MLS Week 8: A Look Back

AlvaroFernandez (Getty)

The first MLS installment of the Seattle-Portland rivalry headlined an entertaining and eventful weekend of soccer action in Major League Soccer's Week Eight.

With the upcoming week almost upon us, it's time to look back at the week that was. From the Los Angeles Galaxy's impressive blowout victory, to Chivas USA's stunning road win against New York, there was plenty to talk about besides the intense Seattle-Portland match, which ended in a draw.

Individual standouts stole the headlines as usual, with Justin Braun's hat-trick, David Beckham's free kick and Fabian Castillo's stellar outing among the best.

With that in mind, here is A Look Back at Week 8 in MLS:

TORONTO FC 2, CHICAGO 2 (The Highlights)

Man of the Match- Corben Bone. The second-year man out of Wake Forest had a night to remember, assisting on the equalizer while also orchestrating several attacks during the Fire's comeback. Bone could've assisted on a game-winner in the 78th mintue when a perfect through ball split Toronto's defense, but Stefan Frei came up with a huge, jaw-dropping save on Daniel Paladini's chipped effort. 

Honorable Mention- Joao Plata. A week after scoring the first MLS goal of his career, diminutive Plata added a goal and an assist in a 61-minute performance. Just like in last week's match against the Houston Dynamo, Plata netted before assisting on a goal to Maicon Santos. Plata also constantly threatened Chicago's back line with dangerous dribbling moves and runs.

A Night to Forget- Julian de Guzman. Toronto FC sorely needed more bite from its midfielder, and he rarely provided it. One of the highest paid players in MLS, de Guzman struggled to impose his will on the game either offensively or defensively. He picked up a yellow card in the first half, so that may have contirbuted to his lackluster showing.

Rookie Watch- Jalil Anibaba. Anibaba was given the responsibility to shutdown Plata, and the rookie didn't fare too well. Anibaba allowed Plata too much space to shoot on the opening goal, and he struggled to contain the little Ecuadorian. Anibaba looked better once Plata was subbed off.

Random Thoughts- Julian de Guzman will miss Toronto FC's game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season. … Fire substitute Orr Barouch found the back of the net for the first time in his MLS career, knocking home Bone's low cross from close range. … Having not started a match since April 17, Cory Gibbs returned to Chicago's starting eleven, going the distance in the draw.

NEW ENGLAND 1, VANCOUVER 0 (The Highlights)

Man of the Match – Benny Feilhaber. Drew the penalty that led to the winner for the Revs, and was a questionable offside call away from scoring his first MLS goal.

Honorable Mention – Omar Salgado. The rookie was the Whitecaps' best attacking player before being inexplicably subbed off in the 74th minute.

A Night to Forget – Long Tan. The Whitecaps' Chinese forward got in good positions all night, but was frustrated by a lack of service. Should have done better with the free header he got in the 89th minute that would have salvaged a draw.

Rookie Watch – A. J. Soares put in another solid shift for the Revs, while his teammate Stephen McCarthy was less effective, but still went 90 minutes. Salgado was the best of the bunch, nearly beating Matt Reis on two separate occasions.

Random Thoughts – The Whitecaps are now winless in 10 league matches since their season opener … Five of those losses have come during the team's stretch of seven matches in 22 days, which will stretch to eight in 26 with the first leg of the Canadian Championship Final on Wednesday. 

D.C. UNITED 1, COLORADO 1 (The Highlights)

Man of the Match- Chris Pontius. His aggressive runs forward on the left flank paid off in the second half when he earned a penalty kick, stepped up to take the shot and converted.

Honorable Mention- Marvell Wynne. The speedy centerback did well to close down space on United's attackers, especially when D.C. gained control of the midfield and heaped the pressure on in the second half.

A Night to Forget- Charlie Davies. With U.S. coach Bob Bradley watching, Davies lingered a step offside on one prime scoring opportunity and took a heavy touch that spoiled another before exiting
in the 34th minute with a hamstring strain.

Rookie Watch- Ethan White. Continuing to establish himself as Dejan Jakovic's partner in central defense for D.C., White had some nervous moments distributing out of the back but was solid defensively.

