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Sunday 31 July 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Weekend Round 19 – Of Nine Minutes in Blue Hell, Crumbling in the Rage of Injustice, & Power Hungry Goats.

    Six weekend matches in this round of MLS action; twenty-two goals scored in a series of offensive explosions. Three red cards dotted the fixtures.

    Toronto FC continue their habit of starting strong, failing to capitalize on early chances and eventually succumbing to their opposition then crumbling in a few minutes of madness only to claw their way back into the match before falling short in the end.

    Sporting collected three goals – a six minute brace from Kei Kamara and one from Omar Bravo - in nine minutes in the latter portion of the first half despite Toronto controlling the opening of the match. A jaw-dropping save from KC keeper Jimmy Nielsen in the third minute on a Danny Koevermans close-range strike prevented Toronto from taking the lead.

    The second half saw goals from Koevermans and Ryan Johnson - firsts for their new club – split by a second strike from Bravo rounded out the scoring as Sporting strolled to a 4-2 victory. New signing Jéferson made his league debut setting up Bravo’s first while providing dangerous set pieces delivery all evening long.

    Speaking of crumbling in frustration Real Salt Lake’s 4-0 dismantling of San Jose at Rio Tinto Stadium was exemplary of the effect adversity can have on an otherwise strong performance.

    San Jose came into the match on the back of three straight draws, having posted clean sheets in the last two matches and despite some rustiness on the part of newly acquired centre back Nana Attakora and unfamiliarity in a makeshift backline held Salt Lake to a scoreless draw until disaster struck.

    An innocuous challenge from centre back Bobby Burling sent Álvaro Saborío sprawling in the box prompting the referee to pull out a red card. Initial confusion caused the card to be shown incorrectly to Brad Ring, before a conversation between the referee and his linesman corrected this inaccuracy. Saborío was barely touched if at all and could easily have been said to have dived to the ground of his own accord.

    The outrage from the San Jose players at such poor decision and the general disorder caused by the case of mistaken identity caused the Earthquakes defense to crumble in the concluding half hour of the match. Saborío converted the penalty before notching another – the first of three in a span of eight minutes, as Kyle Beckerman and Jámison Olave completed the scoring.

    A 4-0 victory for the Royals was not representative of the play on the night and demonstrates the importance of keeping a cool head in the face of adversity. San Jose keeper Jon Busch was the most outraged by the decision but was partially to blame for the collapse as he failed to hold onto any shots to prevent the goals and calm the frazzled defense.

    A confrontation between Busch and Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis rounded out an eventful evening.

    Meanwhile further west Chivas USA defeated the Houston Dynamo 3-0 in another lopsided encounter though this one had more to do with the run of play than a particular decision.

    Chivas USA - a struggling club in years past - has found new life under Coach Robin Fraser whose expertise in sealing up the defense has allowed the offense to flourish. Resurgent performances from Nick LaBrocca usually propel the Goats, but this match was won by three other standouts.

    Justin Braun collected his second hat-trick of the season – having scored all three in a 2-3 win in New York earlier in the season – on the back of some spectacular service from the convalescent returns of Ante Jazic and Blair Gavin.

    Houston – having suffered a pair of red cards last match as Brian Ching and Colin Clark were dismissed and thusly suspended – were undermanned from the kickoff, only to have Je-Vaughan Watson shown another red card for a pair of yellows, though by then the Chivas’s two-goal first half lead had already been established.

    Despite the reduced league schedule it was an exciting event filled weekend of MLS action.       
The Fine Print

New York and Dallas drew 2-2 on strikes from Juan Agudelo and Thierry Henry split by a brace from Marvin Chávez in the first match of the round. A strong start to the second half allowed Dallas to pull in front after having fallen behind in a sluggish first half before the Red Bulls responded despite Dane Richards ejection to as Henry scored his league leading eleventh of the season.

Columbus ended a two hundred and fifty nine minute scoreless streak to defeat the visiting Portland Timbers 1-0. Eddie Gaven got the last touch on a bouncing ball in the box to earn the three points despite taking the field without keeper Will Hesmer and top scorer Andrés Mendoza. Both sides were wasteful with their attempts each registering eighteen attempts on goal while managing only three on target. Andy Gruenebaum recorded the clean sheet in his first start since 2009.

New England continued their revolution under a more attacking formation as they took home a point from Colorado drawing 2-2 with the Rapids. Goals from Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph were enough to cancel out a Caleb Folan penalty kick and a bizarre goal from Kosuke Kimura - whose long pass bounced high to embarrass Revolution keeper. Chris Tierney was sent off for tripping up Sanna Nyassi as he was alone in front of goal. Both Nyassi brothers were on the pitch facing each other, marking the first time a set of twins faced each other.

Midsummer friendly season continued as the Chicago Fire fell 1-3 to Manchester United as did DC United to Everton by a similar score line on Saturday night; Philadelphia lost 1-2 to Real Madrid in the other fixture of the evening. The lone Sunday meeting saw LA Galaxy draw Manchester City 1-1, only to lose 6-7 in a dramatic penalty shootout.  

Midweek Review

New York v Dallas 2-2; Columbus v Portland 1-0; Kansas City v Toronto 4-2; Colorado v New England 2-2; Salt Lake v San Jose 4-0; Chivas v Houston 3-0.

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