Tag Archive: MLS

THE 23rd week of MLS action threw up some interesting fixtures: first vs second in the Eastern Conference, bottom vs second-bottom in the Western Conference, and two hotly-contested derbies. There were also goals seconds after kick-off and – as has become a regular occurrence this season – late drama in stoppage time. The culmination of the US national team’s Gold Cup campaign has seen many clubs’ star players return to MLS action, and this weekend’s fixtures were all the richer for the added quality.

We start in Kansas, where first-placed Sporting KC tried to defend their hold on the Eastern Conference against second-placed New York Red Bulls. Predictably, this game was full of drama. The Red Bulls took the lead on 27 minutes thanks to Jonathan Steele’s low shot, but Kansas levelled in first-half injury time when Kei Kamara reacted quickest to pounce on the loose ball after Luis Robles had parried a Soony Saad shot.

Lloyd Sam shone in the Red Bulls’ win over Sporting KC (pic: tvasports.ca)

Red Bulls coach Mike Petke introduced ex-Charlton Athletic winger Lloyd Sam on 63 minutes, and it was a decision which turned the game around. The substitute’s first action was to play Fabian Espindola through to score from a tight angle, and six minutes later, Sam confirmed his status as a supersub when he added a fine goal of his own to make it 3-1. Goalkeeper Robles started a quick counter-attack by launching the ball half the length of the pitch; the impressive Steele centered and Sam beat the last man and Kansas custodian Jimmy Neil.

The hosts’ Dominic Dwyer halved the deficit on 92 minutes from a Kamara cross, but despite a ridiculous ten minutes’ stoppage time, Kansas couldn’t find an equaliser. New York’s Thierry Henry celebrated more than most at the final whistle, perhaps still bitter from his controversial red card in this fixture two years ago.  This win sees the Red Bulls overtake their opponents into first place, opening up a two-point lead at the top of the table.

With Kansas slipping up, third-placed Montreal Impact hoped to take advantage in their visit to lowly DC United, but it was the Washington strugglers who bagged all three points here. Luis Silva, who has quickly emerged as DC’s best player since joining from Toronto in July, scored his third goal in as many games for United, opening the scoring on 19 minutes following a period of sustained pressure from the hosts. On 52 minutes, the Impact levelled after right-back Jeb Brovsky’s clever one-two with Davy Arnaud outfoxed the DC defence and put him through on goal.

However, United were not to be denied and they regained the lead with 20 minutes to play when Derby County loanee Conor Doyle scored his first senior career goal, and it got better for Ben Olsen’s men: they added a third in injury time when Doyle broke clear; with Montreal’s defence nowhere to be seen, and with Jared Jeffrey in support for DC, Doyle had a two-on-one against Impact ‘keeper Troy Perkins. He made no mistake, unselfishly feeding Jeffrey to tap into an open net and crown an excellent result for the Eastern Conference’s bottom club.

With a raft of promising youngsters coming through, Silva in excellent form, and the talismanic Dwayne De Rosario back from injury, things are certainly looking up for DC, but Montreal supremo Marco Shallibaum will be concerned by his team’s poor run: they have now won just once in their last seven games.

The Chicago Fire kept their play-off hopes alive with a 2-1 win at the Philadelphia Union. Estonia international Joel Lindpere’s cross from the left was missed by everyone and ran through for Patrick Nyarko to open the scoring on 9 minutes. The Union responded well, with Danny Cruz and Sebastian Le Toux both going close, before defender Sheanon Williams equalised on the hour with surely the strangest goal of the season. Trying desperately to get on the end of a Le Toux free-kick, Williams performed an accidental slow-motion forward roll, and the ball followed his forward movement with perfect symmetry, carrying it into the net via his studs.

However, Williams’ amateur acrobatics counted for nothing when the Fire’s prolific Mike Magee swept home the winner against the run of play, making him the league’s top scorer with 14 goals. It was harsh on Philadelphia, who had carved out the game’s best openings, but Chicago held on for a precious three points.

Real Salt Lake needed just 80 seconds to open the scoring away to the Colorado Rapids, Kyle Beckerman crossing for the unmarked Ned Grabavoy to take advantage of an already disorganised Rapids backline. However, RSL’s defence was equally slow to react eight minutes later when Clinton Irvin’s goal-kick was flicked on; Real’s centre-backs fatally allowed the ball to bounce, giving the speedy Deshorn Brown time to nip in and slide an equaliser.

RSL shot-stopper Nick Rimando was in fine form against Colorado (pic: nesncom.wordpress.com)

The action continued to come thick and fast, with RSL taking the lead once more on 20 minutes. Robbie Findley was floored by Rapids defender Drew Moor, and – after debate as to whether the game should be abandoned due to the swirling winds overhead – Alvaro Saborio converted the penalty. Saborio and his team-mates needed goalkeeper Nick Rimando to make three fine saves to protect their lead, but even he was helpless to prevent Colorado’s equaliser on 70 minutes through substitute Jaime Castrillon’s header. The draw meant the Rapids won the Rocky Mountain Cup – contested annually by these two clubs – as they had won and drawn against Real in the first two games. The triumph represents the Rapids’ first Mountain Cup win since 2006.