Random Thoughts- Terry Vaughn had an awful night officiating, missing several key calls and leaving both coaches feeling slighted. … With Omar Cummings and Caleb Folan out and Conor Casey reduced to a substitute's role, Quincy Amarikwa and Andre Akpan started at forward for Colorado. … Playing extended minutes at striker for the first time this season, Santino Quaranta held the ball well and provided a steady presence up top. 

FC DALLAS 2, PHILADELPHIA 0 (The Highlights)

Man of the Match- Fabian Castillo - With a goal and an assist, Castillo justified his DP tag and led FC Dallas to a 2-0 victory, despite a few questionable decisions on the ball in the final third. Only 18 years old, the rookie is helping to fill the void left by star playmaker David Ferreira, who is on the increasing list of major players hit with serious injury. Philadelphia is no slouch, defensively speaking, and had not conceded more than one goal in an MLS match this season until the clash with Dallas.  

Honorable Mention - Jackson Goncalves - The Dallas outside back put in a solid shift against the Union for a defense that hasn't allowed a goal in 309 minutes of play. Goncalves helped to shut down any attacks down the right flank and did well to close down Union players looking for a crack at Kevin Hartman's net, allowing just one shot on goal (Danny Mwanga's 77th minute strike). The Brazilian defender made some solid attacking runs up the wing and eventually provided the assist with which Castillo put away the second goal for the Hoops.  

A Night to Forget – Peter Nowak - Philadelphia has been solid at the back all season, but it's no secret that its offensive arsenal leaves something to be desired. This result is surprising, however, considering how much attacking firepower Nowak tried to throw onto the field. He started Danny Mwanga up top with Sebastien Le Toux, threw Roger Torres in behind them and ended up giving Carlos Ruiz and Jack McInerney a run as well. You can't doubt the attacking ambition of Nowak, but with the number of offensive weapons he had on the field, you have to question his game plan. The entire Union offense had a night to forget, and despite enjoying the majority of possession, Philly only put one shot on frame. It just goes to show that you can out-pass and out-possess an opponent, but you have to make it count in the end. Nowak was without an effective game plan against FC Dallas and it showed.  

Rookie Watch - FC Dallas rookie defender Bobby Warshaw saw seven minutes of playing time before the game came to a close.  

Random Thoughts - Interestingly, FC Dallas only had 39 percent of the game's possession but dominated the scoreline. … It just goes to show that despite Philly having the lion's share of the ball, the Union is still searching for an offensive connection. … Nowak needs to figure out how to get Philadelphia firing on all cylinders as it currently has a MLS-low six goals scored; however, the Union is bottom on the league in goals conceded, also six. … For Dallas, Castillo needs to hone his decision-making in key movements, and with a tough upcoming clash against Real Salt Lake, who can take advantage of their chances in front of goal, he could come to rue any bad judgement calls.  

REAL SALT LAKE 0, HOUSTON 0 (The Highlights)

Man of the Match- Andre Hainault. The Canadian defender was the anchor of a Houston defense that managed to keep RSL off the scoreboard at Rio Tinto Stadium, a rare feat in MLS play.

Honorable Mention- Jamison Olave. It was tough to pick a single standout on RSL's back-line, but Olave was imposing as ever and gets the nod on a day when Houston's offense was stifled.

A Night to Forget- Collen Warner. Given a chance to show he was capable of leading the attack in place of Javier Morales, Warner failed to really get going. He wasn't alone though. Arturo Alvarez also had a forgettable day.

Rookie Watch- Houston striker Will Bruin started and played 69 minutes, and was the only Dynamo player able to register a shot on goal.

Random Thoughts- Alvaro Saborio didn't find the scoreboard, but he was extremely active and looked like a good bet to score a goal. Considering his recent struggles, this performance could be the one that gets him going. … Houston striker Koke showed some signs of life in his 21 minutes as a substitute, but he's still not fit enough to be a starter. Once he is, Dom Kinnear could have some tough decisions to make about playing time up front.

LOS ANGELES GALAXY 4, SPORTING KANSAS CITY 1 (The Highlights)

Man of the Match- Landon Donovan – The Galaxy captain was influential throughout 90 minutes of action, scoring the tying goal off a penalty and then combining with Chad Barrett on a give and go at the outset of the second half that gave the Galaxy the lead. The two goals gave Donovan his seventh goal in five games and sole possession of the MLS goalscoring lead. In addition, it allowed him to pass Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis for fourth all-time in the MLS scoring chart.

