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Week 31 produced six playoff tickets, shed some light on the MVP race and showed a game is never truly over until the final whistle is blown.
Though this edition of the SuperClasico didn't mean anything in the standings, both Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy decided to play like the game was meaningful for the vast majority of the match. Though the effort was there for 90 minutes, the quality was not, and the game didn't have a lot of clear-cut scoring chances. LA was the better team, though, and eventually sealed a deserved win, taking the match by a final score of 1-0.
Chad Barrett scored the winner, and it can only help his confidence going into the playoffs. Barrett somehow squandered a clear one-on-one with the keeper in the first minute and failed to make the most of a couple of half chances in the first half. Unfortunately, this is not exactly an uncommon occurrence. However, he went on to more than make up for his mistakes.
In the 53rd minute, Barrett flicked on a header to the feet of Adam Cristman, then took off towards the goal. Cristman played a great ball towards the far post and no one picked up the run of Barrett, as the ball hit his head perfectly from five yards out before going into the back of the net.
With the Supporters' Shield already locked up and Chivas USA already eliminated from the playoff race, the Los Angeles Galaxy are giving several starters the day off. Chief among them is captain Landon Donovan, making room for Gregg Berhalter to be the captain in his final home game. Berhalter has announced that he will retire after this season.
Chivas USA counters with what is essentially their first-choice lineup. Juan Pablo Angel will start alongside Alejandro Moreno at forward. Justin Braun, who was listed as probable, is not in the gameday roster.
Galaxy starters: Saunders; DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Berhalter, Dunivant; Magee, Beckham, Juninho, Cardozo; Barrett, Cristman. Bench: Ricketts, Robinson, Birchall, Keat, Kirovski, Lopez, Stephens.
Chivas USA starters: Kennedy, Valentin, Boyens, Lopes, Jazic, Zemanski, LaBrocca, Lahoud, Mondaini, Angel, and Moreno. Bench: Thorton, Pearce, Courtois, Elliot, Gavin, Estupinian, and Flores.
It was Kasey Keller Day in Seattle as they celebrated the career of the 41-year-old hometown hero in his final regular season home match. 64,140 fans showed up at CenturyLink Field and created one of the greatest atmospheres that MLS has ever seen. With all that going on, there was just no way the Seattle Sounders were going to lose. Down 1-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes after 81 minutes, the Sounders came storming back with a pair of goals to cap an incredible night in Seattle with three points.
Things got off to a bad start for the Sounders because Chris Wondolowski decided he wanted to move into a tie for the Golden Boot lead. The Quakes' striker got in behind the defense thanks to a good one-touch pass from Rafael Baca and wasn't about to miss once he was in alone on Keller. He finished simply and the visitors were ahead 1-0.
As te match went on, the match turned more and more in favor of the Sounders. Spurred on by their giant and raucous home crowd, Seattle grabbed a hold of the match and adding Mauro Rosales with a late substitution only helped. It was Rosales who set up the first Seattle goal, hitting a perfect through ball to Sammy Ochoa, whose perfectly timed run put him in alone on Jon Busch for the one-touch finish that equalized things.
Only five minutes later, Seattle got their winner. Lamar Neagle snuck a ball into Fredy Montero, who was kept onside by Jason Hernandez, and the Colombian made no mistake with his finish. He put the ball into the side netting and the stadium erupted as the Sounders got the victory you felt they were destined to get on a great night at CenturyLink Field.
After being quiet for the better part of the last two months, FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea is back on track with his MVP candidacy - after a goal and an assist in a 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Shea volleyed home a header from a free kick that wasn't cleared out to give the home side the insurance goal they were looking for. The goal was Shea's 11th of the season and the assist up his season total up to four.
The first goal came in the 34th minute - when Shea headed on a clearance by keeper Kevin Hartman to Marvin Chavez. The Honduran used his pace to beat the Vancouver defense and hammer home the game's first goal. The goal was Chavez's sixth goal of the season.
Dallas controlled the pace and the possession in this match. The Whitecaps only registered a couple shots on Hartman all game - only one from striker Camilo that really tested the veteran keeper. The shutout was also Hartman's 13th of the season - which is tied for the league lead with Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando.
The win was Dallas' first back-to-back win since their three-game winning streak at the end of June. The Toros are now sitting at 52 points on the season - tied with Real Salt Lake for third in the Western Conference.
