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.
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.
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.