Archive for July, 2013



The 22nd week of this season’s MLS had a bit of everything: a seven-goal thriller, some questionable refereeing (with three debatable penalties in the aforementioned game) and some half-forgotten Brits resurfacing on the other side of the pond. Once again, the league demonstrated its growing ability to entertain, and it’s little surprise that attendances are on the rise across the country.

Real Salt Lake, fresh from an eventful 3-2 loss to Sporting Kansas City in which they conceded the winner in the 97th minute, travelled to the New York Red Bulls hoping for a more straightforward contest. However, this was anything but straightforward. With each side challenging at the top of their respective division, this game was always likely to be important, but few could have predicted the end-to-end goalfest that followed.

Real’s Alvaro Saborio (left) grabbed a hat-trick but still ended up on the losing team. (Picture: bleacherreport.net)

The Red Bulls opened the scoring on 11 minutes when Tim Cahill yet again proved his aerial ability, launching himself at a Thierry Henry free-kick and heading between ‘keeper Jeff Attinella’s legs. The goal was made all the more impressive by the fact that just minutes earlier Cahill had been lying injured on the sidelines, seemingly unlikely to continue. Real had clearly not learned their lesson, because just 12 minutes later, another Henry set-piece caused panic in the visitors’ box. Henry’s free-kick from the right was cleared to the edge of the area, but Abdoulie Mansally was adjudged – somewhat harshly – to have dragged Red Bulls’ Brandon Barklage to the floor in trying to clear the ball. Fabian Espindola coolly chipped the resulting penalty down the middle to double the advantage and leave Real on the brink.

Just when it seemed like the Red Bulls would take a two-goal lead into the interval, Salt Lake were awarded a slightly fortunate spot-kick of their own. Olmes Garcia broke through from the wing and collided with centre-back Markus Holgersson, and Alvaro Saborio converted the penalty to ensure his team grabbed their lifeline with both hands.

The start of the second half saw a calmer contest, but events became frenzied once more late on. On 80 minutes, Saborio scuffed a low shot past Luis Robles after good work from substitute Luis Gil and suddenly Real were level. The Red Bulls were still reeling from that setback when their visitors broke again on the other wing, with Joao Plata – also fresh off the bench – tearing down the left before centering for Saborio. The Costa Rica international had options but went alone, avoiding two tackles before brilliantly improvising a prodded shot into the top corner. Real celebrated like it was the winner – and with just eight minutes of normal time remaining, it looked that way.

However, New York’s Fabian Espindola had clearly not read the script. With 88 minutes played, the Argentine launched a solo attack on the left, trying to push-and-run his way into the box before going to ground only too happily under the attention of two defenders. He was fortunate to have been given the penalty, but Espindola made no mistake from 12 yards, putting considerably more power into this spot-kick than his first-half chip.

Incredibly, the Red Bulls weren’t done there. By the fourth minute of stoppage time, Salt Lake were understandably looking tired, and failed to cut out an attack in midfield. The ball was worked out wide to Barklage, and his inch-perfect cross was met by Dax McCarty’s flying header: 4-3. Having lost to an injury-time goal for the second week running, Real boss Jason Kreis will have to be careful to keep dressing room morale high.

There was further refereeing controversy in Vancouver as the Whitecaps lost 1-0 to the Philadelphia Union. The hosts were reduced to 10 men with just eight minutes played following an ugly altercation between Vancouver’s Jun Marques Davidson and Union midfielder Keon Daniel. As Davidson attempted to flick the ball clear from the foetal position, Daniel stormed in, launching a dangerous kick. Davidson was understandably furious and retaliated with a headbutt – for which he was sent off – but referee Baldomero Toledo inexplicably failed to remove Daniel from the field as well.

Davidson mid-headbutt on Keon Daniel – ref Toledo looks terrified. (Picture: theprovince.com)

Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Caps battled well and dominated for much of the game, with Russell Teibert, Kekuta Manneh and ex-Rangers striker Kenny Miller all going close, but they were made to pay for their wastefulness when Philadelphia sub Antoine Hoppenot delivered a cruel blow on 85 minutes, finishing well from Aaron Wheeler’s backheel.

DC United had no-one to blame but themselves for another abject performance against the New England Revolution. United took a rare early lead through Luis Silva, but once again surrendered the points when the Revs’ Dimitry Imbongo and Diego Fagundez scored in the second half. It’s not looking good for the MLS’ worst team: DC have now lost four of their last five games and have several players ruled out through injury.

