2012 Major League Soccer, Week 18: What We Learned

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JULY 22: Dane Richards #20 of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC kisses his jersey after scoring during their MLS game against the San Jose Earthquakes July 22, 2012 at BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Home teams cruised to a 13-0-2 mark in Week 18. New York took over first place in the East and trouble continues for Colorado and Portland.

Home field advantage was the big story of the week in Major League Soccer. Not a single road team earned a victory in Week 18, and hardly any road goals were scored either. Home teams went an impressive 13-0-2, outscoring visitors 30-8 in 15 games.

Those results gave us both a new leader in the Eastern Conference (New York) and a third straight win for Toronto FC. The road losses, however, proved to be talking points for several other sides as well with the Portland Timbers getting crushed on the road in Dallas and the Colorado Rapids dropping yet another game.

Vancouver makes statement win over San Jose Earthquakes

It has been an interesting few weeks in Vancouver. After a couple of road losses and a tough draw that they should have won in the midweek to the LA Galaxy, the Vancouver Whitecaps did what they had done a week prior in trading yet another big name forward. First it was Sebastien Le Toux to the New York Red Bulls for Dane Richards, and on last Friday they sent Eric Hassli to Toronto for a draft pick and an international roster slot.

Everyone continued to be baffled as to what exactly Martin Rennie was doing. The simple answer is that he's transforming the club into a contender.

Vancouver went out on Sunday afternoon and scored possibly their biggest win to date as a MLS club, knocking off league leading San Jose. The 2-1 win over the Earthquakes showed that Vancouver is turning a corner in MLS. Rennie has his team back in a 4-3-3 formation that is working, and newcomers Barry Robson and Kenny Miller are showing that they were worth the gamble as DPs.

Folks can make all the arguments they want about the Robson game-winner from the penalty spot yesterday; the fact remains Vancouver just showed the league a way to beat San Jose.

New York continues their impressive form

Kenny Cooper netted two goals in a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union. The New York Red Bulls moved to 6-0-4 at Red Bull Arena this season - a mark that is very impressive to have at this stage in the season. Cooper looked like a man on a mission on Saturday against the Union. His first header that found the back of the net was an impressive one to say the least.

Some will wonder how exactly is New York getting it done these days without the likes of Rafa Marquez, Ryan Meara and others in defense. Simple, Hans Backe is keeping it tight with a group of young players that simply want to prove themselves to the rest of the league. Look no further than to guys like Brandon Barkalage or Conor Lade. Neither are big names that people were going after but New York has them and both are working out just fine for Backe.

In front of that defence is Dax McCarty, who continues to be one of the more underrated players in all of MLS. His work rate ahead of the back four for New York continues to be a big reason why the Red Bulls are winning games.

Dallas romp shows big issues with Portland

A 5-0 romp in Frisco by FC Dallas showed that plenty is wrong with the Portland Timbers at the moment. Dallas came out firing on all cylinders on Saturday evening with goals from everywhere, including Andrew Jacobson, Jackson Goncalves, Scott Sealy and Ruben Luna.

Portland interim manager Gavin Wilkinson said after the blowout that his side had quit. Once a bounce didn't go their way early on, with a Mike Fucito shot that deflected off Daniel Hernandez and into the post, the Timbers fell apart. Dallas picked the Timbers apart left and right holding a massive edge in possession and chances on goal.

The end result showed that the Timbers have a massively long way to go all over the field. Since Wilkinson took over three games ago the Rose City side has given up 11 goals. Defensively the Timbers are not anywhere close to what they need to be, and on offense they can't just rely on Kris Boyd to do everything.

Houston quietly sneaking up the standings

The Houston Dynamo created a clever little campaign recently that went on Facebook, Twitter and other media channels. It was a "3 games, 9 points" challenge. After those three games with D.C. United, Sporting Kansas City and the Montreal Impact, the Dynamo did just that. The Dynamo easily downed the Impact on Saturday, winning 3-0 thanks to some strong play from unsung heroes like Calen Carr and Mac Kandji. That nine point run has lifted Houston to third place in what's becoming a very crowded Eastern Conference playoff race.

Dominic Kinnear has been able to ignore all the Geoff Cameron transfer news and get his team to where they need to be in order to return to the MLS Cup final for a second straight season. Playing at home in those three games has certainly helped here, as the Dynamo haven't lost a single game in the shiny new BBVA Compass Stadium.

The offense is starting to click, the defense is getting stronger and everything in between is just working. Houston has to improve on the road (2-5-4 away from home this season) in order to make some serious noise, but given their current form and confidence, anything is possible with this bunch.

Galaxy win the battle of LA

Striking distance. That is where the LA Galaxy finally are in the Western Conference standings after their 3-1 win over Chivas USA this past weekend. At 30 points, LA sits just one point back of forth place and four back of third in the West. That's a far cry from a few months ago when they were sitting at the bottom of the standings.

The Galaxy (9-10-3) claimed their sixth victory in nine games since MLS' minibreak ended in mid-June, once again getting huge performances out of their big three (Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and David Beckham) on their way to another three points. They were just too much for a Chivas club that can't seem to find any offense at all (MLS-worst in goals for with 13 this season!).

The Galaxy continue get big games out of their big three but two of them could potenially be missing for their trip to Dallas next week. Donovan will be out due to yellow card accumulation and Beckham could miss the game due to the opening of the London Olympics. Both losses could be huge considering the momentum the pair have created for the Galaxy over the last few weeks.

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