Honorable Mention- Juninho – Donovan may have scored the goals, but it was Juninho that was the star for the Galaxy on the night. Playing in a defensive midfield role, the Brazilian's high energy game was able to force the Sporting midfield into poor decisions that led to Galaxy chances.

A Night to Forget- Roger Espinoza – The Honduran International was responsible for a reckless foul on David Beckham that resulted in a penalty for the Galaxy. The penalty came at a vital moment in the
match as prior to the PK, Sporting had begun to find their confidence in the attack. Following the penalty, Kansas City never threatened again.

Rookie Watch- C.J. Sapong – With the Galaxy controlling the possession, Sapong struggled to make an impact on the match after coming on in the second half. Sapong entered for Kei Kamara and was on
the field for the final Galaxy goal of the night.

Random thoughts- Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was a late scratch due to an illness, which forced Josh Saunders to go for the Galaxy. … Teal Bunbury had little to dance about in this visit to the Home Depot Center as he was repeatedly forced off the ball and was unable to put an impact on the match. … All three Galaxy Designated Players were able to score on the night with Juan Pablo Angel scoring his second goal of the year and David Beckham adding his first.

SAN JOSE 3, COLUMBUS 0 (The Highlights)

Man of the Match – Steven Lenhart - The striker put in a great performance against his former club alongside Chris Wondolowski, who is no stranger to this slot in past "Look Back" series.  Lenhart was a constant threat to the Columbus back line, which has been solid all season in only allowing three goals in its previous seven matches.  Lenhart rose highest from a Gjertson cross to head home for the Earthquakes' second goal (which is now being acredited to Brandon McDonald—watch the highlight) in the second half and then played a great dummy to Khari Stephenson, who put away the third goal with a phenomenal strike from distance.

Honorable Mention – Jason Hernandez - The San Jose centerback was a rock at the back for the Earthquakes against Columbus.  He made a fantastic tackle on Renteria early in the first half to deny a potential goal-scoring opportunity, was consistently cutting out passes and made several key plays out of the back under pressure.  The San Jose defensive line had only kept a clean sheet twice this season until this match, and Hernandez was a big part of that. (Kudos to Brad Ring and Bobby Convey who both quietly had solid games.  Ryan Johnson was dangerous as well as match).

A Night to Forget – Sebastian Miranda - The Crew right back was under siege all night, and more often than not, found himself chasing a Quakes player down the line.  Ryan Johnson was his primary nemesis, and it's fair to say that the San Jose attacker got the better of Miranda on the majority of the clashes.  While Columbus assuredly wanted some offensive runs from their outside backs, Miranda was nowhere to be found, and credit that to Bobby Convey, who put in a great shift outside in terms of tracking back defensively and cutting out play.

Rookie Watch – Anthony Ampaipitakwong - The Akron product came on for Joey Gjerston in the 62nd minute and assumed corner kick duty as he did.  He didn't make a lot of noise, but he did what he had to when he was asked.  There is clearly a lot of talent in Ampaipitakwong, but we will have to see him in a more regular role to really understand what he's capable of in the MLS.

Random Thoughts - On paper, Columbus looked to have a clear advantage over the Quakes, but it couldn't find an end product at Buck Shaw Stadium. … The Crew out-shot San Jose 16-15, out-passed San Jose 79%-65% and had 58% of possession. … In a predicament similar to Philadelphia's, the Crew has to figure out how to work Robbie Rogers and Eddie Gaven into the offensive scheme so that Columbus' attack doesn't solely come through Emilio Renteria. … The win is San Jose's first since their away victory over FC Dallas in Week 2.

SEATTLE 1, PORTLAND 1 (The Highlights)

Man of the Match – Mamadou Danso - "Futty" doesn't get the Man of the Match solely for the reason that he scored the equalizing goal for Portland.  Yes, it was a big goal for the Timbers, but Danso was a rock at the back and was a presence on the ground as well as in the air.  He had a tricky challenge of keeping Fredy Montero and Nate Jaqua quiet for the duration of the game, yet did so while providing an offensive threat from dead ball situations.  Any questions about "Futty" adjusting to the MLS have been tossed out the window; this guy is the real deal.

