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There's little debate about whether or not the Houston Dynamo's game-winning goal against the New England Revolution hit Hunter Freeman's arm/hand: It did and replays show it pretty conclusively. In this case, though, there's a pretty compelling case to be made that the referee made the right call in allowing the goal to stand. Dynamo Theory, SB Nation's Houston Dynamo blog, does the legwork and has the photographic evidence to make the case:
Take a real close look at what was happening. By the time the ball contacted Freeman's hand, his head was being forced down by Matt Reis' arms and elbow. Thus, he could not have seen the ball coming down and wouldn't have been able to either intentionally make contact or remove his arm from the path of the ball. If anything, it could have been called a penalty on Reis since Freeman established the position, had the right to be there and was fouled by not only Reis but Kenny Mansally during the play.
Thus, it's a good goal. Sorry New England, but for once, the referee got it right.
On a night where it looked as if the Houston Dynamo were doing everything in their power not to score a goal, they finally broke the scoreless deadlock on what will probably go down as one of the uglier goals you'll see scored anywhere. After a header by Cam Weaver that hit the cross bar and shot straight into the air, Hunter Freeman was able to position himself behind Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis. The positioning seemed fair, but the ball appeared to hit Hunter arm as it crossed the line, meaning it should not have counted. The Dynamo held on for their second straight win, a 1-0 victory over the Revolution.
Maybe it's karmic justice, though, as the Dynamo had significantly outplayed the Revolution throughout the match. They held a roughly 69-31 possession advantage and out shot their opposition 27-11, hit at least three balls off the woodwork, had two shots cleared off the line (one of them probably had crossed the line).
The Houston Dynamo have had two shots cleared off the line and a couple more that have hit the woodwork, but still find themselves tied 0-0 with the New England Revolution in the 70th minute on Sunday. Their luck has been so bad, in fact, that they had a shot that looked like it went over the line, but was deemed to have been saved in the 56h minute.
As you can see from the image, it was very close, but the ball does look like it might be entirely over the line. Unfortunately for the Dynamo, though, there is no goal-line technology. Whether or not this was a goal, it is just the latest example of why MLS officials have expressed some interest in being one of the pilot leagues for FIFA as they explore the possibility of using this kind of technology.
The Dynamo continue to create chances, but have not been able to actually find the back of the net. They Dynamo have fired off 20 shots as of the 74th minute.
The Houston Dynamo have had at least three golden scoring opportunities, have taken 13 shots, forced New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis into five saves and hold a 62-38 possession advantage but find themselves tied 0-0 at halftime on Sunday. Among the missed opportunities for the Dynamo were four shots in a two-minute span that were either saved or blocked by Revolution defenders.
The match has been relatively fast-paced with both teams combining for 18 shots. The Revolution's best scoring chance came around the 33rd minute when newly acquired Rajko Lekic was dragged down inside the penalty area, but no foul was called. Lekic was acquired about a week ago after playing most of his career in Denmark.
Leading the offensive charge for the Dynamo so far has been Will Bruin, who has taken six shots. Of those six shots, at least two of them should have been goals, but both times he was unable to put the close-range shots on frame.
Call it JELD-WEN Field magic, or maybe it is something in the wood that Timber Joey cuts. Either way you slice it, the Portland Timbers are good at home. They beat FC Dallas today 3-2 for their second straight win of the season, moving them up the Western Conference standings to forth place. Dallas mounted a late come back with goals from Brek Shea and David Ferreira but it was the early goals that were the difference in this one.
Goals came early as captain Jack Jewsbury was able to get the Timbers on the board in the 13th minute. He was played a ball into the box after a quick restart by Kalif Alhassan. Jewsbury found space in the penalty box and hammered home the game's first goal.
The second Timbers goal came a little later in the first half as Portland pressured Dallas into a corner kick after a long spell of possession by the visitors. Jewsbury then found former FC Dallas striker Kenny Cooper on the corner. Cooper headed the ball over Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman.
Midway through the second half the Timbers began pouring it on. Alhassan again found space between the Dallas defense and fed a nice ball to Rodney Wallace for what ended up being the game-winning goal.
It wasn't until the 83rd minute that Dallas found the back of the net with Ferreira. A couple minutes later Shea was able to also find the back of the net to set up a wild finish in the Rose City.
The goal came after a nice sequence of passes by the Timbers. Kenny Cooper was able to find Kalif Alhassan who danced his way through the Dallas defense and then passed the ball off to Wallace for the game's third goal. The Dallas defense found themselves out of place on the goal as both Alhassan and Wallace were free in the box to link up with one another.
With the third goal of the game Dallas will have to continue to press on but the Timbers are doing a good job of cutting into the Dallas possession here in the second half. It may be the atmosphere at JELD-WEN Field or it is just a sign that the Dallas defense still has a long way to go here. Either way Dallas has a long way to go in this one.
Two set goals off set pieces see the Portland Timbers up 2-0 over FC Dallas. Portland went up early in the 13th minute thanks to the quick restart on a free kick. Captain Jack Jewsbury found some extra space in the penalty box and was able to put away a shot past Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman. The ball hit off the post and then hit Hartman in the back.
The second goal came off a Jewsbury corner kick as the midfielder was able to link up with former FC Dallas striker Kenny Cooper, who headed a shot over Hartman.
Dallas had a large chunk of the possession but were unable to find any room in the penalty box to challenge keeper Jake Gleeson. Fabian Castillo, Marvin Chavez and David Ferreira all put ample amounts of pressure on the Timbers back four but it was the home side that were up the the challenge so far in the first half. Portland's counter attack and set pieces have been the difference in this one.
Dallas will need to make some halftime adjustments to get back into this one. The chances have been there for the Toros but the finishing hasn't been there so far today.
After FC Dallas held long spells of possession and created a couple chances on goal, it was the counter attack and corner kicks that did Dallas in yet again as Kenny Cooper was able to get on the end of a Jack Jewsbury corner kick for the game's second goal.
Dallas had seen the better of the chances on goal but as Portland was able to brush away a David Ferreira chance, the Timbers raced up field and pressured the Dallas backline into another corner kick. Cooper made sure to get on the end of it as he pushed off Ugo Ihemelu and headed a floater over Kevin Hartman's head.
Cooper gets his second goal of the season after he had a goal called back the other night against the Chicago Fire. He thought he scored off a Jewsbury corner Thursday night but it was called back due to the ball going out of bounds.
Newly acquired Rajko Lekic will make his MLS debut for the New England Revolution against the Houston Dynamo on Sunday. The Danish striker, who was signed a little more than a week ago, will play atop what appears to be a 4-4-2 formation alongside Zach Schilawski. The Revolution are still not at full strength, though, as Shalrie Joseph will be serving a red-card suspension and Ousmane Dabo has yet to make an appearance for them.
