Sep 30, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
Less than a month remains in the regular season, and the playoff races remain tight as rush hour traffic on the 405. Here’s what you need to know about Round 31, which finished with an usually busy Sunday foursome of matches.
The big results
So many, really, considering playoff races in each conference that simply refuse to yield all that fascinating congestion.
But the big-big result was surely Portland’s 1-0 win over the two-time defending champion LA Galaxy helps establish Caleb Porter’s team as a real contender. The Timbers are learning now to grind out results, with two 1-0 wins at home over Western foes lately.
Tim Cahill’s second half equalizer gave the Red Bulls a useful 1-1 draw in Seattle, where the Sounders fumbled away numerous chances to put away a side missing its its top attacker (Thierry Henry) and top defender (Jamison Olave). Seattle retains the inside track on Supporters Shield (based on the number of games remaining), but it was a result the Red Bulls can take pride in.
Columbus’ surprising 4-2 win in Dallas, the Crew’s second consecutive road win, was massive in the playoff jostle. The Crew looked so close to dead a few weeks ago, but a string of impressive results has kept interim coach Brian Bliss and his troops among the post-season hopefuls. Oh, and it was also was probably a knockout punch for FC Dallas, now five points out of the race.
The “controversial” decision – that wasn’t a bit controversial
LA Galaxy players and coaches, reinforcing that sense of entitlement that has become so familiar through the Bruce Arena years in Southern California, were absolutely apoplectic about a late Robbie Keane goal that was waved off, judged offside, in Portland. And it was a swell strike, a crisp near-post header off Landon Donovan’s precision free kick service.
But replays demonstrated that Keane was offside, just as the referee’s assistant correctly ruled.
We get on the men in the middle a lot on this site, so it’s only fair to point out when they get a very close, and quite important decision absolutely correct. Job well done, guys. Here’s that one:
The most surprising result
Philadelphia was perhaps one more big punch from being knocked plum out of this fight, having fallen from second all the way to seventh. So going into Sporting Kansas City and coming away with a 1-0 win (over a team still thinking “Supporters Shield”) was easily the big upset of Round 31.
The most impressive result
It’s not like Real Salt Lake had much of a choice, surely needing to trust the reserves Saturday night in Vancouver. With the U.S. Open Cup final coming up Tuesday at Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL manager Jason Kreis filled his lineup at BC Place with young talent and backups – and what a night it was for his club when the reserves came through with a 1-0 win.
So the starters are rested for Tuesday’s huge match, the team remained up near the top of the West and Vancouver … well, Martin Rennie’s team is left to rue the squandered opportunity.
The top tactical change
A goal down, Houston got aggressive on the road, subtracting a defender in favor of an extra attacker in a 3-5-2 look. It paid off quickly as Will Bruin found goal for the equalizer in a 1-1 draw at New England. By splitting the points, not only did Houston keep the inside track on a playoff spot (the Dynamo schedule ahead is favorable compared to other Eastern Conference playoff chasers), but Dominic Kinnear’s team simultaneously prevented one of its pursuers from picking up two additional points.
Oh, the Dynamo has done something quite similar before, and somewhat famously so.
The Golden Boot chase
Saturday’s match at Toyota Park outside Chicago didn’t just have playoff implications (like so many of Week 31 contests did), it also featured the league’s top two scorers. Montreal’s Marco Di Vaio scored once, but top pursuer Mike Magee from Chicago slotted home a pair. So Magee cut the gap to one. The update list of MLS top scorers is on the right.
Caleb Porters great choice
Ryan Johnson has been the Portland Timbers first-choice striker for most of the season. So the decision by manager Caleb Porter to give young Argentine Maximiliano Urruti the start in such a meaningful match Sunday afternoon at rainy, wind-swept Jeld-Wen Field was a bit of a gamble. Urruti, 22, made his manager look good, scoring the game’s only goal in the 1-0 result mentioned above.
The weekend’s huge boo-boo
Montreal’s attackers eventually bailed out their goalkeeper, but it looked for a while like Troy Perkins embarrassing mistake in the back was going to be the difference in an important Eastern Conference clash.
Perkins, Montreal’s veteran goalkeeper, tried to get a little cute and evade Magee inside his own penalty area. Big. Mistake.
Yes, Magee fouled the Impact goalkeeper, but that hardly excuses such a blunder, a “howler” in the vernacular. Montreal’s subsequent equalizer made the final 2-2 at Toyota Park. Here’s the play:
Aug 29, 2015, 10:48 AM EDT
Wilson found himself in perfect position to finish off a great scoring opportunity as he gave Bournemouth a 1-0 lead over Leicester City with this gorgeous goal.
Aug 29, 2015, 10:33 AM EDT
The Premier League’s lesser lights are making up for the lack of offensive fireworks from Arsenal’s early win over 10-man Newcastle.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:51 AM EDT
USMNT goalkeeper Brad Guzan is between the sticks for the hosts, with Rudy Gestede getting a start up top.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT
Arsenals critics will be out in full force after its strike force struggled to break down 10-man Newcastle at St. James Park on Saturday.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:37 AM EDT
Callum Wilson will again lead the Cherries onto the pitch, with dangerous Ivorian attacker Max Gradel behind him.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Potters and Baggies both looking for their first win of the season. Watch live online, here.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:25 AM EDT
Can the Blues make it back-to-back wins before the international break? Watch live online, right here.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT
Can the Reds keep their unbeaten run to start the season going? Watch live online, here.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:16 AM EDT
The Citizens have scored goals a-plenty and have yet to concede through three matches, and are on the verge of landing Kevin De Bruyne from Wolfsburg.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:04 AM EDT
Rivero certainly doesn’t have the best reputation, but is that the right call for Keane to use to make his point?
Aug 29, 2015, 8:43 AM EDT
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s rocky start to life in the Premier League continued with his first red card on Saturday.
Aug 29, 2015, 7:20 AM EDT
Where and how to watch every PL game live online or via the app this weekend.
Aug 29, 2015, 7:12 AM EDT
Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are in the Starting XI for Arsenal, joining an attack with Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla.
Aug 28, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT
With Adnan Januzaj out injured, Ander Herrera could see himself playing in a more advanced role against Swansea City.
Aug 28, 2015, 8:40 PM EDT
Find out what moves have been completed as the transfer deadline approaches.
Aug 28, 2015, 7:48 PM EDT
Spurs are still looking for their first win of the season, but face a tough test when Everton travels to White Hart Lane.
Aug 28, 2015, 6:53 PM EDT
I guess the Donald is a bit too busy to be buying a soccer club right now…
Aug 28, 2015, 5:57 PM EDT
Catch up on all the latest gossip from around the Premier League, right here.
Aug 28, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
The deal is expected to be official within the next 24 hours as Manchester City’s offer was too good to refuse.
Aug 28, 2015, 4:05 PM EDT
With the close of the transfer window quickly approaching, could Louis van Gaal be on the verge of the summer’s biggest signing?
- WATCH: Callum Wilson’s bicycle kick lifts Bournemouth into an early lead #afcb #BPLonNBC 0
- Newcastle United 0-1 Arsenal: Gunners play up a man 74 minutes, need own goal to win 0
- Watch Live: Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace (Lineups and Live Stream) 0
- Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Watford (Lineups and Live Stream) 0
- WATCH: Every Premier League game live online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 4 0
- Watch Live: Newcastle United vs. Arsenal (Lineups and Live Stream) 0