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Monday, 27 June 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Midweek Round 15 – Of a Peppering in Philly, Nothing Much to See Here in Chicago and Another Pacific Northwest Six-Goal Cracker

Three matches worth of action packed into this round of midweek fixtures; two on Wednesday night and another on Thursday.

    Philadelphia Union returned home following their unsatisfying trip to Vancouver to play host to a resurgent Sporting KC. The Union ripe with striking options with the return of Carlos Ruiz from the Gold Cup and the recent acquisition of Veljiko Paunović started an unusual lineup. Their solid defensive core was intact, but Ruiz started up top with the young Jack McInerney, while Sébastien Le Toux and Paunović were stationed in the midfield.

    Their attacking setup allowed them to dominate much of the action throughout the match; as with most of their season they were unable to press that advantage. KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen stood on his head facing 26 shots and stopping all 7 on target, while his team stepped up to block a further 7 attempts. Despite the KC heroics the story of the match was Philly’s profligacy in front of goal. Ruiz’s shot off the crossbar in the 71st was their best chance; Le Toux sent a pair of strikes just wide as the match came to a close with both sides level 0-0 the result.

    Philadelphia will be disappointed to have not collected all three points though they notched their first clean sheet since April 30th. Sporting KC return home unbeaten in seven matches having kept four clean sheets in their last five matches to host Vancouver on Saturday night. While Philly stay at home and await the visit of Chivas USA.

    The other Wednesday match ended in a similar result as Chicago hosted Real Salt Lake to a 0-0 draw. This match was an altogether lacklustre affair. Both sides traded mediocre chances throughout the match. For Real, Jamison Olave’s header just over the bar in the 13th minute and a Collen Warner point-blank bullet that was handily saved by Sean Johnson in the Chicago goal were the closest they came to scoring. The Fire had a pair of attempts that could have broken the deadlock: Patrick Nyarko’s clever run and short-side shot in the 61st and a poke shot by the returning Marco Pappa well saved by Nick Rimando.

    Chicago drew a home match for the fifth straight time, while Salt Lake recorded their third straight draw. Real return home to host Toronto on Saturday night; Chicago gets an exit day of rest as they stay in the Windy City to host New York on Sunday.

    The Thursday night feature match saw New York travel to Seattle to take on the Sounders at their newly minted CenturyLink Field. Renamed as a consequence of overarching business concerns the match was played in front of a new record crowd of 46,065 as the upper tier was opened to allow extra seats to be sold for a three-game pack featuring the Red Bulls, San Jose, and a friendly versus Manchester United.

    Seattle decided to not wait for injury time as they had the previous Saturday in Toronto. Two goals off of corner kicks in the 11th and 12th minute from Erik Friberg and Osvaldo Alonso gave Seattle an early lead. Alonso who has added some attack to his strong defensive performances to become a goal scoring box-to-box midfielder picked up his second with a deflected strike from outside the box, while Friberg’s was similar though much prettier. Another partial clearance from a corner fell to him; he lost his man with a cut back and sent a curling shot into the far corner, around the defenders and past a blinded Greg Sutton in goal.

    Dane Richards scored a cracker of his own to draw New York back a goal before the half closed. He made just enough space at the top right-hand corner of the box to get off a seeing-eye chip that was just out of the reach of a stretching Kasey Keller in the Seattle net, not unlike the Eric Hassli goal from a same spot two weeks earlier.

    New York came back into the match in the second half and drew level off a fortunate mistake induced by some clever play. Dwayne De Rosario sprayed the ball wide to an overlapping Jan Gunnar Solli, who cheekily nutmegged Servando Carrasco before sending a dangerous cross in front of the Seattle goal. Zach Scott, in place for the suspended Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, was forced to attempt to deal with the ball but only succeeded in directing it in past Keller into the Seattle net. 

    Rising to the occasion to win the match for the Seattle faithful was crowd-favourite Roger Levesque. His first of two strikes came in the 67th minute, another case of defensive lapses by the Red Bulls, as Levesque got in front of his marker to flick a Leo Gonzalez corner kick in at the near post. His second was exemplary of his hustle and commitment. He chased down a back pass, pressured Sutton until he panicked kicking the ball right at Levesque, who calmly collected it and stroked it into the unguarded net.

    The victory was capped with an exceptional celebration as Levesque mimicked dropping off the back of a boat over the advertising boards plugging his nose as if he intended to go scuba diving. Good times were had by all, except the Red Bulls who will be disappointed with their poor defending of set pieces, a weakness of theirs all season. 

    Both sides return to action on Sunday night; New York travels to Chicago and Seattle host New England.

Philadelphia v Kansas City 0-0; Chicago v Salt Lake 0-0; Seattle v New York 4-2.

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