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With only a few weeks left in the regular season, the playoff picture continues to get a little foggier in the East. Also, a new scoring leader has emerged after an entertaining Week 28.
For much of Sunday's match at Toyota Park the New England Revolution were being embarrassed. Then all of a sudden they were right back in the mix and the Chicago Fire were panicking. It was a strange match, but what else would be expected of two terrible MLS teams that were eliminated from the playoffs a long time ago playing in front of a sparse crowd just because the schedule says they have to. In the end, Chicago just barely held on to grab a 3-2 win that maybe 14 people cared about.
It took just five minutes for the Revs to put themselves in a hole. Patrick Nyarko was played through on goal and Matt Reis came out to try and get the ball, but he got there late. Reis clipped Nyarko, giving the referee no choice but to award the penalty, which Sebastian Grazzini coverted.
Once again, New England's back line couldn't track the Chicago attackers and Dominic Oduro got in behind the defense. He had no problem rounding Reis and tapping the ball home to double the Fire lead.
New England wasn't done letting players get in alone on goal though. Nyarko did it again and Reis, afraid of taking down another attacker or handling the ball outside the box, took an awkward stab at the ball. It was ineffective, allowing Nyarko to push the ball past Reis and then finish for a 3-0 Fire lead after just a half hour.
Finally in the 90th minute, the Revolution showed life. Sean Johnson was unable to collect a long ball, spilling it to the top of the box. With him in no man's land, Ryan Guy had a simple chip to get the Revolution a goal.
After needing 90 minutes to get one goal, the Revs needed just 90 more seconds to get a second goal. Diego Fagundez played a good backheel to Milton Caraglio, who fed Guy in front for the simple finish and it was a 3-2 game.
Despite getting something going in extra time, the Revolution couldn't find an equalizer and after an awful 90 minutes, they didn't deserve to.
The Seattle Sounders survived a first-half scare to beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 and earn the inaugural Cascadia Cup in the process. With very little to play for, having already earned a playoff berth, the Sounders started very flat at Empire Field and the hosts took full advantage of it, creating several chances before Camilo Sanvezzo but them 1-0 up in the 21st minute. The lead was deserved, but it wouldn't hold - Jay DeMerit conceded a penalty with a handball in the box and Brad Evans tucked it away to draw Seattle back into the tie.The first half would end locked at 1-1.
The second was another story entirely - both teams began frenetically, with Lamar Neagle hitting the crossbar and Kasey Keller having to rely on some poor decision making from Mustapha Jarju to keep Vancouver's tally at one. Before long, however, Fredy Montero would make his mark on the game. The Colombian designated player's first goal was something special, featuring perfect control, anticipation and a finish that left Joe Cannon with absolutely no hope. His second, scored shortly thereafter, was somewhat less lucky - it was a simple deflected shot that looped off DeMerit and nestled into the top corner.
That made it 3-1, and the Sounders were suddenly having fun. They hit the woodwork twice more through substitute Samuel Ochoa and Neagle again, and continued to search for goals until Jair Marrufo blew for full time. As for the Whitecaps, they probably deserved better. The hosts played pretty well and were the better team for most of the first half, but failed to take advantage of having Seattle on the back foot and didn't kill off the game when they could have. This was Empire Field's final game - Vancouver will be moving next week - so at least it was an entertaining enough sendoff for the temporary structure.
Juan Pablo Angel spent the first half of the season looking like a corpse for the LA Galaxy. He was completely ineffective and it looked like age had finally caught up to the Colombian striker. Not so fast though. Dumped by the Galaxy, he moved across the hall to Chivas USA and all of a sudden he's a marksman again. Angel scored a brace on Saturday night for Chivas, his sixth and seventh goals in five matches for the Goats as they cruised past Toronto FC to keep their very slim playoff hopes alive.
A dozen minutes into the match, Angel had Chivas in front. The Colombian made a good run down the middle and Ante Jazic hit an absolutely perfect cross in from the left. It was right on Angel's head and while Stefan Frei was able to get a hand to it, it trickled over the line for the opening tally.
