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Friday, 23 September 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Midweek Round 28 – Of Capital Collapse, Big Apple Meltdowns, & Marquez’ Mouth.

    Three midweek round twenty-eight fixtures took place as scheduled on Wednesday night. Ten goals, no red cards, and a single draw - threatened by a shocking dive and saved by a karmic penalty miss; these are the numbers, here are the stories.

     DC United looked to put some of their games in hand to good use as they hosted Chivas USA. Goal either side of half time from Dwayne De Rosario – who broke loose on a free kick to redirect Andy Najar’s delivery past Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy - and Ethan White – his first in MLS, knocking home a juicy rebound after De Rosario sent a back post delivery from a corner kick on target – put DC in good position to collect the three points.

    But defensive frailties once again reared their ugly head as Chivas capitalized on Juan Pablo Ángel’s ability to find space in the opponent’s box. Ángel’s first showcased his ability to get to the ball – a cross from Nick LaBrocca – and direct his header down past the helpless Bill Hamid. The second was an exercise in holding off defenders as he collected an Ante Jazic cross and spun, quickly finishing the chance before DC could close him down.

    Even when gifted a golden opportunity in stoppage time, as De Rosario swanned gracefully at the hint of a hand on his back from Ángel to earn a penalty kick, DC wasted it. A sprawling Kennedy saved the usually clutch De Rosario’s mediocre effort. DC head coach Ben Olsen was furious at his team’s inability to see out the match, leaving much needed points on the table as the match finished 2-2.

    Both sides remain on the outside looking in.

    Speaking of wasting a good opportunity, New York returned home following an essential win in Dallas last weekend that breathed life into their failing playoff aspirations. Having taken a result, they gave one away at home conceding three goals in the opening twenty-one minutes of play, largely due to defensive mistakes, of which Salt Lake happily took advantage.

    Álvaro Saborío prodded home the first in the seventh minute escaping his man-marker – the much smaller Teemu Tainio – to a near post corner kick from Andy Williams, his header brushing the woodwork on its way into the net. Tim Ream then handed Salt Lake a second four minutes later. A Jan Gunnar Solli pass put the young defender under pressure, he unwisely tried to square to his keeper Frank Rost, but under hit his pass, setting the table for Fabián Espíndola to grab the ball and help himself to the empty cage having easily rounded the stranded Rost.

    The humiliation was complete ten minutes later when a harmless one-two between Collen Warner and Saborío mesmorized the Red Bull defense, allowing Espíndola to steal in on goal latching onto the Warner through ball that caught the New York backline napping. Espíndola calmly finished past the helpless Rost for his second of the night.

    New York regrouped, coming out for the second half intent on righting the wrong, but could only muster a single consolation goal from Joel Lindpere. After twice striking the bar on previous attempts, his scissor volley of a Rafa Márquez free kick delivery was perhaps the prettiest strike of the evening, but still only counted as one.

    Chances from Juan Aguedelo, Márquez, Ream, and Rodgers all went begging as New York came into the match late, but it was too little as Salt Lake returned home 1-3 victors in the Big Apple.

    Capitulation aside the story of the evening was the postmatch translated comments from Rafa Márquez, who despite a lacklustre season of his own saw fit to condemn the flaws of his teammates as childish and not to his level.

    While the statements may be true, there is an old Mexican saying about stones, glasshouses, and being paid DP-wages that imply a certain level of responsibility to the team ethos. Márquez cleared himself of responsibility and in the process through his teammates under the bus.

    Can New York survive all the pressure and turmoil their failure this season has wrought? Will DC turn in a mature performance or two befitting the prestige of the club? Will Portland overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles – ahem, Toronto, ahem – and make the playoffs in their inaugural year?

    Tune in this weekend and over the coming weeks for the exciting conclusions to these, and other MLS stories. 
The Fine Print

Portland’s playoff hopes were dented Wednesday night when despite taking the match to San Jose and a plethora of chances they drew 1-1 with the Earthquakes. Riding a streak of four straight home wins, playing the woeful Earthquakes and facing a daunting stretch of road fixtures – four of their remaining five – it was imperative that the Timbers collect full points in front of their raucous home fans. An early Kenny Cooper dink shot over Jon Busch set up by the hustle of Darlington Nagbe, was cancelled out by a Khari Stephenson turn-&-fire effort from outside the box that handcuffed the unsighted Troy Perkins in the second half. 

The fourth round the CONCACAF Champions League group stage was not good for MLS. Toronto was the lone team to pick up points; their 1-0 victory over Tauro FC at BMO Field keeps them in contention just behind Dallas and Pumas UNAM who beat the Texan side 0-2 at Pizza Hut Park to muddle the top of Group C. Seattle faltered at home falling 0-1 to Herediano of Costa Rica, pulling them back within reach of the chasing pack in Group D. Colorado too capitulated at home losing 1-2 to Real CD España of Honduras and fall to the bottom of Group B, while Los Angeles travelled to Costa Rica only to fall 1-0 to LD Alajulense, dropping into third spot in Group A.

Rafa Marquez has been suspended for one match by the club for his outburst against his teammates following their defeat to Salt Lake.

DC v Chivas 2-2; New York v Salt Lake 1-3; Portland v San Jose 1-1.

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