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MLS Week 22 Rewind: Eastern Conference leaders deliver statements

Philadelphia Union, Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls are creating separation at the top of the East.

The top three teams in the Eastern Conference at the end of Week 22 won their games by a combined 10-1 score Saturday and Sunday. 

Philadelphia Union, Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls have established a hierarchy atop the crowded playoff race for now, with D.C. United, who lost 5-1 to Jim Curtin’s side on Sunday, sitting in fourth. 

The Union arguably made the biggest statement of the three after losing two of their previous three games by 4-0 scorelines. 

Captain Alejandro Bedoya and big-money signing Marco Fabián were at the forefront of the attacking onslaught, while forwards Kacper Przybyłko and Fafà Picault bagged a goal each. 

In addition to four different players putting their names on the score sheet, Curtin got all of his lineup decisions correct. Veterans Aurélien Collin and Warren Creavalle slid into the starting XI and delivered massive performances, while Ray Gaddis recovered from a brutal stretch of poor form. 

The victory allowed the Union to leapfrog Atlanta United into first place, and in the process, they were the first team in the East to hit the 40-point mark.

Frank ee Boer’s Five Stripes took hold of first place in the East for 24 hours after their comprehensive breakdown of the Zlatan Ibrahimović-less LA Galaxy at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday afternoon.

The combination play between Josef Martínez, Ezequiel Barco and Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez was the best it has been this season, and it gave us a glimpse into how strong the defending champion can be when everything is working together. 

The 3-0 victory was a welcome sight for everyone in Atlanta to clear away some of the drama that has been aired out between the manager and his players recently, and it also set the tone for the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against Orlando City on Tuesday. 

As for the Red Bulls, they have waded through the muddied waters of spots four through 12 in the East to take third place with 10 games remaining on their schedule. 

Chris Armas’ team used an own goal and a late strike from Kemar Lawrence to move past Toronto FC at home to create some separation between itself and D.C., New York City FC, Montreal and New England, all of whom lost in Week 22. 

The race for first in the East is far from over, but this weekend’s play gave us a bit of an idea as to who could hold the top three places by the end of decision day on October 6. 

Goals of the Week 

Diego Rossi, Los Angeles FC 

Albert Rusnák, Real Salt Lake 

Carlos Ascues, Orlando City 

LAFC Ends New England’s Unbeaten Run 

Saturday’s clash at Gillette Stadium between Los Angeles FC and the New England Revolution was billed as the “game of the week” by many due to the recent form of both sides. 

LAFC, as it has done on many occasions this season, stamped its dominance on the match and came away from Foxborough, Mass., with three points. 

Bob Bradley’s team has victories in five of its past six games, with the lone outlier being the loss in El Tráfico to the LA Galaxy. 

The Revs, who have undergone a resurgence with Bruce Arena in charge, did not lose any ground in the race for the final two playoff positions in the East since Toronto and Montreal both suffered defeats on Saturday.

Kamara’s Historic Night 

Speaking of Montreal, it was on the wrong end of a 6-3 thumping handed out by Kei Kamara and the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night.

In the process of scoring a hat trick, Kamara went over the 10-goal mark for the sixth time in his MLS career. He has reached the accomplishment with five different franchises: Columbus, Sporting Kansas City/Kansas City Wizards, New England, Colorado and Vancouver

Own Goal Week 

Own goals dominated the score sheet Saturday, with two of them netted in Atlanta’s win over the Galaxy and Colorado’s conquest of Montreal.  The Red Bulls also benefited from a Toronto FC own goal at Red Bull Arena. 

In the games in Atlanta and Colorado, the own goals were the first two tallies of the contest, and they were each followed by penalty kicks.

Stock Up, Stock Down: Western Conference Edition 

Stock Up: Minnesota United

Let’s hear it for the Loons! 

Minnesota United ended the weekend in second place in the Western Conference after a late Ethan Finlay penalty kick powered it past the Portland Timbers at Allianz Field on Sunday. 

Minnesota holds a goal-differential tiebreaker over San Jose and Seattle, who are both on 38 points and have 11 wins. 

The Loons are 7-1-4 in their new dwelling, and Adrian Heath has forced his name into the coach of the year conversation by guiding them to a surprising 11-7-5 record overall. 

Stock Up: Western Conference Bottom Feeders

Colorado, Sporting Kansas City and Vancouver all produced victories in Week 22 in an attempt to close the gap between themselves at the bottom of the West and the red playoffs line. 

The Rapids put up six goals on the Impact at home, while the Whitecaps and Sporting KC notched massive road wins. 

Marc Dos Santos’ side used a late second-half strike from Felipe to down FC Cincinnati, while Peter Vermes’ SKC went into CenturyLink Field and finished the weekend with a 3-2 win over the Seattle Sounders. 

Stock Down: Houston Dynamo

The team directly above the three bottom teams in the West could join them if its form does not turn around soon.

With their home loss to Chicago on Saturday, the Houston Dynamo have lost eight of their past 10 games in league play, a streak that dates back to the resumption of games after the Concacaf Gold Cup break. 

Life could get much worse for Wilmer Cabrera’s team with four road contests left in August, including a pair against New York City FC and Philadelphia in Week 23. 

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