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Saturday, 25 June 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Weekend Round 14 - Of Living Strong, Trouble in the Fort, a Community Shield of Sorts, Charlie Davies Poor Balance, Whitecaps Cresting and Madness in Portland.

    The weekend slate of matches kicked off Friday night with Sporting KC hosting San Jose at the glitteringly new Livestrong Sporting Park. Their second home match in their new home was more fruitful than the first. After the impressive performance in Dallas by Graham Zusi he once again rose to the occasion. It was his free kick that was turned in by the outstretched leg of CJ Sapong that tallied the first goal ever at the new park. The 1-0 score line was enough to earn Sporting their first win at Livestrong and continue their strong run of performances of late that has seen them go undefeated in seven matches, winning two straight.

    New England’s second home match in the week was a troublesome event. Events on field in the 1-1 draw were overshadowed by those that took place in their supporter’s section. Conflicting reports concerning the events leave the whole thing murky. It would appear that conversations between the front office and the supporters regarding a less-than-savoury chant were not sufficiently expedient to somebody’s liking and propagated a show of force by security and police. Fans were reportedly mistreated, expelled, and arrested following the clash.

    The North American version of the Community Shield took place on Saturday night as the defending champion Colorado Rapids hosted last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners the LA Galaxy. Both clubs were riding long undefeated streaks. One of those streaks ended as LA’s dominant performance ended in a 1-3 victory for the Beckham-less Galaxy. A Juninho cracker sealed the victory in the first half though Conor Casey’s strike and the return to action of Omar Cummings should allow the Rapids to find their way back to winning ways. The Galaxy continues to lead the way in the Western Conference in the chase to repeat as Shield winners.

    Charlie Davies late flop earned his side a 1-1 draw in Salt Lake. Real had gone up in the first half through a Fabián Espíndola penalty kick for a Clyde Simms handball. This was the second time Davies’ theatrics late in the match saved a result for United. In week four, a late penalty called on Omar Gonzalez through a similar soft call drew criticism towards the American striker. Salt Lake’s woes continue as they are reliant on Espíndola for all their offense though the return of Will Johnson and Álvaro Saborío from Gold Cup duty should bolster their floundering attack.  

    The Whitecaps finally put an end to that record-setting streak for futility with their 1-0 victory over Philadelphia. Alain Rochat’s strike in the 12th minute was a thing of beauty set-up by a skillful run down the right-hand side by Davide Chiumiento drawing the defense out of position before laying off for the onrushing left back. Though the victory was well earned the numerous wasted chances to increase the lead was a familiar difficulty for Vancouver who will be seeking to remedy that flaw in order to continue achieving positive results. Philadelphia’s evolving strike force has yet to work out the kinks having added Veljko Paunović and the returning Carlos Ruiz to the forward pool.

    The jewel of the weekend was the 3-3 draw in Portland in Sunday night’s lone match as the Timbers hosted New York. A wonderful passing displayed capped by Austin da Luz’s first MLS goal opening the scoring in the 5th minute. Portland came back strong in the second half, two goals a minute apart less than 5 minutes into the action, firstly by Jack Jewsbury, then by Kevin Goldthwaite whose neat little back-heel flick was unbecoming of a flat-footed journeyman defender. An own goal by Stephen Keel in the 68th precipitated by a dangerous low Jorge Perlaza cross gave the Timbers a 3-1 lead. Thierry Henry brought the Red Bulls back to life when more deft passing led to his eighth goal of the season. Henry was at the centre of attention again in the dying moments of added time as New York pressed for an equalizer. The Frenchmen got into a confrontation with Adam Moffat that appeared innocent enough, only to be red carded for violent conduct on the advice of a linesman the width of the pitch away.  To cap the drama a penalty for a handball in the 95th minute allowed Dwayne De Rosario to level the score at 3. Portland is now winless in their last three home matches, while New York are undefeated in their last 6 matches though they continue to struggle with the Gold Cup call-ups and injuries that have ravaged their squad.

The Fine Print

Though they were up a man for nearly 40 minutes Toronto FC failed to press the advantage over the Seattle Sounders falling 0-1. Fredy Montero scored the lone goal of the match with a last minute free kick that neatly curled into the top corner of the net. Toronto, now winless in eight, continue to struggle without Alan Gordon up top; Seattle, unbeaten in seven, picked up their first win in MLS while down a man and will be hoping that Montero goal will have awaken him out of his slumber.

Columbus bounced back off a weak performance at home versus Chicago last week to pick up their first road win of the season. The Crew was sparked by the first start of rookie Bernardo Anor who set up the first and scored the second in a 0-2 victory in Houston. Houston continues to struggle, though the return of Andrew Hainault from the Gold Cup and the continued convalescence of Brian Ching should allow them to move forward.

Dallas similarly responded from a disappointing appearance last weekend in their home loss to Kansas City. Brek Shea continued his strong performances of recent weeks with another goal as Dallas won the match 1-2. Chivas continues to struggle at home falling to their fourth loss at the Home Depot Center of the season leading the league in that particular unwanted stat.

Midweek Review    New England v Toronto 0-0.

Kansas City v San Jose 1-0; Toronto v Seattle 0-1; New England v Chicago 1-1; Houston v Columbus 0-2; Colorado v Los Angeles 1-3; Salt Lake v DC 1-1; Vancouver v Philadelphia 1-0; Chivas v Dallas 1-2; Portland v New York 3-3.

*Apologizes again for the lateness of this review.

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