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Tuesday 11 October 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Weekend Round 30 – Of Away Wins, a Potentially Golden Meaningless Fixture, the Dreaded Cup Hangover & to the Top of the East.

    Two fixtures took place over the weekend of round thirty. Five goals, shockingly two rare away wins, and not a single red card, though there were six yellows and a small fracas; the stories behind the numbers are as follows.

     The first worthless match of the season kicked off Saturday’s action as two eliminated clubs met as New England hosted San Jose. Though the outcome would not affect the postseason, it was a valuable opportunity for several players. Both teams rested their ailing starting keepers – Matt Reis and Jon Busch – in their stead Bobby Shuttleworth and David Bingham minded their respective nets. The Revolution also fielded their rising starlet Diego Fagundez it was his second consecutive start.

    It was Bingham who made the first impact on the result just eight minutes into play. Reminiscent of his long goal-bound punt downfield that bounced high eluding West Bromwich Albion keeper Boaz Myhill in a friendly match back on July 12th, his distribution led to the opening goal of the match. New England’s defense, which was shambolic all evening, failed to cover their marks tightly as Chris Wondolowski – the most dangerous man in San Jose – snuck behind Ryan Cochrane. Wondo brought down the punt with a deft touch and sent his shot low across Shuttleworth for his thirteenth goal of the season.

       Steve Nicol was sent into paroxysms of rage as the former Liverpool defender could not believe what he was seeing from his charges. His side did manage to fight back into the match, pulling even in the opening stanza of the second half. A foul on Benny Feilhaber by Ramiro Corrales drew the ire of his Revolution teammates, igniting a minor exchange of opinions, and yellow cards to both Corrales and Cochrane. On the ensuing free kick Chris Tierney sent a low belter into the wall, it rebounded to Ryan Guy whose shot was well-clawed away by the San Jose keeper, tragically right into the path of Feilhaber. The American international acrobatically leapt to meet the ball with a half-side-volley, half-scissor-kick into the Earthquake net.

    Eight minutes again proved a hex for New England, as with those many remaining in regulation time Wondolowski struck again ghosting in for a free header from the back post. Some fine work in the midfield found Simon Dawkins streaking towards the Revolution goal; he spotted Sam Cronin overlapping into space on the right side of the box. Cronin collected the pass and lofted a perfectly weighted chipped delivery to Wondo at the far stick.

    A 1-2 road victory for the Earthquakes, Wondolowski twice the hero for his side taking his goal tally for the year up to fourteen, a three-way tie for the lead in the Golden Boot race with Dwayne De Rosario and Thierry Henry.

    A meaningless match potentially turned golden for San Jose and Chris Wondowlowski.

    As that match came to a close the other of the night was about to begin; the march and its band, Drew Carey and the rest had made their way to CenturyLink Field to take in the meeting of the Number Twos, as second in the West – Seattle – hosted second in the East – Philadelphia.

    Seattle, fresh off their third consecutive US Open Cup victory - over Chicago 2-0 midweek, and without dynamic attacking duo Fredy Montero – yellow card accumulation – and Mauro Rosales – MCL injury – struggled to assert their dominance over the match as the two sides traded chances.

    The first half saw neither side could get the upper hand, though the Sounders did have the best of the opportunities: a Lamar Neagle cross to Pat Noonan ending in a weak volley right at Zac MacMath, and then Brad Evans sending a close-range shot high after MacMath had gone walkabouts in search of a cross.

    The match turned in the fifty-second minute when Evans found himself in space at the edge of the area and sent a delicious chip towards to Philadelphia goal. When it found wood instead of mesh it became apparent that this was not to be Seattle’s night, sparking some determination in the awakened Union.

    A minute on, Philly had their first real chance of the evening. Sheanon Williams sent a deep left-sided cross to the back post, where Veljko Paunović rose to meet it. Only the quick reactions of Kasey Keller could prevent its goal-bound progression, diving low to his right to snuff out the chance.

     The smell of goal piqued their interest; the Union continued to press forward. In the sixtieth Gabriel Farfan – henceforth known as Garfan, as opposed to his brother Marfan – outworked James Riley on the left-side end-line, and pulled back a pass for Freddy Adu to smash high into the roof of the net.

    It was the second time a ball given up upon by a defender turned into an assist for one of the Farfan brothers as Marfan two weeks previously versus Kansas City had outworked Seth Sinovic on the opposite end-line to set up a Sébastian Le Toux equalizing goal.

    Ten minutes later the result was sealed when Brian Carroll started and ended a lightning quick counterattack, feeding Le Toux – who ran the length of the pitch – and following the play up-field to receive a return pass into space on the right and send a low hard finish across Keller.

    The match finished 0-2 to Philadelphia despite the best efforts Seattle could muster: an Ossie Alsonso free kick bent wide of the post, a penalty appeal rejected when Nate Jaqua was shoved by Williams, and some wonderful wide play from Lamar Neagle that saw him beat two defenders as he cut in from the right only to see his shot fly inches over the bar.

    It was Philadelphia first win on the West Coast – having gone winless in their first nine trips – and saw them leapfrog Kansas City into first place in the East.

    Two rare away wins on a peculiar week of limited action due to international blackout dates. The schedule returns to normal with two weeks remaining in the regular season, much more still to be decided, as the playoff push reaches conclusion.

The Fine Print

With Seattle’s loss Los Angeles clinched their second consecutive Supporter’s Shield as the Sounders can no long catch the Galaxy with the remaining points on the table.

In international action Canada won their Friday match in St. Lucia 0-7 to remain top of their qualifying group with a perfect three-and-O record, while the US won their first match under Jurgen Klinsmann defeating Honduras 1-0 via a spectacular finish from Clint Dempsey.

New England v San Jose 1-2; Seattle v Philadelphia 0-2.

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