MLS winners and losers: Insigne’s inspirational defeat and Nick Hancock-baiting goalkeeper gaffes

Ryan Baldi
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Zac MacMath and Toronto forward Lorenzo Insigne
Your MLS winners and losers are this way

Last years’ Supporters’ Shield champions dug in to overcome an inspired Lorenzo Insigne, while it was a rough weekend for the goalkeepers’ union.


MLS winners

Seven-straight Cincy
FC Cincinnati went into the weekend second in the race for the Supporters’ Shield title they won last year, just one point behind Inter Miami at the top of the East and riding a six-game winning streak.

Their impressive recent form faced a stern test, though, as they travelled north of the border to take on a resurgent Toronto FC fresh off a 5-1 thrashing of CF Montreal a week earlier.

And it was John Herdman’s side who struck first. The ever-dangerous Insigne fired an out-swinging corner into the box to provide an assist for Deybi Flores.

In a match billed as a showdown between Insigne and Luciano Acosta, two of the league’s most dangerous – and, ahem, vertically challenged – playmakers, it was the Italian who shone brightest. For Cincy, right wing-back Luca Orellano carried the fight to the Canadians. The flying Argentinian scored an equaliser and it was a rebound from his saved shot that enabled 19-year-old Kevin Kelsey to put the away side up 2-1.

A constant threat throughout, Insigne weaved into the box and forced a leveller for Toronto when his low centre cannoned in off Cincinnati defender Ian Murphy.

Then it was Orellano’s turn again. The 24-year-old burst forward and eventually found himself in the left-wing position, where he finished calmly to restore his side’s lead.

…and then it was back to Insigne. A Miles Robinson foul inside the box gifted Toronto a penalty, which the former Napoli star fired confidently into the top corner.

Insigne came within inches of wrapping up a victory for Toronto, too. In the 89th minute, the 32-year-old, in trademark style, cut in from the left and unleashed a 30-yarder with his right foot. Goalkeeper Roman Calentano was well beaten, but Insigne’s effort crashed back off the angle of post and crossbar.

Acosta, who’d been kept quiet all game, had his moment in stoppage time. The Cincinnati No.10 unpicked the Toronto backline with a clever chipped pass into the penalty area, which led to a game-winning close-range finish from Sergio Santos.

Insigne almost had the final say, creeping in behind the Cincy defence to fire in with his left foot, but an offside flag preserved a seventh-straight MLS victory for Pan Noonen’s men. Six of those wins have come via a one-goal margin, as they once again proved they can dig in and grind out results in defence of their Supporters’ Shield crown.


Messi-less Miami
The club-record 55,000 fans who crammed inside Vancouver’s BC Place to watch the Whitecaps take on Inter Miami were disappointed to learn that they were not going to see Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez or Sergio Busquets, who were all rested for the longest possible road trip in MLS (2,800 miles).

And the Vancouverites in attendance would have been even more disappointed after full time, as the Whitecaps were unable to beat a relatively star-free Inter side.

A Robert Taylor screamer gave Miami a first-half lead, with the Finn collecting a long pass from Inter’s remaining superstar, Jordi Alba, before cutting inside from the left and rifling in a strike that would have made even Suarez and Messi’s well-stocked highlight reels.

And in the second half, Taylor turned provider. A slick step-over bought the former Boston Town loanee space down the left and he fired a low cross for Leonardo Campana to score.

Ryan Gauld pulled one back from the penalty spot in the 72nd minute and Fafa Picault crashed a header against the post for the home side with 10 minutes to play.

But Miami hung on, maintaining top spot in the East and in the race for the Supporters’ Shield. No Messi? No Suarez. No Busquets? No problem… unless you were one of the unfortunate fans who paid upwards of CA$1,000 for tickets that usually retail at around CA$40.

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MLS losers

Despair for St. Clair
In the 69th minute of a difficult away game against the Colorado Rapids, Minnesota United goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair made a case to be considered for the winners section in this week’s column.

With former Manchester United coach [obligatory mention] Eric Ramsay’s side leading former Manchester United coach [obligatory mention] Chris Armas‘ team 3-2, the Canadian shot-stopper stretched out a flailing right leg to ricochet a Rafael Navarro penalty to safety.

But just two minutes later, St. Clair committed a gaffe worthy of inclusion in one of those Nick Hancock VHS compilations that used to come out just in time for Christmas during the ’90s.

Cole Bassett’s cross from the right found Kevin Cabral 10 yards from goal. The French forward’s header was tame and directed straight at the chest of the stooping Minnesota keeper, yet somehow St. Clair conspired to fumble it limply across his goal line.

And so it ended all square between the former Manchester United coaches [obligatory mention].


Don’t do the MacMath
Another 3-3 draw and yet more goalkeeping howlers.

Third from bottom in the Western Conference with twice as many losses as wins, FC Dallas haven’t needed any help in dropping points this season. The last thing they needed when taking on table-toppers Real Salt Lake at Toyota Stadium was an inexplicable own goal from keeper Zac MacMath in first-half stoppage time.

The 32-year-old made a bigger, more hilarious mess of dealing with a floating cross from Asier Illarramendi than David Moyes did in trying to pronounce the Basque midfielder’s name that one time.

The ball was drifting harmlessly into MacMath’s grasp yet it somehow flew between his hand and into the net behind.

And it only got worse for him from there.

MacMath raced from his line to attempt to cut out an RSL breakaway in the 57th minute. Fully 40 yards from his goal, the keeper got to the ball first and only had to side-foot a simple clearance to sweep away any danger.

But MacMath somehow sliced his clearance behind himself, closer to his own goal, sending Salt Lake’s Patrickson Delgado racing through to slot into the unguarded net.

Dallas deserve immense credit for fighting back from 3-0 down to rescue a point, with Nelson Palacio’s equaliser coming in the 98th minute. It was one to forget for MacMath, though. He can only hope Hancock wasn’t watching.

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