More than the story: MLS Week 19

Posted by Jason Davis

Week 19 in MLS was a round for divergent momentum. Teams on rolls saw their rolls end, teams who spent the first half of the season establishing themselves continued a recent fall back to earth, and a handful of clubs grabbed the chance to jump-start their seasons.

Here’s the MLS weekend in review, with narratives flipped and narratives followed.

New England 2-0 San Jose - Video

Narrative: Despite some dodgy results, the Revolution are a team on the up, while San Jose failed to leverage the good feelings created by the dramatic win over LA -- with the Quakes missing Chris Wondolowski and Marvin Chavez, New England should win

-Watch & vote: MLS goals of the week

New England held up their end of the bargain in a fairly dominant home performance, with Saer Sene and Dmitry Imbongo scoring. San Jose certainly missed two of their biggest offensive weapons, managing just two shots.

Sene’s 13th-minute rocket set the tone, but Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen was the standout. Nguyen's creative influence in midfield has been a large reason for New England’s turnaround under Jay Heaps. Much of the team's problems to start the season revolved around a midfield that lacked understanding between one another and spotty forward play. Nguyen is the glue who brought the midfield together, and his passing naturally makes the forwards more dangerous.

Only injuries and their disastrous start can stop New England from reaching their potential.

Houston Dynamo 1-0 Philadelphia Union - Video

Narrative: Houston, winless in their last seven, hosts Philadelphia without leading-scorer Jack McInerney and Michael Farfan; in other words, it’s a chance for the Dynamo to get right

Houston won on Ricardo Clark's goal, ending the string of bad results for Dom Kinnear’s team. Maybe the win will turn things around for the Dynamo, who have dealt with injuries and international absences during their poor run. On the other side, Philadelphia hasn't exactly burned up the league since their "statement" win over New York two weeks ago, though draws against FC Dallas and RSL aren't bad results. The loss comes as no surprise, yet the Union will rue the lost opportunity to make up ground on the three teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference.

Houston was missing two crucial players as well: Brad Davis (injury) and Corey Ashe (with USMNT), putting more of the offensive burden on Oscar Boniek Garcia and Giles Barnes. The unlikely goalscorer Clark got on the end of a cross from Jermaine Taylor in the 59th minute to secure three points for the Dynamo. It was Houston's first win since Sporting Kansas City ended their home unbeaten streak on May 12th.

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 Seattle Sounders - Video

Narrative: Vancouver has never beaten either of their Cascadia Cup opponents as an MLS team, but enters with four wins in their last five games against a Seattle team still missing Osvaldo Alonso

Thanks to a Kenny Miller goal and an additional one from Darren Mattocks, Vancouver broke their Cascadia duck. Seattle created chances, ultimately leading to Whitecaps keeper Brad Knighton winning MLS Player of the Week, but weren't able to put any of them away. Knighton's seven saves frustrated the Sounders for much of the match after an opportunistic attack, and some poor play from Seattle defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, gave Vancouver a fourth minute lead through Miller. The Scottish DP’s value is finally showing through in British Columbia, where they’ll need his goals to keep themselves in a competitive Western Conference playoff race.

-Video: MLS Play of the Weekend

Again, it's not that Seattle was outplayed by the Whitecaps, but Sigi Schmid’s team still clearly misses Alonso in midfield. Stand-in Sharlie Joseph is a capable player and strong defensively, but his distribution was spotty and a fair shade below what Alonso brings.

Vancouver’s good form has them in the last playoff position in the West, but as with anything, form is fleeting -- Martin Rennie’s side needs every point they can get during this stretch of good play.

Chicago Fire 1-2 Sporting Kansas City - Video

Narrative: Chicago is hot (winners of three in a row, unbeaten in their last six) and Mike Magee will probably score

Magee scored, but two early goals from KC held up as the visitors walked out of Toyota Park with three points. A goal from Benny Feilhaber -- relegated to a reserve role for much of the season -- put Sporting up inside of six minutes. Graham Zusi’s floated cross beat Fire keeper Paolo Tornaghi to double the lead before the clock hit 11 minutes.

-Video: Is Sporting KC an MLS Cup contender?

From there, Chicago had the better of play, and halved Sporting’s lead before halftime when Magee scored on a well-executed break. Sporting managed to hold on for the second half, however, rarely threatening Chicago's goal but maintaining enough defensive discipline to keep the Fire from equalizing.

