Mauro Rosales and the Sounders are unbeaten in their last five matches.
Bill Streicher/Icon SMI
The Cascadia clubs all made statements, Houston's lengthy home unbeaten streak came to an end and D.C.'s streak of futility continued in MLS' Week 11 ...
1. Cascadia in command. The Cascadia obsession in MLS has been much more about passion, atmosphere, crowds and individual rivalry than it has been about balanced success across all three teams in the region, but that was hardly the case this week, one in which the three Pacific Northwest clubs -- Seattle, Portland and Vancouver -- combined to go 4-0-1 with statement performances.
Seattle led the charge with a 2-0-0 week that included yet another last-gasp win at Sporting Kansas City (on the strength of another goal by a defender no less) and a 4-0 thrashing of San Jose that certainly looked to confirm that the turning point for the Sounders has certainly arrived. It is no coincidence that Seattle's resurgence has come with Mauro Rosales at his best. The Argentine playmaker has had a goal and an assist in each of his last two starts, including a wondrous free kick right on halftime against San Jose, and the rest of the Seattle attack, including hometown hero Lamar Neagle and backflipping Designated Player Obafemi Martins, has fallen into place as a result.
What is surprising is that the Sounders' surge is coming at this point in the schedule. Their current stretch is about as daunting as it gets: After defeating the defending U.S. Open Cup champions (Sporting Kansas City) and Supporters' Shield holders (San Jose) this past week, they face the current Supporters' Shield front-runners (FC Dallas) followed by the two-time defending MLS Cup champions (LA Galaxy).
Portland, meanwhile, is the hottest non-Dallas team in the league. Unbeaten in nine games, the Timbers (4-1-6) are overwhelming the opposition at times with their high-pressure approach, one that had Chivas USA flummoxed in Sunday's 3-0 romp. Caleb Porter's re-positioning of Rodney Wallace as a wide forward has been one of the revelations of the season and is one of the chief reasons that the Timbers are tied with Dallas in scoring, a league-best 1.64 goals per game.
Vancouver's win over the Galaxy was the first in its MLS history and got the club over a major mental hurdle. That young Canadian attacker Russell Teibert was able to play hero with his two goals off the bench in place of injured Daigo Kobayashi is an added boon for the club that has not exactly had the biggest Canadian presence on its roster. With manager Martin Rennie in constant search of an attacking nucleus to stick to, the 20-year-old has announced his intentions to secure a more regular place on the field.
The timing couldn't be better for all three clubs to be in form: The Cascadia Cup resumes with the second regional matchup of the season when Vancouver hosts Portland on Saturday in a must-see battle.
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2. Dynamo's home streak ends against fitting foe. The late heroics never materialized. The inevitable sense that at least a point could be salvaged never came through. The Houston Dynamo's home unbeaten streak in all competitions is finally over at an impressive 36 games,
Sunday night's 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City was Houston's first home defeat in almost two years and the first at BBVA Stadium. Perhaps it was fitting that it was Sporting KC to have the honors. The rivalry between the two Midwest clubs is perhaps one of the more overshadowed, yet evolving, in MLS. The last two seasons Sporting KC has fancied itself as an Eastern Conference contender only to fall in the postseason to Houston (something that the Dynamo made sure to point out via social media when Sporting KC threw an initial Twitterjab of its own after the game went final).
Going even further, the clubs have two of the league's most sparkling facilities, two former U.S. international teammates for managers and two front offices with some of the most prudent and efficient scouting eyes for talent. When they play, a physical battle in which neither side concedes an inch is almost a given. Tempers may reach a boiling point, but there remains a mutual respect across two of the more stable MLS franchises. Consider the landmark loss just another talking point for the timeline of one of MLS' true top matchups.
3. Continuing trends bothersome for D.C. United. It is becoming clockwork for D.C. United. Concede an early goal. Concede off a set piece. Add another loss to the pile.
Despite wholesale changes made by coach Ben Olsen, D.C. failed to end its run of futility in Dallas on Saturday night and lost a franchise-worst seventh straight game. The new personnel showed signs of life -- and Dwayne De Rosario's free-kick goal sure looked like it had "turning point" written all over it -- but it still failed to snap the two trends that have crippled D.C. all season. The club lost on a corner kick that bounced through the box and off JeVaughn Watson's chest for the final dagger.
Conceding early goals will kill a team's confidence and throw a wrench into any game plan, and considering D.C. has yielded 11 goals in the opening 30 minutes of games this season, teams are approaching matchups with a kick-them-while-they're-down mentality. As Houston Dynamo forward Will Bruin, who torched D.C. for two goals and two assists Wednesday, said following a 4-0 triumph at RFK Stadium, "We knew that if we could get on them early, their heads would go down, maybe they wouldn't have as much fight."
