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MLS Week 23 Review: Josef Martinez breaks record amid scoring frenzy

Martínez scored in his 10th consecutive MLS game as Atlanta United defeated NYCFC.

Fifty goals were scored across 12 Major League Soccer games Saturday and Sunday. 

All 24 clubs got in on the action in front of goal, but a few individuals and teams stood out among the pack.

Atlanta United’s Josef Martínez continued his remarkable form by scoring in his 10th consecutive game, setting an MLS record.

Last season, Martínez tied the old record of nine games in a row with goal, and he now owns two of the three longest scoring runs in league history.

Sunday’s brace handed the Venezuelan 70 goals in 76 regular-season appearances over two-plus seasons with the Five Stripes. 

In the process of torching nets across North America, Martínez has moved within three tallies of Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela in the golden boot race, an honor that just two months ago seemed destined for the Mexican star. 

In addition to bringing some real drama in the race to be MLS’ top scorer, Martínez has helped Frank de Boer’s side right the ship and by beating the LA Galaxy and New York City FC at home. In between those victories, the Five Stripes advanced to the U.S. Open Cup final with a road win in Orlando. 

While Martínez captured the individual spotlight once again, FC Dallas leaped to the forefront of the league discussion for one night with a five-goal performance against Minnesota United, a win the club needed in the thick of the hunt for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

What was so exciting about Luchi Gonzalez’s side in Week 23 was the play of Paxton Pomykal and Brandon Servania. The pair of United States under-20 teammates combined for two goals and an assist, with Servania providing the tallies in a 15-minute stint off the bench.

Entering Saturday, there were some concerns regarding who would score FC Dallas’ goals, and at least for one night Pomykal and Servania answered that call. 

LAFC was its dominant self again by putting four goals past the New York Red Bulls, while Seattle, New England, Chicago, Portland and Minnesota all scored three times. 

Including Thursday’s game at Yankee Stadium, the total goes up to 55 goals since New York City FC knocked off Houston 3-2. 

Goals of the Week 

Theo Bair, Vancouver Whitecaps 

Pedro Santos, Columbus Crew

Hassani Dotson, Minnesota United

Santiago Mosquera, FC Dallas 

Red-Line Battles Heating Up

Aug 10, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Orlando City defender Ruan (2) and Toronto FC defender Auro Jr (96) chase the ball during the game at BMO Field. (Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports)

Week 23 muddied the red-line races in both conferences. 

In the Eastern Conference, New England’s draw in Seattle, the 1-1 tie between Toronto FC and Orlando City and Chicago’s 3-2 victory over Montreal shrunk the gap between sixth and 10th place to four points. 

Since none of the playoff contenders meet in Week 24, and Orlando has its game in hand Wednesday, the race is only going to get muddier before it clears up. 

The West is less crowded than the East, but there still is plenty of intrigue since Portland sits on 34 points in eighth place with at least one game in hand on everyone else in the conference. 

FC Dallas’ victory on Saturday was even more massive because of that advantage for Portland.

Real Salt Lake earned three huge points over Sporting Kansas City in what could be seen as an elimination game for Peter Vermes’ side, which is now eight points adrift of seventh place. 

Hell Is Real Drama

Aug 10, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; FC Cincinnati midfielder Allan Cruz (15) dribbles the ball in the second half of the match against the Columbus Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The first “Hell Is Real” derby in MLS ended in a frantic set of chances for the Columbus Crew, but they could  not secure a stoppage-time winner to get past FC Cincinnati

Overall, the first Ohio rivalry game was a success with the blue-and-orange clad FC Cincinnati fans traveling to Mapfre Stadium to pack the oldest ground in MLS. 

The match will be remembered by Gyasi Zardes’ horrific miss from close range, but Przemysław Tytoń deserves a round of praise for keeping out a handful of late scoring opportunities and allowing Ron Jans to pick up a point in his first match in charge of the expansion side.

In two weeks, the rivals will square off again at Nippert Stadium as part of rivalry week. 

Ferrari Stopped By An Audi 

Zlatan Ibrahimović recorded a whopping 15 shots Sunday at Audi Field, but only one went on target.