For Sporting, the win extended an unbeaten streak now at four. Chicago’s winning streak comes to an end, but as long as Magee is scoring, they’ll have a chance to make some noise in the Eastern Conference.

Columbus Crew 1-0 Portland Timbers - Video

Narrative: The Timbers haven’t lost since March -- there’s no way the supremely inconsistent Crew will be the ones to end the streak, right?

The Crew -- yes, the Crew -- ended the Timbers' unbeaten run by making an early goal from Bernardo Anor stand up. It helped that Timbers defender Pa-Moudou Kah committed a red-card foul in the box, reducing Portland to 10 men just 12 minutes into the game. Federico Higuain missed the resulting penalty, but the Timbers were unable to convert their superior possession into the goals necessary to level or win the game.

Caleb Porter's return to Ohio was marked by the need for changes across his lineup in light of Gold Cup absences for the Timbers. Portland were missing Will Johnson (Canada), Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica), and Frederic Piquione (Martinique), but still had the attacking quality to handle the Crew. Unfortunately, Kah’s red card changed the game, forcing Porter to insert defender Futty Danso for Khalif Alhassan.

The Timbers will now try to start a new streak against the Galaxy, while Columbus can only hope that beating Portland will bring them some small chance at a run of consistent play.

Montreal Impact 1-1 Chivas USA - Video

Narrative: Montreal at home, hosting the last-place team in the West -- lock Impact win

To be fair, Montreal’s results have been trending negative in recent weeks (two points out of the last nine available, including a home loss to Colorado), but few would have seen a home draw against the lowly goats coming. A 55th-minute goal from here-gone-back-again Eric Avila (he of the aborted move to Chivas de Guadalajara) was canceled out by a Patrice Bernier penalty in the 65th, ending with Chivas getting their third draw in a row and extending their first three game unbeaten streak since March.

Despite the disappointing home draw, Montreal clings to the top spot in the East by a point. How long that lead lasts depends on whether the Impact can reverse their point-dropping ways. Montreal was always going to regress at some point, but the combination of bad defensive performances and inability to score on poor teams such as Chivas should sound some alarm bells in Quebec.

Colorado Rapids 0-0 D.C. United - Video

Narrative: The Rapids enter the game on the back of consecutive wins over the top two teams in the East, proof of their potential as a dark horse in West -- a win over last-place D.C. is the basic expectation

Thanks to some organized defending and some misfiring on the part of the Rapids, United escaped the Rocky Mountain State with a hard-won point. What was a positive result for United was undoubtedly a disappointment for Oscar Pareja's team, who couldn’t break down D.C. over the course of 90 minutes despite dominating.

Video: Is United's Olson on hot seat?

The star of the scoreless affair was United fill-in goalkeeper Joe Willis, playing for Bill Hamid (USMNT). Willis make several big stops to keep the game on even terms when the Rapids -- mostly through rookie forward DeShorn Brown -- consistently threatened the D.C. goal.

The draw ended Colorado’s two-game winning streak. Despite consistent improvement over the season, the Rapids remain on the outside of the Western Conference playoff spots, two points back of Vancouver with two additional games played.

LA Galaxy 2-0 FC Dallas - Video

Narrative: LA, notably without Landon Donovan, tries to build on the momentum of a late mid-week win over Columbus against an FC Dallas side that has lost its way

No Donovan, no problem for LA, who rode the stellar play of Robbie Keane (who passed a late fitness test to get the start) to the win. Schellas Hyndman’s FC Dalas team has now gone six games without a win, a large comedown for the club that led the Western Conference much of the early going. Keane set up Marcelo Sarvas for the Galaxy opener in the 65th minute, a goal long in coming for a Galaxy side that dominated throughout. Robbie Rogers, slowly rounding into form on the wings, set up Hector Jiminez for the insurance goal 10 minutes from time.

In contrast to the Earthquakes’ poor run after the remarkable CaliClasico at Stanford Stadium a week and a half ago, LA has won two in a row since they were done in by Alan Gordon. With Donovan away for the duration of the Gold Cup, every win the Galaxy can scrape together in his absence is a further boost to both their playoff chances and their confidence that a third MLS Cup title in a row is possible.

Meanwhile, concern should be rising in FC Dallas camp. While a road win in LA shouldn't be expected, the lack of cohesive attack and complete capitulation to LA in possession don’t bode well for the immediate future -- a home date against Real Salt Lake looms.

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