The loss was Vancouver's 12th of the season on the road, marking the first MLS side to go winless on the road since the 2009 New York Red Bulls.
It's the biggest home game in Seattle Sounders history and US goalkeeping legend Kasey Keller's sendoff, but there's more than just ceremonies and crowds tonight - there's a football match going on as well as Seattle take on the San Jose Earthquakes. The Sounders will be playing for pride in front of a crowd of well over 60,000 people, while ... the Earthquakes will be playing for pride - they've long ago been eliminated for meaningful competition. Here are your lineups:
So as it turns out, you need five minutes to turn a game from one of the worst matches ever to be played into what was quite possibly the most thrilling comeback in MLS history. The Chicago Fire and DC United played insipid, uninspired football for 89 minutes, neither team bothering to attack - it was as though nobody told them that the match was a must win for both sides. Playoff hopes hung on the line and a draw simply wasn't going to be good enough for either. A draw, however, is what it looked like we'd get. Until those last five minutes, you could count the number of good scoring chances for both teams on one finger.
And then all hell broke loose.
With no time remaining, Gonzalo Segares clipped DC United's Santino Quaranta in the box for a penalty. It wasn't a particularly egregious foul, but it looked like the correct call, and as Dwayne de Rosario stepped up, everyone watching knew - knew - that if he scored the spot kick the hosts would have the win locked up. He did, sending Sean Johnson the wrong way in the process, and DC had buried Chicago's playoff hopes with three minutes left to play.
If the bulk of the match was any indication, Chicago would respond to this setback by using the considered approach of rolling over and dying. Fortunately (unless one happens to be a DC fan), it wasn't. Instead, the visitors flipped the switch, going into a furious attacking mode that swiftly paid dividends. Within seconds, the score was level as Sebastian Grazzinitook advantage of Bill Hamid being unsighted to send a long range shot to make the game 1-1.
Exuberant celebrations followed, but everyone by this point knew that a draw wasn't going to do, and both teams pressed for an extra goal. DC even went so far as to send Hamid halfway up for a corner, a decision that nearly backfired on them as the Fire broke while Hamid was twenty yards from his own box, but when that threat died down the game looked done.
Of course, there was time for one more twist - a brilliant pass found a runner in behind the United defence, the ball was squared to Diego Chavez, and the substitute slid home into the empty net, scoring what must surely go down as one of the biggest goals in Chicago's history with virtually the last kick of the match. The 2-1 win, of course, doesn't guarantee a playoff spot for the Fire - they're still long shots to make it. But for an evening, at least, they've done the impossible. It's a great win for them, and a great reminder to all of us that this sport can spring some absolutely wonderful surprises on all of us.
Oh, and Segares, the man responsible for conceding that last-minute penalty? He got the assist on both goals. Talk about redemption.
Andres Mendoza netted a brace in a 3-0 win for the Columbus Crew over the New England Revolution tonight. Mendoza scored goals in each half while Dilly Duka scored his first career goal as the Crew clinched a playoff berth with the win.
Columbus controlled the game from the start as New England really had no answer for Mendoza and Emilio Renteria - who had two assists on both Mendoza goals. The goals were Mendoza's 12th and 13th of the season, putting him just one behind Golden Boot leaders Thierry Henry, Chris Wondolowski and Dwayne De Rosario.
New England held the edge in the possession and in the shots but were not able to do a thing against the Crew defense. Chad Marshall and Julius James were all over Milton Caragilo and others tonight. Crew keeper William Hesmer was only tested a couple of times - he had three saves on the night.
The win punched the Crew's playoff ticket and pushed them to 47 points on the season, good for third in the Eastern Conference behind the Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City.
New England takes the loss in their final home game of the year and remains at the bottom of the league table with 27 points.
Is there a word for games that make you want to hurry up and die that little bit quicker? If there was, I'd be using it to describe DC United against the Chicago Fire at the RFK Stadium. With both teams desperately needing to win to have much hope of securing one of MLS' ten playoff spots, one might have expected to see two sides go on the attack and a bit of a goalfest. How differently things have turned out.