The Dynamo will counter with a lineup that is very similar to the one they've been using for most of the season. Jermaine Taylor and Brian Ching continue to battle injuries and are not among the starters. In their places are Andre Hainault at center back and Will Bruin at forward. Newly acquired Sergio Koke is not in the starting 11.
Dynamo starters: Hall, Freeman, Boswell, Hainault, Ashe, Davis (Cap), Palmer, Cameron, Cruz, Bruin, Weaver
Revolution starters: Reis, Alston, Soares, Barnes, Tierney, Coria, Perovic, McCarthy, Boggs, Schilawski, Lekic
Thanks to a quick retake after a foul by Zach Loyd, the Portland Timbers were able to get up 1-0 on FC Dallas in the 13th minute of the game. Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury was able to hammer home a shot as he was played into the box. Jewsbury found some extra room in the penalty box and hit a shot off the post, which then hit off FC Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman to go into the back of the net.
Before the play FC Dallas had a decent amount of the possession and were getting a couple decent chances on Jake Gleeson's goal.
Portland couldn't have asked for a better start to the game to get their rowdy crowd into the game even more. It will be interesting to see if FC Dallas can find a way to respond to this goal or if it will be another long day for the Toros.
The Los Angeles Galaxy limped into Toyota Park, but managed to end their three-game road trip with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Sunday despite beginning the game with at least five of their normal starters either unavailable or on the bench. Chad Barrett and Omar Gonzalez scored goals for the Galaxy, who claimed five points during those three matches. Among the players the Galaxy were missing were Juninho, David Beckham and Landon Donovan.
Miguel Lopez, who was probably only starting because of all the missing Galaxy players, had a hand in both goals. On the first, it was his feed to Barrett that sprung the forward loose. On Gonzalez's goal, it was Lopez's perfectly placed corner kick that found the head of the hulking defender. The assists were Lopez's first points of the young season.
The Fire had several chances to get back into the game, but did not score until 88th minute when Dominic Oduro finally put one past Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. The Fire came close to tying it in the 4th minute of stoppage time, but the Fire could not put away a corner that Ricketts allowed to get behind him.
Dominic Oduro gave the Chicago Fire some life, scoring a 89th minute goal to cut the deficit to 2-1 against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday. The goal was Oduro's first of the season and ended what had been a frustrating run of matches in which he had missed several good scoring opportunities. Oduro was able to beat a Galaxy defender and then blasted his shot inside the far post from a sharp angle to beat Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
Until the goal, the Fire had not challenged the Galaxy's goal for much of the second half, creating only a couple of reasonable scoring chances. Playing without several starters, the Galaxy have done an admirable job of limiting the Fire's opportunities and have played a relatively tight game. They have also made good on their own scoring opportunities, putting two balls past Fire goalkeeper Jon Conway, who was starting in place of the struggling Sean Johnson.
Lineups are in for the second straight home game for the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field. Today they host FC Dallas who is coming off a big win against the Colorado Rapids a week ago. The Timbers will be keeping a lot of their lineup the same from their Thursday night win over the Chicago Fire.
The big story to watch in this one is Dallas' wingers against the wing players of Portland. Dallas has so much speed on the outside that it couse pose a lot of issues for a Portland defense that has been shaky at times this season. We'll see exactly how they stack up today
Despite starting the match without at least five of their normal starters, the Los Angeles Galaxy have taken a 2-0 lead in the 72nd minute over the Chicago Fire and Toyota Park on Sunday. The second goal was scored off the head of Omar Gonzalez, who scored from the center of the goal box off an assist from Miguel Lopez, who also assisted on the Galaxy's first goal. The sequence started on a corner kick.
Two of the Galaxy's normal starters who began the match on the bench have since entered. Ryan Franklin came in at the 68th minute for Paolo Cardozo and Juan Pablo Angel entered for Chad Barrett in the 77th minute.
The Fire, who started the season with several strong showings are now just about 10 minutes away from dropping their third straight. After losing to the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, they lost to the Portland Timbers on Thursday.
You could probably watch a full season of MLS and never see a more exciting 30-second run of action than occurred in the Chicago Fire-Los Angeles Galaxy match around the 65th minute on Sunday. The sequence started on a seemingly innocuous corner kick that Galaxy forward Mike Magee was able to nod toward goal. After deflecting off a Fire defender, it looked bound for the back of the net. But Gonzalo Segares was able to get to the ball and employed the bicycle kick to clear the ball off the line.
That sent the action going the other way, with Diego Chaves leading the charge toward the opposite end. Chaves was able to take the ball all the way to the opposing penalty area, got the corner on the defender and fired a shot toward the Galaxy net.
Unfortunately, at least from a highlight-reel purpose, the ball went just wide. While the sequence didn't yield any goals, it was still about as exciting as anything you'll see.
Chad Barrett ended a Los Angeles Galaxy scoring drought that had stretched out to 217 minutes, putting his team ahead 1-0 of the Chicago Fire in the 42nd minute on Sunday. Barrett was able to get free inside the penalty area off a nice diagonal feed from Miguel Lopez and easily beat Fire goalkeeper Jon Conway, who is starting in place of the struggling Sean Johnson. The goal was actually the third of the match, but the first two goals -- one from each team -- were waived off for offside calls.
The Galaxy are playing the match without Juninho and all three of their Designated Players, Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Juan Pablo Angel. Junino is out because of a red-card suspension; Beckham is out after receiving five yellow cards this season; Donovan is injured; and Angel is being given a day off.
Lopez is one of the players who is starting, largely because of those absences. He has helped create a couple good scoring chances and his pass to Barrett was the key play on the goal.
Although Carlos de los Cobos has it listed as a formal 4-4-2 on his lineup card, it looks as if he may have brought back the 3-5-2 that so many of have been dying to see given an extended run against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday. The reason for our optimism is the return of Josip Mikulic to the lineup after missing the last two matches. Marco Pappa, the other key component to that formation, is also in the starting lineup, further adding to the belief that the three-back formation will return.
Mikulic will most likely be joined by Jalil Anibabab and Cory Gibbs in the back, with Gonzalo Segares sliding into more of a midfield role. Davis Paul would likely join Segares as the other wing back. The other significant change in the Fire's lineup is Jon Conway taking over for struggling goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
The Galaxy will counter with a pretty standard 4-4-2, although probably not exactly the way Bruce Arena listed on his lineup card. Mike Magee, not Miguel Lopez, will most likely join Chad Barrett at forward.
Galaxy starters: Ricketts; Hejduk, Leonardo, Gonzalez, Dunivant; Stephens, Birchall, Magee, Cardozo; Barrett, Lopez
Fire starters: Conway; Anibaba, Mikulic, Gibbs, Segares; Pappa, Videira, Pause, Paul; Puerari, Chaves
No one said Sporting Kansas City's season-opening 10-match road trip was going to be easy, but just about everyone said they needed to get off to a strong start in order to keep from falling too far behind. After their 1-0 loss to the Columbus Crew, they now have four points through four matches and their schedule starts to get much tougher quickly. After a match at New England next week, they have matches at New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Colorado before closing out at Toronto.
