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Bad tackles by Gershon Koffie and Victor Bernardez and violent conduct by Hassoun Camara earned all three one-match suspensions.
Week 22 was another weekend of wild finishes, red cards and plenty of drama in Major League Soccer.
The Houston Dynamo are unbeatable at BBVA Compass Stadium, having never lost at their home stadium since it opened this year, but that streak almost came to an end on Sunday. The Columbus Crew were ahead in the 82nd minute and looked set to down the Dynamo, but then Adam Moffat scored to salvage a 2-2 draw and keep Houston's home unbeaten streak alive.
Brad Davis opened up the scoring in the 19th minute and it looked like the Dynamo might cruise to yet another home win, but the Crew had other plans. They played well and were rewarded in the 33rd minute when Cole Grossman scored to level things.
The newly-signed Federico Higuain came on at halftime and really pushed the Crew forward. He added a bit of skill and that paid off in the 58th minute. He took the ball on the counterattack and chipped over the top of the Dynamo defense right into the path of Eddie Gaven, who finished clinically to put the Crew in front.
Moffat had an answer, though. He hopped on a clearance a 25 yards and took two touches to settle before ripping a left-footed shot. That's when he got some help from Andy Gruenebaum, who let the ball slip through his fingers and across the line for the equalizer as the two teams split the points.
The New York Red Bulls' undefeated home record this season looked like it was going to come to an end on Sunday night to the Portland Timbers of all teams. A pair of early goals put the Timbers, last in the Western Conference, up 2-0, but the Red Bulls stormed back and preserved their home mark with three goals to win 3-2.
It took just eight minutes for Portland to go in front and it was Bright Dike who did the scoring, opening his MLS account. But while Dike was the goalscorer, Sal Zizzo did much of the work, taking a good pass from Kosuke Kimura and putting the defense on its heels before crossing for Dike to finish rather easily.
In the 32nd minute, Darlington Nagbe doubled the Portland lead. Franck Songo'o started the play with some nifty work down the right before cutting in and drawing in the defense. He fed Zizzo, who once again did the assisting with a good ball into Nagbe to finish and the Timbers were sitting pretty.
At least it looked like the Timbers were sitting pretty, but things fell apart in the 42nd minute. Kenny Cooper got on the end of a cross from Jan Gunnar Solli and headed home to cut Portland's lead in half.
Three minutes later, the referee flat out handed the Red Bulls a goal with some of the most cowardice and awful refereeing possible. Dax McCarty let a shot rip from 20 yards that struck a Portland defender either in the chest or his arm, on his chest. The referee blew his whistle and started running to the penalty spot and the Timbers naturally stopped. Tim Cahill then knocked the ball in the net while the Red Bulls pointed for a penalty. The referee, at this point apparently aware that he had blown his whistle for a hand ball in the box that shouldn't have been called, then decided to pretend like he never blew his whistle and gave New York the goal for Cahill's shot that came after his whistle.
From two down to level at halftime, New York was given life. Just because they were back in it didn't mean that they started playing well, though. They were poor at the back and only the heroic of Bill Gaudette kept the Timbers from going back in front.
New York also got a second gift from the referee when he failed to spot a reckless elbow by Cahill, who caught Kimura. The Red Bulls' forward vicious elbow knocked Kimura to the ground and forced him to be stretchered off, but while the referee missed it, Cahill should expect the disciplinary committee to weigh in and suspend him.
The referee had nothing to do about New York's last goal, though. Once again it was Solli who provided the service, hitting a great ball in from the right that found Heath Pearce to nod home for the winner and preserve the Red Bulls' home mark.
Dwayne DeRosario missed an 89th minute penalty, after being forced to retake a successful one minutes earlier, to preserve a 1-1 tie between D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union on Sunday. The two teams ended the game playing with nine and 10 men, respectively, after referee Mark Geiger dismissed three players after the 89th minute. To put a final bow on an absolutely crazy game, United teammates Chris Korb and Brandon McDonald were engaged in a shoving match immediately after the whistle blew.
The first 86 minutes of the match were pretty standard with physical play on both sides, as the two sides traded goals. Brian Carroll opened the scoring in the 8th minute to give the Union the lead and United tied in the 71st on an Omobi Okugo own goal.
The match took a turn for the strange shortly after Jose Torres was whistled for a clear foul on Chris Pontius in the box. DeRosario stepped up to take the penalty and converted for what appeared to be his 99th career goal. But Geiger immediately signaled for a retake, as Pontius had entered the penalty area arc early. In a scrum immediately following the kick, Branko Boskovic was shown a straight red card. DeRosario then skyed his second attempt.
In the 91st minute, United defender Emiliano Dudar was shown a straight red card, leaving the home team with nine men. Just before the final whistle blew, Sheanon Williams was given a second yellow card. Although at least a minute was spent in the aftermath of that, Geiger ended the game almost immediately after the ball was put back into play.