Justin Braun doubled the Chivas lead in the 71st minute with a header of his own when he nodded home a cross to the near post, then Angel put the icing on the cake. Angel ran at Andy iro and cut inside, leaving Iro in his dust before ripping a shot from 20 yards that sailed into the net to complete the brace. Maybe Angel's not done yet after all?
Chivas still sit seven points out of the final playoff spot with only four matches left so while they remain alive, they are only barely alive. That's better than Toronto though, who have been out of the race for what feels like years.
Pick. That. Out. Fredy Montero hadn't been having his best game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, but he's turned that around in the last couple of minutes, scoring a quickfire brace to put the Seattle Sounders 3-1 up and surely handing them all three points in the match. His second goal was somewhat fortunate, a deflected effort off Jay DeMerit that looped in over Joe Cannon from range, but his first was so perfect it should probably be framed and sent to the Louvre.
Montero tried to release Nate Jaqua by clipping the ball over the defence, but DeMerit was just about able to get the ball clear with an overhead effort. Unfortunately for the hosts, the ball fell back to Montero, who surged into the area, turned Boxall with a trick that bought him two yards from space and then curled a lovely shot into Cannon's top corner. Absolutely no chance of stopping that one, and the game has been thoroughly turned around - Vancouver's 1-0 lead seems a long time ago now.
It's almost as if the Colorado Rapids want to flirt with missing the playoffs. Once a sure bet to qualify for the postseason, Colorado has now seen themselves fall back into the pack fighting for one of the final spots and they didn't help themselves out any on Saturday night. Hosting a poor San Jose Earthquakes side, the Rapids fell behind a goal then had to come back just to earn a single point from a match that they should undoubtedly get three from.
San Jose broke the deadlock in the 17th minute thanks to an error by Matt Pickens. A long shot skipped in front of the Colorado keeper, but should have been caught without a problem. Instead it bounced off his chest and back out to the penalty spot. Chris Wondolowski followed up the initial shot and was there all by himself to knock home the rebound for an early Quakes lead.
For the most part, it was an even match. Both side had their opportunities to score and made their share of mistakes so when Drew Moor leveled in the 71st minute to force the draw, it was only fair. Jeff Larentowicz followed up a corner kick and had a go, but it never made it to goal. Instead it was knocked down in front where Drew Moor was waiting to knock the loose ball in to earn Colorado a point.
The result leaves Colorado in fifth place, but they are only three points clear of 11th place DC United, who are in the final non-playoff spot and have a match in hand. It's going to be a hectic finish.
That Vancouver Whitecaps lead didn't last particularly long, did it? Barely ten minutes after going in front thanks to a neat move by Davide Chiumiento capped off by a Camilo tap-in, the hosts conceded a penalty, which the Seattle Sounders were only too happy to convert.
When Fredy Montero picked up the ball in the box and sent in a stinging shot towards his right, Joe Cannon was only too happy to make the save. But he couldn't stop a rebound, and the ball fell to Alvaro Fernandez, who sent the ball towards the mostly-empty net. I say mostly empty, because Jay DeMerit's arm went and got in the way. Silly arm. For some reason, referee Jair Marrufo didn't give the defender a straight red card, but for Seattle, the yellow and the penalty were reward enough. Brad Evans stepped up, sent Cannon the wrong way, and brought the Sounders level once more. It's 1-1 in the first half at Empire Field.
And the Seattle Sounders' day was going so well, too. Moments after diffusing the threat from a Sounders corner, the Vancouver Whitecaps raced upfield on the counterattack, using raw speed, good decision making and the fact that Zach Scott exists to put themselves in the lead in this Cascadia Cup clash. Instead of tracking Camilo Sanvezzo, Scott opted to simply raise his hand to request offside on Davide Chiumiento, who was bursting into Kasey Keller's area.