Coming off a two-week break, this seemed like a match in which they really needed a result. Instead, they played to a scoreless draw in the first half, but gave up a 53rd minute goal to Robbie Rogers off an assist from Dilly Duka. They also lost starting center back Julio Cesar, who picked up two yellow cards and will now miss SKC's next match.
SKC was unable to create many chances before or after Rogers' score, putting just two shots on target, although they did outpossess the Crew 52-48.
The Crew now sit at 2-1-2 and are tied for second place in the Eastern Conference with eight points. They never showed much ambition, but they defended well and continued to get results despite not looking particularly strong.
Last time they took to the turf at Red Bull Arena, New York thoroughly outclassed the Philadelphia Union before succumbing to a surprise 1-0 defeat. This time out, they didn't have any problems scoring goals. Hans Backe raised some eyebrows by including Luke Rodgers in his starting eleven ahead of much-heralded USMNT prospect Juan Agudelo, but Rodgers netted twice in the early stages to put the hosts into a commanding lead over the visiting San Jose Earthquakes before capping things off by providing an assist for captain Thierry Henry to notch his first MLS goal of 2011.
Going along with that phenomenal debut by Rodgers was an excellent all-round performance by the Red Bulls, who could easily have had five or six goals over the course of the match (Henry was responsible for missing two glorious chances). San Jose, on the other hand, disappointed, achieving very little penetration into Bouna Coundoul's penalty box and never looking like they could overturn that early deficit. New York are finally playing like the team they're supposed to be, which will probably soothe a lot of the doubts many have had about the club.
Thierry Henry finally has a goal and the New York Red Bulls are now up 3-0 at home against the San Jose Earthquakes. Henry had had a difficult match, missing an easy chance in the first half by hitting the ball straight at John Busch before missing an even easier chance in the second when he rounded the goalkeeper only to hit the side netting. Although he appeared to succumb to an Achilles injury towards the end of the second half, he popped back on a few minutes later and managed to finally notch that much needed first goal of the season by turning home a Luke Rodgers cross.
That was the last play of the game for Rodgers, who had been an unpopular selection by Red Bulls coach Hans Backe - I think we can say that gambit paid off handsomely what with Rodgers' two goals and an assist. Juan Agudelo has come on in his place, and now Dane Richards is off for England native John Rooney, who apparently has a brother of some small reknown.
Sporting Kansas City's efforts to find the equalizer just got a little tougher as defender Julio Cesar was shown his second yellow, apparently for handling the ball purposely in in the 74th minute. The red card leaves SKC with 10 men, and continues a trend of MLS referees showing red cards at an alarming pace.
The play in question seemed a bit harsh, but was also understandable. It didn't look entirely clear if Cesar meant to handle the ball, but his touching of it did prevent a clear scoring opportunity.
This has been a tough match for SKC, which was coming off a two-week break. Their last match, as you may remember, was a 3-3 tie to the Vancouver Whitecaps in which they blew a 3-0 lead that included yielding two stoppage-time goals. They have had pressure few chances on goal, and seem to have been significantly slowed by the cold and wet conditions.
The Vancouver Whitecaps will feel hard done by their inability to grab three points at home against Chivas USA, but they'll have to settle for their third draw at Empire Field in four matches to keep their home unbeaten streak alive. All of the best chances went to the Whitecaps, but no goals came from them as the Goats went to Vancouver and came away with a valuable point.
From the outset, Vancouver was the better team. They created the bulk of the chances and undoubtedly had the better of the chances, but they couldn't get the ball into the net. Some of that was due to poor finishing, but most of it was due to good goalkeeper by Dan Kennedy to go along with bad luck. Eric Hassli saw Kennedy his get hand on what looked like a sure goal and even then it still clanged off of the post. Another opportunity looked like it was goal bound, but Simon Elliot was there to clear the ball off of the line after it beat Kennedy. One more chance just barely missed the post and all of that was in the first half alone.
In the second half, Chivas were better. It wasn't that they were thoroughly dominated in the first half, but they couldn't create chances. They had some possession, but their best opportunity to score in the first half came on a tight angled header that was blocked. Things didn't get a whole lot better though. The Goats had all but one of the corner kicks in the match, but they weren't turning them into scoring chances. In all, it was a lot of activity leading to little achievement for the Goats.
Meanwhile, Vancouver added a few more chances in the second half. Chivas' defense was better in the second 45 minutes so the Whitecaps didn't have as many chances as they had in the first half, but they had a few, only to see the ball elude the goal time and time again. By the time it came to an end, neither team had tallied and the two sides were forced to take only a point, which might have been fair to Chivas, but not to the Whitecaps.
DC United were 2-0 up against Toronto FC within ten minutes of kickoff at BMO Field and they never looked in any danger of squandering that lead to their hosts, who never really recovered from awful starts to both halves. Chris Pontius opened the scoring after a magnificent run through the massed Toronto defence and a neat finish that left Stefan Frei motionless before Charlie Davies made it two after Frei could only parry a shot from Josh Wolff. The second half didn't start with a DC goal - instead Toronto decided to mix things up and decided a red card would be a fun thing to have.
Once again Chris Pontius was involved, the midfielder bursting towards the area only to be hacked down by Ty Harden, who was correctly shown a straight red for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity, and Pontius extended the lead shortly thereafter with a brilliant juke and curled finish to make it 3-0. The visitors had several opportunities to extend their lead - it's slightly difficult to explain exactly how three DC players failed to put the ball in the net when they were a combined two yards from goal, but 3-0 it remained as DC United cruised to a win. As for Toronto, it was an immensely disappointing performance from Aron Winter's side - they're been having trouble scoring since the departure of Dwayne De Rosario, but their defensive meltdown (at home, no less) was shocking today.
Robbie Rogers injected some life into what was an otherwise mundane match as he scored past Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielson to give the Columbus Crew a 1-0 win on Saturday. Rogers was able to be Nielson inside the far post, making a sliding shot after getting a nice pass off a header from Dilly Duka.
The goal is the second of the season for Rogers, who appears to be settling into his role after being benched earlier in the season. At the time, it was rumored that Rogers wanted out of Columbus, but he has started each of the last three matches and now appears to be happy.
Prior to score, SKC had pushed more of the action, having out shot the Crew 9-6. But they had not really been able to really create much pressure, having put just two of those shots on target and rarely forcing William Hesmer into any dangerous saves.
It's now 3-0 to the visitors at Toronto FC's BMO Field, and it's difficult to say that that scoreline is undeserved. Toronto have gone to a three-man back line following the dismissal of Ty Harden shortly after half time, but their defenders aren't mobile enough to adequately play in that shape against DC United's attacking players, and Chris Pontius has made them play with another goal.