Toronto FC claimed their first win for six games, beating the Columbus Crew 2-1. The Crew took the lead on 17 minutes when, after fine build-up in midfield, Dominic Oduro’s powerful shot from near the sideline somehow beat Joe Bendik, but Ryan Nelsen’s Toronto turned things round with two late goals. Jonathan Osorio’s 87th minute equaliser (set up by ex-Reading winger Bobby Convey) looked to have rescued a point for the Eastern Conference strugglers, but things got even better when Convey was on hand again to tee up Andrew Wiedeman to clinch a 94th minute winner.

High-flying Western Conference rivals Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy met at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, with the Rapids prevailing 2-0 on home turf. The Galaxy were beaten by a goal either side of half-time: former Wigan midfielder Hendry Thomas headed home Dillon Powers’ corner on 41 minutes, before Powers himself made the game safe two minutes after the interval. It’s been a fine first season in the MLS for Powers – who only joined the Rapids from the Austin Aztex in January – but his performance here was overshadowed by one of the season’s most bizarre refereeing decisions (and there’s been a few).

In the first half, the Galaxy’s Juninho skipped past a defender before being unceremoniously dumped to the ground by Hendry Thomas. Juan Guzman pulled out a yellow card; Thomas, already on a booking, no doubt prepared to make the long walk to the dressing room. Imagine his, the Galaxy’s and the spectators’ surprise, then, when Guzman thrust the card in Juninho’s face instead, accusing him of simulation!

The Montreal Impact finally got back on track with a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City ending a five-game barren run. Having won last week with a goal in the 97th minute, Kansas got a taste of their own medicine here when the Impact’s Blake Smith (another MLS newcomer) converted from Marco Di Vaio’s through ball in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

Cam Weaver (right) seems unsure how to react after scoring his first goal since May 2011. (Picture: mlssoccer.com)

There’ll likely be no-one happier than Houston Dynamo forward Cam Weaver this week, after the 30-year-old scored his first goal for over two years in the 1-1 draw with Chicago. Weaver’s opener on the hour was cancelled out by the much more prolific Mike Magee two minutes later. Both sides suffered serious injuries, with Houston’s ex-Hearts winger Andrew Driver forced off with an achilles injury, before Fire midfielder Alex followed suit later in the first half.

Saturday’s final game saw the San Jose Earthquakes claim a 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers, a crucial three points in the Earthquakes’ bid for a play-off place. San Jose defender Victor Bernardez – on spot-kick duty in Chris Wondolowski’s absence – converted from 12 yards on 55 minutes, and Steven Lenhart doubled the advantage soon after from a quickly-taken free-kick. Darlington Nagbe pulled one back for the Timbers to set up a tense finale, but even after the hosts’ Marvin Chavez was sent off for two yellow cards in one minute (the second for blocking the taking of the free-kick he had given away), they were unable to find an equaliser.

The Seattle Sounders saw off Chivas USA in Sunday’s only fixture. Chivas, recently accused of discrimination against non-Spanish-speaking players, took the lead through new signing Erick Torres early on, but Brad Evans levelled the score on 23 minutes. The Sounders grabbed all three points thanks to Lamar Neagle’s second-half goal, and playmaker Mauro Rosales will be pleased to have got the assist after the Argentine’s recent poor form had put his future at Seattle in doubt.

The MLS All-Stars will play Italy’s AS Roma in the annual All-Stars game on Wednesday, 31 July at Kansas City’s Sporting Park. Roma’s participation marks the first involvement of an Italian team against the MLS’ best. Kansas coach Peter Vermes will lead the All-Stars, whose squad includes Thierry Henry, Landon Donovan and Marco Di Vaio. Tim Cahill and Robbie Keane were initially included, but withdrew because of injury.


Round 21 of the MLS season saw Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City travel to Western Conference table-toppers Real Salt Lake in what promised to be a mouth-watering clash. Elsewhere, there were decidedly fewer goals than the previous week, with three of the ten fixtures ending goalless and only one game that could be considered one-sided.