Honorable Mention – Kalif Alhassan - The young Ghanaian winger was a handful for James Riley and the Seattle back line all night.  The width that he and Nagbe provided on the wings really allowed the center of the field to open up for Diego Chara and Jack Jewsbury to take charge.  Only 20 years old, Alhassan has provided a considerable creative spark from the outside of midfield and has been one of several pleasant surprises coming from the Rose City this season.

A Night to Forget – Osvaldo Alonso & Servando Carrasco - The Sounders' center midfield pairing of Alonso and Carrasco didn't yield the sort of results that Seattle was probably hoping it would.  Despite some decent spells of possession and a few probing passes, the two midfielders often seemed to be in each others' way and overlapping in play.  Coach Sigi Schmid said after the game that Alonso and his rookie counterpart are "maybe not the best pairing, because they like to look for the ball in the same spaces."  Seattle has been stricken with injuries (Zakuani, Rosales, Friberg, Evans…etc), and it will have to find a winning formula in the center of the field quickly to get their swagger back.  Its season could depend on it.

Rookie Watch – Darlington Nagbe - With only his third start of the season, Nagbe looked very lively skipping down the right side of attack for the Timbers, making several exciting runs and whipping in a few dangerous crosses.  The No. 2 overall SuperDraft pick showed little fear in challenging Sounders left back Tyson Wahl and was one of the more productive players for Portland before being subbed off midway through the second half.  Clearly, there is a ton of potential in Nagbe, and it will be exciting to watch him develop into a top winger. 

Random thoughts - Looking back at these, it may seem like the Seattle is being hard done-by.  Far from it.  There were players on the Sounders who put in decent shifts (Montero had the assist and was always creative in the final third, Fernandez scored and gave Jeremy Hall some trouble on the left…etc), but Seattle didn't play the way it knew how with a lot on the line.  The fact of the matter is that Portland came to a very hostile stadium, and, while several teams could have opted to sit back, soak up pressure and look to counter-attack, the Timbers played the game like it was theirs for the taking.  A draw still earns a point, but the Sounders were definitely gunning for a win in this one.  Now they have to travel to the fortress that is the Jeld-Wen looking for a result in the Cascadia derby.   

NEW YORK 2, CHIVAS USA 3 (The Highlights)

Man of the Match- Justin Braun - The 24-year old hat trick hero accounted for all of Chivas USA's goals in their big victory at New York. In his first start, the Salt Lake City native sent a message to the Chivas coaching staff that he is ready to reclaim his starting spot. 

Honorable Mention- Thierry Henry - Henry continued his tear with his fifth goal in the last four games. Henry was dangerous whenever he touched the ball, but service in the second half was very poor from the Red Bull midfield. While there were not many bright spots for the Eastern Conference leaders, Henry continues to show he is one of the most dangerous players in MLS. 

A Night to Forget- Red Bulls Defense - Two defensive mishaps on set pieces led to the second and third goals for Chivas USA. That's three set piece goals given up in their last two MLS games for New York. The Red Bulls dominate possession, but it won't matter if they continue to give away easy goals. 

Rookie Watch- Zarek Valentin- Valentin combined well with Heath Pearce to contain the red hot New York offense, only allowing one goal through the run of play. Valentin proved to be very effective after moving out to right back for the second half by containing Joel Lindpere and Roy Miller. 

Random thoughts- The Red Bulls will want to pick up as many points as possible over the next two weeks before they lose Marquez, De Rosario, Richards and most likely Ream/Agudelo for the Gold Cup …Michael Lahoud left the game in the 30th minute with a "knock to the head" in his first match since he suffered a concussion April 16th…New York will travel to Houston on Saturday, while Chivas USA will battle the Galaxy in the first Super Clasico of the year. 

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What did you think of Week Eight? Which performances impressed you? Which players did you consider disappointing? What team looked the best?

Share your thoughts below.

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2 Responses to MLS Week 8: A Look Back

  1. Duck says:

    Hehe, ‘Christ’ Wondolowski. He did resurrect his career…

  2. Tim says:

    Alvaro Fernandez was the best player on the field in the Seattle vs Portland match. Futty Danso was pretty dominant on defense for sure, but Flaco deserves some sort of mention. He has been great in recent weeks. He’s finally living up to his DP tag.