All of Toronto's defenders were draw towards the ball as DC powered forward through the middle, leaving Pontius unmarked cutting in from the left. He was fed with a nifty pass, and although Dan Gargan sprinted back to try to provide cover, finally catching up with Pontius in the penalty area, he was easily turned and the midfielder had plenty of time to pick his spot, eventually placing a curling effort beyond Stefan Frei in the Toronto FC goal. It's been game over for a while with DC United 2-0 up and Toronto down to ten men, so this is... game more over?
Neither team has really shown much initiative as the Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City head into halftime tied 0-0 on Saturday. The conditions have probably contributed to the relatively inactive half, as rain has been coming down throughout and the stands are sparsely populated.
On the plus side, MLS's beta website does have some halftime numbers that we can at least discuss. The two teams have basically split possession, with the Crew holding a slight 52-48 advantage. The Crew have also been slightly less accurate with their passing, completing 70 percent of their passes, as compared to SKC's 68 percent.
Quite frankly, though, there's not much to talk about in this one. The Crew seem intent on being one of the most boring teams in the league, as they seem perfectly content to play for their third tie of the young season. SKC, meanwhile, could be excused for settling for the tie, as they are now on Game 4 of their season-opening 10-game road trip and should be happy to claim any points they can.
The New York Red Bulls head into halftime holding a commanding lead against the San Jose Earthquakes in what appears to be a minor monsoon in New Jersey. Luke Rodgers, starting over Juan Agudelo, got the hosts off to a dream start when he slammed home a loose ball in the San Jose box following a second minute corner, and life got even better for New York when Thierry Henri robbed Ramiro Corrales and sent in a low pass for Rodgers to turn home again less than fifteen minutes later.
Henry should have gotten his own name on the scoresheet shortly thereafter, but shot straight at Jon Busch when it looked easier to score. They've really been all over San Jose today - about the only blemish on New York's evening is that Dwayne De Rosario has picked up a yellow card for a nasty-looking sliding tackle. The closest the Earthquakes have come to scoring was when Khari Stephenson was found with a lifted pass at the top of the 'D' - the midfielder's attempted volley might have caused trouble if only he'd made any contact with the ball at all.
Toronto FC's day has gone from bad to worse immediate following the kickoff in the second half. Chris Pontius already has a goal in this match and Ty Harden was in no mood to allow him another as the DC United midfielder threatened to burst into the box and go one on one against Stefan Frei, and the centre back went in with an incredible aggressive slide tackle to stop Pontius from getting there.
Unfortunately for Harden, Pontius had already pushed the ball forward, leaving the defender to simply take the DC United player out with no extra support between himself and the goal. The tackle was worthy of a yellow card all by itself, but the denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity made it a straight red - bizarrely, Harden attempted to argue against the dismissal, but he has absolutely no case at all. The referee got this one right - he had to walk there.
Vancouver Whitecaps supporters have to be encouraged by their team's play in the first half, but they'll undoubtedly be wondering what they have to do to get a goal. The home side were better than visiting Chivas USA and had their chances to go in front, but either by good defensive play or a stroke of bad luck they were denied. Now, Vancouver goes into half knowing that they are very close to going on top, while Chivas will have to regroup and come out with a different approach when the final 45 minutes get underway.
The match was fairly even early, but it wasn't long before the Whitecaps grabbed a hold of it. It looked like they would go on top 10 minutes in, but a shot that beat Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was cleared off the line by Simon Elliot. Another Whitecaps foray forward resulted in the ball striking the bar and Eric Hassli has multiple chances on goal, only to miss the frame or be denied by Kennedy.
If the second half goes the way that the first half did, you would have to think that Vancouver finds a goal to come away winners. One thing that Chivas does have to turn the tide is Justin Braun on the bench and his introduction can change the face of the match. The Goats have had nothing going forward and have even resorted to a few long balls for Alejandro Moreno to run onto, something that is a laughable method of attack at best and sad at worst.
Just like buses, goals come two at a time for the New York Red Bulls. And they come in twos in the form of a brace for English striker Luke Rodgers, who didn't have much work to do thanks to excellent work by Thierry Henry down the left flank. The ex-Arsenal man recovered possession in a dangerous, burst into the penalty area, and squared for Rodgers, who beat a scrambling Jon Busch to the ball to slam home from very close range. That's 2-0 New York and Hans Backe's decision to drop Juan Agudelo to the bench looks like it's paying off.
There's not much to say for the San Jose Earthquakes here - they're simply being outclassed by a very good New York team. There's no shame in that, though. After all, not every team can fluke their way into a result despite being blown off the pitch like the Philadelphia Union did last week. Oh, and there were no smoke bombs this time, which is nice.
We've reached half time at BMO field and the early lead established by DC United thanks to goals by Chris Pontius and Charlie Davies has held up. Toronto FC began terribly, but after that disastrous start they've gotten themselves back into the game and probably ought to have reduced the deficit. Although they've looked dangerous in limited chances (substitute Nana Attakora just volleyed well wide while completely open after a corner - he should have used his right foot), they're still down 2-0 at home and have lost starting centre half Adrian Cann to a suspected broken rib.
Without having scored to make it 2-1, Toronto are probably staring a loss square in the face here. I'd guess DC are good for at least another goal in the second half, so if they are going to come back they're going to have to score very early to do it. DC look like they're on course to stake a brief claim to second place in the East after this one.
So much for that New York Red Bulls not scoring goals business. A long cross from Dwayne De Rosario was deflected and allowed to go out for a corner, and from the corner the hosts opened the scoring. The delivery was swung to the back post, and with the ball pinging around in the box former Notts County striker Luke Rodgers found space to shoot and slammed home past Jon Busch for the very early 1-0 lead. The goal is Rodgers' first with the Red Bulls and first in MLS.
The fans at Red Bull Arena reacted by throwing smoke bombs, with is rather enthusiastic but has made the game slightly difficult to watch since the goal. Worst still, they threw them at their own goalkeeper, meaning that he's been effectively blind for the past few minutes since Rodgers netted. Silly. Still, they're entitled to be excited - it's been too long since NYRB have made an attack count, and they've scored here with virtually their very first foray forwards.
Andres Mendoza is starting the match on the bench for the Columbus Crew as they host Sporting Kansas City on Saturday in front of what appears to be a nearly empty stadium. Mendoza became a Designated Player over the offseason, continuing what has become a strange trend in which more DPs are not starting than starting. No DP has started every one of their team's games this season through a combination of benchings, card suspensions and injuries.
Sporting KC will counter with a lineup that is the same as it has been in recent weeks with Teal Bunbury now making his second straight start after recovering from an offseason injury. He will be joined by CJ Sapong and Kei Kamara in SKC's 4-3-3.