Since Chiumiento doesn't have the brainpower of a ten-day-dead stoat, he simply slipped the ball to an unmarked Camilo to prod into the empty net from a couple of yards out. That's Vancouver up 1-0, and it's hardly against the run of play. The hosts should have been ahead early, when Michael Boxhall's finish from inside the six yard box and with just Keller to beat explained just why he's a centre back - the New Zealand international blasted straight at the goalkeeper, leaving the Whitecaps waiting for the goal. Fortunately for Boxhall and the hosts, they wouldn't have to wait for long.
DC United made a huge statement on Saturday night as they comprehensively dismantled Western Conference powerhouse Real Salt Lake in the first thirty minutes of what was supposed to be a grueling test of their credentials. Instead, it became a monument to the skills of Dwayne De Rosario and Andy Najar, with the former scoring a wonderful hattrick and the latter responsible for the beautiful strike that opened the floodgates.
Not fifteen minutes had passed before De Rosario fed Najar with a perfectly weighted through ball that slipped the Honduran-born teenager in behind RSL's lines. Najar took the ball in his stride. His first touch was perfect, and the second even better - it shifted the ball to his right foot while looking like the winger was merely continuing his run, leaving Nick Rimando totally helpless as the ball whistled past him half a second later.
Najar's footwork was sublime, but De Rosario's triplet of goals was no less so. The first was a diving header from a from a cross (guess who hit it) but the second was beautifully clipped into the net and the third was a free kick from such a long way out that Rimando barely even bothered setting up a wall. That was in the 31st minute. DC United had put four goals past a strong candidate for the MLS cup in eighteen minutes of football.
The rest of the match couldn't quite live up to that standard, of course, and the hosts stopped going for it as the first half died down. That RSL pulled a goal back in the dying seconds (substitute Alvaro Saborio the man to grab it) to make the final score 4-1 was irrelevant - the fact of the matter is that if DC had felt like it, they could easily have doubled their goals total. One would hope that the home fans will remember this for a long time, because it's as thorough a beating as anyone's inflicted on RSL for ages.
It was clear from the moment that the starting lineups were announced that the Los Angeles Galaxy weren't prioritizing their match against the Columbus Crew. With key CONCACAF Champions League matches before and after their trip to Columbus, LA made eight changes to their first choice starting lineup. They were risking dropped points in a battle of the Western Conference's best versus the Eastern Conference's best, but thanks to a 90th minute goal by Chad Barrett LA was able to snag three points at Crew Stadium and extend their lead atop MLS.
Columbus had a rare sellout for the match, but it isn't rare for the Galaxy and their array of stars to bring a crowd. The problem is that the stars were resting. Neither David Beckham nor Robbie Keane were in the team and Landon Donovan came off of the bench for the visitors, leaving the crowd a little disappointed, unless they showed up to see Adam Cristman and Bryan Jordan.
The entire match was pretty much an assault on the eyes. LA was playing all reserves and Columbus isn't a very good team. That doesn't make for attractive soccer and very rarely were either LA or Columbus attractive. It seemed destined for a dull 0-0 draw until the last 15 minutes when the match opened up some. Josh Saunders was called upon to make two good saves as Columbus grabbed control of the match in the final half hour.
Donovan made an appearance off of the bench and helped get the Galaxy their winner in the 90th minute when he ripped a good volley from the right side. It forced Will Hesmer into a fine save, but it left a juicy rebound that Barrett was only too happy to knock into the open net for the game-winner.
With the win, along with Real Salt Lake's loss, has the Galaxy on the verge of a Supporters Shield title. They have a 10 point lead over Seattle and Salt Lake with just a month left in the season. On the flip side is Columbus, who lost their spot atop the Eastern Conference today as Houston passed them up
The New York Red Bulls still have quite a bit of work to do if they want to get into the playoffs, but they've made huge strides towards achieving that goal with a 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers on Saturday night. Less than a week after a loss caused an outburst from Rafael Marquez that resulted in a suspension for the Mexican international, the RBNY defense looked much improved, even without their Designated Player.
Dane Richards scored the opening goal in the 21st minute, and it was a fantastic one. In an unexpected move, Richards ended up on the left side and played a couple of passes with Joel Lindpere before dribbling into the box. He blew by one man with his pace and played himself into a shooting position with some great dribbling skill before finishing at a narrow angle, giving his team the lead.
