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Thursday, 14 July 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Weekend Round 17 – Of Another Former Red Tearing It Up, DeRo’s Revenge, Troubles in the Desert, David, & Practice, Practice, Practice.

    Eight matches provided eighteen goals to enjoy on this weekend’s schedule and only two of them ended in draws.

    What is it about former Toronto FC players? It seems every time someone leaves the club they go on a tear. Nick LaBrocca is just the latest example of this peculiar phenomenon. Having netted just that lone wind-assisted goal for TFC last season to add to his four in three seasons with Colorado the Jersey Boy had already equaled his career total with his midweek strike against San Jose.

    His hot streak continued as Chivas USA flew into Kansas City. The sign of a confident player is the ease and conviction with which they perform.  An early chance fell to LaBrocca at the top of the box and he conjured up a delicate chip over KC keeper Jimmy Nielsen which caromed off the cross bar. Given a second chance to net in his third straight match at the thirty-minute mark Nick slid his shot under the onrushing Nielsen after having been played clean through by Justin Braun.

    Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy looked to rack up a clean sheet, having preserved it with some stellar saves throughout the match. One last late chance was miscued by Zarek Valentin, whose clearing header pounced across the goalmouth were an opportunistic Omar Bravo headed it in.

    Bravo had been the main Sporting threat all night, but had been kept at bay by Kennedy’s heroics. His goal extended Kansas City’s undefeated streak to nine matches as the two sides drew 1-1.

    Dwayne De Rosario, another former Red, became the first MLS player to score for three different clubs in a single season as he came back to haunt the New York club that had traded him some scant weeks before.

    In just his second match for his new club, DC United, the Canadian was the difference maker as DC went into New York and returned home with a 0-1 win. The two sides split the results this season, each being victorious in the other’s backyard. But the Atlantic Cup went to the Red Bulls on goal difference (4-1).

    Though they controlled much of the play, New York’s age and their exertions in thumping Toronto on Wednesday night caught up with the threadbare and as they struggled to keep pace with the lightning quick DC counterattacks. Head Coach Hans Backe has been reluctant to fully use his reserves – often not using all three substitutes in a match – and an expensive squad built to win now lacks the depth necessary in a tightly packed schedule.

    Further blushes were spared when Tim Ream raced to block a Charlie Davies goal-bound attempt having rounded the keeper Greg Sutton on another quick break by DC.

    More blushing was on display in the heavy-weight contest between two of the best clubs of the past few seasons; FC Dallas made the trek up to Utah to take on Real Salt Lake and the match turned on a mistake.

    FC Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman –eight clean sheets in his last eleven matches - has been a man possessed since he was released by Kansas City to be reborn in the Texas heat. But it was his mistake that led to the opening goal as he failed to hold on to an Andy Williams free kick in the first minutes of the second half allowing the ball to trickle into the net.

    Dallas, more subdued than usual, still mustered a chance to equalize as their in-form duo of Brek Shea and Jackson Gonçalves constructed an opportunity. Shea squared the ball for the off-balance Jackson, who could only nudge the ball towards the net. If Salt Lake left back Chris Wingert had not come across the field to cover Dallas would have been back in the game.

    RSL has an in-form striker of their own in Fabián Espíndola who capitalized on a blind cross-field pass from Bobby Warshaw – in place for the injured Daniel Hernández, who was sorely missed – walked into the box, cut back to elude two markers and slotted near post past the rattled Hartman for his fifth goal in his last seven appearances.

    The 2-0 score-line sees Salt Lake now undefeated in six matches and looks to be climbing out of their post-CONCACAF Champions League failure funk. Their young forward Luis Gil had his best match since being drafted into a line-up trying to adjust to the loss of their influential midfielder Javier Morales.

    Petulant behaviour by striker Álvaro Saborío - who stormed down the tunnel to the dressing room and out the stadium - in response to being subbed off will have to be dealt with by Head Coach Jason Kreis.

    The two sides now travel to Dallas to do it all again as they meet in a quarterfinal tie of the US Open Cup on Tuesday night.    

    David, David, David, after having been absent from the Los Angeles line-up for the past few matches Mr. Beckham returned to the pitch and was instrumental in his team defeating the visiting Chicago Fire 2-1 at the Home Depot Center.