Crew lineup: Hesmer, Marshall, Miranda, James, Balchan, Ekpo, Burns, Duka, Rogers, Renteria, and Gaven
Sporting KC lineup: Nielsen, Harrington, Cesar, Besler, Espinoza, Diop, Arnaud, Stojcev, Sapong, Bunbury, Kamara
Those two early goals by Chris Pontius and Charlie Davies aren't the only bits of bad news for Aron Winter and Toronto FC. Adding injury to insult, they've lost centre half Adrian Cann to a suspect broken rib incurred in the buildup to the Davies goal. Cann's been hauled off the field to be replaced by Nana Attakora-Gyan, and if that rib is badly broken i wouldn't really except to see him back anytime soon.
Meanwhile, Toronto have recovered somewhat from their terrible start and are now playing a little better. However, that's not particularly difficult when they started like a gaggle of confused schoolboys and let their guests saunter to a 2-0 lead inside the first ten minutes. They've had a couple of at least semi-dangerous attacks now, but they're probably going to have to score this half to have much hope of getting a result out of this match. It's still not looking likely.
Can the New York Red Bulls shake off a disappointing start to the season against the visiting San Jose Earthquakes? If they're going to earn a much-needed win, they're going to be doing it without forward Juan Agudelo, who's being rested by coach Hans Backe. It's still a formidable-looking lineup featuring designated players Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez, but Agudelo's been their main spark so far this season and is responsible for New York's only win to date.
San Jose, meanwhile, are playing Chris Wondowloski in midfield and playing a 4-5-1 with Ryan Johnson as the main forward. Ramiro Corrales is playing in the middle of the defence for the trip to New York - he'll be looking to ensure that the star-studded Rud Bulls lineup doesn't get too many opportunities to test Jon Busch.
That'll quiet the home fans at BMO Field. Five minutes into the match between Toronto FC and DC United in Toronto, Chris Pontius has his first goal of the season, and it was a cracker too. The midfielder picked up the ball in the centre, beating one, two, then three defenders before rolling the ball past Stefan Frei and into the back of the net. It's a nightmare for the home side, but a dream start for DC, who deserve a lead for their swashbucking start to the match.
Without Dwayne De Rosario in the lineup, Toronto are going to have a lot of trouble scoring goals - right now it looks more like DC United will be extending their lead rather than the home side mounting a comeback. If they are going to get back into the game though, perhaps not letting Chris Pontius run straight down the middle of the pitch would be a good plan.
And, like clockwork, they do double their lead. Somehow the visitors end up with a three vs. two against the Toronto defence, and although Frei stopped Josh Wolff's initial shot, the rebound fell to US international Charlie Davies, who made no mistake slotting home into an empty net. It's now 2-0 DC United.
The Vancouver Whitecaps are back at Empire Field where they are undefeated this season and hoping they can continue that streak. Vancouver picked up a win in their first match at their temporary home ground and drew their next two matches. Unfortunately for them, they've been as unsuccessful away from home as they have been successful at home. A pair of road losses have left them without a road point so they need points with Chivas USA in town.
The Goats have just about everyone available to them, but head coach Robin Fraser has a strange lineup that is described as such for one reason and one reason only. Justin Braun is on the bench. How Chivas manages to mount an attack will be interesting without their leading man up front.
Toronto FC currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference with six points from five games, but they're only two points ahead of dead-last DC United, who could take their spot with a win at BMO Field today. Realistically, there's not a whole lot to separate these sides and things could easily go either way in Toronto.One player who could make the difference for DC United is Charlie Davies, who's making his first MLS start with the club after making a smattering of appearances (and snatching three goals) as a substitute.
Here's how the teams will be lining up for the match:
The Seattle Sounders normally don't travel well to the east coast. They were hoping that a visit to Chester, PA and the Philadelphia Union would bring a turn about of good fortune. The match started brightly for Seattle with Mauro Rosales showing the talent that the Sounders were hoping would be on display. He was linking up fairly well with Leo Gonzalez and Steve Zakuani early in the first half.
It appeared that the Sounders would be able to sneak the first goal, but the Union began to push back. Kyle Nakazawa would draw a foul on Osvaldo Alonso in a very dangerous position. Carlos Ruiz would take the free kick and put it past Kasey Keller to give the Union a 1-0 lead midway through the first half.
The second half started the way the first half ended with the Union having the better of play. In the 50th minute, Sebastian Le Toux would break through the Seattle backline, and it appeared he would finally score his first goal of the season. Le Toux would get his shot off only to put it directly at Keller.
After struggling to really get going on the offensive end for the first 65 minutes of the match, Sigi Schmid finally decided it was time to put on Fredy Montero.
Montero entered the game along with Nate Jaqua for O'Brian White and Leonardo Gonzalez, and he would have an immediate impact. The Sounders began to make more precise attacks on the Union goal testing Farid Mondragón with a few dangerous shot attempts at this point. Danny Califf would appear to be the Union's hero in the 78th minute, when he blocked a powerful shot from Brad Evans while standing on the goal line.
Seattle would have one more trick up their sleeve and brought on Uruguayan Álvaro Fernández. A loose ball in the Philadelphia goal box would be collected to Montero. He turned and lifted the ball back into the box where it met the head of Fernández and tucked in the far post in the 91st minute for an equalizer.
For the majority of the match it felt like it was just a matter of time before the Union put a second goal past Keller, but you can only hold back the talent of players with the quality of Montero and Fernández for a short time. The Sounders will head back to Seattle with one point won, while Philadelphia will definitely be looking at this match as one they should have won all three points.
While the stadium was about half full due to the poor weather, I do want to point out that the Sons of Ben were out in full voice. The traveling contingent of Seattle fans was very nice too.
The Union have produced the majority of good play on the pitch in Chester this afternoon while the Sounders have failed to impressed on the offensive end once again. Keon Daniel for the Union must be playing everywhere in the midfield, because I've seen him distributing to wide open teammates on the left, right, and center.
The Sounders are by no means out of this one. They were definitely outplayed in the first half, but it was not by that much. The insertion of Fredy Montero in the second half would likely see the Sounders have more of the run of play. They will have to figure out a way to break down this Philadelphia defense, however, which will not be an easy task. Hopefully the weather will improve in the second half for both sides.
Carlos Ruiz puts a laser beam of a free kick into the back of the net in the 31st minute to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead over Seattle.
Kyle Nakazawa received the ball out wide on the right and faked a cross which got Osvaldo Alonso off the ground in an attempt to block it. Nakazawa dribbled toward the middle where he was taken down with a scissor tackle by Alonso which referee Terry Vaughn whistled for a foul. Carlos Ruiz would step up to take the free kick and blast it past Kasey Keller for the 1-0 lead.
The rain is really coming down in Chester, and both teams are starting to adjust. Mauro Rosales has been the most active player for the Sounders. There's not a lot of dangerous play coming from the Sounders who have struggled scoring goals this season. They will need to do a lot better if they hope to score against the Union's defense who have only conceded one goal this season.
When the Sons of Ben cancelled their tailgate prior to Saturday's Philadelphia Union-Seattle Sounders match, it drew a bit of a chuckle from many in the Northwest. Turns out, they probably made the right call. Numerous reports have suggested the weather at PPL Park resembles a monsoon, with driving rain and wind making for an interesting day.