Down a goal away from home, light-scoring Chivas USA looked dead and buried. But Juan Pablo Angel wasn't going to let his team just go away and scored in the 83rd minute to earn the Goats a 1-1 draw at the Colorado Rapids to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
The goal started when Tristan Bowen crossed for Angel, only for it to get too close to goal. Matt Pickens came out to grab the cross, but he couldn't get it done. Instead, he spilled it right in front for Angel to knock home and tie the match.
It was a tough result for the Rapids, who dominated Chivas for most of the match. Brian Mullan put the hosts in front in the 19th minute when he swiped the ball from Shalrie Joseph and bured his shot past Dan Kennedy.
The Rapids didn't slow down just because they had a goal, but it didn't play off. For all of their pressure, Colorado couldn't find a second goal.
On a night full of missed opportunities, nobody was worse than Omar Cummings, who was extremely wasteful and on one occasion couldn't even get a shot off when alone on Kennedy. Credit does have to go to Kennedy, too, who made some fantastic saves to thwart the Rapids when they did get a shot on goal.
But those missed chances and Kennedy's heroics kept Chivas in the match and Angel made the Rapids pay late on. With the point, Chivas stay just 10 points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with four matches in hand, while the Rapids are a point back of the Goats, but have played three more matches.
Look out, Eastern Conference, here come the Chicago Fire. The club that had seemingly been relegated to midtable purgatory has sneakily gone on a nice little streak and continued that on Saturday with a 2-1 win over the New England Revolution. Now you can find the Fire all the way up in second place in the East, tied with the Red Bulls.
The Fire got going early through Chris Rolfe, who drew a penalty in the fifth minute. A.J. Soares took the forward down in the box, the referee pointed to the spot and Rolfe converted the penalty to put the home side in front.
Their lead only last six minutes, though. Saer Sene crossed from the left and it resulted in a mad scramble in front of the Fire net. Eventually, Fernando Cardenas got to the ball and managed to knock it over the line, getting the Reds level.
In the 25th minute, Sherjill MacDonald made his first MLS goal count, notching the winner for the Fire. Gonzalo Segares' throw-in found Patrick Nyarko, who was near the end line. He crossed and found MacDonald, whose header beat Matt Reis to deliver Chicago all three points.
What started as an ugly, physical affair turned in to a fairly entertaining match that saw FC Dallas take a lead, lose the lead and then steal the full three points in the final minute of stoppage time thanks to David Ferriera.
The first 45 minutes was goal less and extremely physical, a half more about referee Juan Guzman wanting to hand out yellow cards (RSL received three) than anything else. Fortunately the teams seemed to calm down at halftime and got down to the business of playing soccer.
Real Salt Lake were the better team in the first half and were the superior team from the kick-off of the second half, so of course FC Dallas scored first, totally against the run of play...as happens. Fabian Castillo connected on a great give and go with David Ferriera to get behind the defense and beat Nick Rimando with a low, shot from an extreme angle.
Real Salt Lake redoubled their efforts after the goal and finally found the equalizer in the 76th minute. After Jair Benitez cleared a Kwame Watson-Siriboe header off the line on a corner, RSL quickly earned another and ran virtually the same set piece. Dallas again couldn't cover properly and Alvaro Saborio was able to jump cleanly and head a shot past Kevin Hartman.
Just when the draw seemed a foregone conclusion, Dallas stole the result, once again complete against the run of play. Another defensive breakdown left David Ferreirat with space just inside 18-yard box and he uncorked a wicked shot that Rimando had no hope of stopping.
FC Dallas extends their winning streak to three games while RSL fails to take advantage of first place San Jose's loss to Montreal earlier in the evening.
The San Jose Earthquakes have made a habit of coming from behind, but this time they were the victim of a comeback. After falling behind 1-0, the 10-man Montreal Impact scored twice to take the lead on the 10-man Quakes, then added one more after the visitors had a second man sent off to win 3-1.
A 21st minute scuffle between Hassoun Camara and Steven Lenhart got both sent off, although Lenhart didn't do much wrong. He and Camara got tangled up, but it was Camara who then took Lenhart down and went back after him, repeatedly bumping into the Quakes striker. Lenhart didn't do much to deserve a red card, but he has a lot of negative karma that may have come good today.
Two minutes later, Chris Wondolowski added to his league-leading goals total from the penalty spot and MLS's best team was off and running. Or so we thought.
Just two minutes after falling behind, the Impact got even through Marco Di Vaio. Felipe Mertins got down the right wing and crossed for Di Vaio, who was right in front of goal to knock in the equalizer.
It took until just after the hour mark for Montreal to go in front, but the wait was worth it. After some fancy footwork by Patrice Bernier to keep the ball at the top of the box, he laid it off for Lamar Neagle, who hit an absolute rocket. His shot left Jon Busch no chance and Stade Saputo erupted as the home side went in front.
