Published January 13, 2015
Four weeks of the Major League Soccer regular season are officially in the books and to borrow an NCAA Tournament theme, the Montreal Impact continue to be the feel-good Cinderella story at an unexpected 4-0, while the Houston Dynamo simply don't lose on home soil.
Other teams, such as the New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire look like Cinderella's ugly step-sisters through four matches as we look back on the week that was in MLS.
THE GLASS SLIPPER CERTAINLY FITS THE IMPACT
Four matches, four wins. It doesn't get much better than that.
Head coach Marco Schallibaum's crew pulled out another impressive performance in a 1-0 win over the scuffling New York Red Bulls on Saturday as veteran forward Marco Di Vaio scored the only goal of the match.
Midfielder Patrice Bernier is steadily developing into a star and is the creative force in the midfield. He set up Di Vaio's match winner with a cheeky chipped through-ball over the heads of the Red Bull defense, allowing the Italian forward to run onto it and easily slide past goalkeeper Luis Robles.
Montreal is the first club to begin a season 4-0 since Real Salt Lake in 2011, but will face a stern test this week against a frustrated Sporting Kansas City side.
Everything is clicking right now for Montreal and the club could be on its way to Eastern Conference powerhouse status if they can keep the momentum rolling.
RED BULL NEW YORK STRUGGLING MIGHTILY
Red Bull head coach Mike Petke must be ready to pull his hair out after watching his club suffer a 1-0 setback at the hands of the Impact on Saturday.
The result leaves the club winless through the first four matches of the season, sitting in ninth place in the conference with a pair of losses and a pair of draws.
It appeared the club had turned a corner after last week's scoreless draw with D.C. United. While the Red Bulls did not win that match, they completely dominated in almost every statistical category, putting an incredible 24 shots in the direction of goal and keeping almost two-thirds of possession. Were it not for an unbelievable performance from United goalkeeper Bill Hamid, New York would have taken three points.
But New York isn't exactly a city know for relishing in moral victories and Saturday's shaky loss in Montreal has many Red Bull fans with their fingers hovering over the panic button if the club can't get things turned around in a hurry.
Three points is a necessity for New York this weekend as it returns home to face rival Philadelphia Union, who are riding a nice wave of momentum after two straight wins in MLS play and a 1-0 win over Mexican side Pumas UNAM in a friendly on Saturday.
BBVA COMPASS STADIUM, THE FORTRESS
The Houston Dynamo are unbeatable at home.
This week's match saw the club rally from a 1-0 deficit with a pair of second- half goals from Giles Barnes and Warren Creavalle to top the Vancouver Whitecaps, 2-1, at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The victory extends the club's unbeaten streak at home to an impressive 27 consecutive matches.
The Whitecaps took an unexpected 1-0 lead 36 minutes into Saturday's match when forward Darren Mattocks collected a pass from Erik Hurtado at the top of the Houston box, rolled off his defender with a nice turn and fired a rocket of a right-footed shot into the top right corner, stunning the home crowd.
But goals from Barnes and Creavalle just seven minutes apart in the second half secured three points for the Dynamo.
Since moving from Robertson Stadium to BBVA Compass last May, the two-time MLS Cup runners-up have lost just once, a 2-0 setback against New York on Aug. 10, 2012.
The Dynamo's home certainly has an aura about it and rivals teams must have it in the back of their minds that coming to face the Dynamo in Houston will most likely not result in three points.
Houston will have a chance to extend its incredible streak to 28 matches without a loss when it faces the San Jose Earthquakes.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
Mattocks claims this week's best goal with his wonder-strike against Houston.
On the play, the speedy 23-year-old forward controlled a pass from teammate Erik Hurtado with his back to goal. Mattocks then quickly turned to his right and managed to keep control of the ball despite getting pushed before unleashing an absolute rocket into the top right corner of the net, leaving Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall with zero chance for a save.
Honorable mention this week goes to San Jose's Chris Wondolowski for his wicked right-footed strike which give the 'Quakes a much-needed 1-0 victory over Seattle.
Montreal Impact - What else needs to be said about the Impact? Schallibaum has his club rolling with 12 points from four matches. They thrilled the home fans twice and won their first two matches of the season in Seattle and Portland unexpectedly. Bernier is an absolute stud in midfield, the forwards have been finding timely goals and the back line has been rock solid. The only thing left to ponder about the Impact is how long they will keep this up.
Houston Dynamo - The Dynamo certainly have the confidence flowing when they take the pitch at BBVA Compass Stadium. Saturday's win over Vancouver only proves further they are never out of a home game and are not fazed by being behind. The closest any club has come to their current unbeaten run was Real Salt Lake, which managed a 20-game unbeaten run in all competitions over the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Chicago Fire - Chicago is about as poor as it gets in MLS right now. Several pundits predicted before the season that the Fire would finish in third place in the East and were in line for a deep playoff run. While it is still early in the season, the Fire are 0-3-1 and look like they aren't interested in playing at all. They did not score a goal in any of their first three contests, and while a goal finally came on Sunday, a 4-1 loss to Chivas USA at home left coach Frank Klopas frustrated and trying to figure out how to fix it.
"I thought we started really well," Klopas said. "But we made mistakes, paid for it and gave up some silly goals."
Thankfully for Klopas and Co., they have a bye from MLS competition this week, but will play NASL side Minnesota United in a friendly, hoping to build some positive momentum.
Seattle Sounders - Since Seattle's inception into the league in 2009, the club has always had high expectations from management and fans alike and have been a model of consistency during the regular campaign by making the postseason every year.
This year, it's a bit different in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle has yet to win a game, and is currently sitting on the bottom of the Western Conference with just one point from three matches. Saturday's match saw the club drop a 1-0 result to San Jose courtesy of Wondolowski's brilliant strike.
The Sounders offense has sputtered, scoring just once in three matches. Losing Fredy Montero to Colombian side Millonarios will cause a bit of a drop-off in production, but the Sounders also haven't had time to fully integrate his replacement, Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins, into the system. It might not be panic mode in the Emerald City just yet, but Seattle needs to pick it up quickly or coach Sigi Schmid's seat may get a little warm.
THE WEEK AHEAD
There's a full schedule of MLS action this weekend with eight matches in the offing on Saturday.
The pick of the lot sees Philadelphia Union travel to Harrison, N.J., to battle the New York Red Bulls. Philadelphia has been in a rich vein of form since dropping its season opener to Sporting Kansas City, posting two straight league wins. New York, meanwhile, needs three points desperately after losing to Montreal last time out.
In other action, Toronto FC hosts the Los Angeles Galaxy at BMO Field, while New England will be in search of its first home victory when it hosts FC Dallas at Gillette Stadium. Houston will attempt to extend its home unbeaten streak to 28 matches against San Jose, while Colorado tries to get off the mark at home against Portland.
Montreal puts its perfect mark on the line at Sporting Park against SKC, Real Salt Lake looks for a bounce-back performance against Seattle after dropping a 2-0 result to FC Dallas, and an in-form Chivas side hosts Vancouver at the Home Depot Center to round out the weekend slate.