Major League Soccer 2012, Week 17: What We Learned

After a week that saw a few scoreless draws, many goals were found in a busy Week 17 in Major League Soccer. San Jose expended their lead in the Western Conference while Sporting Kansas City found their way back to the top in the East.

Remember the "boring" weekend that was Week 16 in Major League Soccer? Scoreless draw after scoreless draw showed off the dog days of summer in a bad way. Fast forward to Week 17 and things changed dramatically, as 31 goals were scored, including 10 by just two teams.

Slumps were busted this week and a new coach debuted in Portland. We're slowly getting out of inter-conference games and solely into conference games here as well. From here on it will really be all about the playoff race and who can take the most out of each game.

San Jose destroys Salt Lake

If you are a Real Salt Lake fan, the 5-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes was bad on so many levels. Sure, the officiating wasn't the best on Saturday night, but looking past that, the five goals allowed had to be a low point for such a quality bunch of players.

This was dubbed as a potential playoff series preview, and RSL will be hoping it was anything but. San Jose was relentless as Chris Wondolowski found the back of the net three times for a hat trick, pushing his season scoring total up to a ridiculous 17 goals. Alan Gordan and Simon Dawkins chipped in goals as well on the night to give Jason Kreis probably one of the worst headaches he's ever had.

Speaking of those 17 goals real quick, does anyone out there disagree that Wondo could be the guy that breaks the league's all-time one-season goal scoring mark? Given the pace he is on, I'd say it's very possible.

Losing Kyle Beckerman to a red card was really when this game went south for Salt Lake. Even with the amount of quality that RSL has on the pitch and in reserve, they weren't able to hang with San Jose from that moment on. However, San Jose took control early and looked like they were going to win even before the sending off. The Earthquakes are just that good, folks.

Galaxy continue push up standings

The pre-match talk before the Timbers-Galaxy match centered around the return of David Beckham to the LA Galaxy lineup and the new coach on the sideline for the Portland Timbers, Gavin Wilkinson. Most figured that the change in coaching at Portland would ignite a little spark in the Timbers the way it did for the Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC earlier this season when they went through a coaching change. As it turned out, the goals came but the Timbers' defense still has too many issues to list here. Goals came from all three Galaxy Designated Players on the night as LA downed Portland 5-3 in what was one of the wildest games of the season to date.

Beckham chipped in two goals, one of which might be a contender for goal of the year. Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane also found the back of the net. The trio was riding high and on the same page, something that is seriously dangerous for other teams to handle and incredibly fun to watch.

LA now has a pretty firm seat in the fifth spot out West, but I imagine they have their sights set on moving up soon. They're just four points back of the Vancouver Whitecaps and five back of the Seattle Sounders. LA has a chance to do some real damage against their conference foes.

As for Portland, if a turn around doesn't happen anytime soon under Wilkinson, it may be time to begin focusing on who they'll take with one of the top three picks in next year's SuperDraft.

Dallas ends slump

92-days is a long, long time to go without a win. For some clubs that is a full off-season. But for FC Dallas, that is what they've gone through over the last three months of play.

With key players finally back and healthy in the midfield, FCD grabbed their first win in 13 games and their first road win of the year in Colorado. The 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids wasn't celebrated a ton by the players and coaches of Dallas, however. Most talked after the game how they've had little to really celebrate and that they really won't begin to celebrate until more wins roll in.

But on the night, Dallas looked at one point like they were going to fail to win for the 14th consecutive game, as Conor Casey found the back of the net in the 55th minute, aided by some poor defense. Hyndman was smart (seemingly for the first time all season, to some folks in Dallas) with his subs. He brought on Carlos Rodriguez soon after that Rapids goal and the young Panama defender/midfielder sparked the Dallas comeback with a goal and an assist on Fabian Castillo's game winner.

Colorado now has one of the worst slumps in MLS -- they've lost five out of their last six. Believe it or not, the Rapids actually have more losses on the season than Dallas does, despite their higher position in the standings.

A continued turnaround for Dallas won't be easy, as they head to San Jose on Wednesday followed by a home date with Portland on Saturday.

New look Red Bulls still a work in progress

While everyone was expecting news of a third DP in the Big Apple with the Red Bulls, Hans Backe and company pulled a fast one on everyone and traded away speedy midfielder Dane Richards to Vancouver for striker Sebastien Le Toux on Friday. It was a move no one really saw coming, but one that made perfect sense for each club.

The new look Red Bulls didn't take long to produce a goal either. On Sunday against Seattle, the Red Bulls used Thierry Henry in a playmaking role behind Le Toux and Kenny Cooper, in hopes that he would spark the offense yet again. In some sense it worked, as the Red Bulls found the back of the net twice in a 2-2 draw.

At the end of it all though, we realized that Le Toux will likely end out back where he was with Vancouver. That's on the right wing, a position he can play but not one that he gets the best results out of in terms of goal scoring.

All of this is definitely a work in progress for Backe and the Red Bulls. With the Eastern Conference becoming tighter by the week, it might not be wise to conduct experiments like this every week.

Eastern Conference sides tear into one another

Conference play is really heating up now that we are heading into that part of the schedule. Soon enough there will be no more inter-conference games until MLS Cup.

The Chicago Fire played in one of their final inter-conference games this past weekend and got by the Vancouver Whitecaps, 1-0, thanks to a Pavel Pardo goal.

Sporting Kansas City put pressure on D.C. United in the standings with a 2-0 win over the Columbus Crew on Saturday at Crew Stadium. Sporting was without a key player in their midfield in Graham Zusi, but were still able to create enough of an attack to win against one of the league's best defenses.

Speaking of United, the Black-and-Red were hammered Sunday night in Houston by the Dynamo in a 4-0 spanking. For the first time all season, the Dynamo found their offense from more than one person as Will Bruin, Brian Ching, Brad Davis and newcomer Oscar Boniek Garcia all found the back of the net. D.C. saw keeper Bill Hamid get red carded early in the match, which definitely helped the Orange out in a big way.

Toronto FC and the Philadelphia Union also continued their impressive form, both scoring big wins. The Union downed the Montreal Impact 2-1 and Toronto rode a Luis Silva goal to beat the New England Revolution 1-0. Toronto is now on a two game winning streak while the Union are on a three game winning streak.

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