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Many games ended close in Week 6 as Sporting Kansas City notched yet another win to move to 6-0-0 on the season, while the San Jose Earthquakes proved they may have contender qualities to them.
The early struggles of the LA Galaxy didn't exactly lead to much sympathy from the rest of the league. Being the defending MLS Cup champions, filled with stars and with a massive payroll, LA wasn't about to get a helping hand, although they got a bit of one on Saturday. The schedule makers gave them a match against the struggling Portland Timbers and the Galaxy took advantage, getting goals from Landon Donovan, Juninho and David Beckham in a 3-1 comeback win at the Home Depot Center.
Portland went in front after 23 minutes when the Galaxy defense, which is shaky even when the injured A.J. DeLaGarza is playing, broke down. Eric Alexander and Darlington Nagbe combined to put the LA defense on its heels before feeding Kris Boyd. In all alone on goal, Boyd had no problem slotting the ball past Josh Saunders, and the visitors were in front.
Just a few minutes later, Portland should have been up by two, but the linesman disallowed a brilliant goal. Boyd was played in with a ball that was behind him, but he flicked it back to himself before scoring with a great bit of skill. The problem is that the flag was up, which replays proved to be a bad decision by the linesman.
Lucky to be down just one goal, LA got even just before the halftime whistle. Robbie Keane gathered the ball wide on the left, turned and undressed Eric Brunner, who slipped. The Irishman took the ball at goal before dragging it back for Donovan, who knocked the ball into the net for the equalizer.
An end-to-end sequence in the second half almost saw both teams grab leads. First, Junior Lopes got free on a corner kick and beat Troy Perkins with his header, but Franck Songo'o was on the post and cleared it off the line. The Timbers came right back down the other way and Eric Alexander hit a peach of a shot, but it went off the crossbar and the match stayed 1-1.
It would only be tied until Juninho got involved in the 83rd minute. The Brazilian was given a bit of space from 20 yards and he hit a low, hard shot that got through traffic and beat Perkins to the near post for the go-ahead goal.
The drama was taken out of the match in the 91st minute when Beckham unleashed one of his trademark strikes. Given time from 25 yards, Beckham stepped into a shot that was right in the upper corner and left Perkins no chance. The confetti fell as the Englishman celebrated in the corner, partly because of his fantastic goal, and partly because LA had finally gotten back on the smiling side of the scoreboard after weeks of struggles.
The Montreal Impact almost pulled off an improbable win on Saturday. The expansion team, which has looked every bit the part of an expansion team early in the season, went up 1-0 on FC Dallas and had them on the ropes, but that's when Blas Perez got involved. First he scored the equalizer, then his flick on began the play that saw Brek Shea score the winner to bring Dallas back for a 2-1 win in Frisco, Texas.
While the Impact will be upset to have blown a one-goal lead, the reality is that they should never have been up. They only went in front because Hernardo Corradi scored a penalty after Zach Loyd was whistled for a foul in the box that was either extremely soft or non-existent. Even so, they were ahead.
Trailing by a goal, Dallas turned up the pressure. They came close to equalizing on several occasions before finally getting the crucial goal. George John raised up to get a header away that beat Donovan Ricketts, but hit the cross bar. The ball bounced off the bar and right at Perez, who nodded the ball into the net to level things.
With time running out, Perez was the catalyst on the winning play. His flicked header sent the Montreal defense scrambling when it fell to Fabian Castillo, who played Shea in with his first touch. Shea did well to hold off Tyson Wahl before blasting the ball past Ricketts for the winning goal.
It's early in the season and some of the top teams in the MLS are without their top players, but Sporting Kansas City look like the best team in the league at present. Luis Gil is having a good year for Real Salt Lake, but they missed Javier Morales on Saturday night. Sporting controlled the first hour of the match and defended well at the end, holding on for a 1-0 win over RSL.
Sporting had a goal disallowed just before the halftime whistle after controlling play for the entire first half. C.J. Sapong rose up over Jamison Olave to win a header and put it off the underside of the crossbar and over the line, but referee Kevin Stott disallowed the goal for a foul on Sapong. On the replay, there was very little contact between Sapong and Olave, and it was difficult to see what Stott thought constituted a foul.
Even though Kansas City controlled the game, Olave and his partner Nat Borchers were excellent in defense and shut off every half-chance that their opponents created from open play. Kansas City needed a set piece to take the lead, and Aurélien Collin was the man who scored their winner in the 63rd minute. On a corner kick, Borchers and Olave stuck with Sapong and Kei Kamara, but RSL center forward Alvaro Saborio fell asleep and completely lost Collin. He was left with a free header at the far post to put his team ahead.
