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About six weeks after nearly falling into the fourth tier, the Crew are shooting up our charts.
Between the All-Star Game, the CONCACAF Champions League, and the Emirates Cup, week 20 had plenty to offer.
With temperatures around 102 degrees at kickoff, FC Dallas found a way to get by Chivas USA 1-0 thanks to another goal from Marvin Chavez. The Honduran scored midway through the first half thanks to a little deflection off former Dallas defender Health Pearce. It was Chavez's forth goal of the year and his third in the last two league matches.
Dallas returned from El Salvador less than 24 hours ago and made a few changes to their starting lineup including starting Home Grown player Ruben Luna at striker. Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman was able to rest a few starters in this game, which is sandwiched between the club's CONCACAF Champions League play-in series.
The shutout also marked the league-high of 12 for keeper Kevin Hartman. It also tied a club record for shutouts in a season.
The win keeps Dallas in second place in the Western Conference with 42 points, just three shy of the league lead. Chivas takes the loss and stays at 26 points, just one spot out of the playoff zone.
FC Dallas may have just returned from El Salvador less than 24 hours ago but they aren't letting the 102 degree temperatures getting to them. Marvin Chavez got a lucky deflection goal off former FC Dallas defender Health Pearce for the games first goal. It was Chavez's forth goal of the season, his third in the last two league games.
Chivas USA looked fairly beaten by the heat in the first half as they were slow to respond on the game's lone goal. The Goats had several men in the box but Ruben Luna and Chavez were able to get the most of them. Luna was credited with the assist, his first on the season.
Dallas controlled the pace of the opening half with sever chances from Luna and Chavez. Brek Shea also helped set up a couple chances for Luna.
One interesting moment in the game in the first half, there was a break in the play at about the 33rd minute and the center official decided the two teams needed a water break. It wasn't a scheduled break like we've seen in other leagues before either. Just a random moment.
The Portland Timbers had themselves a 2-0 lead in front of their raucous home crowd and just 20 minutes to play. It looked like they had earned themselves three points, but then Toronto FC pulled a comeback that their entire season indicated they were incapable of pulling off. As bad as TFC has looked this season, they loked strong in the final 20 minutes with the tying goal coming from their new designated player signing Danny Koevermans to earn themselves an impressive point.
The early part of the match was filled with exciting, end to end play. Both teams had chances and hit the post, but neither could break through until the 23rd minute when Eddie Johnson got some space 20 yards from goal. The Englishman put the ball on his right foot before unleashing a shot past Stefan Frei for the opening tally.
In the 53rd minute the Timbers doubled their lead. Diego Chara was clipped by a clumsy Andy Iro and went tumbling to the turf. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and Jack Jewsbury drilled the spot kick right down the middle. The Timbers' supporters went wild and had visions of three points, but the Reds had a comeback in them.
Not long after Portland came within inches of making it 3-0 when they hit the post Toronto came back the other way. A good Timbers tackle knocked the ball free, but only as far as Peri Marosevic, who took a touch and stepped into a shot from 25 yards. The shot just barely squeezed inside the post and the Reds were within one after 71 minutes.
It took just 10 more minutes before Toronto equalized. Joao Plata, fresh off of a two-goal performance in the CONCACAF Champions League, crossed low and hard from the right side. Koevermans came across from the far side to the center and was able to finish with class. The Dutchman used the inside of his foot to slide the shot past a diving Troy Perkins to silence the crowd and deliver the Reds a draw.
DC United and the San Jose Earthquakes are two talented teams in the midst of serious struggles, as they had won a combined one out of their last 10 games coming into Saturday night's encounter at Buck Shaw Stadium. A draw might have been the bookies' favorite, but the Quakes were dealt a devastating blow with a home loss. Though they were eventually sent down to 10 men, the Black and Red were able to clinch a key road victory, defeating San Jose 2-0.
Dwayne De Rosario scored both goals, both brilliant finishes coming in the second half. The first half was a rather dull 45 minute period with neither team creating any clear cut scoring chances, but De Rosario and DC came alive in the second. The first came in the 57th minute, with Andy Najar providing a great through ball to De Rosario. Nana Attakora fell down on the play, allowing De Rosario to have an easy path to the goal. He blasted an impressive shot past Jon Busch from 20 yards out, giving DC the lead.
