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The Big Picture: Red cards, home teams and rants

Massive Report’s Josh Mlot & Nathaniel Marhefka discuss what they saw during Week 14 of MLS action

MLS: Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas
A week of bloodletting for Real Salt Lake.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It was an up-and-down week for Columbus Crew SC, but what else happened outside the Crewniverse during a busy stretch in the MLS multiverse?

Massive Report’s Josh Mlot and Nathaniel Marhefka discuss what they saw in Major League Soccer in Week 14.

JOSH

What I watched: D.C. United vs. LA Galaxy (0-0), Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United (3-0), Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes (2-0). I also watched condensed games of New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union (2-1), Montreal Impact vs. New York Red Bulls (1-0), Orlando City SC vs. Chicago Fire (0-0) and Seattle Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo (1-0).

Why I watched: A busy week of work and travel left me with limited time to watch, so I got in what I could. That meant checking out the old-school MLS rivalry of DC-LA, a Portland-SJ game that piqued my interest and the team I always watch when in doubt — SKC. Condensed-wise, I wanted to get a look at some Eastern Conference teams.

What I noticed: Spoiler alert for those who haven’t scrolled down yet, but Nate and I watched 12 total different games this week, and home sides went 10-0-2. Remember this when you call your bookie. Andre Blake is pretty good. Portland may be putting its downtrend behind it.

NATHANIEL

What I watched: Orlando City vs. D.C. United (2-0), Houston vs. Real Salt Lake (5-1), Portland vs. San Jose, Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Atlanta United (3-1), New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC (3-0), FC Dallas vs. RSL (6-2).

Why I watched: This week, due to my travels, viewings came all from replay matches. I saw the scorelines of most of these first and was of course curious as to how FC Dallas dismantled RSL 6-2. Vancouver Whitecaps also surprised me a bit and wanted to see how they got it done. And the same goes for the Revs, as they managed a victory against MLS' best team.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Real Salt Lake
Avert your eyes, Mr. Petke
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

What I noticed: In Portland, Diego Valeri was absolutely on fire. Darwin Ceren got an early red card, otherwise the Quakes may have had a shot in this one but it was all wraps at that point. In Vancouver, one of MLS' hottest teams was taken down by the giants in white, with all three goals resulted from corner kicks. Houston Dynamo & FC Dallas happened to RSL ( we will leave that one for some rants later so no spoilers for now). At Foxborough, it was all Lee Nguyen while super-sub Juan Agudelo shined once again. Sure, no Michael Bradley or Jozy Altidore, but you saw what this team did to Columbus Crew SC without their stars. Although, it is possible that this team simply does not have a defensive midfield answer when Bradley is not available.


Discuss...

JOSH: We can start with the one game we both watched — Portland and San Jose.

This was a Portland team only missing Darlington Nagbe. After a lull in on-field results, this team is close to full strength now, and Valeri looks to be finding his mojo again. I think this all points to a return to form for the Timbers.

You referenced it: Portland was pretty well in control, but that red card to Ceren really cemented how this was going to go. Did you think it was a deserving red?

NATHANIEL: No, I did not think that was deserving of a red. What was cited in the match report was that it was two late challenges that led to either yellow card. But what I saw was a referee really anxious to pull the second one, which in my opinion was undeserving of a yellow.

I agree Portland is on the upswing, but I’d like to see them perform like that against a full 11.

What were your thoughts on the card?

J: I didn’t think there was anything to it. And while I won’t say it “changed” the game, it certainly tilted the odds heavily.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Orlando City SC
That didn’t take long...
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of red cards, Orlando saw two of them against Chicago. I was looking forward to this game as a battle between two upstarts in the East ... and instead it was an hour of bunkering from Orlando and no breakthroughs.

N: Was this about Orlando’s defense or Chicago’s inability to get on the scoreboard? What did you see?

J: I think Chicago deserves some criticism for missing an opportunity, but people underestimate the difficulty in breaking down a bunkered team. Orlando really sat deep and did a good job staying compact. That doesn’t provide room for David Accam to run into, or Nemanja Nicolic to float into gaps.

I think it was a game where, going in, the Fire would have been OK with a road draw. Instead, they walk away missing a chance to grab three points. Meanwhile, Orlando wanted to be strong at home and take full points, and yet still walked away feeling like victors.

I did get a good laugh out of Rafael Ramos getting a red card in his first appearance of 2017. Crew SC fans may remember he’s not exactly a total stranger to those.

Obviously Orlando had more success midweek against D.C. What stood out in that one?

N: Haha. I thought the same thing about Ramos’ red card when I saw the match report.

In the D.C. match, Joe Bendik made the highlights but Will Johnson was extremely impressive to me. He had the highest match rating in the game and with good merit. He was impressive on the ball and off, moving into good spaces offensively while defensively being a stone wall.

The biggest factor in the game was Orlando’s physicality and D.C.’s lack thereof. Luciano Acosta and Julian Buescher were nothing short of abysmal, and Acosta was subbed off after the first half.

J: Acosta is clearly the key for D.C. His first year or two in the league was marked by inconsistency, so that’s not something new for him, though i think he’s leveled that out a little. He was pretty good against LA, but more importantly, he and Patrick Nyarko were good together.

Nyarko hasn’t been around the first portion of the season, but he is very important to moving past DCU’s dull struggles. He provides a nice creative partner for Acosta and another dimension.

