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Saturday, 9 July 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Weekend Round 16 (Abridged) – Of New Club Debuts, Continued Good Form, & Refereeing Controversy in Utah.

     Another interesting weekend of MLS action in the books as eight matches saw twenty-one goals scored.

     The weekend opened up in Washington DC as United drew 2-2 with Philadelphia Union. Both of DC’s newly acquired players – Dwayne De Rosario and Brandon McDonald – were in the starting lineup. Philly continued to experiment with their forward pool – Danny Mwanga started up top with Carlos Ruiz in place of Jack McInerney.

     De Ro quickly acclimated to his new surroundings helping to set up the opening goal of as the first half came to a close. Andy Najar found De Ro in space on the left; Dwayne drew in two defenders only to slip a pass through them to the open and ready Josh Wolff who put away the chance.

     The Union got back into the match through a slice of luck. Veljko Paunović recovered a half clearance and sent a chip back into the danger area; defender Perry Kitchen - in his effort to clear the chance - miss-hit the ball putting it into his own net.

     Najar continued his good form of recent weeks, having had a hand in DC’s first he collected the ball in midfield continued towards goal and unleashed a 35-yard shot that dipped past Faryd Mondragón in the Philadelphia goal.

     The reinforcements had their desired effects in the offense, but defensively left something to be desired. The inexperience of DC’s backline has proven an Achilles heel and it struck again late in the match; under pressure of Philly’s attack Sébastian Le Toux found space on the left-flank for Sheanon Williams to deliver a low cross to Ruiz who broke in front of his marker and scored the equalizer. 

     While DC struggles to gel into a consistent body and Philadelphia continues to roll on the weekends other matches saw several players continue their good form.

     FC Dallas – unbeaten in twelve of their last thirteen matches – strolled to a 2-0 victory over the bipolar Columbus Crew. Brek Shea and Jackson Gonçalves both netted their fourth goals in as many games; Shea cleaning up a spilled Marvin Chávez shot and Jackson looping a clever chip over Columbus keeper Will Hesmer.

     San Jose drew 2-2 with New York in front of a record single-event crowd of 41,028 at Stanford Stadium. Joel Lindpere opened the scoring with a slow-roller and closed it with a deflected equalizer; cancelling out another goalkeeping error as Bouna Coundoul dropped a cross in front of Khari Stephenson and another Steven Lenhart goal – his fifth of the season – off a powerful header from a pinpoint cross by the productive right-back Steven Beitashour.

     Graham Zusi and CJ Sapong’s strong play spurred Kansas City – now undefeated in eight – to a 1-2 victory in Portland. Early goals four minutes apart were enough to maintain the win despite a highlight reel strike from rookie Darlington Nagbe who juggled on the ball on the corner of the box before lashing a frozen rope into the top corner for his first in MLS goal.

     Poor officiating often proves to be the major talking point the world over; and so it was the in the opening match of a Monday night double-feature as Real Salt Lake hosted New England Revolution to a cacophonous 3-3 draw.

     An early red card to Nat Borchers for what appeared to be a solid defensive play on Benny Feilhaber led to the opening goal from a Rajko Lekić spot kick. Chris Tierney doubled the advantage with a low free kick, before Will Johnson stole one back before the halftime whistle blew.

     More controversy in the second half as a phantom handball penalty call on New England defender Kevin Alston allowed Álvaro Saborío to level the score at 2-2. A Shalrie Joseph header from a Feilhaber free-kick reestablished the Revolution’s lead on the scoreboard, but a second yellow card to defender Ryan Cochrane evened out the on field numbers.

     Real Salt Lake replaced the youngster Luis Gil with the recuperating Fabián Espínola in an effort to envigourate the attack. Saborío put a shot of the crossbar shortly thereafter, before in the final ten minutes he received the ball with his back to goal, played a defense splitting pass to Espíndola who lifted it over the onrushing Matt Reis into the net at the far post.

     Each coach was perplexed with decisions on the night, Salt Lake’s Jason Kreis gave someone a stink eye, and it has been suggested that both Kreis and his counterpart, New England’s Steve Nicol, considered leaving the sidelines in protest.

The Fine Print

Chivas and Chicago drew 1-1 through goals from Nick LaBrocca and Dominic Oduro. For Chivas it ended a three-match losing streak, while Chicago to draw matches – fourth straight, twelfth of the season.

Colorado and Houston played out a 0-0 draw in the lone Sunday match. Post-match Fourth of July fireworks were not matched by the play on the field. Houston could not manage a single shot on goal. Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall put in a fine performance to preserve the point making several key saves.

Los Angeles and Seattle endured a similarly dull 0-0 affair in the other Monday night match. Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Perk – covering for the injured Donovan Ricketts and the suspended Josh Saunders - registered his first MLS save on a Fredy Montero penalty kick awarded after an Omar Gonzalez handball. 

Jordan Harvey was traded from Philadelphia to Vancouver for allocation.

Midweek Review

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

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