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Saturday, 6 August 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Weekend Round 20 – Of Old School SJ braces, Late Salvation & Hot, Hot Heat.

    Eight matches made up this weekend’s MLS schedule; twenty-two goals were scored – at least one per match. Four away victories and only two draws made this quite an exceptional weekend.

    The powerhouse turn of the century San Jose Earthquake triumvirate of Landon Donovan, Brian Ching, and Dwayne De Rosario were the stars of this round - each grabbing a brace for their respective new teams.

    Donovan led his LA Galaxy to a 0-4 win in the welcoming confines of Vancouver’s Empire Field. Despite the lopsided score-line it was a close affair for the first sixty minutes. The floodgates opened following a formation change when a Sean Franklin ball over the top allowed Donovan in alone behind the stumbling Michael Boxall. Whitecaps keeper Joe Cannon had no chance as Lando expertly sliced a shot with the outside of his left foot to finish the opportunity.

    His second came from the spot following a ridiculous handball from Jordan Harvey who appeared to misjudge the flight of the ball. Donovan then set up the third five minutes later before another odd play allowed Adam Cristman to head home the fourth. The large Beckham-inspired crowd was sent home disappointed, not just with the absence of David, but with a result that could have been so different had early chances been taken.

    Ching meanwhile returned to the Houston lineup having missed their last match serving a red card suspension. Colin Clark – who was also coming back from suspension - opened the scoring pouncing on a cross nodded down by Ching before Clark returned the favour on Houston’s third as the big Hawaiian’s brace was split by an Álvaro Fernández penalty kick.

    The foul committed by Corey Ashe’s poor tackle on Fredy Montero that conceded the penalty and the injury to Will Bruin were the only negative blemishes on a much needed 3-1 win for the struggling side in orange.

    De Rosario completed the circle returning to their alma mater to take on the revived Earthquakes with DC United. His brace led his side to a 0-2 victory over the hapless San Jose – now winless in nine matches – aided by a faulty backline missing regulars Steven Beitashour, Bobby Burling, and Jason Hernandez while Ramiro Corrales and Bobby Convey played in unfamiliar positions.

    Dwayne has been rejuvenated in a team with such young attacking stars as Andy Najar and Chris Pontius, who each set up one of his goals. The nine minute brace in the first part of the second half was enough to collect all three points despite the dismissal of Najar for hauling down Joey Gjertsen just outside the box when he was in alone on goal.

    Last minute fireworks were again the order of the day for both Kansas City and Portland as one saved themselves a point, while the other handed two away.

    Sporting – in the midst of a mammoth twelve match unbeaten run since finally opening their new ground - again left it late to salvage a draw against the resurgent New England Revolution 1-1.

    A first half route-one goal scored by Rajko Lekić from a Matt Reis goal kick seemed to be enough for the Revolution to take points from their third straight road match having collected a win and a draw in DC and Colorado respectively. The out of form Teal Bunbury had other plans, notching his first in months opportunistically in the penultimate minute of regulation time just moments after taking to the pitch.

    New England was a man down following the dubious ejection of defender AJ Soares for a last-man take-down on CJ Sapong – he appeared to clear the ball well before making incidental contact with the attacker. That extra space was crucial as Bunbury got on the end of a loose ball at the edge of the six-yard box to level the score and earn his side a share of the points.

    Portland too continued their late match routine giving up a late goal to Toronto FC who fought back from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2.

    Playing the entire ninety minutes of a match is crucial to success and too often Portland has faltered in the closing stages. Leads over Seattle, New York, and even over West Bromwich Albion - in their recently friendly - have been eroded costing them important season saving points and pride.

    To Toronto’s credit they did not give up on a match that was serving them up a raw deal. A glorious chance from the skillful footwork of Joao Plata rebounded off the post only for play to switch quickly the opposite end leading to the opening goal for the Timbers Eddie Johnson – sprung free by a counterattack.

    A penalty kick – Portland’s second goal - called on Andy Iro for a trip on Diego Chará was not reciprocated when the ball appeared to strike the hand of a Portland defender.

    TFC battled through adversity with their newly formed lineup rectifying the score through a slightly deflected Peri Marošević shot – signed only days earlier – and from a Danny Koevermans redirect of a low Plata cross as the Portland defense was napping.

    The result was a well-earned road draw for a Toronto side still coming to terms with all the personnel changes and another disappointing blow for the Portland and their Timbers Army.

    The lone Sunday match saw a different kind of adversity as both sides endured the scorching one hundred and two degree Fahrenheit temperatures in Dallas.

    Despite the stifling heat FC Dallas found the lone goal of the match winning 1-0 through the wily Marvin Chávez whose quick shot deflected past Chivas USA keeper Dan Kennedy off the leg of the unlucky Heath Pearce.

    FC Dallas collected their eighth shutout in their last nine matches, while Chivas fail to continue their strong all-round performances of late.

The Fine Print

Colorado continued their strong attacking form of late becoming the first team to defeat the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park this season. The 1-2 victory off the back of goals at the end of the first half from Pablo Mastroeni and the red hot Sanna Nyassi were enough to overpower the Union despite a virtuoso solo effort from the impressive youngster Roger Torres in injury time. A red card to right-back Sheanon Williams midway through the second half did not help Philly’s efforts to surmount the half-time deficit.

Salt Lake’s resurgent form – undefeated in seven – was not enough to overcome a rocky start. Columbus nabbed a brace out of the starting gates – Eddie Gaven in the fifth minute and Tommy ‘Teen Wolf’ Heinemann in the tenth – both precipitated by intelligent attacking play from Robbie Rogers. With Álvaro Saborío suspended for his ludicrous dive last match and Jámison Olave injured in last week’s All-Star match, a short-handed Real struggled to impose themselves despite the majority of possession. Jean Alexandre, Saborío’s last minute replacement, missed several glorious chances to tally for his side. Coach Jason Kreis was left fuming at the league’s decision - on Friday - to announce the suspension so late in his preparations. 

New York took the weekend off as invited guests at Arsenal’s Emirates Cup tournament. A victory over PSG and a draw with their hosts were enough to hoist the title aloft, much to the consternation of the home crowd.

Philadelphia v Colorado 1-2; Vancouver v Los Angeles 0-4; Houston v Seattle 3-1; Kansas City v New England 1-1; Salt Lake v Columbus 0-2; San Jose v DC 0-2; Portland v Toronto 2-2; Dallas v Chivas 1-0.

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