From then until the end of the game, Sporting's press was not as aggressive and RSL had much more possession, but they were unable to create clear-cut chances. Defensive midfielder Julio Cesar had to come out of the game with an injury, but Paulo Nagamura deputized well. Nothing got through Collin and Matt Besler in the closing minutes, as Kansas City held on for all three points.
The San Jose Earthquakes and New York Red Bulls entered Saturday as a pair of in-form teams with sizzling hot strikers and, considering they played to an entertaining 2-2 draw, you would think that the focus would be on the teams and the soccer, but that wasn't the case. Instead, all of the attention was on Rafael Marquez, who, if MLS does what they should, will not be on a MLS pitch for many, many weeks.
The Mexican international, who has been the center of controversy since joining the Red Bulls, toppled over Shea Salinas just before halftime for what should have been a penalty. It was not called, but that was not the issue. The issue came when Marquez then kicked Salinas, breaking his collarbone. It was a horribly dirty play that the referee did not see, but one that MLS will certainly take a long look at and likely hand out a lengthy suspension for.
San Jose took just 10 minutes to answer New York's goal, though. Rafael Baca took the ball from Dax McCarty in the midfield and the Quakes played quickly, eventually getting Khari Stephenson the ball, who crossed to an unmarked Baca, who had gotten forward from the midfield. Ryan Meara couldn't get back across the goal in time, leaving Baca with an easy finish to equalize.
McCarty atoned for his giveaway on the Quakes goal when he put the Red Bulls back in front seven minutes later. Dane Richards did most of the work, scampering down the right side despite two defenders being there and getting a good cross away. Kenny Cooper then accidentally flicked it on for McCarty, who hit a good shot from the top of the box for his first goal of the season.
The goals kept coming quickly as San Jose equalized 10 minutes before the break. Salinas was able to get the ball before it went out of touch and flicked it back into the middle where Chris Wondolowski's diving header left Meara no chance.
Not long after, Marquez would break Salinas' collarbone. The second half calmed down considerably and the matched played out to a 2-2 draw, but the goals and big-time players stepping up were not the story. Marquez was, once again, for all the wrong reasons.
Sporting Kansas City has been on top of Real Salt Lake for 45 minutes and they should be ahead, but they're controversially locked up in a 0-0 draw with RSL at halftime. Referee Kevin Stott disallowed a goal just before the halftime whistle, keeping the game scoreless.
That goal was scored by C.J. Sapong, who rose up over Jamison Olave and headed a cross off the underside of the crossbar for what should have been a goal. Olave, realizing he'd been beat badly, threw his arms up in the air as if he had been pushed and Stott bought it. He gave a foul and disallowed the goal, leading to his verbal abuse at the hands of Sporting KC players when he blew the whistle for halftime.
Though the stats don't show it, KC have been well on top and have looked like the more impressive side. They have been pressing constantly and it will be interesting to see if they can keep up their intense pressure for the entirety of the match. If RSL start getting some time on the ball, this could turn into a completely different type of contest.
The Seattle Sounders edged the Colorado Rapids 1-0 in a match made to close for comfort* by the home side's inability to convert clear-cut scoring chances. The Sounders dominated for much of the game but found themselves having to wait for the second half to score against a resolute Rapids defence whose task was made far simpler by their opponents' complete lack of a cutting edge.
*From Seattle's perspective.
The big storyline before the match, of course, was Brian Mullan's presence at CenturyLink field. The midfielder, who was guilty of a brutal challenge that broke the leg of crowd favourite Steve Zakuani in 2011, had not been forgiven nor forgotten, and Mullen was the subject of some rather lusty booing from the Seattle faithful. Meanwhile, the Sounders were having to do without ace midfielder Alvaro Fernando, who was sidelined with a quad injury, leaving the hosts without two of their top attacking players with Mauro Rosales also out.
It showed. Alex Caskey and David Estrada might be interesting prospects, and Eddie Johnson was once a top striker, but all three disappointed in supporting roles to Fredy Montero, who found himself forced to do things more or less on his own. That nearly didn't stop him - the Colombian forced Matt Pickens into a flying save five minutes in - but the attacking play in general was nowhere near as coherent as you'd expect from Seattle.
Meanwhile, the defence was looking solid save for the occasional complete lapse in judgement by Zach Scott, who nearly managed to concede the opener single-handedly when he let Omar Cummings ghost straight past him half an hour in. Michael Gspurning was on hand to save the initial shot, and although the rebound was converted by the much-hated Mullan, the offside flag bailed the Sounders out.