    His superb delivery allowed Landon Donovan to head in the opening goal in an electric second half of play. A similar ball swung in by Chicago’s Patrick Nyarko was headed home by Cristian Nazarit to level the score before a seeing-eye Beckham corner kick delivered low and hard found its way untouched through a rabble of players at the near-post to curl into the net.

    The goal and assist were part of a whirlwind day for David that started with a visit from his royal friends and ended rushing off to the hospital for the birth of his fourth child, his first daughter.

    Sigi Schmid was a proud papa after the lone Sunday match saw his Seattle Sounders outscore their Cascadian rival Portland Timbers 2-3.

    His handling – benching – of superstar Fredy Montero finally paid off as the Columbian had his best match of the year, netting a brace and generally being dangerous all match.

    A quiet first half made way for a raucous five-goal second that opened with a flash as Jeff Parke turned a dangerous Kalif Alhassan cross into his own net. Montero leveled the score with a spectacular free kick that dipped unreachably in at the near-post. Schmid has been critical of Montero’s reluctance to continue to push himself to be better and the message was received as Fredy has been putting the time in to perfect parts of his game such as set-pieces.

    Jorge Perlaza again put the Timbers out in front only for Seattle to respond five minutes later as some neat passing by Lamar Neagle and Mauro Rosales found Montero alone in front of goal.

    The match was decided in the final ten minutes as Osvaldo Alonso converted a kick from the penalty spot won by Lamar Neagle who was brought down in the box by an Eric Brunner tackle that saw the defender receive a red card.

    The expansion Timbers continue to play well while struggling to put any points on the board since their fine home form has abandoned them – this marks their fifth straight loss at JELD-WEN Field. Seattle, now unbeaten in eight matches, maintains the strong road form that has led them to being unbeaten in six on the road, a marvelous achievement in a league where road points are few and far between.

    No midweek league matches coming up, but a full slate of eight weekend matches, plus a few bonus fixtures thrown in as the World Football Challenge kicks off this week.

The Fine Print

Toronto FC rounded out a week of misery – in which they were outscored 0-7 – with a 2-0 loss in Houston. The Dynamo continued their odd streak of alternating between scoring two goals and being shut out for the tenth match running and collected their first clean sheet since May 14th. In a match that feature an intense physical battle between Houston defender Andrew Hainault and Toronto striker Alan Gordon, second half goals from Danny Cruz and Geoff Cameron saw Houston earn the three points and extend their unbeaten streak to three.

The other Canadian club – Vancouver Whitecaps - travelled south with the Rocky Mountains as their guide to take on the defending MLS Champion Colorado Rapids in their first ever meeting. Another Conor Casey strike – his sixth in his last seven appearances – and an opportunistic rebound conversion by Scott Palguta sealed the 2-1 win, before Camilo Sanvezzo could pull one back. The Whitecaps lost another one-goal decision – the third in a row – by not capitalizing on their opportunities.    

San Jose and Philadelphia played out a 0-0 draw at Buck Shaw Stadium. The Earthquakes struggles continued as they have been shut out in four of their last five matches and are subsequently winless in that period. The return of Chris Wondolowski from the Gold Cup has stifled a team that had found itself in his absence as they continue to shuffle their attacking formation. The Union – who has rescued results late in the last two matches – could not find any of that second half magic that has served them so well this season – they have fifteen second half goals. They had plenty of chances, headlined by a Kyle Nakazawa free kick that struck the post, but were stymied by a solid performance from San Jose keeper Jon Busch.

The transfer window opens soon – July 15th - but the moves have already begun. New York and Vancouver have both snapped up DPs, goalkeeper Frank Rost and forward Mustapha Jarju respectively. Bringing the number of designated players added midseason to four, Toronto having previously announced the acquisition of Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans.

USOC quarterfinals are scheduled for this midweek: Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls, Sporting Kansas City vs. Richmond Kickers, FC Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake, and Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles Galaxy.

The English Premier League is in town as San Jose host West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday night and New England take on Manchester United on Wednesday. The LA Galaxy then hosts Real Madrid on Saturday night as part of the World Football Challenge.

Midweek Review

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

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