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MLS Week 13 Review: West dominates East, Wondo keeps scoring and more

With Major League Soccer’s schedule altered every year due to expansion, we will have fewer weekends in which a high volume of Western Conference teams face off against their foes from the Eastern Conference. 

Since there is more focus on in-conference games, sometimes the cross-conference games can be devalued due to squad rotation, long travel and other factors. 

With most teams on full rest in Week 13, we got to see some East versus West showdowns across the 13-game schedule. 

The West left Week 13 with a 6-0-1 mark in games against the East. LA Galaxy, Portland and San Jose earned their victories on the road, while Colorado, Los Angeles FC and Real Salt Lake all won at home. Vancouver earned a road draw in the lone midweek game at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday. 

The Week 13 results and the Supporters’ Shield standings suggest the West could be the more dominant conference when everything is done and dusted in 2019.

Of course, LAFC’s success plays a big role in that, but the Sounders and Galaxy are second and third behind the second-year side in the league table after Week 13. 

In fact, four of the top six and five of the top eight teams in the Supporters’ Shield standings come from the West. 

On the opposite end of the table, four of the seven worst teams in MLS come from the Eastern Conference. Two of the West teams in that group are Portland, who has an extended spell of home games coming up, and Sporting Kansas City, a traditional power that’s been ravaged by injuries. 

Even the Rapids at the bottom of the standings are playing well since the club let manager Anthony Hudson go. 

Before Toronto FC and Atlanta United won MLS Cup in 2017 and 2018, the West was the dominant conference by winning seven of the eight titles from 2009 and 2016. When Sporting Kansas City won in 2013, it was still an Eastern Conference team. 

Since this is MLS, the tides could change in the short and long term. In Week 14, there are nine games pitting East versus West, including three on Wednesday. 

In the long term view, teams like D.C. United, Philadelphia and the New York Red Bulls could keep surging up the standings to put up a bit of a fight for the Shield if LAFC slips up a bit, but for now, the West has all the bragging rights for the 2019 season.

Goals of the Week

Ali Adnan, Vancouver Whitecaps 

Bofo Saucedo, Real Salt Lake

Jonathan Dos Santos, LA Galaxy

Walkoff Golazo

With time ticking down in second-half stoppage time, Real Salt Lake’s Jefferson Savarino unleashed a game-winner from outside the box to knock off Atlanta United. 

The victory extended RSL’s winning streak to three games and the Claret-and-Cobalt have won five of their last seven games. 

He Scores When He Wants

This is usually the part of the piece where we feature the goal-scoring prowess of Carlos Vela, but he’s been upstaged in the last two weeks by the best scorer in league history.

Chris Wondolowski followed up his four-goal outing in Week 12 with a brace at BMO Field on Sunday night.

Wondolowski, who broke the all-time scoring record a week ago, is now the only player in league history with 150 regular-season goals. 

He is one of four players in MLS history to ever score six goals in a two-game span. 

With his second goal, Wondolowski moved past Landon Donovan for the most game-winning goals in league history. 

Carlos Vela Update

Ho Hum. Just another week with a goal and an assist for Carlos Vela. 

The Mexican star is now up to 15 goals and nine assists at Memorial Day. He has five more months to break the single-season records in both categories, and he has a better chance to do so since he isn’t playing for El Tri at the Concacaf Gold Cup.

Josef Martinez set the single-season goal record a year ago with 31 tallies. Carlos Valderrama’s assist record of 26 from 2000 hasn’t been touched since, but Vela could become the third player with 20 assists in single season. Sacha Kljestan is the other player to do so in 2016. 

Player Appreciation Corner

We’re going to spend the next few lines singling out players who usually don’t get time in the national spotlight, but had terrific games in  Week 13.

Johnny Russell

Since joining Sporting Kansas City before the 2018 season, Johnny Russell has 17 goals and 13 assists. 

Russell reinforced his importance to the squad on Sunday with a hat-trick in Sporting KC’s 3-2 win over the Sounders at Children’s Mercy Park. 

Russell did so in a squad depleted due to injuries and without Krisztian Nemeth, who was serving a suspension for a red card from Week 12. 

Luis Robles 

There was a time in which Luis Robles was the most underappreciated player in MLS. 

The New York Red Bulls goalkeeper has been a model of consistency in between the pipes, but he’s flown under the radar in certain years because of his higher-profile teammates and the lack of the spotlight shined on goalkeepers throughout the season. 

On Saturday, Robles made a few key saves to keep FC Cincinnati off the scoreboard in his side’s 2-0 win at Nippert Stadium. 

Diego Chara

Diego Chara might be the most underappreciated player in all of MLS. 

The Portland defensive midfielder never receives as much love as he deserves because we tend to not focus on the dirty work of players in the No. 6 role. 

Chara made life incredibly difficult for the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, and his effectiveness in and around the box helped the Timbers head home with a 3-1 victory. 

Stock Watch

Stock Up: Rocky Mountain Cup Teams

Colorado and Real Salt Lake have combined for five wins in their last six games. The lone loss in that stretch was handed to the Rapids by RSL on May 11. 

Mike Petke’s side is quietly surging up the West standings, and it will continue to do so with higher profile teams at the top of the West table. 

The Rapids have displayed plenty of fight under interim manager Conor Casey and came away from Saturday with a 3-2 win thanks to a late game-winner from Nicolas Mezquida. 

Stock Down: Toronto FC’s Home Form 

Things went from bad to worse at home for Toronto FC on Sunday. 

The Reds, who were playing without the suspended Alejandro Pozuelo, went ahead in the 28th minute, but then conceded a pair of goals to San Jose to leave the field with yet another disappointing result. 

Toronto is now 3-3-2 at home, which is one of the worst marks of the teams in playoff positions. Montreal and NYCFC have fewer wins at home, but they’ve also played three and four fewer games at home in 2019. 

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