With a record-setting winning streak coming to an end as well as the coming-out party of one team's offense and the scoring success (either wins or draws) of 11 road teams in 12 games, Week 11 of the MLS season was an interesting one to say the least.
For Real Salt Lake fans, there was hope that the team had found its offense again when Nelson Gonzalez found the back of the net for the first time in almost three matches. Unfortunately, the goal was mere consolation as the team struggled for most of the night in a loss to the visiting Seattle Sounders.
The loss ended a 29-match regular-season MLS unbeaten streak dating back to May 16, 2009, and dropped RSL into a fifth-place tie in the Western Conference standings.
What made the loss hurt even more is RSL dropped more points in the race for the Supporter’s Shield.
With 29 points, the Los Angeles Galaxy continue to tear through the league and are seven points ahead of second-place FC Dallas and 12 points ahead of RSL. The Galaxy didn’t seem to be phased by the loss of Landon Donovan to the CONCACAF Gold Cup squad in earning the maximum six points in their two games last week.
The Galaxy haven’t allowed a goal over 300 minutes, and the last goal they allowed -- an own goal no less -- was in the first half against Sporting KC on May 14. As the saying goes, defense wins championships, and the Galaxy have been one of the tougher defenses in the league in the last month.
The second-year Philadelphia Union was the other major surprise last week. Many followers of the league have given the Union credit for its defensive play this year, but the knock on the squad has been that it cannot score goals, forcing it to settle for draws instead of wins.
In its last two wins, however, Philadelphia scored eight goals, including a six-goal outburst at Toronto FC over the weekend.
The defense, led by goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, has recorded four shutouts this year, including one each against New York and Houston -- the closest teams to Philly in the Eastern Conference standings.
With 20 points, Philadelphia is undoubtedly the surprise team in MLS this year after a mostly forgettable expansion season last year in which it missed the playoffs. If Philly can keep up this pace for the next two-thirds of the season, it may be a favorite for the MLS Cup.
Landon Walters is a history and political science major currently studying at Salt Lake Community College and is an avid sports fan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at www.twitter.com/LandawgDew