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Friday, 30 September 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Midweek Round 29 – Of Who’s Your Pappa, & a High-Octane Shootout in Chester.

    Three midweek fixtures in round twenty-nine; eleven goals, no draws, a big road win, and a head-butt duly red carded.

      Having rested several starters in a big weekend loss to DC United, Salt Lake returned home hoping to get there Supporter’s Shield challenge back on track. They welcomed Chicago to a sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night.

    Salt Lake were unbeaten in their last five matches versus the Fire, but Chicago came in riding high – two straight wins; four of their last five. An early strike from Marco Pappa – placing a right-footed shot across Nick Rimando into the far netting from the left-sided edge of the box – and a moment of madness from Kyle Beckerman who saw red following a head-butt on Daniel Paladini, ruined what should have be a celebratory night for Salt Lake.

    Pappa soon doubled the advantage and his tally for the night collecting a delicious Pavel Pardo through-ball on the right-side of the box, stroking a low shot past Rimando. His last strike for the Fire was back in June, but he soon completed his hat-trick with a fine solo effort intercepting a poor touch in the midfield, powering past Chris Schuler on the right-hand touchline, cutting into the box and curling a left-footed effort into the far netting.

    The 0-3 defeat somewhat dampened the raucous Salt Lake crowd, on hand to welcome back their dynamic attacking midfielder Javier Morales, returning to the pitch for the first time since that devastating ankle injury on May 7th.

    Morales took the field in the sixtieth minute to a rapturous applause; despite some wonderful passing and trademark deliveries from dead ball situations he could not help his side back into the match.

    Thursday night saw all Eastern Conference match between two sides still in the midst of the  playoff race.

    Philadelphia, having slipped from the top of the table in recent weeks, sought to force themselves back into contention for the three guaranteed playoff berths with a win over a visiting DC United side, who themselves are looking to inch into the reckoning.

    The match pitted two of the most potent attackers on offer in MLS against each other as Sébastian Le Toux – scorer of seven goals in the last seven matches – and Dwayne De Rosario – himself with four in his last two matches.

    Le Toux gave Philly the initiative with a brace in the opening fifteen minutes, firstly pouncing on a long ball from the back by Danny Califf and steering it under a helpless Bill Hamid, then chesting down a Michael Farfan cross-field pass, before powering his shot in despite Hamid getting a paw on it.

    De Rosario pulled one back for his side minutes later, arriving first at an inswinging Austin Da Luz corner kick redirecting it with a near-post header. Andy Najar then leveled the score with a fantastic solo effort, collecting the ball from his keeper, bursting the length of the field, cutting past two defenders at the edge of the box and slotting a low shot past Zac MacMath.

    Despite numerous chances to break the deadlock neither side could grab the advantage. That is until Philly’s Michael Farfan surged forward from the midfield, skipped over a challenge and slammed a hard shot into the DC goal. Najar had a chance to level matters again moments later, but he redirected Josh Wolff’s cross well wide of the far post.

    The 3-2 victory moves the Union into second place in the Eastern Conference, while DC remains outside the playoff picture in sixth place.

The Fine Print

The other Tuesday night fixture saw Kansas City host Columbus in another top of the conference clash in the East. An early goal from Kei Kamara from the penalty spot – after Chad Marshall had tripped up CJ Sapong – was cancelled out by an Emilio Renteria strike, only for the match to be decided by a Julius James own-goal conceded from a Matt Besler long throw. KC’s 2-1 win sees them vault into first in the East, while Columbus’ miserable stretch – without a win in six matches – continues.

Round five of CONCACAF Champions League group play saw all the MLS clubs involved take to the pitch on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Toronto prolonged their campaign - battling Pumas UNAM to a 1-1 draw at home, while Seattle did the same in Guatemala drawing 2-2 with CSD Communicaciones though they sit atop their group with ten points. Dallas breathed further life into TFC’s chances when they fell 5-3 to Tauro FC of Panama, the two sides will play for progression in the next round of action. Los Angeles’, 2-1 home win over Monarcas Morelia allows them a chance at progression, despite the log-jam at the top of their group, while Colorado resurrected their campaign with a surprise 1-3 win over AD Isidro Metapán in El Salvador with a squad made largely of reserves, coached by Assistant Steve Guppy, and without some vital footwear. 

Kansas City v Columbus 2-1; Salt Lake v Chicago 0-3; Philadelphia v DC 3-2.

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