Major League Soccer's 2012 regular season comes to an end with a last bit of drama courtesy of the Chicago - DC game. With DC United taking second-place in the Eastern Conference with a point or better, Chicago was unable to come up with a late winner. The effort was there, the goal wasn't. The Fire's Patrick Nyarko opened the scoring in the 16th minute with Lionard Pajoy equalizing in the 50th. The result means Chicago faces Houston in the Play-In Round.
As for Houston, the Dynamo their regular season ended on a down note with a 2-0 loss to Colorado. A quick look at Houston's lineup explains the disparity. With their Play-In ticket already punched, the regular season finale became a formality. Kamani Hill (9th) and Andre Akpan (76th) did the scoring.
“When a team has nothing to lose, and they are throwing that many people at you, they’re going to get some looks, you know?," DC coach Ben Olsen said. "You take out that period at the end where they were throwing a lot of numbers, and I felt we played very well."
DC's opponent in the playoffs will be New York, finishing off the season with a 3-0 shutout of Philadelphia. Kenny Cooper scored on either side of Thierry Henry's 35th minute goal. Also on Saturday, an 88th minute AJ Soares goal was the difference for New England in a 1-0 shutout of Montreal.
In the weekend's other significant story line, San Jose's Chris Wondolowski tied but didn't beat Roy Lassiter's single-season scoring record in his club's 1-1 draw with Portland. As the score suggests, Wondolowski got the Earthquakes' goal in the 24th minute. Bright Dike equalized for the Timbers in the 67th. Real Salt Lake and Vancouver finished scoreless at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“I am happy that I was able to get a goal today and tie the record," Wondolowski said. "I appreciate all the support from my teammates all year long. They have given me great passes and set up a lot of chances for me and all I have to do is put them away.”
On Sunday, Columbus beat Toronto 2-1 in a chance to make a season-ending statement toward 2013. Columbus's Federico Higuain opened the scoring in the 17th minute with Andrew Wiedeman equalizing for Toronto ten minutes later. Higuain scored the winner in the 62nd minute. Dallas and Chivas USA finished 2-2 at FC Dallas Stadium. Jackson put Dallas up in the 73rd minute with Fabian Castillo adding a second goal in the 80th. Chivas USA answered back with Laurent Courtois and Juan Agudelo scoring in stoppage time. In Sunday's late game, LA beat Seattle 1-0 on an 83rd minute Mike Magee goal.
What Did We Learn?
1. Major League Soccer's handling of Chris Wondolowski's pursuit of the single-season scoring record was first class. The League deserves credit for stressing a record set in 1996 as important, doing nothing to downplay where the League was versus what it's become. They made sure to involve a monumental talent by MLS standards in bringing back the record holder Roy Lassiter. Wondolowski also deserves a nod for saying the right things at the right moment. Oh, ok... here's another Wondo quote: "It is just an honor for me to be mentioned with a legend like Roy Lassiter. He was a great player and I feel very fortunate to have tied him." He's right, and someone will be saying the same thing about Wondolowski years from now when that player goes after the 28th goal.
2. Out of the playoffs weeks ago, in the midst of a club-wide shakeup, and all of a sudden Chivas USA decides to play in stoppage time of the final game of their season. It's tough to figure that one out.
3. PPL Park looks better on television than arguably any stadium in North American professional sports. Any wide shot might feature the Delaware River and the Commodore Barry Bridge, the kind of thing normally associated with pregame montages. At the home of the Union, it happens during games and it's nice to see on national television.
1. San Jose: Top of the table, with the most exciting player in Major League Soccer as all of us advance to the playoffs.
2. DC: Why are they ahead of Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City? Right now, who would you rather see your team play?
3. Kansas City: Can we use the word 'hum-drum' to describe their run in?
4. New York: Yes, three Eastern Conference teams in the top four and there's a good reason. The Eastern Conference has played excellent soccer in 2012. There's no Western equivalent to Columbus and the Higuain onslaught late in the season, and that's from a team that missed the playoffs.
5. Los Angeles: The same reason we put DC higher than Sporting.