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MLS Week 18 Weekend Review: Red Bulls-Atlanta rivalry rages on; Timbers end NYCFC’s unbeaten run

Last year’s Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup winners played to a wild 3-3 draw Sunday.

When you jot down the list of Major League Soccer’s best rivalries right now, it does not take long to write out Atlanta United versus the New York Red Bulls

Two of the best sides in the Eastern Conference clashed heads in another memorable match on Sunday, playing to a 3-3 draw after late goals by the star striker on each side. 

In between the six goals, a little bit of bad blood was on display, and there were plenty of talking points that will be discussed at length if the two sides meet again in the playoffs. 

In the regular season, the Red Bulls have the edge over the third-year side, with two wins from a year ago and another from earlier in the 2019 campaign.

However, the Five Stripes have the upper hand in the postseason from the  2018 Eastern Conference Final that led to a home victory in MLS Cup. 

In the grand perspective of the Eastern Conference playoff race, Atlanta and the Red Bulls weren’t able to make up ground on the first-place Philadelphia Union, who had to rescue a point at home in stoppage time against Orlando City on Sunday. 

Atlanta and New York have two games in hand on the Union, so it’s possible both are in the fight for the No. 1 seed when Decision Day rolls around. 

New York City FC is another contender with games in hand that fell flat at home in Week 18.

Domènec Torrent’s side saw its 12-game league unbeaten streak end at the hands of the Portland Timbers on Sunday. The 1-0 defeat marked the first time a visiting team entered Yankee Stadium and beat NYCFC this season. 

For now, the games in hand can be put on the back burner for two weeks until the Red Bulls and Atlanta face midweek challenges, but now the switch has to be flipped to one of the Red Bulls’ primary rivalries against NYCFC. 

Even though the Red Bulls-Atlanta rivalry has increased in intensity since its inception in 2017, it is nothing compared to the Hudson River Derby, which will be on full display at Red Bull Arena this Sunday. 

Before we move on, let’s take a look back at an insane set of games that was MLS being MLS at its finest. 

Goals of the Weekend

Mark-Anthony Kaye, Los Angeles FC

Mason Toye, Minnesota United

LAFC continues to score whenever it wants

Los Angeles FC hit the 50-goal mark for the 2019 campaign with its 11-goal outburst against Sporting Kansas City and the Vancouver Whitecaps in Week 18.

The Black and Gold now have a plus-34 goal differential and a nine-point advantage over the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference, and they lead Philadelphia by seven points in the Supporters’ Shield standings. 

Three of the 11 goals belonged to Carlos Vela, who has already locked up the 2019 Most Valuable Player award, while Diego Rossi chipped in a pair and five other players scored a goal each.

There appears to be no slowing down of the top team in the league, but it faces a difficult task in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday against a Portland side with which it has some history. 

Goonies Tribute

Danny Hoesen ignited the memories of the “Goonies Never Say Die” era of the San Jose Earthquakes with a stoppage-time winner off the bench on Saturday.

Although Hoesen didn’t drive in a powerful header like Alan Gordon or Steven Lenhart, he still delivered in a clutch moment for one of the hottest teams in the league. 

Jackson-Hamel scores in a flash 

On the opposite end of the goal-scoring spectrum Saturday was Anthony Jackson-Hamel’s first-minute opener for the Montreal Impact against Minnesota United. 

Jackson-Hamel’s goal 27 seconds into the contest at Stade Saputo was the 15th-fastest goal in league history. 

FC Cincinnati rallies to end losing run

One day after FC Cincinnati general manager Gerard Nijkamp delivered some bleak news that he’s looking for a short-term solution for the club’s next head coach, the team produced a 3-2 win at Nippert Stadium.

Kekuta Manneh, Rashawn Dally and Víctor Ulloa all provided goals for the expansion side, but it almost threw the game away by conceding twice to the Houston Dynamo in the final 11 minutes. 

Despite the late concessions, FC Cincinnati earned a much-needed victory ahead of a three-game stretch in eight days that starts on Saturday against the Chicago Fire.

Set. Pieces.

Orlando City wasn’t expected to get a result out of Talen Energy Stadium on Sunday, but the Lions used a pair of set pieces to pick up a point against the Union.

Dom Dwyer headed in a Nani free kick to level the contest, and Santiago Patiño cleaned up in front of goal off a corner kick to give the Lions a lead for nine minutes. 

Unfortunately for James O’Connor’s side, it couldn’t come away with the win, but it was still a positive result while resting starters ahead of the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday. 

Stock Up, Stock Down

Stock up: Mason Toye

Jul 6, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Minnesota United forward Mason Toye (23) celebrates his goal against Montreal Impact with teammates during the first half at Stade Saputo. (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

Mason Toye has made the most of his playing time in the Minnesota United attack by scoring three goals in the past three games, including a brace against Montreal on Saturday. 

The uptick in form from the second-year player is a welcome boost to the scoring depth of the Loons, and it shows off the hard work Toye has put in away from the first team to earn his place in the squad. 

The victory pushed the Loons over 30 points and into fourth place in the Western Conference. As Toye and manager Adrian Heath have proved, patience can pay off. 

Stock up: Seattle’s last-minute form 

The Seattle Sounders have won their past two games on last-minute strikes, with the latest occurrence coming from Nicolás Lodeiro in the 96th minute against the Columbus Crew at Mapfre Stadium.

Lodeiro’s game-winning tally came at the end of a long week in the Eastern time zone for the Sounders, who fell midweek at New York City FC before traveling to Columbus. 

Stock in the middle: Sporting Kansas City

We can’t call Week 18 an overall success for Sporting Kansas City because of its home loss to LAFC on Wednesday, but give credit to Peter Vermes’ side for bouncing back and beating Chicago on Saturday. 

Jul 6, 2019; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting Kansas City midfielder Yohan Croizet (10) reacts after scoring a goal during the first half against the Chicago Fire at Children’s Mercy Park. (Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports)

The victory was just the second since the start of June for the club, which has been stuck in a rut for most of the season.

Although the 1-0 victory wasn’t the most impressive win, it could be a catalyst to the climb up the standings everyone is expecting.

Stock down: Montreal

We still don’t know what to make of the Montreal Impact. 

Jul 6, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Impact defender Jukka Raitala (22) plays the ball against Minnesota United during the first half at Stade Saputo. (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

Remí Garde’s team lost its second straight game and third in five to Minnesota, but it still remains near the top of the Eastern Conference. 

Since the start of May, the Impact have alternated results and haven’t struck a rich vein of form like other contenders in the East. 

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