Clubs from the Great White North rising up MLS standings
What a week for the Great White North.
As the eyes of the soccer world turn to Canada with the start of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, Canada's three MLS teams decided to get in on the excitement by winning away from home. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver all secured three points on the road against high-quality teams. TFC took down D.C. United in Washington, Montreal downed Crew SC in Ohio and Vancouver beat the champion Galaxy at the StubHub Center.
The natural place to start is with Toronto's 2-1 win over United. The match proved again, that until further notice, Sebastian Giovinco is the best player in Major League Soccer. TFC's little big man dominated proceedings at RFK Stadium, scoring two goal of the week-level tallies to give his team the win. Toronto took three points off the East's first-place team on the road and did it without Michael Bradley, who was away on international duty with the United States. After so much consternation on Lake Ontario, TFC is suddenly sitting in third place in the East, with the second-best points-per-game in the conference.
In Columbus, Montreal utilized its dangerous counterattacking game to down Columbus 2-1 at MAPFRE Stadium. A bit of confusion at the back for Crew SC allowed Maxim Tissot to open the scoring before Andres Romero finished a two-man break to ice the game in the 79th minute. The Impact win means they now have four victories in their last five matches -- several of them against top teams -- making them the hottest team in the league. Frank Klopas' team is slowly climbing up the Eastern Conference standings while still holding several games in hand on everyone in front of them. The win in Columbus shows the Impact can get it done on the road as well as at home. That's two wins in four days for Montreal, after they beat Vancouver on Wednesday night.
And how about Vancouver? Fresh off the loss in Montreal, the Whitecaps traveled down the coast to take on the Galaxy in Los Angeles, where they used their own blazing counter to take down Robbie Keane & Co. 1-0 on a goal from Kekuta Manneh. A turnover in midfield turned into a blistering shot past Jaime Penedo in the blink of an eye as Vancouver again showed off their unique collection of young, speedy talent. On the other end, the Whitecaps stifled a Galaxy attack that still lacked bite, even with Keane making his first start since April. Vancouver, thanks to Seattle's loss in Kansas City, pulled themselves back into a tie for first in the West.
Another FIFA match window, another week of MLS games significantly impacted by the absences of internationals across the league. Toronto won without Bradley, but L.A. clearly suffered from not having Gyasi Zardes. Nick Rimando left U.S. camp in time to help Real Salt Lake to a scoreless draw with Colorado on Sunday, but the outcome might have been different if Kyle Beckerman weren't still in Europe. On the other side, Colorado might suggest they could have won at Rio Tinto if Dillon Serna and Shane O'Neill weren't away with the U.S. U23s in France. FC Dallas could have used Blas Perez in a toothless performance in San Jose.
It's probably not fair to say that the international window "wreaked havoc" with MLS lineups, but it certainly forced head coaches to reconfigure their teams. Some did a better job than others, a function of better depth or a more coherent team identity. Credit to those that handled the problem with aplomb, as ridiculous as it is that they're forced to do so at all.
Sporting Kansas City couldn't have asked for a better set of circumstances as they welcomed the league's best team to town this weekend.
Seattle arrived without Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey, the most dangerous attacking duo in the league, to face an SKC team unbeaten in six matches. Chad Barrett, the first choice off the bench to start in one of the forward spots, was also unavailable due to injury. The Sounders didn't have team leader Brad Evans, who was away on international duty. Sure, Sporting had their own notable absence with Krisztian Nemeth away with Hungary, but the advantage still clearly lied with the home team.
Despite that advantage, it took six saves from Tim Melia and a pair of questionable calls to get Sporting the full three points at home. Seattle did their share of threatening the Sporting net, even scoring what should have been a good goal in the 66th minute through Lamar Neagle. Instead, the flag went up, taking the tally off the board and setting the stage for a penalty call in the last 10 minutes when Dom Dwyer collided with Sounders keeper Stefan Frei. Benny Feilhaber slotted home the spot kick.
Not exactly an impressive statement of intent from red-hot Sporting, but all wins count the same. In the standings that means three points -- three points that put SKC just two points off Seattle and Vancouver for the conference lead.
New York City FC won a game. Considering that such a thing had happened just one other time so far in 2015, it's a notable occurrence. That NYCFC won a game on the road for the first time in club history on Saturday makes it worthy of celebration -- for everyone but the Philadelphia Union.
Jason Kreis' team showed significant resolve in their 2-1 win at PPL Park. Kreis' choice to roll out a youthful lineup proved to be just what the expansion franchise needed to shake off the doldrums and pull out a much-needed victory. Tommy McNamara's stunning long-range effort stole the show in the early going, while Patrick Mullins delivered the winning goal off the bench. McNamara is something of a cult hero in MLS circles, a talented young player who wowed at Chivas USA last year before a knee injury ended his rookie campaign, but didn't have a defined role for NYCFC. Maybe his performance -- and that fantastic goal -- will earn him more time on the field for a team that needs his flair.
Team of the Week
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.