Fortunately for the hosts, that was the last major threat that the Rapids would offer and Seattle spent the rest of the match probing Pickens' area. Eventually, the breakthrough came through Caskey and Scott, whose contribution to the opener rather made up for their otherwise mediocre play. Caskey flashed a corner to the near post, where the right back got away from his marker (it was probably Jeff Larentowicz, but the assignment was blown so badly it's hard to tell) and finished brilliantly with a glancing header.
It was all Seattle needed, although they'd continue to generate and waste chances, with substitute Sammy Ochoa hilariously profligate. Pickens was forced into a fine save at the death by Montero as the striker attempted to notch his first goal of the season with an incredibly cheeky half-volley, but that was the last major action of the game. With three points, the Sounders won't rue their wastefulness too much, but it's certainly something to improve.
Meanwhile, Colorado should probably think about the way they offered virtually nothing in the second half - a continuous holding action is pretty much always doomed to failure, and basically the only thing the visitors accomplished was a dust-up involving (who else?) Mullan and Montero after the former had fouled Osvaldo Alonso.
Toronto FC had plenty of chances, but couldn't find a goal on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy turned in another absolutely brilliant performance for the Goats, who have struggled early in the season with the notable exception of his play between the sticks. His team wasn't great going forward for the most part, but he made numerous saves to keep his team's clean sheet intact in a 1-0 win.
The game's only goal came 31 minutes in on a corner kick, taken by Miller Bolaños and headed in by Oswaldo Minda. Chivas did not look terribly dangerous from open play during the game, save for a couple of good surges forward by Bolaños, but only one goal was required to grab all three points.
Toronto had two great chances late in the game to equalize and grab their first point of the season, but Kennedy and his defense came up big on both occasions. He got his hand to a shot by Ryan Johnson in the 79th minute, but only slowed down the ball and didn't push it away. Heath Pearce hustled back and made a great clearance off the goal line to prevent the goal. In the 89th minute, Danny Kovermans appeared to have the equalizer in his sights but Kennedy came up big again, just barely getting his finger to the TFC striker's shot to tip it inches wide of the far post.
Chivas now have three wins and nine points from their six games, while Toronto have lost all five of their games this season.
The New England Revolution are going to feel as if they got a raw deal on Saturday afternoon. Despite scoring a fine goal and coming agonizingly close to scoring on several opportunities, they only managed the one goal and that was not enough to beat D.C. United. That's because Maicon Santos leveled for United not long after the Revs went in front, then Chris Pontius struck the winner eight minutes from full time to net the visitors a 2-1 win at Gillette Stadium.
A brilliant piece of play got New England their goal just six minutes in. A tidy one-two between Saer Sene and Lee Nguyen freed up Sene down the left. He raced down and delivered a blistering cross to the top of the six-yard box. There, Jose Moreno met it and despite it being a hard, waist high cross, he volleyed it home on the first touch for his first Revolution goal.
Unfortunately, that lead wouldn't even last 15 minutes. A floated cross from a corner for Dwayne De Rosario was behind him, forcing him to hit a bicycle kick from 15 yards. He hit it wel, but straight down, where it skipped off the turf and to Santos in the crowded box. The United striker was first to it, redirecting the ball towards goal with a header that equalized for the visitors.
The rest of the match saw both teams getting their fair share of the ball, New England getting the better of the chances. Chris Tierney almost scored twice, just missing side of the post on a good free kick and hitting the bar another time. Even so, it didn't result in a goal and that came back to bite them in the 82nd minute.
Pontius came off the bench and was free up on the left side of the box with just one defender there. One v. one, Pontius is always going to have the edge and he cut inside before hitting a great curling shot just inside the far post for the winner.
The Philadelphia Union finally have a win in the 2012 season. With manager Peter Nowak feeling the heat after a dreadful start, the Union responded on Saturday at PPL Park. They topped the Columbus Crew, 1-0, in a match that looked very much like two bottom half MLS teams playing each other, which it was.
There wasn't much to speak of in the match, which isn't a surprise considering the quality of the two teams, so naturally, the lone goal came from an awkward hand ball. Freddy Adu cleared some space for himself on the left to get a cross way and it was right at Eric Gehrig. The Crew defender strangely got his arm up to the ball for a penalty that was as awkward as his haircut. Gabriel Gomez showed supreme confidence in taking the penalty, chipping it right down the middle as the goalkeeper dove and Philadelphia had their goal.
The closest that the Crew got to scoring was when Zac MacMath has to come running off his line to clear before Olman Vargas got to it and the Union didn't generate much more, not that Philadelphia will complain. They finally have a win.
Yeah, there are a lot of good matches, but Kansas City hosts Salt Lake and that's all that matters in MLS this week.
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