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Saturday, 8 October 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Midweek Round 30 – Of Makeup Dates, Unexpected Results, Newfound Hope, & Camilo.

    Two rescheduled matches took place this midweek; squeezing fixtures in during the international break. Five goals scored, two home wins – shutouts no less, a single red card, a couple of penalty kicks, and an inactive team eliminated from postseason contention.

    Wednesday night saw a big East-West power battle as New York – in desperate need of points - played host to Los Angeles – on the verge of clinching their second consecutive Supporter’s Shield. A match rescheduled from August 28th due to the approach of Hurricane Irene.

    The starless Galaxy, David Beckham aside – without Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, to injury and international duty respectively – were riding a four-match winning streak. New York on the fringes of the playoff picture, hope to press their advantage further with a solid performance.

    Goals either side of halftime from Luke Rodgers – hooking the rebound from a Jan Gunnar Solli header high into the net – and Thierry Henry – collecting a delicate pass from Rafa Márquez in behind AJ De La Garza and chipping his finish across Donovan Ricketts in the LA goal.

    New York’s hustle strained the Galaxy’s defensive resources all night long; the pace of Dane Richards, the work-rate of Joel Lindpere, Solli and Rodgers harried LA’s possession, and even the languid Henry had more bite and determination on the night. Lindpere stole a ball from Beckham, squared to Henry, who in turn setup Rodgers only for his shot to carom off the inside of the post. Later Henry himself stripped Beckham after a short pass from Bryan Jordan, only for his shot across Ricketts to hit the base of the post again.

    Los Angeles had their chances, but the toothless attack pairing of Chad Barrett and Miguel López could not take advantage of some pinpoint distribution from Beckham.

    The 2-0 dominant victory for the Red Bulls reinforces their playoff contention, while LA will have to wait another day to clinch the regular season trophy.

    If New York dominating the potential – eventual – champions was a peculiar result, what happened on Thursday night in Vancouver was jaw-dropping.

    A match rescheduled from July 16th when the natural grass surface laid for the visit of Manchester City was saturated with a torrential downpour rendering the surface unsuitable for purpose.

    Salt Lake – short-handed due to suspension, injury, and international call-ups – were without influential captain Kyle Beckerman, strikers Fabián Espíndola and Álvaro Saborío, midfielder Will Johnson, defender Robbie Russell and several other squad players.

    Vancouver themselves were not at full strength - Eric Hassli suspended; Davide Chiumiento, Mustapha Jarju, Shea Salinas, Pete Vagenas, and Michael Boxall all relegated to the bench. 

    Carlyle Mitchell, a Trinidadian defender acquired at the close of the window, made his first start – and appearance, while Chinese striker Long Tan made only his second start for the club.

    Vancouver looked dangerous and hungry right from the off; Salt Lake struggled to gain a foothold, the result of too many changes and a very conservative formation. Camilo and Tan caused the Salt Lake defenders fits with their movement and tenacity.

    The pressure paid off when Russell took down Camilo in the forty-second minute, gifting Vancouver a dangerous free kick opportunity. His delivery bounced to Jay DeMerit who poked his header goal-wards. The goal-bound effort ricocheted off the shoulder of the prostrate Collen Warner attempting to chest away the effort from the ground.

    The referee deemed it an intentional handball and denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, flashing his red card, as he awarded a penalty. Camilo stepped up, sent Nick Rimando the wrong way and slotted his effort low to the keeper’s right.

    Doubly punished Salt Lake came out for the second half disparaged, and events did not get better. Another dubious handball came shortly into the frame, as the ball deflected off Luis Gil and bounced up onto the arm of Chris Schuler. Camilo again stepped to the spot; Rimando again dove to his left, this time guessing correctly, though the weak hand he got on the effort was not enough to stop its progress.

    Nizar Khalfan capped off the celebratory evening in the eighty-eighth, when his hard work was rewarded, collecting a flick on thirty yards out and lashing a volley past Rimando. 3-0 to the Whitecaps, their first win at BC Place, with Camilo the hero of the evening. Scoring the first goal at the new ground, the ball now held for posterity awaiting the museum shelf.    

    A paltry taste of consolation sent their fans home happy, as playing well and acting the spoiler remains their sole reward for the inaugural season. Salt Lake have slumped to an astonishing four straight losses, and received more bad news post-match when Beckerman’s suspension was increased by an extra two games encapsulating the remainder of the regular season.     

The Fine Print

Seattle defeated Chicago 2-0 in the US Open Cup Final on Tuesday night in front of a record 35,615 fans. Late goals from Fredy Montero and Osvaldo Alonso, sealed a dominant performance, and ruined an excellent performance from Fire keeper Sean Johnson on a historic night for the old cup.

San Jose and Chivas were eliminated from postseason contention by New York’s win on Tuesday night, joining Vancouver, New England, and Toronto on the sidelines.

The international break sees only two weekend fixtures on the docket as New England host San Jose, while Philadelphia travel to Seattle.

New York v Los Angeles 2-0; Vancouver v Salt Lake 3-0.

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