mid-week Canadian championship clash.
||Chivas USA (3-3-1)
Chelis' histrionics and a missed penalty stole the headlines yet again. The eccentric coach walked off the field prior to the final whistle of Chivas' 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake. Chivas will be without the suspended Mejia and Bobby Burling for the upcoming match against the Earthquakes, forcing Chelis to look down his depth chart.
||San Jose Earthquakes (2-3-3)
Adam Jahn's second late-game goal entrenched his place among San Jose's Goonies and salvaged a point for a side that continues to look like a shell of its 2012 self. One step in reclaiming that dominance was the combined returns of All-Star right back Steven Beitashour, who started after a lengthy bout with a sports hernia, and winger Marvin Chavez, a second-half substitute.
||Chicago Fire (2-4-1)
Chicago keeps building after its horrid start. Larentowicz provided the winner in a conference clash with Columbus. That makes it two wins in three matches (and three solid showings in all games). The seat under manager Frank Klopas is considerably cooler.
||Toronto FC (1-2-4)
Another late-game concession stole points off Toronto's table after a defensive breakdown allotted Creavalle the ability to head home the tying goal. Toronto hopes for a reprieve in the Canadian championship, where the four-time defending champion will be looking to defend its latest title starting at home with a tricky semifinal first-leg clash with Montreal.
||Seattle Sounders (1-3-2)
And there are no more winless teams in MLS. Seattle broke its duck with a 1-0 victory over Colorado on the strength of Obafemi Martins' rebound to relieve a ton of pressure in the Emerald City. The match was significant for another reason: Steve Zakuani's return to Dick's Sporting Goods Park for the first time since Brian Mullan broke his leg there more than two years ago.
||Colorado Rapids (2-4-2)
The Rapids' injury bug is beyond outrageous at this point. The club already was looking at combating a major absence with rookie forward Deshorn Brown missing the 1-0 loss to Seattle, but Edson Buddle getting hurt before the game and Marvell Wynne leaving injured during it is cause for an even greater headache for manager Oscar Pareja. At least Clint Irwin did not have to defend another penalty kick after already being forced to face four, though, right?
||Chicago Fire (1-4-1)
The Revolution's sterling defensive record is a thing of the past. The club was carved to pieces by the relentless Red Bulls. Cut the Revs a little slack, though, considering they are playing with overwhelming emotion for both Kevin Alston's leukemia diagnosis and the fallout of the Boston Marathon tragedy, in which the father-in-law of goalkeeper Matt Reis was seriously injured.
||D.C. United (1-5-1)
At least D.C. doubled its season scoring output in the 3-2 loss to Philadelphia. That's about the only positive takeaway. The club lost its third straight home game to a conference foe and is lacking answers for how to get back to its level from last season. The first-half defending was absolutely shambolic, and that was with D.C.'s first-choice back line.