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MLS Western Conference Week 19: Missed Connections

Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning made his long-awaited return against the Colorado Rapids and allowed just one goal out of Colorado's 17 attempts.
Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning made his long-awaited return against the Colorado Rapids and allowed just one goal out of Colorado's 17 attempts.

Me: Soccer player wearing two-tone green soccer shirt, white shorts and expensive shoes. You: Large, rectangular object wearing hexagonal netting. I kicked a ball in your general direction several times over the course of 90 minutes; fate intervened. Hoping to see you again on Sunday?

The Portland Timbers made 19 attempts on Chivas' goal on Saturday, failing, as we're all well aware, to hit the back of the net every time. It wasn't our week. Again.

It may come as some comfort that this failure to finish was a theme throughout the Western Conference this past week. San Jose made 24 attempts on the Chicago Fire's goal and only scored one of them, in the eighth minute of stoppage time, again squeezing a draw out of a loss. Colorado logged 17 shots against Seattle in their losing effort, while Vancouver and Dallas each had 13 shots in their losses to Salt Lake and Los Angeles respectively.

In all, the five Western Conference teams that drew or lost last week made 86 attempts -- an average of 17 shots per match -- but they scored only three.

The bitter irony is that the four winning teams scored six out of 36 attempts -- an average of just nine shots per match, just a little over half what the losing and drawing teams managed.

These numbers are atypical, to say the least. By comparison, Week 18 saw losing and drawing teams take 11 shots per match, while winning teams took 13. In Week 17 all Western Conference teams took an average of 12 shots per match.

Indeed, as Gavin Wilkinson put it, "It's a cruel, cruel game at times."

1. San Jose Earthquakes

Last week: 1-1 draw vs Chicago

Yeah, 24 shots, as mentioned above. 11 on target, so, ten saves from Sean Johnson, a few of them absolutely magnificent. The Quakes were unlucky not to get a win, but in another way they were incredibly lucky to get the draw, as the goal finally came in the eighth minute of stoppage time.

Would you have expected anything less from San Jose?

Week 20: bye

2. Seattle Sounders

Last week: 2-1 win at Colorado

Michael Gspurning made his long-awaited return to the Seattle lineup and picked up his sixth win in eight games as the Sounders netminder. With Gspurning in goal and Eddie Johnson continuing his torrid pace -- five goals and an assist in his last six matches -- Seattle is on a five-match unbeaten streak and look like they've righted their ship.

Week 20 projection: 2-2 draw vs Los Angeles

3. Real Salt Lake

Last week: 2-1 win vs Vancouver

RSL finally got around to playing Vancouver for the first time and won on a Alvaro Saborio brace (including a PK), his fifth and sixth goals in his past four matches. RSL fans were happy to see Kyle Beckerman return to the lineup after another suspension, as they are pleased that Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Kenny Mansally continue to impress defensively. Their 5-0 defeat to San Jose three weeks ago seems like ancient history.

Week 20 projection: 3-2 loss at Colorado

4. LA Galaxy

Last week: 1-0 win at Dallas

The Galaxy continued their ridiculous run of 20 straight goals scored or assisted by one of their designated players, dating back to June 23 (excluding own goals).

Week 20 projection: 2-2 draw at Seattle

5. Vancouver Whitecaps

Last week: 2-1 loss at Salt Lake

It's going to be hard for Martin Bonjour not to take personally Martin Rennie's decision to sign veteran Irish center back Andy O'Brien less than a week after he failed to adequately challenge Alvaro Saborio in the air for RSL's winning goal. Adding the 33-year-old former Leeds United man makes the Whitecaps' defense the oldest-er back four in the league.

Week 20: bye

6. Chivas USA

Last week: 1-0 win at Portland

Everybody knows Chivas USA has by far the fewest goals in the Western Conference, but did you know they also have the fewest shots and shots on target? Yeah, they still beat us three times.

Week 20: bye

7. Colorado Rapids

Last week: 2-1 loss vs Seattle

Nothing's working for Colorado right now. Their rough stretch continued against Seattle, logging their eighth loss in nine matches. They aren't really playing badly; it's just not happening for them. Maybe it'll work next time.

Week 20 projection: 3-2 win at Salt Lake

8. FC Dallas

Last week: 1-0 loss vs Los Angeles

George John returned to the starting lineup, looking a step behind the whole game and earning a (dubious) yellow card in the process. So, he's going to take some time getting back into things. Maybe Portland can take advantage of that?

Week 20: a match in Portland