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Real Salt Lake may have lost at home to Chivas USA, but many of our voters still consider them the best team in the league.
Week 3 in MLS proved the Eastern Conference clubs can hold their own against the West with New England, New York and Kansas City all scoring big home wins.
FC Dallas only had one shot on target, but they looked likely to steal a point from Sporting Kansas City until the dying minutes of their game. A combination of a very good performance by Kevin Hartman and some poor finishing by Kansas City had the game tied until the 88th minute, when Kei Kamara applied the finish to a cross by Chance Myers to give his team a 2-1 win.
The right flank combination of Myers and Kamara was dominant all game long, but it took until the final minutes of the game for their dominance to generate a goal for their team. Sporting controlled play early but they were stunned in the 25th minute by Ricardo Villar's opener for Dallas. A foul by Myers just outside of the box gave Villar a shot at a direct free kick just outside the box, and he placed a beautiful shot into the back of the net at the near post.
Kansas City equalized with the last kick of the ball before the end of the first half, in the fourth minute of first half stoppage time. Graham Zusi provided the assist on Aurelien Collin's headed goal, swinging in a nearly perfect free kick that Collin simply had to touch into the goal.
Just five minutes into the first half, the Myers-Kamara combination created a penalty for Kansas City. Kamara provided a low ball into the box for Myers on the overlapping run, and he was fouled by Ugo Ihemelu. Kamara stepped up to take the penalty and placed it well, but didn't hit his shot with enough power and Hartman got across to make a terrific save. On the ensuing corner kick, Kamara missed another great chance with a header that went wide.
Sporting KC continued to control possession and create chances, but they failed to get shots on target between the penalty and the eventual winner. Kamara and Zusi both had golden opportunities in similar fashion in the second half, with clear one-on-one chances after an attack down the right and a near post cross, but their misses on those clear chances made it feel like Kansas City would never find a goal from open play.
It eventually came in the 88th minute in the manner that almost all of their chances were created. Myers put a low cross into the box, aimed at the near post from the right flank. Kamara got on the end of it, and on this occasion, applied a great finish to give his team the three points they should have earned in a much simpler fashion, much earlier in the game.
Maybe it was playing at home for the first time all season that got the New York Red Bulls rolling on Sunday or maybe it was the additions of Rafael Marquez, Kenny Cooper and Wilman Conde into the starting lineup. Whatever it was, the Red Bulls looked nothing like the mess of a team they looked like in their first two games and they were rewarded with a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rapids.
It took all of six minutes for the Red Bulls to go ahead by two goals, or maybe more accurately, the Rapids to go down by two goals. Thierry Henry scored the first goal for New York and Kenny Cooper the second, but both were only possible because of horrible giveaways by Colorado that gifted the home side the opportunities.
Things began to even out after the opening minutes, but Henry made sure that Colorado knew they had no chance after the halftime break. The Rapids defense fell asleep on a free kick so Marquez chipped the ball over the top of the back line perfectly into the run of Henry. The Frenchman's finish was not easy as he had to open his hips all the way up to go back across to the far post, but he did it expertly and the Red Bulls were on cruise control.
Colorado did pull a goal back when Marquez gave the ball away and Omar Cummings smartly curled one around Ryan Meara, but Cooper answered that with a tap in of a Henry cross to put a bow on a comfortable New York victory.
The New York Red Bulls were hoping that playing at home for the first time this season would cure their ills of the start of the season and after 45 minutes, it look like it has. Well, either that or the Colorado Rapids are gifting them their early success, but whatever the reason, the Red Bulls are not going to complain about a 2-0 halftime lead.
Thierry Henry got the Red Bulls off to a quick start, but it was all thanks to Ross LeBeaux and the Rapids' midfielder knows it as well as anyone. Forced to start because of the absences of Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz, LeBeaux's backpass ended up being a perfect pass to Henry. The Frenchmen wasn't going to miss a chance in alone on goal and after knocking the ball past Ryan Meara, New York was in front.
Not long after, Kenny Cooper doubled the New York lead when Colorado couldn't figure out how to keep the ball then close down space. That gave Henry time to slide a ball in for Cooper, who cut back and finished well for the two-goal lead.
Colorado did begin to grab some control of the match later on, but it wasn't until they were already down 2-0 and without Conor Casey, picking up a pair in the second half looks highly unlikely.
The New York Red Bulls and Colorado Rapids' seasons could not have started any differently. The Red Bulls have looked awful in not picking up any wins, while the Rapids have gone from ugly, conservative play to a more attacking, aesthetically pleasing style and they have done so without giving up any results as they picked up two wins in their first two matches.
