Tag Archive: MLS Round-Up



“There was a Clint Dempsey sighting for the Clint Dempsey Sounders in Toronto, (also known as Dempsey, Ontario) who played Clint Dempsey minutes and beat the Team-That-Doesn’t-Have-Clint-Dempsey.”  So surmised Big D Soccer’s Alfredo Cuvi, reflecting on the US national team star’s debut for Seattle Sounders in their 2-1 win at Toronto FC – and simultaneously poking fun at the media hype that has surrounded the attacker’s return to the MLS.

No matter what else happened in last weekend’s fixtures, Dempsey’s debut was destined to overshadow it. It’s tempting to accredit the Sounders’ win to their new signing’s influence, but in truth his team-mates already had the job half-done by the time the ex-Tottenham forward made his entrance. Toronto’s Jonathan Osorio went close just two minutes in, but the hosts handed Seattle the lead on 16 minutes when a poorly-executed offside trap allowed Brad Evans to pick out Eddie Johnson at the back post, the Sounders frontman nodding back across goal for Mauro Rosales to score.

Clint Dempsey showed flashes of brilliance on his Sounders debut (pic: The Guardian)

On 34 minutes, Johnson’s strike partner Obafemi Martins was forced off with an injury, prompting Sigi Schmid to hand Dempsey a premature first appearance.  Five minutes later, the Sounders doubled their lead: the ungainly Lamar Neagle forced his way down the left before firing in a cross that Toronto defender Doneil Henry bizarrely drag-backed into his own net. Sounders’ Djimi Traore probably felt some sympathy towards Henry: Traore’s own famous blunder while playing for Liverpool has still not been forgotten.

Whatever Ryan Nelsen said to his Toronto charges at half-time, it worked – the hosts pulled one back just 30 seconds after the restart when Andrew Weideman’s cross ran through to Osorio on the opposing wing, and the 21-year-old kept his cool to finish well. Toronto visibly grew in confidence and the impressive Osorio headed a Bobby Convey cross just wide before substitute Robbie Earnshaw hit the post.

Just when his team looked like conceding the equaliser, Dempsey produced the piece of magic that neutrals had been waiting for, beating three men with elastic ball control before curling a shot that Joe Bendik tipped around the post. However, the real drama was saved for the last minute of injury time when the hosts’ Jeremy Brockie beat the Sounders’ offside trap and found himself clean through on goal – only for Marcus Hahnemann to make a fine stop.

Perhaps the surprise result of the round occurred in Columbus, where the Crew saw off Eastern Conference high-flyers New York Red Bulls 2-0. Top of the table going into the game, the Red Bulls were missing Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill (both injured) as well as head coach Mike Petke (suspended), but they were still unusually below-par. Columbus dominated the first half but their visitors survived until half-time with their clean sheet intact. However, the Crew were not to be denied and stepped up a gear after the break.

The first goal arrived on the hour when, after Markus Holgersson had shoved Chad Marshall at a free-kick, Federico Higuain smashed a penalty straight down the middle. Fifteen minutes later Higuain confirmed his status as Columbus’ star man with a delightful chip over Luis Robles after being set free on the right. Things could – and should – have been even worse for the hapless Red Bulls when man-mountain Jamison Olave hauled down Bernardo Anor in injury time as last man back, but ref Allen Chapman appeared to take pity on the visitors, by then long resigned to defeat.

Eastern Conference bottom club DC United have shown encouraging signs in recent weeks, but they fell to a 2-0 loss at the Philadelphia Union. DC fielded the youngest starting XI in their history – average age 23 – but it was Philadelphia’s veteran striker Conor Casey who grabbed the headlines here. The Union were on top from the start against a weary United, who’d played away in the Open Cup in midweek. Bill Hamid brilliantly tipped over from Jack McInerney to deny the hosts the opener, but Casey opened the scoring on 35 minutes, stabbing home after Sebastian Le Toux’s flick-on.

Conor Casey’s brace helped Philadelphia see off DC United (pic: MLSSoccer.com)

DC came within inches of an equaliser on 58 minutes when Collin Martin’s shot was cleared off the line by Sheanon Williams but Casey confirmed the win with a late second, the 31-year-old shinning Fabinho’s cross beyond Hamid. DC are fast becoming synonymous with giving youth a chance, and 17-year-old sub Michael Seaton made history by becoming the first MLS player to be born after the league’s first season in 1996.

In the Western Conference, the Vancouver Whitecaps claimed a 2-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes. A dreary first half was soon forgotten when Nigel Reo-Coker surged down the right to tee up Camilo Sanvezzo on the hour, and the ex-West Ham midfielder was also involved in the clinching second on 74 minutes later. Reo-Coker swung and kicked thin air in an attempt to connect with Russell Teibert’s pass (he’ll claim it was a dummy) but the ball ran through for fellow Brit Kenny Miller to fire home from the edge of the box.

