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Monday 22 August 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Midweek Round 23 (Abridged) – Of Bobble-heads & All-Time Draw Kings.

    Three midweek matches, eight goals, two draws, a pair of red cards, and one bobble-head incident; these are the stories behind the numbers in the midweek sampling of the twenty-third round of MLS.

    Wednesday night saw an exciting match that was overwhelmed by a single, particularly nasty incident involving Jimmy Nielsen and an Omar Bravo bobble-head. 

    Another in a series of excellent performances from Graham Zusi put Sporting ahead by two; a long-range blast as followed by a far post rebound conversion saw Zusi increase his season goal tally to five. Soony Saad, on his nineteenth birthday, made his debut for KC and took only nine minutes to score his first MLS goal. While making a nuisance of himself he redirected an Eric Brunner attempted clearance which rebounded off Saad, looped over Troy Perkins and nestled in the Portland goal.

    Bright Dike was able to grab a consolation goal, his first in MLS as well, in the final ten minutes, but the 3-1 loss will be disappointing for a Timbers side that had been hoping to ride recent strong performances into playoff contention. Sporting’s strong home form returned having lost for the first time at Livestrong Sporting Park via a pair of last minute goals to Seattle in their last match.

    The bobble-head incident occurred after KC’s first goal when a celebrating Nielsen was struck in the face, just below the eye, with the decapitated head of the Mexican striker’s wobbly likeness. A scary incident that saw the Dane require several minutes of treatment and a few stitches. Though it was an isolated incident on the night, it was concerning enough to warrant serious investigation and ramifications for the guilty party.

    Thursday night’s match saw host the rampant Dwayne De Rosario-inspired attack of DC United. Newly acquired Argentine Sebastián Grazzini put the Fire ahead in the opening phase of the second half when a half-cleared Patrick Nyarko cross fell to him unmarked at the back post. Fine technique allowed him to volley the chance past the scrambling DC replacement keeper Steve Cronin – having lost starter Bill Hamid to an apparent hamstring injury on the final kick of the first half.   

    Dominic Oduro was left to rue his wasted chances as former Fire striker Josh Wolff drew the sides’ level with a high shot that bounced in off the crossbar. De Rosario chased down the ball in the corner and fed a cross in that deflected to the feet of Santino Quaranta. Rather than risk his shot being blocked Santino fed a clever little through-ball to Wolff who blasted the ball past the helpless Sean Johnson.

    Chicago, now winless in ten matches, has secured themselves a place in MLS history books for a record number of draws in a single season. Fifteen times this season Chicago and their opponents have been level at the end of play, surpassing the record set by FC Dallas last season.

    All six sides that took part in midweek action must return to the field in weekend fixtures. New England, Houston and Portland host New York, Real Salt Lake and Vancouver on Saturday night, while Chicago and Kansas City welcome Toronto and DC United on Sunday evening.

The Fine Print

The first match of the round saw New England succumb to a late-Bobby Boswell equalizer having ridden their luck on the back of a fine goalkeeping performance from Matt Reis. Former Dynamo defender Ryan Cochrane had opened the scoring in the fourth minute, collecting the rebound from a Milton Caraglio goal-bound effort at the far post, finishing into an unguarded net. Despite Reis’ heroics a late corner kick from Brad Davis was headed down by Carlo Costly, eventually falling to the feet of Bobby Boswell on the goal line; his scrambled effort was enough to earn his side the draw. The action was far from over however, as a shove into the advertising boards by Adam Moffat on Pat Phelan infuriated Reis and led to both Moffat and Reis seeing red.

Sad news as one of the league’s true gentlemen and entertainers Jimmy Conrad retires having struggled to return to fitness following concussion in the first weeks of the season. Mr. Conrad will step upstairs to become a member of the coaching staff at Chivas USA. Prior to his announcement he discussed his first match as a coach in the latest edition of the Jimmy Conrad Podcast – his injury and the concussion phenomenon was discussed in a previous entry. In happier concussion-related news Calen Carr – who had been sidelined for months – returned to the field for Houston.

A clean sweep for MLS clubs in CONCACAF Champions League with every side in action picking up a win. Tuesday night saw both Seattle and Los Angeles claim victories at home 4-1 and 2-0 respectively versus CSD Comunicaciones of Guatemala and CD Motagua of Honduras. Wednesday saw Dallas become the first MLS side to claim victory in Mexico with a 0-1 result over UNAM Pumas, while Colorado won 3-2 in an incident filled match over AD Isidro Metapán of El Salvador. The final MLS-involved fixture saw Toronto FC travel down to Panama in the battle of the TFC’s and return with a nail-biting 1-2 victoy over Tauro FC (be sure to check out the introduction at the Panamanian TFC’s website).

New England v Houston 1-1; Kansas City v Portland 3-1; Chicago v DC 1-1.

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