New York is hoping that getting to play back at home for the first time all year will turn things around as take to the field at Red Bull Arena today. They also get Rafael Marquez back, who was suspended and Wilman Conde and Kenny Cooper have both been inserted into the starting lineup.
All is not perfect for the Rapids despite their strong start because they will be without Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz today. That means Wells Thompson will have to do some heavy lifting today, as will Ross LaBeaux.
D.C. United are still without a win in the 2012 MLS season, but they will be the happier of the two teams after Saturday night's draw at BC Place. The Vancouver Whitecaps had all of their first choice front four intact at home against a poor defense missing two key players due to Olympic qualifying, but they were unable to create scoring chances in a 0-0 draw.
Vancouver couldn't create shots late in the second half and did not manage a single shot on target during the duration of the match. D.C. United didn't exactly look good on the night, but they were the much more assertive team at the end of the game and appeared to be the more likely team to score a goal in the final 10 minutes. Dwayne De Rosario managed a couple of late shots on target and had a goal disallowed for offside.
Martin Rennie will hope that this is just a freakish blip on the radar for his team. They have too much talent up top to be as bad as they were in front of goal on Saturday night on a regular basis.
Chivas USA was supposed to be much improved this season, but they sure didn't look it in their first two matches. On Saturday though, in their third match, they finally looked as improved as some thought they might. The Goats were organized at the back, took advantage of their forays forward and walked away from Rio Tinto Stadium with a shocking 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake.
More than anything, Chivas leaned on the one thing they were strong in last season -- goalkeeping. Dan Kennedy was tremendous, just like he was last year, denying RSL time and time again. That's not to say that it was a deluge on the Chivas goal, but Salt Lake did have their opportunities and Kennedy was equal to it each time. That was never more true than in extra time when Fabian Espindola got through all alone on goal, but Kennedy was there to tip his shot past the post.
Chivas got their winner in the 72nd minute when they did well to switch the field and found Ante Jazic near the end line on the left with plenty of field to cross. His cross floated a bit and Nick Rimando came out to gather it, but Casey Townsend didn't just let him have it. He fairly challenged for it and forced Rimando to drop the ball. As soon as he did, Townsend pounced, knocking the ball into the empty net to give Chivas a great road win over one of the league's top teams.
How many weeks will it be before Peter Nowak says, "You know what? I ruined this team and it's all my fault."
Truth be told, we'll probably never hear those words out of his mouth, but all of it looks true in the early going, as the Philadelphia Union struggle to resemble a competent soccer team. Their latest setback was a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire on Saturday night, a scoreline that flattered the Union.
The Fire got the lone goal of the game thanks to some brilliant play by Marco Pappa. The Guatemalan looked to be cornered down the left, but he wriggled himself free and crossed perfectly for Dominic Oduro, whose good header beat Zac MacMath for what would prove to be the winner.
The goal aside, it was all Chicago on Saturday night. Pappa hit the woodwork once, Chris Albright had to make a diving block in front of an empty goal another time and MacMath made a few fine saves to keep the Fire lead at one. In the end, the one goal stood up, as the Union failed to get their first win of the season and Nowak has continued to look foolish.
The final 89 minutes and 31 seconds of the New England Revolution's home opener against the Portland Timbers proved to be insignificant on Saturday. A goal just 29 seconds into the match put the Revs in front and proved to be the difference as New England made that goal hold up to pick up their first points of the season in a 1-0 win over the Timbers.
Just after kick off, Chris Tierney got space on the left and hit a perfect cross into the center for Saer Sene. The Frenchmen got a good header away, beating Troy Perkins as the ball hit the underside of the bar before going in for an incredibly early goal.
Just because the Revs got an early goal doesn't mean it was an easy win for them. The Timbers poured the pressure on and Kris Boyd had a trio of chances to level, but the team that has made comebacks their thing couldn't do it this time around. All three of Boyd's chances went begging, Diego Chara missed another and despite their dominance in the midfield, Portland was not creating a ton of chances as Jay Heaps picked up his first win as a head coach.
The Montreal Impact probably should have known it wasn't their day when Jeb Brovsky was sent off after just 19 minutes for a flailing elbow that didn't really make too much contact. Even so, start flailing elbows and you are asking for trouble. Trouble is what the Impact got when Brovsky was sent off and it was the Columbus Crew who brought the trouble, scoring a pair to beat the Impact, 2-0.
