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Tuesday 12 July 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Midweek Round 17 – Of a Second City Destruction and some Last-Minute History.

    Toronto has always fancied itself a mini-New York, on this occasion it was found sorely lacking. The Red Bulls stream-rollered Toronto FC 5-0 in Wednesday night action.

    TFC started brightly with Joao Plata threatening down the left flank, but once again were undone by their futility in front of goal. A Jan Gunnar Solli-ball that squeezed through a forest of legs right to Thierry Henry opened the scoring. Solli set-up the second five minutes later as Luke Rodgers lashed a fierce strike across Stefan Frei.

    The dynamic duo of Henry and Rodgers has been central to New York’s success. A re-mix of the old British big man-little man combination in their 9 matches as a tandem the Red Bulls are +13 with a record of 5-1-3; without the pair they are -2 and 1-2-7.

    Just as crucial to the Red Bull success has been the play of both their marauding right full back Solli – who set up the first two goals - and the production of Estonian midfielder Joel Lindpere.

    Lindpere thought he had put the match out of reach in the final moments of the first half, as he thundered a right-sided free kick from a tight angle into the goal. The goal was ruled out for goalkeeper interference as Frei tangled with Rodgers.

    Toronto caught some luck with that decision, but it soon ran out as the second half got underway. Again TFC started brightly, almost notching one as Javier Martina’s shot was just touched by New York keeper Greg Sutton’s fingertips onto the post.

    Seconds later at the other end of the pitch Lindpere made sure his next strike counted by stroking it with the outside of his left boot past a helpless Frei; his third straight match with a goal.

    Lindpere continued to roll as he set-up two goals for Juan Agudelo – substituted on for Rodgers – firstly from a header off a corner kick and then from a redirection of a low near-post cross.

    New York collected only their second win in a twelve-match run; recording their first clean sheet since April 30th. Toronto FC were forced back down to earth after two successful matches over Canadian rivals Vancouver resulting in them earning top honours in the Voyageur’s Cup.

    Vancouver fared no better in their Wednesday night clash against the Columbus Crew. Vancouver’s hosting duties were hampered by a series of injuries to some of their most influential players. Jay DeMerit, Eric Hassli, and Davide Chiumiento all missed the match. Columbus were short-handed themselves as both Emmanuel Ekpo and Andy Iro were absent through suspension.

    The Whitecaps had the better of the play in the first half, culminating in a late chance for Shea Salinas, played in by a clever Camilo ball, only to have his shot hit the post.

    Another golden chance to take the lead in the 72nd minute as a penalty was called on Columbus after some minor contact on a free kick.

    Terry Dunfield stepped up to convert, but had his effort saved by Will Hesmer. Dunfield had just come on eight minutes earlier and was not yet fully in the rhythm of the action.

    Much like Toronto, Vancouver repeated fails to capitalize from their opportunities and is eventually punished.

    Hesmer made several other key saves as it appeared the match was headed for a 0-0 result. Jeff Cunningham was introduced to the action in the 83rd minute. Some clever play by Columbus earned a corner kick as Joe Cannon pushed a shot wide.

    The initial ball was partially cleared to Josh Gardner, who curled a cross towards the back-post, cue Cunningham’s heroics.

    In the midst of a season-long slum that had left him empty-handed in his chase to top the all-time MLS scoring record. Trailing Jaime Moreno (133) by a single goal, Cunningham rose highest to meet the delivery. An experienced nod of his head redirected the ball in the net, past the stranded Cannon.

    Tying Moreno and winning the match was only some of the prize for Cunningham. He also became the all-time most prolific Columbus Crew striker, surpassing Brian McBride by notching his 63rd in the yellowy-gold.

The Fine Print

Sporting KC hosted Colorado Rapids to a 1-1 draw. Sporting continues their undefeated streak of eight matches, while remaining unbeaten at home. Omar Cummings and Conor Casey were finally reunited atop the Colorado formation. Casey opened the scoring with his fifth goal in his last six matches, while Graham Zusi continued to be an offensive force for Sporting netting the equalizer as the rebound was spilled from the influential CJ Sapong’s shot.

Chivas USA ended their four-match winless streak with a 2-0 victory over the visiting San Jose Earthquakes. A pair of strikes from Ben Zemanski and Nick LaBrocca was enough to undo a toothless San Jose squad. Zemanski’s strike from thirty-yards swerved drastically to elude Earthquakes keeper Jon Busch, while LaBrocca collected his fifth of the season tying his career output.

New York v Toronto 5-0; Kansas City v Colorado 1-1; Vancouver v Columbus 0-1; Chivas v San Jose 2-0.

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