The clinching goal came in the 66th minute, with De Rosario executing a fantastic give and go with Chris Pontius off of a throw in before hitting an unorthodox but spectacular looking finish into the top corner for 12 yards out. Najar would be shown a straight red card for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity in the 70th minute, but the Quakes were unable to capitalize as DC coasted to three points.
The Seattle Sounders nine-match MLS unbeaten streak came to a grinding halt on Saturday night as the Houston Dynamo rolled to a 3-1 win behind two Brian Ching goals. The Dynamo raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first half and never looked back, only slipping up temporarily late in the first half and allowing a penalty kick goal. Houston was creative, potent in the attacking third and easily capable of taking advantage of the Sounders' defensive miscues throughout, making this match less than competitive for much of the way.
Colin Clark drew first blood for the Dynamo, hammering home a goal in the seventh minute. It's become a recurring theme for the Sounders, whose defense has been exploited early during the winning streak. In the 23rd minute, Ching got his first, heading home a lovely ball from Geoff Cameron to give the Dynamo a 2-0 lead, leaving Seattle stunned.
Seattle got one back just before the half as Fredy Montero was dragged down in the box, drawing a penalty. Alvaro Fernandez stepped up and buried the resulting penalty kick, cutting the Houston lead to one. It was as close as Seattle would get.
In the second half, Ching found himself free at the far post, burying his second goal of the day after a nice bit of buildup. Facing a two-goal deficit, Seattle was unable to battle back, and faded quietly into the night.
Columbus pressed early and caught RSL off guard as Robbie Rogers set up both goals. The first goal Rogers raced down the sideline and cut inside the penalty box to find a wide-open Gavin on the far post who had no issue putting a shot by Nick Rimando. The second goal, just minutes later it was Rogers again who sent in a high ball to Heinemann who towered over the RSL defense and headed the ball by Rimando.
Some could blame the injury to Jamison Olave in this past Wednesday's All-Star Game for why RSL looked so "off" in their defense. Giving up the two early goals caused RSL to chase the game from an early point.
RSL only mustered one shot on goal on the night and really struggled to press the Crew's defense. The best chance of the night came from Fabian Espindola but his shot on goal was kicked out by Andy Gruenebaum, who earned his second shutout of the season.
The win for the Crew helps vault them to the top of the Eastern Conference with 34 points on the season. The loss hurts RSL as they have a couple games in-hand over everyone in the league. Dropping points at home doesn't help their cause as they remain forth in the Western Conference behind Los Angeles, Dallas and Seattle.
A late goal by Teal Bunbury pushes Sporting Kansas City's unbeaten run to 13 games with the 1-1 draw against the New England Revolution. The Revs had the lead going into the 89th minute but it was Bunbury who cleaned up the mess in front of the New England goal to salvage the draw.
New England had gone a man down moments before the goal by Bunbury when rookie AJ Soares tripped up fellow rookie CJ Sapong on the way into goal. Soares appeared to get some of the ball on the play but since he was the last defender between Sapong and Matt Reis' goal, center official Terry Vaughn had no other choice but to issue the red to the rookie.
Sporting was on the offensive for the majority of the second half as at one point manager Peter Vermes had four strikers on the field at once. The effort paid off in the end for him. KC outshot New England 21-7 on the night and really controlled the play in the second half.
The Revs lone goal came early in the match from Rajko Lekic, who found the back of the net in the 37th minute. New England extended their road unbeaten mark to three games with the draw but are still seventh in the Eastern Conference.
With the draw, Sporting remains forth in the Eastern Conference behind New York, Columbus and Philadelphia.
The Los Angeles Galaxy were better than the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first half, but the scoreboard didn't reflect it as their shots either just missed the frame or met the unfortunate fate of Joe Cannon's gloves. Things turned in the second half as Landon Donovan grabbed a hold of the match, scoring the first goal, converting a penalty for the second and assisting on the third goal before Adam Cristman added a fourth in the Galaxy's 4-0 win. The victory in Vancouver keeps LA atop the league and extends their unbeaten streak to a 14 matches, the longest in MLS this season.