It certainly played out that way. With games against enforcing, high-tempo clubs like Sporting KC and Portland up next, it is not as if there is an imminent light at the end of a very dark tunnel for one of the league's prouder franchises.
4. Buddle approaches 100-goal club. It is easy to overlook Edson Buddle when considering the league's all-time great goal scorers, but the Colorado Rapids front man is closing in on exclusive company and perhaps should get more due for what he has accomplished in his 12-season MLS career.
Buddle is at 95 career MLS goals after his second in as many matches on Saturday. Buddle-watch can go into full effect as he approaches triple digits. Delving even deeper into the numbers, Buddle's 28 career game-winning goals and his 16 career multi-goal games are tied for sixth-most in league history. His four career hat tricks put him one shy of Stern John and Diego Serna for the most in league history. If not for Chris Wondolowski's miracle surge in 2010, Buddle would have a Golden Boot to his name as well.
Considering D.C. United's struggles and Buddle's penchant for scoring in bunches when in form, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Buddle passes De Rosario (currently tied with Taylor Twellman for sixth-most goals all-time at 101) and launches himself even further into the upper echelon of strikers in MLS history by season's end.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Zac MacMath (Philadelphia Union)
Defenders: Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo), Futty Danso (Portland Timbers), Zach Scott (Seattle Sounders)
Midfielders: Mauro Rosales (Seattle Sounders), Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers), Lamar Neagle (Seattle Sounders)
Forwards: Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Rodney Wallace (Portland Timbers)
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|Week 11 MLS Power Rankings|
||FC Dallas (7-1-3)
Dallas continues to roll, turning to seldom-used players to get by struggling D.C. on Saturday night and extend its unbeaten streak to nine. There is cause for concern regarding midfield fulcrum David Ferreira, though. He was forced to leave the club's midweek bout against Portland with a leg injury and missed the weekend match as a result. His health is key for Dallas' long-term aspirations.
||Sporting Kansas City (6-4-2)
Aurelien Collin more than made up for his midweek gaffe that cost Sporting KC a point at home against Seattle. His dominating performance across the back line and game-winning goal in Houston delivered a gigantic victory in the budding midwest rivalry and kept Sporting KC in the middle of the logjam atop the East. With Kei Kamara back in the fold after his Norwich City loan, there is no shortage of options for manager Peter Vermes.
||Houston Dynamo (6-3-2)
How about the Dynamo's 2011 draft class? First-round picks Will Bruin and Kofi Sarkodie continue to blossom. Sarkodie, he of the double goal-line block in D.C., has especially taken extra strides in a full-time starting role at right back this season. The club having its home unbeaten streak snapped at 36 is certainly a minor setback, but after playing three games in eight days in Los Angeles, D.C. and Houston, perhaps the rigorous schedule was too much to overcome.
||Portland Timbers (4-1-6)
Now unbeaten in nine straight, dynamic Portland is the team nobody wants to play. Even on the road, where Portland has yet to lose (1-0-4) after two seasons of struggling away from Jeld-Wen Field. As the mantra goes, win at home, tie on the road and you'll be fine. That is certainly the case for the most improved team in the league.
||Montreal Impact (6-2-2)
The Impact could have easily suffered a two-loss week, which would have been exceedingly harsh considering how they played in matches against New York and Real Salt Lake, but the club dug deep against the latter, coming back from a goal down with two late tallies to recover three points and stay on course in what is becoming a crowded top of the East.
||Los Angeles Galaxy (4-3-2)
The Galaxy could not replicate their 2012 late heroics in Vancouver, falling to the Whitecaps for the first time. Much like last season's clash at BC Place in which Jose Villarreal broke out with a great score, the same occurred for stud rookie Gyasi Zardes, who scored his first professional goal and provides yet another attacking element for Bruce Arena. He'll look to build off that at Philadelphia and New York this week.
||New York Red Bulls (6-4-3)
Thierry Henry's masterclass showing against Montreal earned his predictable day off in New England, where the turf is a deterrent and the Red Bulls have not won since rebranding the franchise from the MetroStars. Regardless, a four-point week still has New York atop the East (even though its top competitors all have games in hand) leading into this weekend's anticipated showdown with big-spending rival LA.
