Major League Soccer 2012, Week 14: What We Learned

HARRISON, NJ - JUNE 24: Brandon Barklage #25 of the New York Red Bulls celebrates his first half goal with teammate Dax McCarty #11 against the D.C. United at Red Bull Arena on June 24, 2012 in Harrison, New Jersey. Red Bulls defeated the DC United 3-2. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

The rivalry weekend lived up to the hype as New York bested D.C. and Portland outlasted Seattle. Elsewhere San Jose and LA each rode six big points to push themselves up the standings.

One of the busiest week's in league history is over. Week 14 saw six games on Wednesday, followed up by another eight over the weekend. In the end there were plenty of goals to discuss, heated rivalry games, and some surprise results all around.

The parity in this league continues to show through. Just when you expect a club to go through and win big they lose two straight at home (looking at you Real Salt Lake); or when you think a streak will come to an end it doesn't (hello FC Dallas and their 11-game winless rut); or when you think a game will be close and it turns out not to be (talking about Montreal and their crazy eight goals in two games at Stade Saputo).

This was a few days that saw some clubs go from the cellar to back into the playoff hunt within the blink of an eye.

Galaxy return to form

In a span of three games the LA Galaxy go from Western Conference cellar to a think of the playoff race as they logged three big wins in a row - two this week. The biggest came on the road Wednesday night in Sandy, Utah, as the Galaxy came from two goals down to shock Real Salt Lake 3-2. The second win was a big one at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps in a 3-0 win.

The play of Landon Donovan was key in the two games in Week 14. Donovan's return from World Cup qualifying with the United States Men's National Team gave him a lift as he rode a three goals and one assist on the busy week lifting the Galaxy to 20 points on the season.

The big question continues to ring though, are the Galaxy "back?" In a small sense, yes, their offense came alive to the tune of seven goals in three games while the defense rode two shutouts and kept a good Vancouver team at bay.

Winning in this league is always about timing and it seems that Bruce Arena is finally getting the timing issue with his club down this season. A smart change to bring additional help into the center of the midfield in the last couple games has helped out in a big way - relieving the pressure off the defense that had been leaky all season long. With guys ilke Donovan and Robbie Keane, it was only a matter of time before they started connecting to find the back of the net.

LA is still 13 points out of first place but climbing back into the playoff position was more important for this group than anything else up until this point. Now it is time to keep it up.

New York and Barklage get revenge over D.C.

It's always tough for a player to be cut. For Brandon Barklage, getting cut by D.C. United at the end of last year was heartbreaking. He said he had no real ill will toward Ben Olsen and D.C. but once he landed else where in Major League Soccer with the New York Red Bulls, he hoped he could prove to Olsen and D.C. just what they were missing.

It turns out he did just that as he scored two big goals in a 3-2 win over United Sunday evening in Harrison, New Jersey. Barklage got his revenge while the Red Bulls pulled even with United on points in the Eastern Conference.

New York fought back in this Atlantic Cup game with United as they had to go down in the opening seconds of the game when Chris Pontius scored to start off a wild game.

The Red Bulls saw the return of Rafa Marquez and Thierry Henry in this one and now that they are level on points, one has to wonder, could this be the start of the Red Bulls' run in the Eastern Conference?

Philly comes out firing

Interim manager John Hackworth made a couple simple changes and some how things clicked in a hurry for the Philadelphia Union on Saturday against Sporting Kansas City. Defensive midfielder Amobi Okugo was moved into the center of the defense - a move that may be permanent after this last game.

Okugo's natural spot is already taken in the Union lineup by Brian Carroll and Gabriel Gomez, so the move to the back where the Union are paper-thin makes a load of sense. He helped guide the Union to a shutout and an impressive 4-0 win.

But it wasn't just Okugo's strong play that got the result, it was fellow 2010 SuperDraft mate Jack McInerney that provided the sparks on the other side of the field. McInerney's second start and two goals - including one in the opening minute of the game - was more than enough to get by a good Sporting Kansas City squad.

Philadelphia still has a ways to go before they can talk playoffs again but Hackworth is starting to get the most out of his young squad with simple moves like these two.

San Jose makes their way to the top

It was one heck of a week for the San Jose Earthquakes. The Bay Area side made trips to two of the toughest venues in MLS in this and came out with six points. First up was a Wednesday meeting in Commerce City against the Colorado Rapids. After going down early, the Quakes climbed back into the game and found a late goal to beat the Rapids 2-1.

A simple story was written on Saturday in Sandy, as San Jose rode yet another late goal to beat Real Salt Lake 2-1. See a theme here with the Quakes? Late goals, heroics from Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart or Alan Gordon, not to mention just tough defensive play overall.

Frank Yallop has to be thrilled with how things are going this season. For a manager that was listed on so many hot seats at the start of the season, he is now easily coaching his way into a new contract (at least one has to think that).

Oh and Wondolowski now has 13 goals on the season - leading the league in that category. At this pace I don't see anyone catching him.

Cascadia rivalry heats up

MLS did its part in the hype machine this week by dubbing it Rivalry Week. With games like the Chicago Fire-Columbus Crew, and New York-DC, we saw the old guard of rivals square off while one of the oldest rivalries in North American soccer provided the biggest spark on the weekend.

The Portland Timbers downed their northern rivals the Seattle Sounders 2-1 on Sunday, in front of a rowdy crowd at JELD-WEN Field. After Seattle dropped points at home in a 1-1 draw on Wednesday to Sporting KC, Sigi Schmid's club extended their winless rut to seven games.

Full credit goes to John Spencer for getting his side up and ready for this one. The early goals by Kris Boyd and David Horst were just enough to hold off the Sounders who couldn't seem to have an answer (other than an Eddie Johnson goal in the second half) to get by keeper Troy Perkins.

The game got heated late - just as you would expect in this rivalry - as both Fredy Montero and Lovel Palmer were set off with red cards in the final minutes of the game.

The three points pushed the Timbers out of the cellar - while more importantly possibly did enough to save Spencer's job for a few more weeks.

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