The Houston Dynamo lifted themselves back into the Eastern play-off places with a 3-1 defeat of the Columbus Crew. In yet another early goal, Houston’s ex-Derby midfielder Giles Barnes used his pace to break clear on 10 minutes before falling under Chad Marshall’s challenge; Brad Davis made no mistake from the spot. Honduras international Boniek Garcia set up the hosts’ second after half an hour, robbing Agustin Viana on the half-way line before breaking forward and feeding Will Bruin, who finished well – so confidently, in fact, you wouldn’t have guessed it was Bruin’s first goal since May.

Columbus pulled once back with 75 minutes on the clock when Houston defender Kofi Sarkodie scored an unfortunate own goal, prodding the ball into his own net in an attempt to stop Crew substitute Ryan Findley doing the same. The visitors then missed a great chance to draw level as momentum swung in their favour, Justin Meram spotting the unmarked Bernardo Anor at the back post, only for the Venezuelan to side-foot wide when it looked easier to score. Houston made them pay with five minutes remaining when Cam Weaver arrowed a fine effort into the top corner with the outside of his boot to seal the victory.

Having helped the US national team to Gold Cup success last month,  San Jose Earthquakes frontman Chris Wondolowski transferred his midas touch to domestic action, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over Chivas USA in a meeting of the Western Conference’s worst two sides. Chivas – thirteen points adrift at the foot of the table – missed two good chances before San Jose opened the scoring in the final few seconds of the first half. Steven Beitashour’s inch-perfect long ball was nodded back across goal by Victor Bernardez, and Wondolowski hardly had to break stride to head into the roof of the net.

Chivas thought they’d grabbed an equaliser through Mario De Luna’s header on 58 minutes, only for the linesman to rule it out for offside, and things got worse for the California outfit when they had former Fulham man Carlos Bocanegra shown a straight red for a robust tackle on the Earthquakes’ Shea Salinas. Referee Armando Villarreal showed no hesitation in whipping out the card – the tenth red he’s shown in 23 games as an MLS official. The hosts made sure of the win late on when Salinas’ shot was parried by Dan Kennedy and Wondolowski coolly chipped home the rebound. The Earthquakes’ clean sheet – only their third of the season – will likely please interim manager Mark Watson as much as the win.

Clint Dempsey is unveiled as a Sounders player before Seattle’s win over FC Dallas (pic: komonews.com)

High-profile Seattle Sounders recruit Clint Dempsey has spoken of his excitement at being back in the MLS, and he’ll be even more eager to get started after watching from the stands as his team-mates secured a comfortable 3-0 win over FC Dallas. Over 39,000 were present at the CenturyLink field – a figure no doubt swelled by Dempsey’s attendance – and they were not disappointed as the Sounders flew out of the traps to open up a two-goal lead within 25 minutes. The first arrived with nine minutes played as Obafemi Martins headed Mauro Rosales’ free-kick over his shoulder and into the net, despite having his back to goal. Around a quarter of an hour later, Martins’ strike partner Eddie Johnson doubled the Sounders’ advantage after breaking away from the Dallas defence too easily and latching onto Brad Evans’ through ball.

Dalllas improved in the second half but Evans sealed the win from the spot in the 94th minute after Lamar Neagle had been felled by David Ferreira – it was no more than Ferreira deserved for his awful bleach-blonde mullet. An impressive performance from the Sounders, but they should have points deducted for showing a dreadful video of Dempsey “rapping” as part of his unveiling as a Seattle player.

In Portland, Oregon, the Timbers had to settle for a 1-1 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps in a feisty Cascadia derby that saw 30 fouls and six yellow cards. With the teams separated by just two points in the Western Conference, this game was always likely to be close, and so it proved. The Timbers survived a penalty scare just 10 seconds in when Kekuta Manneh went down under Pa-Modou Kah’s challenge, and on 33 minutes the hosts had a claim of their own ignored by ref Radu Petrescu after Darlington Nagbe collapsed in a heap under the attention of a group of Caps defenders.

The first goal arrived on 49 minutes, Timbers targetman Ryan Johnson heading home from Diego Valeri’s cross, but with 20 minutes to play, Caps’ Jordan Harvey restored parity from Camilo Sanvezzo’s corner to ensure it ended all square.

Sunday’s only fixture saw Ryan Nelsen’s Toronto pull off an impressive victory at the New England Revolution. Matias Laba’s 2nd minute goal was the difference between the two teams. Winning the ball on the half-way line, Laba produced a fine solo effort, slaloming past two challenges and finishing at the second attempt. The Revs came back strongly, and only goal-line clearances from Ashtone Morgan and Richard Eckersley preserved Toronto’s lead. New England’s Andrew Farrell was unlucky not to get an assist from his brilliantly improvised overhead-kick cross, but with the hosts’ attack seemingly having an off day, the Canadians were able to hold out. Incredibly, this win marks the first time Toronto have won and kept a clean sheet since July 2012 – and that was also against the poor old Revs.

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.