||Real Salt Lake (5-5-2)br>
RSL looked certain to be walking out of Montreal with three points. Then, at the very least, one point. Instead, two late concessions left the club empty-handed and with a sour taste of a 3-2 loss. The club continues to get attacking contributions from others with Alvaro Saborio out with his quad injury, but it has not been able to sustain success for more than two games at a time. Only two teams have more losses than RSL, which has yet to go three games unbeaten this season, despite its relative good standing.
||Philadelphia Union (4-3-3)
Jack McInerney has scored the game-winning goal in all four of Philadelphia's triumphs, including his winner off Sebastien Le Toux's class ball against Chicago on Saturday, and those expecting the 20-year-old forward to fall off the pace can keep wishing, because he'll continue to pop up at opportune times. More encouraging for the Union was the play of goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who marshaled a patchwork defense and came up huge to prevent the Fire from getting on the board.
||Colorado Rapids (4-4-3)
With just one loss in their last seven games, the Rapids continue to get results, and with a healthy and in-form Edson Buddle leading the line, the club has a truly reliable piece up front. More good news for the Rapids is in the form of Martin Rivero, the playmaker who started his first game of the season after a couple of appearances off the bench. Slowly but surely, Colorado's infirmary is emptying.
||Columbus Crew (3-4-3)
Simply put, Columbus needs more than the combined three goals and four assists it is getting from the Federico Higuain-Jairo Arrieta attacking tandem. After being shut out for the third time in four games -- and the second straight time at home -- the onus falls on the two attackers to provide a spark. Fortunately for them, they get to face Toronto FC's much-maligned defensive unit in this weekend's Trillium Cup battle.
||Vancouver Whitecaps (3-4-3)
The Whitecaps finally broke the Galaxy hex. It took a wide-eyed 20-year-old to get it done. Russell Teibert's two-goal showing off the bench provided the attacking jolt Martin Rennie's team so badly needed for a 3-1 victory at BC Place. It gives the club a much-needed boost heading into this week's first leg of the Canadian championship final against Montreal, where a CONCACAF Champions League berth is on the line.
||Seattle Sounders (3-3-3)
Unbeaten in five matches with their scoring mojo unlocked, the Sounders are performing like most thought they would entering the season. With wins over Sporting Kansas City and San Jose, Seattle has emerged from the West cellar and actually has the sixth-most points per game in the conference. The sense of panic around CenturyLink Field can safely go back into hibernation.
||San Jose Earthquakes (3-4-5)
San Jose was absolutely picked apart by Seattle in a humbling 4-0 defeat for Frank Yallop's side, which has yet to build any semblance of momentum after its brief instances of success. The late-game goals are great and headline-worthy, but the lack of complete performances throughout the season has to be worrisome for the Supporters' Shield holders.
||Chivas USA (3-5-2)
The last eight days have not been especially fruitful for Chivas. Between being outscored 7-0 in losses to Sporting KC and Portland, having Juan Agudelo traded without manager Chelis' input and Mario de Luna shoving a ballboy at the end of the Portland debacle, things are trending more toward the trainwreck side after a few-week spell where it looked like unorthodox Chivas might just take the league by storm.
||New England Revolution (2-4-4)
New England's biggest splash this week came in the form of a trade for U.S. international forward Juan Agudelo, who is on his third team in two seasons after moving from Chivas USA in exchange for allocation money. Still on the mend from a hamstring injury, Agudelo did not see the field for the Revs just yet, but in combining with the likes of Jerry Bengtson, Saer Sene and young homegrown dynamo Diego Fagundez, he'll have a chance to show his stuff for a club desperately in need of a goal-scoring spark.
||Chicago Fire (2-6-1)
The Fire have regressed a bit after appearing to turn things around. The main problem continued to be the lack of a true finisher after the club was shut out for the fifth time in nine games. Patrick Nyarko performed admirably in an advanced role against Philadelphia and could be part of the long-term solution, but the Union will be ready for him in the second of their back-to-back meetings this weekend.
||Toronto FC (1-5-4)
It shouldn't be a surprise anymore when Toronto FC concedes late. Another goal given up in the final 10 minutes of a match cost it a point against the Earthquakes and sent Ryan Nelsen's squad to a third straight defeat. The Reds continue to try and plug holes with short-term loans for abroad-based players. The likes of Tal Ben Haim and Steven Caldwell may provide immediate assistance, but they can't be seen as long-term stopgaps.
||D.C. United (1-8-1)
D.C. continues to redefine rock bottom after a two-loss week extended its all-time worst losing streak to seven games. Ben Olsen's complete lineup makeover -- including swapping out goalkeeper Bill Hamid for Joe Willis -- could not inspire a road result in Dallas, although it appeared that D.C. had signs of life for the first time in weeks in the 2-1 defeat.
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