Vancouver was able to get a couple half chances in the first half, but nothing more while LA held possession. In the early part of the half they didn't turn that possession into chances as they lacked the touch in the final third, but the close of the half was all Galaxy. Cannon made a tremendous save on a drive from 20 yards by Juninho and barely tipped it over the bar, then he was able to get a hand to Gregg Berhalter's header off of the ensuing corner kick to keep the Caps level. Sean Franklin wasted a golden chance from six yards when he sent it wide and the Galaxy had to go into halftime without a lead.
The start of the second half was in no way like the end of the first half. The Whitecaps played quickly and had opportunities to go ahead with Shea Salinas coming within an inch of getting the home side on top. His shot beat Josh Saunders and hit the very inside of the post, coming straight across the goal line before being cleared.
Donovan broke the deadlock in the 61st minute when Franklin played him in over the top. Michael Boxall was trying to run with Donovan, but he tripped and Donovan was in all alone on goal, easily slotting it past Cannon for the go-ahead goal.
In the 74th minute Donovan got himself a brace after Jordan Harvey was whistled for a penalty. A long diagonal ball to Donovan would have taken him all the way to the endline, but Harvey inadvertently got his arm out and knocked the ball off its path so the referee had to award the penalty. Donovan stepped to it and hit it well, just inside the post for his second goal of the match.
The American wasn't done though, getting free along the endline just minutes later. He dribbled towards the goal from the left before crossing right across the face of the goal for Franklin, who came sliding in for the finish and a 3-0 Galaxy lead.
Just for good measure, Cristman added a fourth goal just before fulltime. Vancouver had a chance to clear the ball from in front of their own goal, but it was instead headed straight up at the edge of the six-yard box. Cristman rose and nodded the ball over Cannon and into the side netting for the final tally of the match, embarrassing the Whitecaps and sending their supporters home angry.
With the win, LA is on 45 points, tops in MLS and six points clear of FC Dallas, also the Hoops do have a match in hand. Vancouver remains at the bottom of the league on just 15 points as they remain winless in their last seven.
Joe Cannon must have had his Wheaties to get ready to play his former team this morning because the goalkeeper is single-handedly keeping the Vancouver Whitecaps level with the Los Angeles Galaxy. LA has the most points on the road this season in MLS and showed why in the first half in Vancouver, dominating the Whitecaps and only getting better as the half went on to send the home side into the dressing room feeling fortunate to not be behind. At the same time, LA will feel as if the half was unjust after not being able to make their dominance show itself on the scoreboard.
Right from the start LA had possession and knocked the ball around easily, but they didn't do much in the final third. It was actually the Whitecaps who had the best chance of the match early on when Josh Saunders and the Galaxy defense had communications issues, leaving the Whitecaps with a chance at an open goal, but the scrambling LA defense cleared it away.
As time went on the Galaxy began to turn their possession into chances. Juninho unleashed a great strike from 20 yards that looked like a sure-fire goal, but Cannon made a great leaping save to touch it over the bar. On the ensuing corner kick Gregg Berhalter was able to nod one for what looked like another goal, but Cannon was there to make a fine save once again. Sean Franklin also had a chance to put the Galaxy on top, but instead of side-footing the shot on frame from six yards or passing to a wide open Juan Pablo Angel, he rocketed a shot just wide of the post.
The Whitecaps will have to figure out a way to get a hold of some possession because they will not be able to handle the Galaxy's pressure for another 45 minutes like they did in the first half. Finishing has been a problem for LA this season though so who knows if that final touch can elude them for another half.
Playing at home in front of a national TV audience should be reason for celebration. But for the Philadelphia Union, it was more of a nightmare. Not only did they suffer their first defeat at PPL Park, 2-1 to the Colorado Rapids, but they also revealed after the game that leading scorer Carlos Ruiz would be leaving the team.
The Union had the better of play from the opening whistle, with Keon Daniel hitting a ball off the crossbar in the 26th minute. But it was the Rapids who struck first when Pablo Mastroeni flashed some of the skill we have seen all too rarely of late, turning around Union center back Carlos Valdes and striking a perfectly placed ball into the far upper corner.
Just before halftime, the Rapids extended their lead to 2-0 when Omar Cummings led Sanna Nyassi with a perfect through ball. Nyassi was able to get behind his mark and then beat Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon with a quick shot. It was Nyassi's fourth goal in his past three games and gave Cummings his team-leading six assist.
