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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Midweek Round 19 – Of Away Victories – One Karmic the Other Messianic, the Hare Torching the Tortoise & a Brace of Braces.

    Five midweek matches littered the busy summer soccer schedule in round nineteen. Twelve goals were scored – at least one in each match – and only a single draw.

    Even rarer than the lack of draws was a pair of away victories. The home-field advantage in MLS is suppressing – though not as markedly as it has been. A quick glance at home-away records verifies this trend with only DC United and Chicago Fire faring as well on the road as they do at home. Two positive away results is an unexpected occurrence.

     The first of the round as DC played host to a struggling New England side on the verge of a record setting run of futility. United bossed the run of play, but were unable to press their advantage. Some fine saves from Revolution keeper Matt Reis and an escape-velocity skied penalty kick from Charlie Davies – karmic justice for his self-inflicted bouts of gravitational difficulty - gave Steve Nicol’s side the break they have been without all season. Stephen McCarty capitalized on the good fortune by popping up from a corner kick to nod the ball across the goal in at the far post to end that nine-match winless streak with the 0-1 win and spark some life into the deflated New England side.

    The other as FC Dallas continued their international tour – three countries in a week – with a 0-1 victory over a rebuilt Toronto FC side. Strong debuts from the likes of Torsten Frings, Danny Koevermans and Ryan Johnson were overshadowed by another dynamic midfield performance by Brek Shea. His goal in the early moments of the second half – capitalizing on a turnover, blazing through the disorganized TFC defenders and unleashing an unstoppable cannon off the inside of the post – was the only strike registered, though both sides had goals ruled offside in a disjointed but entertaining match.

    A strong Dallas side was expected to cause the raw Toronto line-up trouble and New England’s victory was unexpected, but what happened in Colorado was shocking. Granted the Red Bulls have been struggling of late as their small squad size and ageing legs have found coping with the rigours of MLS action daunting, but falling 4-1 to the Rapids could not have been predicted. Having lost their battering ram and focal point Conor Casey - for the season to an Achilles injury - coach Gary Smith made the inspired, if unforeseen, selection of fielding wide midfielder Sanna Nyassi up top with fellow speedster Omar Cummings. The duo paired well and troubled the slow moving New York defensive contingent all night, striking early and often. Nyassi bagged a hat-trick, all assisted by Cummings, while providing for the other as his long range strike rebounded off the post to an unmarked Wells Thompson, who has been in fine goal scoring form himself of late. Thierry Henry grabbed a late consolation goal to re-establish his lead atop the scoring charts but the Red Bulls were sent running home with their tails between their legs unsure of what had just befallen them.

    In terms of the race for the golden boot two other strikers increased their tallies by two to eight for the season in the final match of the round. San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski twice put the Earthquakes ahead only for Vancouver’s Eric Hassli to pull the Whitecaps level as each netted braces as their sides drew 2-2 in an action packed match. Wondo was finally able to break his scoring hex - having not found the back of the net in five hundred and eleven minutes since he returned to the club following his inclusion in the US Gold Cup squad. Hassli has the explosive performance of Shea Salinas to thank for his goals. The speedy right-sided winger came to life in this match, setting up both of the Frenchman’s goals. Newly signed Gambian DP Mustapha Jarju made his league debut, but has yet to mesh with his teammates and was replaced by the fit again David Chiumiento in the 57th minute. Each side had multiple other chances to score as both Steven Lenhart and Gershon Koffie rattled the woodwork – early and late in the match respectively – while Lenhart’s miss, a sliced attempt sent wide after breaking in alone in the dying moments of the match was disappointing for the big striker whose goal-scoring form has disappeared of late.
The Fine Print

The other match of the evening saw Los Angeles extend their unbeaten streak to thirteen matches with a 1-0 victory over Columbus. Sean Franklin bagged his first ever goal as his thirty yard shot pinballed off Crew midfielder Eric Gehrig and past keeper Will Hesmer. Columbus lost their pantomime villain of a DP Andrés Mendoza to an early hamstring injury, while Galaxy striker Juan Pablo Ángel continues to struggle to find his form missing a gilt-edged chance after a surging midfield run from Landon Donovan ended with Ángel chipping wide of the open cage. 

With the summer friendly season in full swing several MLS clubs took the field. Philadelphia topped Everton 1-0 in the lone MLS victory, while Sporting KC managed a 0-0 draw with Newcastle United. Portland was narrowly defeated 2-3 by West Bromwich Albion, while Houston and Seattle fell to Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United 0-2 and 0-7 respectively.

DC v New England 0-1; Toronto v Dallas 0-1; Colorado v New York 4-1; Los Angeles v Columbus 1-0; San Jose v Vancouver 2-2.

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