Peter Vermes’ Sporting Kansas City took advantage of the Red Bulls’ slip-up to go top of the Eastern Conference with a 3-0 victory over the New England Revolution. Defender Kevin Alston made an emotional return to the Revs’ line-up, having not featured since April after being diagnosed with leukemia. Unfortunately, it was a day to forget for Alston, who was outjumped by Kansas’ Kai Kamara for the hosts’ first two goals, one midway through the first half and the other just after the break.

New England’s task was made even harder on 64 minutes when Dimitry Imbongo was shown a second yellow for flailing an elbow, but they overcame the setback continued to gamely commit men to attack. However, controversial referee Baldomero Toledo effectively ended the game as a contest on 86 minutes when he reduced the Revs to nine, ex-Crystal Palace midfielder Andy Dorman dismissed for tackling from behind. Toledo even sent off New England’s Stephen McCarthy in injury time, and although he later reduced the punishment to a yellow, it’s safe to say he won’t be on the Revs’ Christmas card list this year. Kansas completed the win through Benny Feilhaber’s curling free-kick from McCarthy’s foul.

Both the Chicago Fire and the Montreal Impact saw midweek action – in the Open Cup and Concacaf Champions League respectively – but you wouldn’t have guessed it as the two sides produced an entertaining match. The Fire took just 6 minutes to open the scoring when Joel Lindpere’s curling effort took a heavy deflection off Alessandro Nesta and wrong-footed Troy Perkins. Seventh-placed Chicago doubled their lead on 22 minutes, Dilly Duka dancing through some weak challenges – Nesta again failing to cover himself in glory – before poking past Perkins.

The Impact improved after half-time and halved the deficit on 58 minutes with Felipe Martin’s sweeping first-time shot from the edge of the area; having only entered the fray a minute earlier, Felipe lived up to his club’s name. Montreal dominated the closing stages but were unable to find an equaliser, and Chicago almost punished them when Quincy Amarikwa’s deflected effort looped up and over Perkins, forcing the ‘keeper into a world-class save. Ex-Everton defender Matteo Ferrari thought he’d equalised with a 93rd minute header, only for Fire striker Chris Rolfe to head off the line.

Saturday’s final game saw Real Salt Lake preserve their position atop the Western Conference with a 1-0 defeat of the Houston Dynamo. The game’s defining moment came when Adam Moffat fouled Olmes Garcia in the box at the end of the first half; the prolific Alvaro Saborio converted the penalty. Switching from their regular 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation, Real took a while to find their stride but were worthy winners, with Joao Plata hitting the bar.

Three of the best: Donovan (far left) celebrates his hat-trick against Dallas (pic: soccerbyives.net)

Sunday is known as the day of rest, but clearly nobody told FC Dallas and LA Galaxy, who put on a great show in a frenzied 3-3 draw. Dallas had gone five games without scoring but took just 14 minutes here to stop the rot. Some clever movement at a corner confused the Galaxy defence and gave Matt Hedges room to head beyond Carlo Cudicini. The Galaxy levelled in first-half stoppage time when Robbie Keane lofted a superb ball over Dallas’ centre-backs for Landon Donovan to run onto and score his 150th MLS goal.

The hosts bounced back to regain the lead just a minute after the interval, Blas Perez sliding the ball past Cudicini from another set-piece (though replays later showed him to be offside).  Once more, the Galaxy took time to muster an equaliser, but again, it was Donovan who came up with the goods on 72 minutes, blasting a half-volley into the net after Marcelo Sarvas’ knock-down. Not content with that, Donovan completed his hat-trick ten minutes later; a loose ball came the striker’s way and his finish was instinctive. Dempsey may be the MLS’ best-paid player and newest star, but on this showing he’ll have some job to oust Donovan as the league’s favourite son.

However, Dallas refused to lie down and on 85 minutes they restored parity again. Perez scored his second from yet another set-piece – crashing home a volley after the original free-kick had been headed away – but again replays showed his team-mates had been offside and interfering with play. The hosts almost claimed all three points in injury time when Jackson wobbled the woodwork from distance, but it would have been harsh on the Galaxy.

Western Conference strugglers Chivas USA held the Colorado Rapids to a 1-1 draw in another dramatic contest. Chivas got off to a flier thanks to Carlos Alvarez’s early goal, but they were lucky not to concede on 27 minutes when Steve Purdy handballed in the box, only for Dan Kennedy to save Deshorn Brown’s penalty.

Chivas’ lead was put in danger again six minutes later when Gabriel Farfan was dismissed for standing on Shane O’Neil’s shin, but instead of capitalising on their numerical advantage, the Rapids were reduced to 10 themselves just after half-time when Tony Cascio received his marching orders for two yellows. Seemingly trying to outdo that, Chivas had another man sent off soon after when Tristan Bowen spat at Rapids defender Chris Klute in full view of the linesman.

The Rapids finally made their advantage count on 80 minutes, sub Martin Rivero heading the equaliser on his first appearance in two months. Chivas’ poor discipline and the low attendance – just 8,221 at the StubHub Center – will only add to the growing pressure on the MLS to replace struggling Chivas with one of the several franchises waiting in the wings.

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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.