The first twenty minutes featured nothing apart from what looked like a minor thigh injury to Fire midfielder Michael Videira, but after that this game sparked to life. Ish. As long as we allow slime moulds to be included in 'life'. There were a few shots and a few decent chances - Marco Pappa probably should have scored after wiggling his way into the penalty area and Bill Hamid was lucky to get away with spilling a long-range effort by Dominic Oduro shortly thereafter, but in general it looks like both teams are playing for (and getting) a 0-0 draw. Someone should probably tell them it does neither of them any good.
You know that a game isn't great when the first event of any note whatsoever is an injury. Describing DC United vs. the Chicago Fire as 'not great', however, is probably a dire insult to all mediocre games ever player - this has been a downright boring contest through the first 20 minutes, with neither side apparently realising that a draw does them no good.
And, yes, the thigh injury to Michael Videira was the first thing that happened at the RFK Stadium. The Fire midfielder doesn't seem that badly hurt, the but visitors were forced to burn a substitute on pulling him out, putting Yamith Cuesta on in his place while Videira ices himself on the bench. Since then, both Dominic Oduro and Marco Pappa have fired shots towards Bill Hamid's goal - Pappa might have done better than shoot straight at the keeper - but, yeah, it's still boring. MOVE FASTER. ENTERTAIN. STOP BEING 0-0.
Major League Soccer is down to its final two weeks, with everyone having just a few games remaining to solidify their playoff position. Following their losses on Wednesday, both D.C. United and the Chicago Fire have their backs against the wall and must win Saturday night at RFK Stadium. A draw does neither team much good at all, though it would not eliminate DCU. The New York Red Bulls fell earlier on Saturday, giving both teams hope, and the Columbus Crew will be playing at the same time as this match. Check out how the teams stood before Saturday's matches kicked off. Here are the lineups.
D.C. United Lineup (4-4-2): Hamid; Korb, McDonald, Kitchen, Woolard; Najar, Simms, King, da Luz; De Rosario, Wolff
Substitutes From: Davies, Ngwenya, Brettschneider, Quaranta, White, Burch, Willis
Chicago Fire Lineup (4-3-1-2): Johnson; Videira, Anibaba, Mikulic, Segares; Pause (C), Paladini, Pappa; Grazzini; Oduro, Nyarko
Substitutes From: Conway, Cuesta, Pantazopoulos, Husidic, Bone, Chaves, Barouch
Kickoff is at 7:30 pm ET from Washington, DC. We'll have live coverage of the match right here. You can catch the game on MLS Direct Kick or Matchday Live.
Playing at home against a Toronto FC team missing Danny Koevermans, the Philadelphia Union would have liked three points. They didn't get it, instead settling for a draw, but they won't be too upset because that point was enough to clinch the club a playoff spot, the first in their history. It also leaves them level on points with Sporting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with just once match remaining in the regular season.
A bad giveaway by Ty Harden opened the door for the Union and Sebastien Le Toux was only too happy to take advantage. He took the ball, dribbled a bit then ripped a shot that curled just inside the far post for the opener. Toronto wasn't going to take it lying down though. Nick Soolsma got the ball to the end line and crossed low for Ryan Johnson, who did well to redirect the ball on goal for the equalizer.
From there it was just about holding on for Toronto. They asked Milos Kocic to make a couple nice saves and he did. Philadelphia were frustrated, but they got what they needed. They got a point and with it, a playoff spot.
Once Thierry Henry was sent off, the New York Red Bulls had no chance. They were already in a tough spot, desperate for a road result against a team that has been tremendous at home and playing well of late, but down a man? Forget about it. The Frenchman got the boot, Teal Bunbury and CJ Sapong got goals and Sporting Kansas City got a 2-0 win. With it came a spot in the playoffs, which they clinched with the win, as well as a spot tied atop the Eastern Conference with just one match left. Ohhhh, this is getting fun!
Henry got tangled up with Roger Espinoza in the 28th minute and a couple moments later when Espinoza was lying on the ground, Henry ran into him and kneed him in the back of the head. intentional? Maybe, but he certainly could have avoided Espinoza if he really wanted to so he saw red and Sporting saw a 10-man side they could tear apart.
Bunbury wasted two golden chances in the first half, but didn't waste his first chance of the second half. When a ball was chested down for him, he hit a beauty of a side volley and Sporting were ahead 1-0. It was just for a striker that had been a handful for the Red Bulls' back line all match, but then he got help from Sapong.
