More than the story: MLS Week 16

Posted by Jason Davis

A light schedule -- Major League Soccer's way of acknowledging the international break without really acknowledging the international break -- doesn't necessarily mean a few narratives won’t get flipped on their heads. Five games on Saturday brought one major surprise, a few mild shocks, and the usual to-form outcomes.

Portland Timbers 1-0 FC Dallas - Video

Pre-game narrative: Top-of-the West FC Dallas enter the cauldron of Jeld-Wen Field dealing with a host of absences, making the Timbers a good bet to win at home.

The obvious narrative held, leading to FC Dallas' third loss. In addition to the injuries Dallas faced before the trip, Schellas Hyndman lost starting striker Kenny Cooper at the last minute when Cooper had to return home to attend to a family emergency. The game was open and fluid, a true display of Caleb Porter's transformation of the Timbers from last year to this.

-MLS Play Of The Weekend

If not for FC Dallas goalkeeper Raul Fernandez, the Timbers might have dropped a handful of goals on the visitors. As it was, it took a sublime goal from Darlington Nagbe to beat Fernandez and give the Timbers the win.

The game was FC Dallas’s second trip to the Pacific Northwest in a month where the Western Conference leaders were shorthanded. Back in May, the Sounders thumped FC Dallas 4-2 in Seattle when Dallas was missing David Ferreira and George John. Luckily for Schellas Hyndman and company, they don’t have to go back until August.

D.C. United 1-2 Toronto FC - Video

Narrative: Two bad teams battle it out to see if either can come out of the game with some sort of “momentum.” Flip a coin for a winner, and if TFC is up late, keep an eye on their weakness for conceding late goals.

TFC won after falling behind in the opening 20 minutes on a Dwayne DeRosario penalty thanks to a foul in the box called against young central defender Gale Agbossoumonde. But before the half was out, TFC had a 2-1 lead through a Robert Earnshaw goal and an own goal by United defender Daniel Woolard. United fought for the equalizer after the own goal, but Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik was up to the task. Bendik make several big saves in the second half to preserve the lead.

Thanks to Bendik and a dispirited United team through the final minutes, TFC managed not to concede in the dying moments. As bad as it sounds, holding onto to a lead against the Eastern Conference’s cellar dwellers represents progress for Ryan Nelsen's team. On the other side, D.C. United drops to a new low in a season filled with them. Like the bloodied Daniel Woolard at the end of the match, United looks like a team beaten, bloodied, and out of ideas.

Columbus Crew 2-0 Montreal Impact - Video

Narrative: The best team in the East travels to banged-up and inconsistent Columbus with all expectations of extending their three-game winning streak.

In something of a shock, Columbus got an early goal from Matias Sanchez on a fortuitous deflection and tacked on via Dominic Oduro to beat Montreal at Crew Stadium. The Impact returned to the league play after a two-week break, but did not take advantage of that rest. The Impact tested goalkeeper Andy Greunebaum only a handful of times over 90 minutes in a surprisingly impotent performance by the high-flying Canadian side.

Montreal was without center back Alessandro Nesta as well as coach Marco Schallibaum, both of whom were suspended for the match. Maybe Montreal's lack of effectiveness was down to those absences, though it’s important to give Columbus credit for their victory. The Crew also had centerbacks Chad Marshall and Josh Williams back in the line, giving the defense a massive boost. Oduro has been the Crew’s most dangerous player from the run of play this year, and showed how his speed can change a game by picking the pocket of Collen Warner in Montreal's own end before splitting the defense and finishing with panache

Colorado Rapids 1-2 San Jose Earthquakes - Video

Narrative: San Jose looks for the “new manager” bump, with Mark Watson taking over for Frank Yallop, to overcome Colorado’s momentum (five games unbeaten) and home field advantage.

If Watson taking over for Yallop gave the Quakes a bump, it was a subtle one that revealed itself as more a matter of fortune than any significant upgrade in San Jose’s play. San Jose got an early goal from Steven Lenhart, then went up a man down when Atiba Harris made an ill-advised tackle at midfield. Colorado's lack of composure ultimately decided the game, though the Rapids did put the outcome somewhat in doubt after cutting into San Jose’s two-goal lead halfway through the second 45.

The Quakes played just as physical as they did under Yallop, fought and clawed in the same ways, still relied on their big forwards and crafty wingers, and left Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with three points. Is that because there’s someone else in charge on the sidelines, or was it just a bit of luck falling the Quakes way?

The Earthquakes won't give the issue a second thought as they start an attempt to climb back into playoff contention.

Vancouver Whitecaps 4-3 New England - Video

Narrative: New England’s silky attack travels across the continent to play Vancouver, one of the league’s most up-and-down teams. A win for New England would not be a surprise, nor would the two teams combining for more than a few goals.

For the first 23 minutes, New England looked like a surefire away winner. Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe stakes the Revs to a 2-0 lead before a questionable penalty and red card to rookie defender Andrew Farrell completely changed the game. After Whitecaps forward Kenny Miller went down somewhat easily under Farrell’s challenge, Camilo converted the PK and turned the switch on Vancouver’s offense.

Miller scored twice, included a pretty chip after bringing down the ball between two defenders. Down a man and feeling aggrieved at the red card, New England nevertheless fought to make it interesting. Dimitry Imbongo scored in the 84th minute to bring the Revolution within one before the Whitecaps ultimately managed to close out the game. Through Vancouver is on a decent run of form over the last five weeks, Martin Rennie's decisions have been open to question. It might be telling that the Scotsman chose to insert two rather attacking substitutes with the lead at home.

Vancouver-New England was a game of two parts, with the home team benefiting from the long period of numerical superiority.

ESPN Conversations