Doug Pensinger - Getty Images
Chris Wondolowski's hat-trick moved him within two goals of Roy Lassiter's MLS record and provided the obvious highlight of the weekend.
It's about time for Roy Lassiter to start racking up some frequent flier miles. The current MLS record holder for goals in a single-season is in very serious danger of being removed from the throne he's occupied for 16 years after Chris Wondolowski bagged a hat trick in the San Jose Earthquakes 4-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
If MLS has any sense, they'll make sure to have Lassiter on hand for the Earthquakes' final two games at home against the LA Galaxy and on the road against the Portland Timbers.
Wondolowski now sits on 25 goals, just two short of tying the record Lassiter set during the league's inaugural season and no one has even come close to touching in more than a decade. As it stands now, he's already posted the fourth highest total in history.
And before we get all wrapped up in the idea that his season deserves an asterisk because the MLS schedule is now 34 games whereas the record was set during a 32-match campaign, let's at least point out that Wondolowski still has two games remaining and has only actually made 30 appearances.
Oh, and he also has a career-high eight assists, just in case you were wondering. If we used the old calculations for the Golden Boot, where a goal counted as two points and an assist as one, Wondolowski would be sitting on 58 points. That's the exact same amount that Lassiter had in his record-breaking season, as he had four assists to go along with his 27 goals.
Saturday's performance was just about perfect in terms of understanding how he's gotten here. The first goal he took a near perfect cross and actually chested it into the goal. Yes, chested it. With his chest. That's how good the service was or how bad it was. Whatever, it was right there and he basically just ran into the ball.
The second goal was a classic-goal-scorer's special. With the ball near the top of the penalty area, he just fired off a shot in traffic. It deflected off a defender and into the back of the net.
He closed out the performance with a goal that really is vintage Wondolowski. As he does with alarming regularity, he got behind the defense. The pass was timed perfect and the ball seemed to almost stick to his boot before he fired it past the goalkeeper. Just for good measure, he also picked up an assist on the Earthquakes' first goal.
Not only is Wondolowski the runaway favorite for MVP, he might just be putting together the best season in MLS history. Throw in the fact that the Earthquakes moved to within a point of clinching the Supporters' Shield and are on pace to post the best goal-difference since the league got rid of the shootout and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who has clearly been better.
Costly tie for KC
The chances of Sporting KC to become the first team to lock up a domestic double of any kind since the 2008 Columbus Crew won the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup just got a bit longer. While catching the Earthquakes was always a long shot, KC's tie combined with the Earthquakes' win leaves them five points out with just two games left to play. They would need to win out and San Jose would have to lose their final two games for KC to move ahead.
To make matters worse, all-everything midfielder Roger Espinoza suffered an ankle sprain and will be out 2-4 weeks. That could mean he doesn't return until the MLS Cup playoffs. Certainly not the end of the world for KC, but also not the way they were hoping to go in.
The best piece of news for them was the continued resurgence of CJ Sapong. The young forward scored his fourth goal in five games, giving him seven in a season that he had seen him relegated to coming off the bench at one point. He's a big reason that KC hasn't missed a beat since Teal Bunbury was lost for the season.
That goal also saw MLS fans introduced to Gangnam Style, a Korean dance sensation whose video has drawn 400 million views on YouTube.
Dallas on the ropes
Facing what is possibly one of the worst teams in MLS history, FC Dallas really needed a win to keep pace with the Vancouver Whitecaps for the final playoff spot in the West. Instead, they coughed up an early lead and were probably lucky to escape Home Depot Center with a point against Chivas USA.
Chivas USA had come into the match on a seven-game losing streak in which they had been outscored 18-1!!!!! Even worse, they were coming off a 4-0 loss to the Whitecaps earlier in the week.
Instead of folding after surrendering an early goal, as they have tended to do recently, they actually fought back. Jorge Villafana got the equalizer and now FC Dallas is looking at a four-point hole with two games left to play. A loss or a Whitecaps win will seal their fate.
Watch out for the Fire
Two straight losses had brought back the doubters, but after pasting the New York Red Bulls 2-0 in Red Bull Arena, the Chicago Fire are back in striking distance of Sporting KC. Sherjill MacDonald scored a pair of goals, twice getting behind the lackadaisical Red Bulls defense.
The Fire have a home game against the hapless New England Revolution before closing out the season on the road against D.C. United. They probably have to win out to catch KC, but they are likely to have the tiebreaker as they currently have a five-goal lead in the goals-scored department.
On the flip side, this was not a good week to be Hans Backe. His biggest defender, Erik Soler, was demoted and now Backe is looking the unemployment line square in the face unless the Red Bulls pull it together and make a deep run into the playoffs.
Backe has never been very popular, despite some reasonable successes, and you have to imagine that the new leadership in New York will want to install their own guy, anyway. If the Red Bulls exit the playoffs early ... or even don't make it, Backe is probably as good as gone. There is way too much talent, far too much money being spent and the buzz far too low for the Red Bulls to accept anything less than to be one of the top teams in the league.
Slam-bam action thriller!
Say this for the LA Galaxy, they are rarely boring. Sure, they lost another big game against Real Salt Lake (don't tell anyone, but the Galaxy are now 1-6-0 against the other top three teams in the West), but man they sure are fun to watch. Truth be told, they probably outplayed RSL for much of the match, but Fabian Espindola showed off some serious cajones (and proved it with his celebration!) with two well taken goals early on.
As good as the Galaxy had been playing during their seven-game unbeaten streak, it is worth noting that they only played one team currently in playoff position and that was the dive-bombing Whitecaps. The return of Omar Gonzalez has clearly helped that team immensely, but the loss of AJ DeLaGarza may make that a wash. The Galaxy defense looked completely out of sorts with Tommy Meyer and Bryan Gaul both on the field and Sean Franklin continues to look totally lost as a midfielder.
There's no doubt that the talent is there, but it may be time to stop giving them the benefit of the doubt.
RSL, meanwhile, was in desperate need of a scorer to supplement Alvaro Saborio and that's exactly what they've got with Espindola. His two goals on Saturday came after he had scored just once in his previous 14.
'This is what heaven must be like'
You can hardly blame Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid for getting a little emotional after he watched his team absolutely man-handle the Portland Timbers in front of 66,452 fans on Sunday. Not only had he been honored in a pregame Tifo display, but the Sounders did their coach proud by coming out with the kind of fire you'd like to see in derby match.
Sure, the Timbers got off on a bad foot when they put in an own-goal, but give the Sounders credit for creating the pressure. Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero continued to make a case for best forward tandem and the defense totally shut down any semblance of a Timbers attack.
Beyond that, Schmid was obviously overwhelmed with the idea that soccer in this country had grown to the point that a regular-season MLS game could draw this kind of crowd. This is a man who has seen soccer grow in this country from every level, often times not getting the credit he probably deserved. With tears welling up in his eyes, he proclaimed "this is what heaven must be like."