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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Weekend Round 18 - Of Postponement, a Seven-Goal Thriller in Seattle, 0-0-1-1-0-1-0-0-0-0, & a Flurry of Red Cards

     Eight matches scheduled for the weekend’s round of MLS action; one postponed. The seven that went ahead only provided thirteen goals, seven of which came in one match and the other six in a pair of fixtures.

     The match in Vancouver was postponed due to an unplayable (waterlogged) surface. A natural grass pitch was laid over the usual turf field for the Monday night friendly against Manchester City. All necessary precautions were taken to ensure the match against Real Salt Lake went ahead, but due to the lack of a sufficient drainage system and the fragility of the surface the cancellation was inevitable.

     The abandonment of the fixture was regrettable and must call into question the purpose of these interminable midseason glamour matches. Though no one would state it, the fact that had the match gone ahead it would have destroyed the expensively laid pitch before the expensively assembled team took the field must have played some role in the decision to call-off the match.

     While there can be no qualms with these visiting giants requiring suitable pitches it does raise the question of why they are suitable for MLS play. If the rain was as torrential and prolonged as indicated there is every chance that the match may have been put-off even with proper drainage, but it is time for the league to ensure all matches – not just friendlies – get the best surface available.

     Less rain and more animosity in the other Pacific Northwestern afternoon tie as Seattle hosted Colorado and outgunned them 4-3.

     The reverse fixture earlier in the season was destroyed by the rash tackle by Colorado’s Brian Mullan on Seattle’s Steve Zakuani that saw the former break the latter’s leg. Having served his ten-match suspension for the aggressive nature of the action Mullan was available for selection, but was left in Colorado due to match fitness issues.

     Even without the antagonist this was a feisty affair; the league was wise to assign one of its more calming officials to the match. Sir Alex Ferguson was in attendance, as Manchester United prepares to take on the Sounders on Wednesday night, and he would have enjoyed the fireworks on display.

     Colorado opened the scoring in the first minute netting a first half brace through the unexpected sources of Wells Thompson and Jeff Larentowicz. Seattle responded quickly to the first with Alvaro Fernandez’s strike, but could have faltered as Colorado’s second came moments before the first half ended.

     The second half started a little slower – taking Seattle three minutes to level the score through Roger Levesque – and then rested in preparation for a whirlwind closing ten minutes. The in-form Fredy Montero scored as did his partner in crime Mauro Rosales before Caleb Folan netted a late consolation strike in the final minute of regulation time.

     Colorado will mourn the loss of the match, but more so the injury to Conor Casey who went down unchallenged and had to be helped from the field late in the first half. Seattle extends their unbeaten run to nine matches. 

     The rest of the weekend was marked by a proliferation of the binary football that has plagued the league the last several weeks. Columbus - San Jose, Dallas - DC, and Chivas - New York all ended 0-0, in collectively lacklustre encounters. A 1-1 draw between Houston and Kansas City, as well as a 0-1 victory by Portland over Chicago rounded out the unspectacular Saturday night card.

     Tired squads, due to heavy schedules and extensive travel have taken their toll on the excitement level of these midsummer matches.

     That tiredness easily transforms into nastiness as this weekend saw four red cards dished out. Houston suffered a pair of straight reds, while Chicago and New England each saw a player dismissed for card accumulation

     Aurelien Collin drew the ire of both Colin Clark and Brian Ching before slotting home a late equalizer. Clark saw red for a reckless lunge, while Ching needlessly kicked the Frenchman reducing Houston to nine-men. Tally Hall had performed admirably to preserve the three-points, but Sporting for the second week running managed late heroics to rescue a draw.

     Fire defender Yamith Cuesta was sent from the field for a second yellow card in a controversial match as Portland collected their first ever MLS road victory 0-1 in Chicago on the strength of a dubious penalty call converted by Jack Jewsbury.

     Benny Feilhaber seemed agitating for an early shower all evening long – and was duly rewarded with two yellow cards, followed by a red - as New England fell 0-3 to a rampant Philadelphia squad. Carlos Ruiz’s sixth goal and firsts from Carlos Valdes and Sheanon Williams rounded out the scoring as the Shalrie Joseph-less Revs failed to even get an attempt on target.

The Fine Print

Brian McBride was honoured by the Columbus Crew becoming the inaugural member of their ‘Circle of Honor’. Ironic that the night of such a goal-scorer be dominated by two outstanding goalkeeping performances, as both Will Hesmer and Jon Busch recorded their second consecutive clean sheets.

The stifling weather in Frisco dampened what should have been an attacking showcase; both teams had midweek matches to concern themselves with as well.

New York’s newest DP goalkeeper Frank Rost made his debut and recorded a solid clean sheet as did Dan Kennedy though the Chivas USA keeper had to work much harder for his, stopping four shots to Rost’s zero.

The midseason friendly season continues as the World Football Challenge is in full swing, while several other clubs host big ticket opponents.

Vancouver v Salt Lake PPD; Seattle v Colorado 4-3; Columbus v San Jose 0-0; Houston v Kansas City 1-1; Chicago v Portland 0-1; Dallas v DC 0-0; Chivas v New York 0-0; New England v Philadelphia 0-3.

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