Just a minute after coming into the match as a substitute, Sapong scored a great goal, knocked the ball home from close range and around a defender to put the home side up 2-0, locking up the win and the playoff spot in front of a full house at Livestrong Sporting Park.
The story of the first half was Thierry Henry, but not in the way that the New York Red Bulls would have liked from their superstar. He became the story thanks to a red card he earned for running into Roger Espinoza. The question is whether he deserved the red card. It was clear that Henry wasn't happy with Henry after getting tangled up with the Sporting Kansas City man moments earlier, then he ran into Espinoza while Espinoza was sitting on the turf. Was it intentional? Unclear, but at the very least, Henry had plenty of time to avoid Espinoza and didn't, instead putting a knee in the back of Espinoza's head.
Because of Henry's red card, Sporting have been up a man, but they haven't made it count. Graham Zusi has played a couple gorgeous balls into Teal Bunbury that should have resulted in goals, but Bunbury has been wasteful. As a result, the match is still scoreless at the break in Kansas City.
Sporting is looking to stay on the Union's heels for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a win, but as importantly, clinch a playoff spot. The Red Bulls need three points to put some space between them and Portland and DC for the final playoff spot, but down a man they will take one point now.
Sebastien Le Toux continues to make a compelling darkhorse case for MVP consideration. The Philadelphia Union midfielder scored his 11th goal of the season -- and his 10th goal in his last 11 games -- to send his team into halftime leading Toronto FC 1-0 on Saturday. Le Toux has scored 67 percent of the Union's goals in that time.
Le Toux's goal came in the 43rd minute when he found some space about 20 yards out. He unleashed a curling shot that beat Milos Kocic to the far post.
Winning this game would give the Union a huge leg up in the race to win the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They already lead, but three more points would give them no less than a two-point lead by the end of the weekend with just one game left to play. A loss could leave them with the very real possibility of having to go through the Western Conference and with an extra game to play.
To get the latest updates on all the playoff implications, be sure to follow this StoryStream.
Needing a win to secure a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs, Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes has chosen to start Teal Bunbury at forward instead of rookie CJ Sapong. The two young forwards have switched off much of the season.
The New York Red Bulls counter with a lineup that looks a lot like it has in recent weeks. Rafael Marquez is once again in the midfield instead of at center back. Dax McCarty, whose spot Marquez took, is not even in the 18. Stephen Keel has once again been given the start next to Tim Ream on the backline.
The Red Bulls need some points just to feel remotely comfortable about making the playoffs.
Sporting KC starters: Nielsen; Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic; Cesar, Espinoza, Zusi; Kamara, Bunbury, Bravo(c). Bench: Kronberg, Olum, Harrington, Arnaud, Jeferson, Saad, Sapong
Red Bulls starters: Rost, Solli, Keel, Ream, Miller, Richards, Tainio, Marquez, Lindpere, Rodgers, Henry. Bench: Coundoul, Mendes, Kassel, Rooney, Auvray, Ballouchy, Agudelo
Sporting KC-New York Red Bulls is the first game of the day and the one with the most playoff implications, but the Columbus Crew, the Chicago Fire and DC United could each do with a win as well.
The Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake played to a 0-0 draw Friday night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. It was a game that featured some of the feisty play common in rivalry matches, but was a dull affair overall. With the draw, Real Salt Lake retain regional bragging rights and the Rocky Mountain Cup in 2011 by virtue of their 1-0 victory over Colorado on April 23. In this match, however, RSL had no shots on goal and could not seem to find a consistent rhythm in possession. Perhaps the suspension of Kyle Beckerman left the midfield disjointed.
Colorado controlled most of the play in this match, although it was frequently unconvincing. Wells Thompson poked a ball away from goal when he was right in front of the net in the fourth minute, and a shot came from outside the box in first-half injury time that Nick Rimando had to block. In the 82nd minute, Sanna Nyassi, who had an active match, crossed the ball in and Caleb Folan's flicked header was barely tipped over the crossbar by Rimando.
There were two key moments in this game. The first came in the first half, when Nyassi made a run into the box to reach a long pass and made contact with Rimando, who was also going after the ball. Since there was contact, but it looked like either player could have been at fault, referee Ricardo Salazar decided not to call a foul or issue a card. He issued a variety of yellow cards throughout the match, but none on this particular play.
