There were some massive results in Major League Soccer this weekend.
As opposed to the first half of the regular season which was characterised by turgid draws, sides are now going out and winning matches. The league has panned out on a way to make MLS’s often derided play-off structure very exciting indeed.
Matches are having powerful and increasingly irreversible effects on qualification.
Two sides in particular produced displays that had fans talking this weekend, DC United and Sporting Kansas City.
United’s 3-0 win was perhaps the more impressive because it was away from home and moreso a relative rarity, an Eastern Conference win on the US west coast.
They may well have ended the wild card aspirations of Chivas USA reducing the pool of challengers by one. More spectacularly they partially ended the agony of their fans, long used to seeing games in hand fail to turn into points on the board. They of course still have to wait for the pleasure of seeing one MLS win followed by another.
United midfielder Stephen King was under no illusions as to the importance of the victory at Chivas:
“Those were huge points against Chivas. We knew going into the game that basically we could grab a playoff spot with a win. We had ten games to go going into that match, and it was important to get a result against a team like Chivas, who was in the same boat as us looking to do the same things. If these season ended today, we’d be in the playoffs. We’re happy about that, and we’re looking to take each game as it comes and prepare as well as we can.”
Those next two games are tough though, a return to his former club Seattle Sounders and a home game against Real Salt Lake. Thanks to that vital win in LA, King’s side can probably survive those two with just a couple of points.
The other side who took the pressure off themselves 3-0 were Peter Vermes Sporting Kansas City. Granted beating the visiting Houston Dynamo is not unique, as Dominic Kinnear’s side are still without a road win.
Vermes himself wasn’t ready to celebrate anything despite the result moving his side to equal top of the Eastern Conference:
“I don’t think we’ve achieved anything yet. Nothing’s over, we’ve got a long way to go still. We as a group; players, coaching staff, support staff, front office, ownership, everyone has belief that we are going to move forward and that we are getting back.”
His goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was a little more relaxed but again was taking nothing for granted:
“The most important thing is where we are after 34 matches. Right now we can enjoy this game and this victory, but Monday it’s back to work. We have to work hard, and not put too much attention to the standings.”
The third headline grabbing result came in King’s former home, Seattle, where Real Salt Lake grabbed a 1-2 win.
Kyle Beckerman assessed the effect of the win on the Western Conference and Shield hunt but didn’t leap to any conclusions:
“It definitely helps us out. It was an important win for us. It was a big game for both teams with six points on the line so very happy with the way we played and the way we gritted it out for three points.”
Sigi Schmid was conceding nothing to LA Galaxy though, despite the gap extending to seven points:
“Everybody is still catchable. This league is always a streaky league, so for us now it’s just a matter of – you know, just like after the game against Houston – we just gotta get back after it and take care of business the way we want to.”
First he has to take care of CONCACAF Champions League business on a long trip to Costa Rica.
For United, it is the next match and King however is very much looking forward to the encounter:
“It’s exciting [to play in Seattle], especially for me having played up there in front of those fans. You know it will be a great atmosphere, and Seattle has been doing very well this season. They’re near the top of the table, and we’re looking to bring some of the momentum we built in this last game and to keep building off of that. I think if we stick to our game plan we can be successful.”
Columbus who lost 2-4 at home to Toronto and Houston’s Dominic Kinnear have only to wait until Wednesday night to undo – or exacerbate – the damage done by their defeats.
Houston especially may not recover from another thrashing. At 35 points from 28 games, they have already played a game or two than those around them. Defeat would put Columbus out of sight at the top of the Eastern Conference with Kansas on the cusp of disappearing too. FC Dallas and Los Angeles are still among their remaining five games thereafter.
San Jose are still clinging onto the race. If Houston don’t win tomorrow, their match with San Jose on Saturday will almost certainly eliminate one of them.
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