That effort was denied in spectacular fashion by Bill Hamid, who had a big night for a D.C. United side that needed three points with its back against the wall. 

The victory allowed D.C. United to poke fun at Ibrahimović, who compared himself to a Ferrari at the end of July.

Stock Up, Stock Down

Stock Up: Chicago Fire

Mar 30, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger (31) reacts with fans after defeating the New York Red Bulls at SeatGeek Stadium. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

Bastian Schweinsteiger rescued the Chicago Fire Saturday night with an 88th-minute game-winner, his first goal of the season. 

The German legend also dished out an assist on Dax McCarty’s opener in a victory that pulled the Fire within striking distance of seventh place in the East. 

After struggling for most of the summer, Veljko Paunović’s side has gathered eight points from its past five games, including two straight wins. 

The Fire’s playoff hopes suddenly are alive, but they could be extinguished in Week 24 with a midweek road trip to Portland and a Saturday home clash with Philadelphia

Stock Up: Orlando City’s road form 

Orlando City SC forward Benji Michel (19), forward Santiago Patiño (29) and defender Kamal Miller (27) celebrate as they beat the Columbus Crew SC Saturday at Exploria Stadium (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

James O’Connor’s Orlando City has quietly picked up points on the road in July to keep in the hunt for a playoff position.

After earning draws at Philadelphia and Portland, the Lions went into BMO Field and drew Toronto FC to improve their road mark to 3-5-5. 

It is not an immaculate road record, but the 14 road points gained is comparable to the Lions’ direct competition for the Nos. 6 and 7 spots in the East. 

New England also has 14 road points, while Montreal has 12 and Toronto holds 11. Chicago is worst among that group of teams with six road points. 

Stock Up: Real Salt Lake 

Aug 3, 2019; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (10) plays against the New York City in the second half at Rio Tinto Stadium. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

With interim manager Freddy Juarez in charge, Real Salt Lake has picked up consecutive victories over New York City FC and Sporting KC. 

The pair of victories have RSL sitting in sixth place with 37 points ahead of a three-game home swing that includes matches versus Seattle and LAFC in Week 24. 

After Mike Petke’s contract was terminated Sunday night, Juarez has full control of the team until the end of the season, and if the last two weeks are any indication of their play, the Claret and Cobalt could be a team to watch in the West. 

Stock Down: Montreal Impact

Aug 10, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Montreal Impact midfielder Saphir Taider (8) dribbles the ball forward as Chicago Fire midfielder Aleksandar Katai (10) defends during the second half at SeatGeek Stadium. The Fire won 3-2. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Remí Garde’s Montreal Impact are putting together a crash course in how to miss the postseason. 

After its 3-2 loss to Chicago, Montreal has fallen in six of its last seven games and is in danger of dropping out of the top seven by the end of August. 

The return of Ignacio Piatti and entrance of Bojan Krkic could help the Impact re-discover their form. If a reversal of results is coming, it needs to happen soon.

Stock Down: Sporting Kansas City 

Aug 4, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Sporting Kansas City defender Seth Sinovic (15) backs down Seattle Sounders FC defender Xavier Arreaga (25) and midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (10) during the second half at CenturyLink Field. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

Hopefully you did not buy too much Sporting KC stock after it won in Seattle last week. 

Vermes’ side once again took itself out of the West playoff race with a disastrous home loss to a playoff competitor. 

Sporting KC still can try to claw itself back into contention with San Jose, Minnesota and Portland upcoming on the schedule, but the team is are running low on hope. 

Stock Down (Maybe?): Seattle Sounders

Aug 10, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris (13) pursues the ball against the New England Revolution in the second half at CenturyLink Field. The teams played to a 3-3 tie. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Seattle dropped points at home for the third straight game in its 3-3 draw with the Revs Saturday. 

Since defeating Atlanta July 14, Brian Schmetzer’s team has lost to Portland and Sporting KC and tied with New England at CenturyLink Field. 

Every team goes through lulls in different parts of the season, but the recent string of results is concerning since second through sixth in the West are separated by two points. 

 

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