In the 71st minute, San Jose's hopes of another comeback were extinguished. Jason Hernandez got caught behind Di Vaio and had to pull him down. That earned him a red card and the Impact got a penalty, which Bernier converted to put the match to bed.
Sporting Kansas City increased their lead atop the Eastern Conference with a 1-0 win at Toronto FC on Saturday, moving five points clear of second place New York. It took until the 83rd minute for Sporting to breakthrough, but Kei Kamara snuck a free kick past Milos Kocic to earn the visitors all three points.
Kamara's winner wasn't the best of strikes and it is certainly one that Kocic will wish that he had back. Graham Zusi touched the free kick for Kamara, who hit it hard and low. Kocic was screened by the wall for a moment, but that is not nearly a good enough excuse for him to not stop a ball that skipped well in front of goal and wasn't near the corner. Still, he was beaten and Kamara had himself the winning strike.
It was a deserved win for Sporting, who controlled most of the match. They had 56% of possession, outshot the home side 17-6 and put eight shots on frame to just two for Toronto. It was a thorough and impressive performance, even if their finishing wasn't always up to par.
Toronto did put on some late pressure, hitting the bar twice on one play, and watching Ryan Johnson waste a golden opportunity, but Kansas City had three good chances for each of the Reds'. That almost didn't mean anything because of how wasteful they were, Sporting did finally get their goal and the win.
The Seattle Sounders earned a big 2-0 victory against the Vancouver Whitecaps at CenturyLink Field thanks to a second-half strikes by substitute Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson, moving them into second in the Western Conference. It wasn't a classic match by any means against the Sounders' Cascadia Cup rivals, but the hosts dominated from start to finish and definitely deserved their three points.
Games between the Whitecaps and the Sounders are never particularly friendly, and it came as no surprise that we got a severe case of handbags well before any serious sniff of goal. Mauro Rosales was trying to take a free kick when Eddie Johnson and Carlyle Mitchell clashed on the edge of the box, with Johnson accidentally catching the defender in the face while attempting to run around him. Fortunately for the Seattle man, Silviu Petrescu let him off with a warning.
Johnson had a more wholesome sort of impact in the 18th minute, driving through the centre of the pitch and forcing Joe Cannon into a flying stop with a long range shot -- admittedly, one that was hit right down his throat for a corner kick. But the play wasn't all around the Whitecaps' box, with Kenny Miller and Darren Mattocks both seriously threatening Michael Gspurning's goal in the first half.
The Sounders were still by and large the better side, and they turned on the pressure in the later stages of the first half. Brad Evans saw a stinging shot blocked by Cannon following a superb turn by Leo Gonzalez on the left. Then Alex Caskey blew the game's best chance when a flicked pass from Evans found him in space at the top of the box. Instead of shooting immediately or taking a step past the centre back, Caskey fell over, the ball trickling harmlessly past the far post.
Seattle started the second half in much the same vein that they finished the first. Osvaldo Alonso latched onto a cushioned pass from Johnson and forced Cannon into a sprawling save with a low drive, then had a shot blocked from very close range when he looked certain to score. He wasn't the only Sounder with great chances -- Johnson contrived to screw well wide from inside the six yard box when he was left totally unmarked on a cross.
Montero was introduced for Caskey on the hour mark, given the hosts even more impetus on the attack. He made a more or less instant impact when the Whitecaps defence left him unattended on a Mauro Rosales free kick. That turned out to be a big whoopsie -- he was found by a Jeff Parke header and somehow scrambled the ball past Cannon. A deflection helped.
Anyway, that goal made it 1-0 with 25 minutes left to play. Johnson nearly doubled the lead shortly thereafter when Alonso made the most of an advantage call from Petrescu, swinging in a cross that was nicked off its course by Mitchell just before Johnson could intervene. Fortunately for the Sounders, they wouldn't need it, although Mattocks nearly gave them a score when he poked past Gspurning in the 81st minute only to see his strike ruled out for a trip on Parke.
Johnson finally got the goal his play deserved when Alonso found Evans in acres of space down the right. The midfielder looked up and waited for the runs of his forwards, finally sending in a low cross through the six yard box which Johnson turned home at the back post. Vancouver's defence was nowhere to be seen: Montero would have tapped it in instead had Johnson not scored.
That goal killed off the game, and with the Sounders not pushing particularly hard to make it three -- they were rather content with 2-0 and three points, thank you very much -- any further excitement would come from the Whitecaps. Alas, that excitement came in unfriendly form, and the match ended on a sour note when Gershon Koffie decided to take out his frustration over the goals by kicking Andy Rose in the ribs.
The MLS table is finally starting to look like something sensible and not a mish mash of of craziness.
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