The second pivotal moment came in the 84th minute, when a header by Folan off a corner kick bounced off the crossbar and ricocheted to the ground. In live play, it was unclear if it crossed the goal line, but Salazar did not award a goal despite appeals from Rapids players. The replay, however, confirmed the ball did not completely cross the line, so the initial no-call was correct.
While bragging rights were on the line, neither team can be pleased with this result. Although there was nothing major to play for in this match, both clubs look like they have a lot of holes that can be exploited. This match may provide prime scouting material for their postseason opponents.
Jeld-Wen Field played host to a huge playoff six-pointer, but the green-clad fans that filled the stadium were sent home unhappy. That's because the Houston Dynamo went into the Portland Timbers' raucous stadium and thanks to goals by Andre Hainault and Danny Cruz came away with a 2-0 win.
The loss leaves Portland three points out of the final playoff spot with just two matches left and they have the worst goal difference of all the contenders. Meanwhile, Houston jumped from the final playoff spot to second in the Eastern Conference, although they have played one more match than their competition.
Hainault opened the scoring in the 36th minute when he got just enough of a head on a Brad Davis free kick to deflect the ball home. Cruz's goal was far prettier as he lofted a shot from 30 yards up and over Troy Perkins just before the hour mark for a great goal that sealed a deserved Dynamo win.
It was the visitors who carried the play for most of the match and put the Timbers on their heels. Davis turned in yet another sterling performance for Houston and John Spencer's decision to leave Jorge Perlaza on the bench turned out to be awful as Kenny Cooper struggled and with him, so did the Portland attack.
At the half, the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake remain scoreless at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Neither team had many chances, but Colorado held more of the possession and had better opportunities. The Rapids may come to regret not getting the lead in the first half, as Real Salt Lake looked somewhat disjointed but are capable of snapping into form after the restart. Perhaps the best chance of the half came at the beginning of the match, when a cross in the fourth minute from the right of the box came into Wells Thompson, who attempted to toe poke it in the net on a slide. Instead, the ball knifed away from goal and sailed in the opposite direction. Colorado also got a long range blast in injury time that was blocked by Nick Rimando.
But the biggest play of the half came in the 28th minute when Sanna Nyassi tried to run onto a angled pass in the box. Rimando came out to get the ball, and the two met in the box, where Nyassi went flying. There was contact, and honestly it looked like either player could have been given a yellow card on the play, but the referee decided not to call a foul on the play. Rapids players got upset that Nyassi was not awarded a penalty, and there was some pushing and shoving for a moment before order, and the game resumed. Otherwise, the half was not particularly eventful for either side.
Based on the lineups, both teams look like they are taking this match quite seriously. Although Nyassi and Cummings have not played consistently this season because of injury and the depth, both have contributed in key moments during the season and their collective speed should definitely be cause for concern for the RSL defense. Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake are playing many automatic starters, although Yordany Alvarez is getting more time here at the end of the season. The big task, besides getting a victory, for RSL is to help Javi Morales get in full match fitness ahead of the playoffs. This game should provide a good test for him, as the atmosphere will likely be played at a playoff intensity.
Kasey Keller will play his final regular-season home game on Saturday against the San Joe Earthquakes. That has been well documented. The Sounders have already started their search for his replacement. While they may find someone that can duplicate or even exceed his performances, it's hard to imagine anyone will fill the void in fans' hearts. Sounder at Heart points out that Keller was more than just a soccer star, he was also a local icon:
We don't want the American Legend to end. We will watch videos of your performances, stories will be told about your performances, generations of keepers will grow up trying to become you. When Seattle Sounders supporters, fans and players across ages look at Open Cup banners for 2009, 2010 and 2011, they will think of you. Though you only gave Seattle three years in the Green and Blue, you did not diminish your legend. It grew. An American soccer era is defined by my club's Captain.
What makes Keller's story so perfect is not just that he returned to his native country and played well, it's that he basically returned to the place he grew up. Despite living abroad for most of the previous 17 years, Keller fit right in when he returned to the Seattle area and instantly became the team's most popular player. He will certainly be missed.
The race for the MLS playoff race is still hotly contested, even if the teams in contention are not very good, and with only two weeks left the drama only intensifies
The rivalry between Real Salt Lake and the Rapids has been about as closely contested as possible.
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