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MLS Post-Mortem: Giovinco bests Drogba, controversy in San Jose and more from week eight

It was an eventful week in MLS, punctuated by a series of controversy.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It was an exciting week in MLS, but there was one outlier: Columbus Crew SC's 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo.

After an 18th-minute red card to Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric, and subsequent penalty netted by Kei Kamara, the Dynamo sat back deep in their own half and absorbed Columbus attacks, allowing the hosts to rack up possession totals. They simply passed the ball around until the end of the game, with neither team mounting a significant attack. The result was this completed passes chart from the Crew:

They completed 576 passes, 371 more than the Dynamo did. It was an incredibly uneventful game—the local Columbus announcers mentioned that more than enough times—but at least we can say it was the only one of its kind.

There were plenty more games on the weekend:

Giovinco wins the Drogba battle

Sebastian Giovinco and Didier Drogba—arguably the two best players in MLS—met for the first time in 2016 on Saturday. It was Giovinco who came out on top, scoring twice in a 2-0 Toronto FC victory. TFC were stout defensively, crowding the central areas and taking Ignacio Piatti and Drogba out of the game; the Montreal Impact failed to create almost any chances because of that.

Toronto tried a 4-4-2 diamond formation in this game, and it actually worked pretty well. It allowed them to play narrowly and get on the counter, with Michael Bradley winning balls in defensive midfield and distributing from deep. They condensed the game in this formation, and were thus able to get on counters like these:

The one problem with this formation was that Jonathan Osorio was forced to play as a number-ten, and that's just not who he is. The Canadian struggled when asked to provide passes to Giovinco and Jozy Altidore around the box, so attacks often sputtered out with a turnover in midfield.

It's not a huge concern, though, as Osorio is serviceable at the position and the attack is talented enough to overcome the deficiency.

Toronto FC play compact, organized defense and have a multi-faceted and speedy attack that combines an impressive Altidore work rate and skillful play from Giovinco to pick apart defenses, all with Michael Bradley acting as the facilitator from deep in midfield. Everything's clicking right now.

Vancouver Whitecaps get back on track

The Whitecaps have struggled to live up to expectations this season, but they were able to grab a nice home victory over the best team in MLS, FC Dallas. While it may not have been the prettiest game—the winning goal came off FCD defender Maynor Figueroa—it did the job for Vancouver, who overcame their finishing difficulties with three goals at BC Place.

Octavio Rivero still hasn't gotten on the scoresheet, but he, along with the rest of the team, appeared to regain confidence. They won the midfield battle, thanks to Matias Laba, and saw young right-back Fraser Aird neutralize Fabian Castillo. They employed route one soccer, a strategy designed to send constant long balls toward the forwards and let them run onto it. Their passing chart shows as much:

That chart shows every single unsuccessful pass made by the Whitecaps. Many of them were long balls.

It's not a strategy that works for everyone, but the Whitecaps used it well, creating opportunistic goals and constantly putting the Dallas defense under pressure. Whether or not it's sustainable remains to be seen, however, and the 'Caps are still looking to find a goal from a forward.

But when Pedro Morales returns from injury, they will get much more midfield creativity. And when you have a goalkeeper like David Ousted playing the way he played on Saturday, you will win some games.

Refs come to spotlight again in SKC-San Jose match

Last week, the match between Orlando City and the New England Revolution included two horrendous blown calls by the referee, with the game finishing 2-2 after one bad non-call and one bad penalty call. This week, there was a similar occurrence, although this time one team rightly felt hard-done by.

Somehow, this tackle did not earn a penalty kick for Sporting Kansas City:

I get it, the ref is human and shouldn't be expected to make every call. But come on. That was too obvious to miss, and it gave the San Jose Earthquakes—on the back foot for a lot of the game before this—some momentum, which led to the penalty decision mentioned above. SKC keeper Tim Melia was called for a penalty, and Chris Wondolowski coolly finished it, giving the Quakes a victory.

The home side absorbed Sporting's attack for much of the first half and didn't threaten a ton offensively, but they tightened up as the match went on and showed why they are so tough to beat.

But it is hard to ignore the game-changing no-call. SKC have a right to feel robbed.

Other notes:

Real Salt Lake's unbeaten streak was ended by the LA Galaxy, who were all over the place offensively and easily could have scored more than the five they put on the board.

Andrea Pirlo didn't play (coach's decision) for NYCFC against the Philadelphia Union. I was sort of hoping NYC would win and prove they don't need some old DP, but that didn't happen, as the Union got the full three points. Jim Curtain has that team in a good spot right now.

—The Colorado Rapids continue to make their case as the early-season breakout team, as they won again with Jermaine Jones in the lineup. 3-1 was the final score against the Seattle Sounders, with Jones scoring again.

D.C. United beat a hapless Revolution side at home on Saturday. Luciano Acosta scored again, this time with a magnificent chip that definitely should win Goal of the Week. I see no reason why he shouldn't be in the starting lineup.

—The New York Red Bulls broke through on Sunday against Orlando City. Bradley Wright-Phillips scored a brace—his first two goals of the year—and Mike Grella scored the equalizer just minutes after referee Hilario Grajeda failed to call a foul on what should have been a clear red card to Red Bulls defender Karl Ouimette. It's not been a good year for PRO.