As angry as the Impact must have been when Brovsky was sent off, they were even more angry when the referee awarded the Crew a penalty after a half hour. Felipe went in to tackle Emilio Renteria and got the ball, but after he knocked the ball away, he took down Renteria. The referee never hesitated in pointing to the spot despite the protests of Montreal, who insisted that Felipe's tackle was clean. The protests did not matter, though, and Milovan Mirosevic buried the penalty to put the Crew in front.
Down a man, Montreal couldn't do much and Columbus got a deserved second goal just after the hour mark when Olman Vargas came across the field and got off a good, strong header from a Shaun Francis cross. Donovan Ricketts didn't have much of a chance, but then again, neither did the Impact after going down a man as the Crew cruised to victory.
No Torsten Frings, no Stefan Frei, lots of problems for Toronto FC. The Reds opened up BMO Field for the first time this season on Saturday and it did not go well. Chris Wondolowski scored his fifth and sixth goals in six matches against Toronto to lead the San Jose Earthquakes to an impressive 3-0 win.
Toronto had a bunch of possession, but they never looked like they knew what they wanted to do with the ball and San Jose was organized in defense from the very start. Frings' absence was felt from the start and with the German out, Sam Cronin was able to boss the midfield all by himself for the Quakes.
Wondolowski got the Quakes going just nine minutes in when the Reds forgot about that whole marking thing, allowing the two-time Golden Boot winner to slip into the middle unmarked. Cronin picked him out with a peach of a cross right on his head and Wondolowski buried the header for an easy San Jose lead.
A slip by Joao Plata hurt Toronto just after halftime, but credit to San Jose for taking advantage. When Plata went down, San Jose was able to take the ball and turn defense into attack. Steven Beitashour started the move when he picked up the free ball and made a long run to put the Reds on their heels before feeding Marvin Chavez, who crossed for an onrushing Shea Salinas to rip into the largely open net and it was 2-0 Quakes.
The Quakes had the match pretty much in hand, but they added one more just for fun when Cronin chipped beautifully over the top for Rafael Baca, who crossed for Wondolowski to finish. Wondolowski could have made it a hat trick too, but he missed a great opportunity to make it three goals on the day, not that it mattered.
Toronto FC finally gets to play at BMO Field today as they open up their home league schedule. They played a Champions League home match, but that was under the roof at Rogers Centre and since then, they have been away in Champions League and away in league. Now they are back on grass in Toronto, although they are so under less than ideal conditions. Stefan Frei and Torsten Frings are out after picking up injuries last week and Danny Koevermans is on the bench so the Reds have some work to do without two of their Designated Players and their starting goalkeeper.
For the San Jose Earthquakes, today is about proving they are not bound to the bottom of the table again. They picked up a nice win to open the season, but fell against Houston last week and looked awful. Now they are on the road for the first time this season, where they were just 3-8-6 a year ago.
It was a game of corner kicks for the Seattle Sounders and that was fine by them. Normally the Houston Dynamo are outstanding on set pieces, but the Sounders beat them at their own game on Friday night, scoring a pair of goals as a result of corner kicks to pick up a 2-0 win at CenturyLink Field.
David Estrada scored a hat trick and picked up MLS Player of the Week honors last weekend and he didn't slow down at all against the Dynamo. A corner kick in the 23rd minute was only cleared as far as Estrada, who was 20 yards from goal, and the striker hit it first time with a good, hard volley. While Estrada did hit his shot well, he got a little bit of luck too when it took a deflection, leaving Tally Hall helpless as it bounced into the back of the net for the opening goal of the game.
Not long after, the Sounders got another corner kick and on it, Patrick Ianni was undercut by Geoff Cameron. The referee pointed to the spot and while it was a soft penalty, it was still a penalty. Brad Evans stepped to the ball and buried the penalty, stretching the home side's lead to 2-0.
After going ahead by two goals, the Sounders were in control. Even when Roger Levesque missed a wide open goal that could have made it 3-0, Seattle didn't look particularly bothered. Michael Gspurning had to make one good save on Will Bruin, but the Sounders were on cruise control for much of the way and very much deserved to be winners for the second time in as many matches this season.
It is time to begin the MLS action for the week and this week, that means a trip to Seattle where the Seattle Sounders will host the Houston Dynamo in the best match-up of the week in the league. This is match three of Houston's long season-opening road trip as they wait for their new stadium to be completed, but they did get wins in their first two matches, so the traveling hasn't affected them too much. For Seattle, this is about showing that they can play well even without Mauro Rosales, who is out with a sprained knee and replaced by Roger Levesque tonight.
Another week of good team vs. bad team matches with expected results to follow. Yippee!
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