Other than the weather, the game is lining up basically as expected as the Union and Sounders are both going with the same groups of starters they used last week. The one exception is Kyle Nakazawa getting the nod for the Union in the midfield.
It is worth noting that Fredy Montero is on the bench for the Sounders. He had missed the last two games while recovering from wrist surgery, but will be available today. It also appears Sounders coach Sigi Schmid had a little fun with his lineup, listing Steve Zakuani at forward and Mauro Rosales in the midfield, as well as putting Brad Evans out wide. Expect all three of those players to remain in their more established positions.
Union staters: Mondragon; Harvey, Califf, Valdes, Williams; Daniel, Miglioranzi, Okugo, Nakazawa; Le Toux, Ruiz. Bench: MacMath, Mwanga, Mapp, McInerney, M Farfan, Torres, Gonzalez
Sounders starters: Keller; Riley, Parke, Hurtado, Gonzalez; Friberg, Alonso, Rosales, Evans; Zakuani, White. Bench: Boss, Levesque, Ianni, Wahl, Jaqua, Fernandez, Montero
There are lots of things to like and the site appears to be moving in the right direction, but it's hard to deny that what is there falls short of what was expected.
The Portland Timbers certainly put on quite a show in their first MLS match at Jeld-Wen Field, beating the Chicago Fire 4-2 in a match that featured plenty of action. That action wasn't always pretty, in fact it rarely was, as most of the goals were the result of severe defensive breakdowns.
The game got off to a rocking start when Kenny Cooper appeared to score in the 8th minute, but it was waved off after the referee ruled that the corner kick had gone out of bounds. It didn't seem to matter much, though, as Jorge Perlaza put the Timbers on the board for real in the 11th minute when he beat Sean Johnson after a Fire defender fell down and seemed to get in his goalkeeper's way. Rodney Wallace doubled the lead in the 28th minute when he struck a ball from about 22 yards out that ricocheted off a Fire defender. The game seemed to be destined for an outright celebration when Perlaza scored his second goal of the season after Johnson badly mishandled a cross and gave the Timbers a 3-0 lead.
An own goal by Eric Brunner and another goal off the foot of Marco Pappa cut the Timbers' lead to 3-2, but Mamadou Danso was able to restore a two-goal lead after a scramble in front of the net. Danso's goal, which could have very easily been deemed an own goal, probably should have been disallowed as Cooper appeared to handle it near the goal line.
The victory was the first of the season for the Timbers, who lost their first two matches and needed a stoppage-time goal to salvage a tie against the New England Revolution. The win also ends a week in which the Timbers announced a high-profile friendly against Club America and the signing of their first-ever Designated Player, Diego Charra.
Well, it was close for a couple minutes, anyway. Marco Pappa scored from about 16 yards out to temporarily cut the Chicago Fire's deficit to one, but Mamadou Danso scored a couple minutes later to put the Portland Timbers up 4-2.
Danso's goal came after a scramble in front of the net and probably should have been disallowed after Timbers forward Kenny Cooper appeared to hit the ball with his hand. But it stood up and allowed Timbers fans to breathe a sigh of relief during the MLS home opener.
Pappa's goal appeared to give the Fire their first real momentum of the match after they had been thoroughly outplayed and, at one point, trailed 3-0. Pappa's goal came after he was able to create some space about 16 yards out and lofted his shot over the head of Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson.
In the 83rd minute, Darlington Nagbe made his MLS debut.
Eric Brunner put a bit of a damper on what has so far been a fullblown celebration at Jeld-Wen Field, scoring an own goal to cut the Portland Timbers' lead to 3-1 over the Chicago Fire in the 66th minute. Brunner, one of the more experienced defenders on the field for the Timbers, was trying to clear a ball that Fire forward Orr Barouch had sent in to Marco Pappa, but instead hit it past goalkeeper Jake Gleeson.
Up until that point, the Timbers have been dominating the match, nearly adding to their lead on several occasions. Their best chance came just a few minutes before Brunner's own goal when Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson failed to handle yet another cross, but Kenny Cooper whiffed on what looked like a complete sitter. After the own goal, Cooper once again found himself with a good goal-scoring chance, but he failed to stay onside as Sal Zizzo brought the ball up field.
Man, Sean Johnson is having himself an evening to forget. The Chicago Fire goalkeeper, who has actually earned his first cap with the United States Nation team this past offseason, just gave up his third goal of the game as the Fire trail the Timbers 3-0 on Thursday.
Johnson didn't exactly look good on either of the Timbers' first two goals, but the third goal of the game was one that could very well haunt his dreams. Johnson failed to hold onto a seemingly harmless cross from Rodney Wallace and Jorge Perlaza was able to control the rebound and score his second goal of the match.
If we're looking for excuses, the ball was probably wet and it had made its way to Johnson after skipping across the rain-soaked turf. But that seems a bit kind for someone who has been called the future of U.S. goalkeepers. Johnson also misplayed a corner that led to a fourth goal being waved off and he was beaten badly on Perlaza's first goal.
The Portland Timbers have opened Jeld -Wen stadium in style, putting two goals past a dismal Chicago Fire side in a fast and furious first half. Although the weather hasn't been particularly cooperative (it's absolutely pouring in Portland, and the pitch isn't draining well), the crowd has been spectucular and the team's done their part too.
The hosts took an early lead following a corner only to see Kenny Cooper's effort ruled out rather controversially for the ball having gone out of play, but they wouldn't have to wait long to get their first legitimate home goal. The big striker turned provider this time, slipping in Jorge Perlaza after Chicago's defence had lost its line. Perlaza surged forwards, avoided a silly challenge from goalkeeper Sean Johnson, and slid the ball into an empty net.
Next Rodney Wallace got into the party with a deflected volley following a knocked-back free kick, and Portland have now found themselves well on course to record their first ever victory in the MLS. Perhaps this side was simply waiting until they got home to show everyone the good stuff.
Oscar Salazar, meanwhile, is having an odd game. He's already increased his season card output by 150%, has ruled out a goal from a corner despite the ball not conclusively having gone out, and apparently has ejected Portland general manager Gavin Wilkinson (I don't know what's going on there either). Nice.
Timber Joey didn't have to wait too long to crank up the chainsaw. Jorge Perlaza scored a goal in the 29th minute and Rodney Wallace followed that up about 10 minutes later to give the Portland Timbers a 2-0 lead over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday. The goals mark the first time this season that the Timbers have led during any of their MLS matches.
Perlaza was able to get behind the Fire defense on a nice long ball, split two defenders and then easily beat Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson for his first goal of the season. Wallace's goal came in the 38th minute off a free kick from Jack Jewsbury that deflected out to the defender, who volleyed it from about 20 yards out. His shot hit off a Fire defender and beat Johnson to the far post.