Quite clearly, the standout match of the weekend occurred on Saturday when Real Salt Lake welcomed Sporting KC as the first-placed clubs went head to head. Despite their geographical separation limiting the games between these two sides, there was clearly no love lost – the hosts’ Chris Wingert was booked just 13 seconds in for flying into Sporting’s Kai Kamara, a challenge that warranted a straight red. After the visitors’ Soony Saad had squandered two decent openings, Real opened the scoring on 56 minutes, Robbie Findley capitalising on goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen’s spilled catch.

Sporting KC’s Ike Opara wheels away after his controversial winner at Real Salt Lake

However, the Royals’ joy didn’t last long. On 66 minutes the hapless Wingert was dismissed for a second yellow, and within 60 seconds Sporting were level as Soony Saad swivelled to volley home after a goalmouth scramble. The bad-tempered game looked set to peter out into a draw as Real’s ten men clung on, but in the seventh minute of five minutes of injury time, Sporting centre-back Ike Opara headed a late, late winner, causing near silence at the Rio Tinto Stadium.

The week’s MLS action had begun on Wednesday with Colorado Rapids’ 2-1 win over the New England Revolution. Juan Toja had got the Revs off to a fine start with his first MLS goal since 2008, but Colorado regrouped and Nick LaBrocca equalised on the hour before visiting defender Jose Goncalves gift-wrapped the three points for the Rapids by inadvertently deflecting a cross beyond his own ‘keeper.

Wednesday’s other fixture saw Chivas USA clinch a 1-0 win over Ryan Nelsen’s Toronto in what was a tale of two Erics. Chivas’ Eric Avila was sent off on 24 minutes, but the hosts somehow claimed the victory when debutant Erick Torres (a signing from Mexico’s CD Guadalajara, for whom, ironically, Chivas were supposed to be a feeder club) found the net. Struggling Toronto are now well off the pace and look set to be in a scrap with DC United to avoid finishing bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Toronto did put in an improved performance three days later to earn a creditable 0-0 draw at home to New York Red Bulls. The hosts dominated a seemingly disinterested Red Bulls side, but, with Robert Earnshaw sidelined through injury, lacked a cutting edge in attack. Indeed, their closest attempt came via defender Richard Eckersley, when the ex-Man United full-back forced Luis Robles into a world-class stop. Both teams had a goal disallowed, although Tim Cahill’s header was later shown to have been scored from an onside position.

In Washington, the Seattle Sounders were held to a 1-1 draw by the Colorado Rapids – the visitors thereby ending a seven-game losing streak in this fixture. The hosts’ promising right-back DeAndre Yedlin – recently inducted into the MLS All-Stars team for the first time – gave his side the lead with a header, but Rapids’ Drew Moor cancelled it out with a nodded effort of his own.

DeAndre’s rising stock will have been accelerated by his goal this week

Two teams desperate for a win met when the Montreal Impact faced FC Dallas, but typically, neither was able to break the deadlock. Montreal, still clinging on to second in the Eastern Conference, were the better side – Justin Mapp hit the bar in the first half – but Dallas defended resolutely. The Impact have now gone five games without a win, while Dallas’ barren run was extended to eight matches.

Jose Goncalves made up for his own goal three days earlier by scoring at the right end in the Revs’ 2-0 win at Columbus Crew. The Portuguese converted from Lee Nguyen’s 91st minute corner, and Nguyen made sure of the win three minutes later by teeing up Diego Fagundez.

The clash between the Philadelphia Union and Portland Timbers was delayed for almost an hour due to lightening, but the players’ boredom during the wait to play was soon shared by the fans as the teams played out a drab 0-0 draw. Danny Cruz was impressive for the Union but couldn’t find a way past Timbers’ man-mountain shot-stopper Donovan Ricketts. Philadelphia will be disappointed not to have got the win, but without manager John Hackworth (suspended) and in lieu of the terrible conditions, a draw is an acceptable result.

The biggest margin of victory this week was achieved by Chicago Fire in their 4-1 demolition of struggling DC United. Chicago raced into a 3-0 first-half lead against the demoralised visitors, inspired by Estonia international Joel Lindpere’s goal and two assists. In-form forward Chris Rolfe bagged a goal at each end of the first-half, while Mike Magee’s penalty made him the league’s joint-top scorer. Luis Silva’s spectacular consolation on 58 minutes was all United could muster in response.

The final game of the weekend pitted Western Conference rivals LA Galaxy against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Camilo Sanvezzo gave the Whitecaps the perfect start by netting his 13th goal of the campaign, but Bruce Arena’s men came from behind with goals from Jose Villarreal and Gyasi Zardes.


