There were just five games on the MLS schedule this weekend, which should mean less to talk about than usual but those matches packed quite the punch. There were a number of good goals and standout performances backing up a couple of surprise scorelines.
The weekend also delivered a change at the top of the Supporters Shield standings, as well as a statement by a team looking to establish their playoff credentials. It produced a first for one club, saw winless streaks both broken and prolonged, and reminded us why a certain attacker in Seattle is among the most talented technical players in the league.
One could say that New York City FC midfielder Mix Diskerud had something of a solid week. Although, that would be an understatement.
Diskerud had an excellent week. Over the course of eight days, the U.S. international played in the Yanks' stunning wins over the Netherlands and Germany, and scored against the latter before returning to the States to help his club win its second match in a row against the Montreal Impact in a 3-1 result. He scored in that game too, a well-taken back post finish that belied his burgeoning confidence. It was Diskerud's first MLS goal since the season opener.
The trip to Europe might be just what Diskerud needs to shake some of the doldrums that had set in with his MLS play. As Diskerud struggled, so did NYCFC. Now, with one of their star contributors back on the scene in a big way, the team will feel better about their chances to extend their first-ever winning streak beyond two games.
City won the first of those two games without Diskerud, of course, so working him back into the squad while maintaining good play is key to future success. There's little chance manager Jason Kreis will leave the midfielder out of the starting lineup as he did against Montreal moving forward, regardless of how his replacements played.
From a team perspective, there's a lot to be excited about for NYCFC.
Draw On Delay
Two hours of waiting around for the weather to clear probably didn't help the proceedings in Columbus between the defending MLS Cup holders LA Galaxy and the Columbus Crew SC.
The home side certainly didn't benefit, as the Galaxy dominated the open first half, staked themselves to an early lead through Sebastian Lletget, and should have been up another when Robbie Rogers mishit a golden chance late in the opening period. Again, LA entered a game at something less than full strength: Robbie Keane was away on international duty with Ireland, while Gyasi Zardes started on the bench after returning from his own national team stretch.
Columbus turned things around in the second half, putting LA under pressure and eventually leveling the match when Ethan Finlay found Federico Higuain streaking into the box. The comeback represents signs of life for Crew SC, though it will be troubling for head coach Gregg Berhalter that his team couldn't secure three points at home.
Columbus is winless in their last six, a troubling trend that has pushed them down the standings into the last playoff position. There's a lot of the season left, and the team no doubt believes the wins will come, but if they intend on contending for one of the top spots in the East -- as was their preseason expectation -- getting back on the plus side of the ledger is crucial.
The Masked Man (and Friends)
First things first, because form can play a part in how teams perform, especially on the road: FC Dallas, a team with two points from their last five matches, is not very good right now.
With that out of the way, focus goes where it should, to the first-place Seattle Sounders. Seattle turned it on in the second half to rout FC Dallas 3-0 with goals from Lamar Neagle, Obafemi Martins, and Leonardo Gonzalez. Martins -- wearing a mask to protect a recently repaired nose and looking like a superhero out of an MLS comic book -- entered the game for the last half hour and once again stole the show.
Poor Kyle Bekker is the latest in a long line of MLS players to be made a fool by the Nigerian striker. But the exciting skill shown in the first touch and quick turnaround shot might have been too much for even the best defenders the league has to offer, to be fair to the Canadian midfielder.
Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei proved again why he is vital to the side retaining their Supporters Shield in the club's 3-0 win vs. FC Dallas. While the attacking prowess that Sigi Schmid's side has tends to get the attention thanks to the likes of Martins and Clint Dempsey, Frei's strong play in net also need its praise.
A Statement of Sorts
Of all the ways to make a statement, doing so with a one-goal win on the back of a penalty kick is probably the least convincing, at least on paper. But Orlando City won't care how they got done in beating D.C. United, the important part is that it got done.
The Lions took down the first-place team on Sunday night 1-0 through a goal by Kaka. After Taylor Kemp was penalized for barging over Pedro Ribeiro on the edge of the 18-yard box, the former Ballon D'Or winner stepped up to take the spot kick. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid saved the shot, but Kaka headed up the rebound to give Orlando the lead.
Questionable call or not, the expansion side wasn't going to let the opportunity to beat United for the first time slip away. Unlike their previous two meetings, when United stormed back to overcome early Orlando leads and take the victories, the third match saw the home side hold on for the win.
No matter how it happened, Orlando now has a signature win over a first-place team to catapult it forward. That playoff spot the expansion team coveted despite the history working against them doesn't seem so far away.