So I think D.C. can be dangerous if those two stay healthy. But United also has some issues at striker right now.

I somehow managed to see two scoreless draws this weekend, but the D.C.-LA game was thoroughly entertaining with nearly 30 shots despite no goals.

You watched Vancouver. I said last week I thought the Caps were quietly getting their stuff together up int he Pacific Northwest. I take it you might have one foot on that bandwagon?

N: I’d say I have a few toes on the bandwagon, feeling it out, if you will.

Sure, Atlanta is a good team, but all three of Vancouver’s goals came off corners. For the most part, corners are statistically unreliable with low conversion rates. For them to get three is outstanding, but this team needs to prove that it can create from midfield if they are going to go far this season (and impress me).

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC
We did it, boys! We impressed Nate!
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

J: I feel confident that the top bullet point on their locker room whiteboard is, “IMPRESS NATE.”

I think we will see Vancouver try to bring in a playmaker in this summer window.

NYC also scored all of its goals this weekend on corner kicks. It probably deserved to win that game against Philly, but the Union threw some punches on the road, and Andre Blake was a beast. The goalkeeper probably deserved better.

I will go ahead and open the door ...

We are anxiously awaiting your RSL rant ...

<rant>

N: Kyle Beckerman needs to go back to playing the Beckerman role. Far too many times against Dallas he was high up the pitch. This team gets far too stretched and in defensive transition has no chance. The back line is painfully slow and gets caught up too often.

Sure, they have been struggling with international call-ups taking much of the team, but there has to be better answers. Chris Wingert as left back against FCD? You’ve got to be kidding me. Against their pace? Not to mention the center backs are already lacking any pace. Plus you play a high line? It’s a recipe for disaster.

Joao Plata is back, but when “defending” he may as well be laying out on the beach. there is little to no effort in defensive transition and this team simply doesn’t want to defend. I feel sorry for Mike Petke for having to deal with this.

On the bright side of this match, we got to see Maxi Urruti do his stupid dance. I think he rivals only Antoine Griezmann for soccer’s dumbest celebration.

</rant>

[Editor’s note: Nate received a deserved 10 lashes for saying anything remotely negative about Maxi Urruti and for failing to mention that Jesus Ferreira scored his first professional goal for Dallas.]

MLS: Portland Timbers at FC Dallas
Who are you calling dumb?
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

J: No, Joao Plata is not the answer to their defensive woes.

It was a pretty miserable week for RSL. I don’t believe there is an easy fix. It’s going to be a combination of a couple of additions personnel wise, and everyone getting on the same page in Petke’s system once the roster is at full strength. I’m going to guess that doesn’t really happen until next season, though we could see it begin to coalesce by the end of the year.

The defensive transition you talk about is so important. On the flip side, it’s something that stands out to be me about a Sporting KC team that’s been one of the best clubs in the league. I notice it every time I watch them, including this week against Minnesota. They play so well as a team defensively. Even wingers like Gerso Fernandes and Latif Blessing were tracking back to disrupt counters.

We’re talking about Peter Vermes — a coach who turned Benny Feilhaber into a two-way player — and even he might not be able to do that with Plata.

We’ll wrap up here before we go too far down the rabbit hole of a busy week. Any final thoughts? What are you going to do with your time this weekend with only three MLS games on tap?

N: Well, this weekend I think I’m going to go to the beach. Like Mike Petke said to his players are going to do despite his suggestions. (Read HERE)

J: I’m going to hide from the RSL snipers currently on the lookout for RSL Public Enemy No. 1 — you.

N: For soccer watching, it will be all three MLS games and World Cup qualifiers for the U.S. And Sweden and France is another game to throw in the mix.

J: I look forward to a slight breather this weekend, a chance to watch all three games and to take in a hopefully positive result for the U.S.


THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU MISSED

N: Joe Bendik and Jonathan Spector's incredible save against DC United. Save of the year — mark it down now.

J: Real Salt Lake. Because everyone likes to watch a dumpster fire, right?

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

N: RSL’s

[Editor’s note: Excessive trolling alert]

Vancouver center back Kendall Waston had two goals and a secondary assist while also being a defensive monolith in the back against Atlanta. Joe Bendik would be runner-up here two, so I am going to go ahead and mention him -- two shutouts in one week plus a multitude of great saves.

J: Diego Valeri. A brace in a convincing win for Portland. MLS is better for having an on-form Valeri and I’m happy to watch him.

HYPE TRAIN

N: Joe Bendik for save of the year, goalkeeper of the year, fluffy face of the year, Florida player of the year. ... I keep predicting Crew SC to drop lower but thankfully all of the teams in the league are terrible inconsistent -- I mean, yay parity! ... I will no longer watch the bottom of the Western Conference.

J: ‘Nuff said:

BASED ON WHAT YOU SAW THIS WEEK, PROJECT CREW SC’S FINAL STANDING

N: Eighth in the East — nothing has suggested to me that I should changes this prediction, even with the 3-0 win against the Sounders (it was their B-team, guys).

J: Above Seattle, but below the Colorado Rapids. That’s possible, right?


BONUS: FACE OF THE WEEK

... goes to Ben Olsen in the aftermath of Joe Bendik's heroism.

Never change, Benny. Never change.