New York almost doubled their lead in the 60th minute, but Thierry Henry was denied by a fantastic save by Troy Perkins. Hilariously, Henry started celebrating after he shot, apparently not considering the possibility that Perkins might make a save.
Henry would get his goal just three minutes later, though, as New York clinched three points. The Frenchman had a shot blocked by a Khalif Alhassan handball, and the Timbers winger was sent off for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity. Henry stepped up and buried the penalty, giving his team a 2-0 win.
It was a game of missed opportunities for FC Dallas as their rivals from South Texas were able to get a late goal and steal the season series. Houston Dynamo defender Geoff Cameron got on the end of a Brad Davis corner kick late in the game to give the Dynamo a 1-0 win.
The Dynamo made the most of their only real chance of the game as Cameron found space in the penalty box around Dallas' Andrew Jacobson. Houston only mustered a couple chances before then but none that tested Kevin Hartman.
The main story for Dallas in this one was the amount of quality chances that either missed wide or hit the post. Three Dallas shots hit off the post in this one, while Houston keeper Tally Hall was big when he needed to be.
Jackson Goncalves caused a lot of issues for the Houston defense in the second half has he had two quality chances on Hall that hit the post and went just wide.
The loss for Dallas is their third loss in a row and third straight shutout against them. Dallas remains at 46 points on the year while the Dynamo take their first road win of the year and moves into first place in the Eastern Conference with 42 points.
It was a first 45 minutes that any soccer fan could be entertained by. Texas rivals FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo traded shots, fouls and cards but the first half ended on level terms with the two tied at 0-0.
Dallas created the bulk of the chances early on with Maicon Santos, Jackson Goncalves, Ricardo Villar and Brek Shea. Jackson nearly got on the end of one right away in the second minute when he made a great individual effort to force a bad ball back to Houston defender Geoff Cameron. Jackson's early shot tested keeper Tally Hall, who made several stops in the first 45.
The best chance for Dallas came in the 12th minute when Shea and Jackson traded passed back and forth until it was Jackson again who tested Hall. The Houston keeper just got a finger on the shot and gave Dallas one of their five corner kicks in the half.
The Brazilian Santos hit the crossbar midway through the first half after Andrew Jacobson flicked on a header to break Santos open in the box after a free kick.
Houston created a couple chances of their own late in the half with Brian Ching and Danny Cruz. Ching found some space between George John and Ugo Ihemelu late in the half and force Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman into a big kick save.
The playoff race almost could not be more wide open as no fewer than 13 teams are still very much alive in the race.
Sporting Kansas City and the Philadelphia Union didn't exactly provide much clarity to the MLS playoff race, playing to a 1-1 tie on Friday. But that doesn't mean the game was without serious implications, as the single point allowed Sporting to move into a tie for the Eastern Conference lead and the Union to bolster their No. 3 spot.
Still, neither team got exactly what it was looking for, and both teams could probably make a case for deserving all three points. As it is, Sporting have to settle for being even on points with the Columbus Crew, although they do hold a rather massive goal-difference advantage. Sporting will play the Crew on Wednesday, needing a victory to grab the tiebreaker advantage.
A win for the Union would have catapulted them to the top of the East's table with the added advantage of having a game-in-hand on Sporting. The point does give them a four-point cushion on the No. 10 playoff spot, but it continues a rather frustrating trend of failing to get the full three points. The Union have now won just once in their past 10 matches.
Both teams seemed poised to grab control of the game at various points, but it was Sporting who struck first. Omar Bravo got on the end of a Kei Kamara pass in the to score his team-leading ninth goal of the season 56th minute.
Just as the game seemed to be getting away from the Union, they managed to find the equalizer in the 63rd minute. Michael Farfan deftly kept a ball in bounds at the touchline and found Sebastien Le Toux unmarked inside the box. Le Toux one-touched it past goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen for his seventh goal in his past six games. After a slow start to the season when he was playing mostly midfield, he now has eight goals and eight assists.
Friday night and Saturday's early games are good. And it's all downhill from there.
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