Seattle's crowd was the easiest story from Week 31 in Major League Soccer, but the big news is the open playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Only Chicago closed out a place, using a 2-0 win over New York at Red Bull Arena to advance to the postseason. With two rounds remaining, Chicago now has 2nd-place all to themselves. On national television on Saturday afternoon, Sherjill MacDonald scored both Fire goals in the shutout.
Though MacDonald's two goals were impressive, offensively the weekend belonged to Chris Wondolowski. No one should need reminding that Wondolowski is the League's leading scorer, and he's now three more goals to the good. San Jose 4 - Colorado 1 with Wondolowski setting up Marvin Chavez's 2nd minute opener and scoring three in a row of his own (11th, 51st, and 83rd). Colorado's Andre Akpan spoiled the shutout in the 92nd minute.
“I'm not even sure if I'm the MVP of my team," Wondolowski said. "We have so many great guys that have been doing some amazing things. I get the stats, I guess, but it's definitely team-oriented. If you look at tonight, we had the "Bash Brothers" playing so well, I just kind of picked up some loose balls in the box and was lucky enough to find the net so I appreciate the work that they do. It’s definitely tough work.”
Also on Saturday, DC beat Toronto 1-0 at BMO Field on an 88th minute Hamdi Salihi goal. It was the same score at PPL Park, with Philadelphia knocking off New England from a 73rd minute Jack McInerney goal. Real Salt Lake beat Los Angeles 2-1 in a game where Landon Donovan subbed off in the 85th minute with a knee injury. Robbie Keane opened the scoring for LA in the 17th, but two Fabian Espindola goals (25th and 28th) saw off the Galaxy.
Houston - Montreal ended 1-1, a result that makes things difficult for the Dynamo. Will Bruin put Houston up in the 44th, but they couldn't hold on with Sanna Nyassi equalizing in the 66th. Though Houston is still 5th and would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today, their lead over 6th-place Columbus is a single point.
Though the Crew knew they could pass Houston with their game on Sunday, they had a difficult test against Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City. A 1-1 draw is a result for the Crew. CJ Sapong opened the scoring in the 10th minute with Eddie Gaven equalizing in stoppage time. It was the same score for Dallas - Chivas USA in Frisco, with Dallas taking the lead eight minutes in from a Blas Perez goal. Jorge Villafana equalized for Chivas USA in the 69th minute. Chivas USA outshot Dallas 19 to 13, putting nine of those on goal to Dallas's five.
As for that Sunday night ESPN2 game, 66,452 were there for Seattle's 3-0 shutout of Portland. An own-goal opened the scoring in the 25th minute, with Eddie Johnson doubling the lead three minutes later. Fredy Montero made it 3-0 in the 62nd.
What Did We Learn?
1. New York can take credit for taking the high road after their loss to Chicago and not publicly criticizing their club for another front office shakeup. Still, a club isn't just what happens on the field. In a week where a game on NBC waited, New York sent the wrong message.
2. Chicago might not know how to flip their switch at will, but when they're on they're tough to beat. Everyone else in MLS is now wondering which Fire team will show up.
3. Sigi Schmid's response to the tifo display Sunday night was classic. Someone in his position might be used to being on camera after all these years and will usually keep himself in check. Still, a banner filling an end zone depicting him as a card player is perhaps worth a nod or a wink. Schmid gave away nothing, sitting on the bench as if it was another day at work. In other words, he kept his cool while holding a winning hand just like the tifo.
1. San Jose: Nothing changes for the best team in Major League Soccer.
2. Kansas City: We're leaving them here because they lead the Eastern Conference, but they should be able to beat a team like Columbus on the road. That's one of Sporting's strengths this season, and it wasn't on display at Crew Stadium.
3. Chicago: Maybe they're the team that belongs in 2nd at the expense of Sporting. Fortunately for Kansas City, that midweek loss to Houston keeps them third.
4. Salt Lake: Another team holding their place in our standings. Playing for position in the Western Conference, they did the job in a building that used to be a fortress in this League.
5. Seattle: Let's go ahead and call it a derby win USA style. Seattle stepped it up across the board for an impressive result that takes them to third in the West.