The Union continued to apply heavy pressure throughout the second half, but couldn't break through until Roger Torres scored a beautiful goal in the 3rd minute of stoppage time. He was able to beat two defenders inside the penalty area, cutting back behind Marvell Wynne and then unleashing a perfectly placed left-footed shot.
After scoring, Torres put his hand to his head in a similar way that Ruiz does when he scores goals. It seemed to be homage to Ruiz, who it was learned after the game that he was leaving the team. Union coach Peter Nowak seemed to indicate that fan and media criticism of Ruiz was at least partially to blame.
After a week that was significantly altered by friendlies, we're back to a full slate of games this week.
Philadelphia Union vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m., Friday (Fox Soccer)
Figuring out the Rapids continues to be among the more difficult things to do this MLS season. In the past week, they've beaten up on the New York Red Bulls and tied the New England Revolution at home. Facing a very good Union team on the road would seem to be a pretty tough matchup. The Union are one of just three MLS teams yet to lose at home, but that may be a bit deceiving. In nine matches, they have yet to win by more than one goal and have scored more than one goal just twice. This should be a good test for both teams. Pick: Union 2-1.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 8 p.m., Saturday (Fox Soccer)
Down in the dumps and sinking even deeper, this is not the kind of game the Whitecaps need right now. The Galaxy come into the match riding a 13-match unbeaten streak and have claimed more points in their past eight matches (16) than the Whitecaps have claimed during their entire 21-match schedule (15). If Landon Donovan is back to full health and David Beckham is recovered from his 90-minute performance at the All-Star Game, this could get out of hand quickly. Pick: Galaxy 2-0.
Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders, 8:30 p.m., Saturday
No team can match the Sounders' five wins in their past six MLS matches. The only question is how much have their losses to Manchester United in a friendly and a 1-0 loss to San Francisco FC in CONCACAF Champions League qualifying thrown them off their game. The Dynamo are coming a 3-0 loss at Chivas USA, but have been much better at home. There are no such thing as must-win games when 10 teams makes the playoff and a third of the season is still left to play, but a win would be very helpful for Houston. Pick: Sounders 1-0.
Sporting Kansas City vs. New England Revolution, 8:30 p.m., Saturday
Are a road win at DC United and a tie on the road against the Rapids enough to get the Revs' season turned around? They are obviously positive signs, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. This is still a team with serious issues and they didn't exactly look dominant in either of those results. Sporting are playing as well as anyone right now, unbeaten in 12 and 3-0-3 at home. They are also coming off a 4-2 demolition of Toronto FC, and appear to have regained their scoring touch. They will be without starting center back Aurilien Collin, which does test their depth. Pick: SKC 2-1.
Pile on Alvaro Saborio all you want, but whether or not you think his dive last week was an insult to game of soccer, it could turn out to be the turning point in RSL's season. The subsequent 4-0 thrashing was their biggest win of the season and now gives them victories in three of their past four games, a stretch which has seen them outscore their opponents 12-4. The Crew seem to have settled into a somewhat predictable run where they beat bad teams, but can't beat good teams. Don't expect that to change this week. Pick: RSL 3-1.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. DC United, 10:30 p.m., Saturday
Two teams that seemed poised for playoff runs just a relatively short time ago are both suddenly struggling. United have won just one of their past eight, while the Earthquakes haven't won any of their past eight. Both teams are still trying to find identities right now, and the Earthquakes have recently made some significant personnel moves. This just feels like a tie. Pick: Tied 1-1.
Portland Timbers vs. Toronto FC, 11 p.m., Saturday
Not much has gone right for either of these teams lately. The Timbers are no longer unbeatable at home and TFC are still trying to figure out who they are. Both have shown signs of improvement, with the question being if either can put it together in time to salvage this season. Pick: Tied 2-2.
FC Dallas vs. Chivas USA, 7 p.m., Sunday (Galavision)
This should actually be a pretty interesting matchup. Justin Braun is coming off his second hat trick of the season, Nick LaBrocca is coming off his first All-Star game and the Goats are unbeaten in their last five. The Toros continue to look like a team that should compete for the Supporters' Shield and are coming off a nice road win over Alianza in the CONCACAF Champions League qualifying round. A road win in Dallas is probably a bit much to expect, but it's not quite as shocking as you might think. Pick: Dallas 2-1.
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