MLS: Five talking points from Week 24

Robbie Keane

The likes of the LA Galaxy's Robbie Keane and New York City FC's Kwadwo Poku provided us with some of the main storylines from Week 24 of MLS action.

The Sounders are back

Going into Sunday’s clash with Orlando City SC at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders were on a horrendous run of form that had seen them fall to sixth in the Western Conference after losing eight of their past nine games.

Sigi Schmid’s side had also scored just twice over that period but, with fit-again Obafemi Martins back in starting XI alongside former Rubin Kazan strike-partner Nelson Valdez, it was almost as if the past six weeks never happened.

A Martins brace and debut strike from Valdez saw the Supporters’ Shield holders thump their Kaka-led opponents 4-0, while centre-back Roman Torres put in a strong performance in his first MLS appearance to help preserve the clean sheet.

With fellow summer signing Andreas Ivanschitz still to be introduced into the line-up and Clint Dempsey also expected to return from a hamstring problem in the near future, Seattle could well be handing out a few more thrashings over the final stretch of the regular-season.

I'm in love with the Poku

With Frank Lampard once again out injured, Kwadwo Poku was given another chance to prove his starting credentials for the visit of Supporters’ Shield leaders D.C. United and he did not disappoint.

The 23-year-old midfielder was Man of the Match in Thursday night’s 3-1 home victory, bagging a goal and assist and even hitting the woodwork, in a performance which had the Yankee Stadium crowd signing his name throughout.

With NYCFC winning all four games that he has started this season, it’s clear that the Ghanaian needs to be in the line-up going forward but, with Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, Mix Diskerud and the in-form Tommy McNamara all competing for places, head coach Jason Kreis has a tough decision to make.

Robbie Keane entering the MVP race?

After his MVP-winning 2014 season, a nagging groin strain saw Robbie Keane make a slow start to this term, as the Irishman featured in just five of the LA Galaxy’s opening 17 games.

The MLS Cup holders drew seven of those matches without their star skipper, while scoring just 16 goals, but their form since his return has now seen them win seven of their past nine fixtures to rise to the top of the Western Conference.

The former Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool striker has scored 11 times over that period and, after bagging a brace in a five-minute spell during the second-half of weekend’s 2-1 win at FC Dallas, talk of a second-straight MVP award is starting to surface.

“I always want to win, you know? I always want to be successful,” Keane told MLSSoccer.com after the match. “I keep saying every year, I always want to better myself every year. This year might be a little bit difficult [to better my numbers from 2014], in terms of I was out for two months [with a groin injury], but if you look at goals per game and assists, it's probably up there with the best I've had.”

He has some work to do catch up with the main contenders – Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco, Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber and Columbus Crew SC striker Kei Kamara – but the Galaxy striker will certainly be in the conversation if he keeps up his current form over the coming months.

Sporting KC show their MLS Cup credentials

Keane’s Galaxy are widely considered the MLS Cup favourites – and rightly so with Steven Gerrard and Giovani dos Santos also at their disposal – but Sporting KC look like they could well give them a run for their money come play-off time.

Peter Vermes’ side were involved in potentially the game of the season on Saturday night, twice coming back from a two-goal deficit against the high-flying Vancouver Whitecaps to secure a 4-3 home win thanks to three scores in the final 10 minutes.

The result kept KC, who are leading the league in points per game, undefeated at home this season and undoubtedly showed why they have to be considered serious championship contenders at this stage.

Sean Johnson reminds everyone of his shot-stopping prowess

Kennedy Igboananike may have scored two of the Chicago Fire’s goals in Sunday night’s dramatic 3-3 draw at the Philadelphia Union but it was goalkeeper Sean Johnson who the visitors had to thank for their hard-fought road point.

The long-time No. 1 produced eight outstanding saves off the Union’s 11 shots on target – several of them coming within the final five minutes, as the bailed out his struggling defence time and time again amid a barrage of attacks.

“I thought Sean was outstanding tonight,” head coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com at the final whistle. “Sean’s a good goalkeeper, and if the ball’s there to be saved, he’ll make the save. It’s not surprising when he makes those saves, he’s in there, he’s a good goalkeeper and he makes the saves when he should.”

Once labelled as potential US national team starter, the five-times capped keeper has dropped off Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar of late but his latest performance was a firm reminder of just what he is capable of when on form.

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