This weekend’s Major League Soccer action – the 20th week of the season – threw up some interesting results and a masterclass from an ex-Premier League hero. There were also several red cards and a sprinkling of emphatic wins, with three games won by a margin of three goals or more.

Kicking off the weekend’s fixtures was the clash between the Philadelphia Union and Chivas USA on Friday night. The hosts, comfortably within the top half of the Eastern Conference, knew a win would keep them in the race to finish top, while Chivas desperately needed a result to avoid being cast adrift at the bottom of the Western Conference.

For a while it looked like the visitors were in with a chance of snatching an unlikely win – Colombian striker Jose Erick Correa fired his side into an early lead, one which they held until half-time. However, things unravelled for Chivas after the break, as Philadelphia equalised through Brian Carroll before late goals from Michael Farfan and Conor Casey ensured all three points remained at the PPL Park. Chivas were hardly helped by Josue Soto’s second yellow card with the score still at 1-1, and the pouring rain provided perfect pathetic fallacy for Los Rojiblancos  at the final whistle as they came away with nothing.

The pick of Saturday’s games was undoubtedly the top-of-the-table clash in the Eastern Conference between league leaders Montreal Impact and the New York Red Bulls, close behind in third. Given the clubs’ proximity in the standings, no-one could have predicted the one-sided game that followed.

Henry celebrates a virtuoso performance against Montreal

The warning signs appeared as early as the 10th minute, when Thierry Henry found Eric Alexander and the midfielder danced through a series of weak Montreal challenges before beating Troy Perkins. Henry got on the scoresheet himself just six minutes later, expertly flicking Fabian Espindola’s inch-perfect cross beyond the beleaguered goalkeeper. The Impact, marshalled by ex-Italy international Alessandro Nesta in defence, managed to stem the tide until half-time, but on 63 minutes the Red Bulls sealed the win. Yet again, Henry was heavily involved, sending over a corner from the left for an unmarked Tim Cahill to head beyond Perkins, and Péguy Luyindula made it 4-0 with a late penalty won by Lloyd Sam.

Elsewhere, Scotsman Adam Moffat’s fine brace helped the Houston Dynamo to a 2-1 win at the New England Revolution, who saw Dimitry Imbongo sent off with eight minutes left. Moffat’s goals (his first a thunderous goal-of-the-season-contender volley) were made all the sweeter by the fact that he was the first opposition player to score at New England’s Gillette Stadium since 11 May. Ryan Nelsen’s Toronto FC fell to a 3-0 defeat away to Sporting Kansas City, helping Kansas to leapfrog Montreal into top place in the Eastern Conference. They won thanks to Sonny Saad’s brace and Claudio Bieler’s clincher after Toronto had been reduced to 10 men for Reggie Lambe’s foul, and the performance will have done Sporting’s fanbase no harm: playing in front of Sporting Park’s highest-ever attendance, the win could convince a few floating fans to stick around.

The weekend’s other 3-0 win was achieved by Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake on their trip to FC Dallas. Despite Fabian Castillo shining for the hosts, it was Real who opened the scoring shortly before half-time through Javier Morales, and the win was sealed in the second half with strikes from Ned Grabavoy and Olmes Garcia. Dallas will be disappointed not to have put up more of a fight: a win here would have propelled them to second place in the table.

Adam Moffat (centre) is held aloft by his team-mates after netting both of Houston’s goals

Rounding off Saturday’s action was the game between San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders, and Portland Timbers versus LA Galaxy. San Jose grabbed all three points in their encounter thanks to Walter Martinez’s first goal in the MLS, while Portland saw off their visitors 2-1, coming from behind to snatch a last-gasp winner via Andrew Jean-Baptiste’s 94th minute strike.  The final fixture of the weekend pitted the Vancouver Whitecaps against the Chicago Fire on Sunday evening; an impressive showing from the Caps saw them run out 3-1 winners, tricky Brazilian Camilo scoring twice.

In Utah, the US national team progressed to the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 4-1 win over Cuba, but the regional heavyweights’ blushes were only spared in the second half after Cuba had taken a shock lead through Jose Alfonso. Goals from Landon Donovan and Joe Corona turned the game back in the US’ favour, before Chris Wondolowski came off the bench to net twice.