The goals made up for an earlier one that had been waved off. We later learned that referee Ricardo Salazar had deemed the corner kick delivery on the disallowed goal to have gone out of bounds before Kenny Cooper got his head on it.
Kenny Cooper sent Jeld-Wen Field into a frenzy when he scored what by all rights should have been the first MLS home goal for the Portland Timbers in the 12th minute, but the score was waved off. There didn't appear to be any infractions on the replay, but referee Ricardo Salazar apparently called a foul on the header that came off a corner kick delivery from Jack Jewsbury. The corner kick was set up by another close call on goal when Steve Purdy sent a left-footed shot toward the goal that forced Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson into a diving save.
The early going of the match has been somewhat sloppy otherwise with rain coming down and the field looking pretty much like a lake. That hasn't dampened the crowd's enthusiasm, though, as the Timbers Army has led a nonstop series of chants and songs that have made the atmosphere seem like something you'd see in Europe ... or Seattle.
Jake Gleeson, the 20-year-old who made his MLS debut against Toronto FC in Week 2, will appear in his third straight game, getting the start at goalkeeper for the Portland Timbers in their home opener against the Chicago Fire on Thursday. Gleeson started the season as the third-string goalkeeper, but injuries to expected starter Troy Perkins and backup Adin Brown opened the door for the New Zealand native.
In front of him is a defense that will include Mamadou Danso, who is making his MLS debut. Midfielders James Marcelin and Kalif Alhassan will be making their second career MLS starts. All of them will have to deal with conditions that are apparently pretty wet as it has been raining in Portland much of the day.
The Fire will counter with a team that is essentially the same as they started against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday. Josip Mikulic will sit out his second straight game, essentially forcing coach Carlos de los Cobos out of his preferred 3-5-2.
Timbers starters: Gleeson; Purdy, Brunner, Danso, Wallace; Hall, Jewsbury, Marcelin, Alhassan; Perlaza, Cooper
Fire starters: Johnson; Anibaba, Robinson, Gibbs, Segares; Nyarko, Videira, Pause, Pappa; Puerari, Chaves
Fabian Espindola scored the game winner in the 3rd minute of stoppage time and Real Salt Lake beat Rocky Mountain Cup rival Colorado Rapids 1-0 on Wednesday. The win extended RSL's home unbeaten streak to 37 matches across all competitions and 27 in MLS play.
The goal came at the end of a sequence that started when Javier Morales struck a free kick from about 25 yards out that hit off the post and forced Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens into making a diving attempt. The rebound came out to Paulo Jr., who got a touch on it before Espindola pounded the ball into the back of the net. Espindola appeared to come in from an offside position, but no flag was raised.
It was the fourth straight meeting between these two teams that the tying or winning goal had been scored in the 88th minute or later. In the previous meeting, RSL scored two stoppage time goals to tie the game and in their first meeting of 2010, RSL scored the winning goal in stoppage time.
Prior to Espindola's goal, neither team had looked particularly intent on collecting all three points. Espindola had an earlier goal disallowed for being offside, but that was one of the few close calls. The wind and rain that persisted throughout the match made the kind of passing RSL has become known for harder than normal.
The Rapids, who started the season with three wins in which they posted a +6 goal difference, have no lost two straight games and been outscored 4-0. RSL improved to 4-0-0 for the first time in their history and have now posted a +7 goal-difference.
The Los Angeles Galaxy may very well be satisfied with a point on the road against Toronto FC after their 0-0 tie, but they didn't make life any easier on themselves for the road trip's final game. David Beckham picked up his fifth yellow card of the season and Juninho picked up his second yellow card of the game just seconds before it ended, meaning both the Galaxy will be missing at least two of their midfielders on Sunday against the Chicago Fire. The Galaxy were already without Landon Donovan, who missed Wednesday's game with a knee injury.
The Galaxy were able to create several good chances against TFC, hitting the woodwork twice. The first came off the foot of Chad Barrett, the former TFC striker, whose shot from about 15 yards out hit the crossbar early in the first half. Todd Dunivant then hit the post with a shot in the second half.
TFC's two best chances came on set pieces. Both times, though, headers were stopped by Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
The tie was the third of the season for both teams.
Real Salt Lake has created some good chances and had a goal waved off for offside, but they go into halftime tied with the Colorado Rapids 0-0. Wind and rain have also conspired to make for a somewhat sloppy match as neither team has really exerted much control.
The best two chances were both courtesy of Fabian Espindola. On the first, the RSL forward was able to get off an acrobatic shot, firing the ball at the goal while falling on his back. But Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens was up to the task and made the save. In about the 42nd minute, Espindola was able to score, but he was a good yard or two offside and it was waved off.
The Rapids' best chance came off a strike from Jamie Smith, who was starting in place of the injured Pablo Mastroeni. Smith's volley from the edge of the penalty area was saved by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Stefan Frei and the crossbar get nearly all the credit for Toronto and Los Angeles being scoreless at the half. The Galaxy had three excellent chances in the first 15 minutes and were thwarted each time by either the TFC keeper or the woodwork. With the exception of those chances and a nice point blank save by Donovan Ricketts on an Gianluca Zavarise's header, it was hardly awe inspiring soccer.
Frankly, it was an odd half that saw the Galaxy control play for roughly the first 25 minutes and Toronto controlling play for the final 20 minutes. With the exception of a couple dangerous scoring chances for each team, it was a herky-jerky paced and sloppy half that could have used a couple goals to spice things up.
Instead we got Chad Barrett slamming the ball of the crossbar (and later inexplicably passing when he was alone one-on-one with Frei) and some excellent saves from both goalkeepers, strategically placed in 45 minutes of mostly uninspiring soccer. Call it a vanilla cupcake with vanilla icing, accented by a few colorful sprinkles on top that trick you in to believing there could be something special about that obviously plain vanilla cupcake. We'll have to see if any tactical or personnel changes at halftime can liven things up a bit.
David Beckham received a yellow card for a late tackle on Julian de Guzman in the 44th minute. It's Beckham's fifth card in five matches which means the Galaxy designated player will miss the next match for yellow card accumulation.
Jamie Smith, as predicted, will get the start in the Colorado Rapids midfield in place of the injured Pablo Mastroeni. This almost certainly means Rapids coach Gary Smith will be playing a more attack-minded style against Real Salt Lake, leaving Jeff Larentowicz to handle most of the defensive responsibilities. Tyrone Marshall will also receive his first start of the season at center back, as Drew Moor will slide over to right back in place of Anthony Wallace. The Rapids are also without the services of Conor Casey.
RSL will counter with what is essentially their first-choice group of players. Alvaro Saborio will receive just his second MLS start of the season and Andy Williams will get the start in place of the injured Will Johnson.
Real Salt Lake starters: Rimando, Wingert, Borchers, Olave, Beltran, Beckerman, Williams, Grabavoy, Morales, Saborio, Espindola
Rapids starters: Pickens, Kimura, Wynne, Marshall, Moor, Mullan, Larentowicz, Smith, Thompson, Folan, Cummings
Three Designated Players are in the starting lineups of Wednesday's Toronto FC-Los Angeles Galaxy match, but one of them is not Landon Donovan. The Galaxy midfielder is apparently still suffering from knee inflammation and with another match left to play this week, is being held out. Toronto FC, meanwhile, is seeing the return of DP Julian de Guzman to the starting lineup. De Guzman has played just 90 minutes over two matches this season and this will be his first start under new coach Aron Winter.
Donovan's absence seems to have had a bit of a trickle-down effect as Sean Franklin, normally a right back, will be moving up to the midfield and Mike Magee, normally a forward, will also be in the midfield.
TFC starters: Frei - Borman, Cann, Harden, Gargan - de Guzman, Tchani, Peterson - Zavarise, Stevanovic, Martina
Galaxy starters: Ricketts; DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Leonardo, Dunivant; Franklin, Beckham, Juninho, Magee; Barrett, Angel
This might not be the busiest week on the MLS schedule, but with 11 matches and four teams playing twice, it's definitely up there. The Galaxy seem to be getting the short end of the stick, as they'll have played three games in eight days, all of them on the road. Toronto FC and the Portland Timbers, meanwhile, each get two home games.
The highlight of the week should be Wednesday's renewal of the Rocky Mountain Cup, as the last two MLS champs will square off at "El Castillo" Rio Tinto Stadium. We'll also get our first look at Portland's Jen-Weld Field.
The Reds are coming off an entirely respectable tie against the San Jose Earthquakes, while the Galaxy are probably feeling like they left two points after their tie with DC United. It's been an up-and-down start to the season for both of these teams and we're probably still a few weeks away from really knowing how good either is going to be. Prior to a five-match home winless steak to close out the 2010 season, BMO Field was turning into quite the fortress with TFC going 13-4-5 at home during their previous 22 matches stretching back to the 2009 season. The Galaxy have shown a definite penchant for playing for ties on the road and in the middle of a three-game trip and on short rest, they'll probably be willing to settle for a point. Pick: Tied 1-1.
If ever a game felt like it deserved to be on national TV, this is it. Unfortunately, the schedule makers put this game one day before the opening of the Portland Timbers' new stadium, so it's not entirely surprising that only the hard-core will have access to this one. Those hard-core should be in for quite a show, though. The past two MLS Cup champions also happen to have quite the rivalry, with playoff spots regularly being on the line and emotions running high. The Rapids are likely going to be without the services of central midfielder Pablo Mastroeni and it looks like Jamie Smith will be filing in as a more attack-minded replacement. How Smith and Jeff Larentowicz match up with Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales will go a long ways toward deciding the winner. That 36-match unbeaten streak seems unlikely to end this week. Pick: RSL 2-1.
The Timbers have had a bit of a rude awakening during the inaugural MLS season. After an offseason in which there was open talk of making a playoff run, they've gotten off to a winless start through three matches and have posted a league-worst -4 goal difference. It hasn't been all bad, though, as the Timbers did win a U.S. Open Cup qualifying match and showed some life in a tie against the New England Revolution. Now, they face a Fire team that is playing on short rest, while the Timbers haven't played a MLS match since April 2 and are healthier than they've been all year. It seems to be setting up for a big home opener. Pick: Timbers 3-2.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2011 is just how good the Union defense has been. With one goal allowed through four matches, no team can touch their goals-against record. Their offense, though, has been surprisingly docile, having scored just three times despite the addition of Carlos Ruiz. Obviously, something is going to have to give in the long term, but the Union defense is obviously significantly improved (maybe just not this improved). The Sounders are coming off their first win of the season and have scored four goals in their past two after scoring just one in their first three matches. They are also likely to get Fredy Montero back, even if he's in some kind of cast. This seems like a good test for both teams. Pick: Tied 1-1.
In the first three MLS matches at Empire Field, there have been 14 goals scored with three of them coming in stoppage time. We've also seen a match that ended with just 19 men on the field that featured a player being thrown out while celebrating a goal. The big question is what can the Whitecaps possibly do for an encore? Against a struggling team like Chivas USA, anything seems to be possible. The Whitecaps will have Designated Player Eric Hassli back, which always ratchets up the entertainment potential. Pick: Whitecaps 5-3.
If the Reds are really an improved team, this is the kind of game in which it will show. On paper, United still seem like the better side, but for all their improvement they have gotten three goals from the penalty spot and are still at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table. Charlie Davies leads MLS with four goals, but only one of them has come in the run of play. TFC has looked downright respectable ever since their season-opening loss at the hands of the Whitecaps, albeit against mostly bottom-of-the-table competition. Pick: TFC 2-1.
Sporting can score, of this there should be no doubt. Their 2.67 goals per game is the best mark in the league, having scored eight goals in just three matches. What is in question is their ability to prevent goals, as they've given up as many as they've scored, a league worst 2.67 per match. The Crew are on the other end of that spectrum, having allowed just .75 goals per match, but having scored just three times in their four matches. Something is going to have to give in this one, but with two weeks of rest it seems likely that SKC picks up the victory. Pick: SKC 3-2.
We just keep waiting for the Red Bulls to finally make good on all that talent they have. At some point, the lid just has to come off the goal and the likes of Juan Agudelo, Dwayne De Rosario, Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards (relying on Thierry Henry seems silly at this point) have to start terrorizing defenses ... right? Well, as preordained as that may be, this doesn't seem like the week it will happen. The Earthquakes may not be a great team, but they did win the last time they visited Red Bull Arena (last year's playoffs, in case you've forgotten) and they seem like a team that has to be reckoned with. Pick: Tied 1-1.
No one really expected much of the Fire after they got rid of most of their veterans and recognizable names over the offseason. But give them credit for assembling a group of little-known, but highly effective players. Uruguayans Diego Chavez and Gaston Puerrari are giving MLS defenses fits and even when their personnel doesn't allow for a 3-5-2, they are a fun team to watch. The Galaxy will be closing out a trip that has seen them visit three cities in about eight days and they're probably going to be happy to finally head home. Pick: Fire 2-1.
Hopefully, for their sake, the Timbers will have gotten their first win of the season out of the way on Thursday. Otherwise, they may be waiting awhile. The Toros may not have gotten off to the strongest start, but their dismantling of the Rapids should be proof that this team has not suddenly turned bad. DP Fabian Castillo is looking like one of the best offseason signings, David Ferreira looks like his old self and the defense appears to be gelling. None of this bodes well for a Timbers team that still lacks any kind of identity. Pick: FC Dallas 2-0.
The Dynamo are not a great team. They might not even be a good team right now. But the Revolution, despite going undefeated in their first four matches, should not be confused for a good team either. As their 2-0 loss at home to a team of RSL reserves last week shows, they still have a long way to go to return to their glory days. Winning on the road, just doesn't seem to be in the cards. Pick: Dynamo 1-0.
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