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Sporting Kansas City's perfect run came to an end this weekend, Toronto FC continues dropping games and the San Jose Earthquakes are finally showing the league exactly how good they really are.
Chris Pontius did most of the heavy lifting, bagging a hat trick with a pair of first-half goals and one more in the second half that essentially sealed the victory as it gave United a 4-0 lead. Pontius now has four goals in his past two games and nearly scored a fifth at several points late in this game. Nick DeLeon also scored his third goal of the season.
Despite still not having won consecutive games since 2009, United ran their unbeaten streak to six matches. This win jumped them over the Red Bulls and into second place in the Eastern Conference with 12 points.
The Red Bulls' only scoring came off a beautifully taken free kick by Thierry Henry in the 72nd minute. Henry moved back into a tie for the Golden Boot lead, giving him eight goals on the season. After scoring the free kick from about 20 yards out, he simply turned and headed back to midfield with no celebration.
Of course, there was no reason to really celebrate as this day clearly belonged to Pontius.
Pontius and his United teammates absolutely had their way with a Red Bulls defense that was playing without center back Wilman Conde and defensive midfielder Rafael Marquez. Unfortunately, the Red Bulls could be without both players for the foreseeable future. Marquez still has two games remaining in his suspension and Conde is still nursing an injury.
Without those two, the Red Bulls were left with a defense that included Conor Lade and Victor Palsson, both of whom were exposed repeatedly. United was able to take 20 shots and put seven of them on frame.
Up a goal and a man at home, the San Jose Earthquakes had no excuse not to take all three points, even if they were playing Real Salt Lake. But despite being up a man, they allowed Salt Lake to score an equalizer. It looked like it would be even worse when they got to play the last 21 minutes against nine men after RSL was shown a second red card and the Quakes couldn't score. Once stoppage time began, though, San Jose finally found an answer, scoring twice to move atop the Western Conference with a 3-1 win.
The Quakes had chances in the early going. Jason Hernandez headed over the bar from close range and Khari Stephenson hit the bar another time, but when Fabian Espindola was sent off for a two-footed challenge in the 29th minute is when things really started to go the way of the home side.
Stephenson came close to scoring twice on free kicks, stinging the palms of Nick RImando on one occasion and forcing him to push the ball over the bar on another. Just before the half, the midfielder finally did beat Rimando, getting on the end of a cross. He nodded the ball down and when it bounced up, Rimando was able to get a hand to it, but not enough of one to keep it out of the goal.
At halftime, the most popular question was "how many will San Jose win by", not "will San Jose win." That looked like it might be foolish because Kyle Beckerman scored a brilliant goal just after the break to get the visitors even. A run from deep saw him going at the Quakes defense without support, but he danced past one defender who went to ground and cut past another to leave himself a simple finish. Salt Lake was even and San Jose was stunned.
Still up a man, San Jose kept the pressure on Salt Lake, but they just couldn't find a goal. Chris Wondolowski just missed the frame on one occasion and they looked unsure how to attack on others.
Salt Lak gave San Jose more hope in the 69th minute when Steven Lenhart got on the other side of Jamison Olave, forcing the defender to take Lenhart down. The referee ruled it to be a denial of a goalscoring opportunity and once he made that decision, he had to send Olave off.
As the 90th minute hit, the Quakes looked destined for a horribly disappointing draw, but in the 92nd minute, Steven Beitashour fed Simon Dawkins for the go-ahead goal. A minute late, Wondolowski scored for the league-leading eighth time this season to put a bow on things as San Jose avoided an awful draw and instead picked up a key win.
Chivas USA has to be wondering what hex is on them at the Home Depot Center. Brilliant on the road, Chivas has been abysmal at home and that continued on Saturday when the lowly Philadelphia Union beat them 1-0 thanks to a goal by Freddy Adu. As expected, neither team entertained, but for Union head coach Peter Nowak, who has been under fire for his team's slow start, how Philadelphia wins is not a concern so long as they do win.
There wasn't much in the match until Michael Farfan's brilliant run down the right turned two Chivas defenders inside out and another in his dust before crossing right in front of goal. James Riley got down to try and clear the ball, but he couldn't, only stopping it right in front of goal. Adu turned around, and facing away from goal, backheeled it into the empty net for what would prove to be the winner.
Ryan Smith did put the Union defense under pressure a couple times, getting down the flank and crossing, but rarely was there anyone in the box to do anything with his crosses. Philadelphia weren't much more inventive, struggling to break down the Goats' defense outside of their one goal, but it didn't matter.
Despite a red card to Keon Daniel for a late and dangerous challenge on Smith and then another red card to Gabriel Farfan for a awful tackle, Chivas couldn't get anything going. That one goal by Philadelphia was all they needed to pick up three very good points on the road and get some of the heat off of Nowak.
Well that was a match of soccer all right. A match of soccer definitely happened today at Jeld-Wen Field, and the Portland Timbers managed to earn themselves a rare win, knocking off formerly perfect Sporting Kansas City in the process. Ish. They may have had some help.
The first half progressed just like you'd have predicted, if you were predicting a boring game in which absolutely nothing happened. Sporting were clearly tired and stymied by their hosts' resolute defending, while the Timbers were looking threatening on the break but lacked the requisite touch on their passing to get the final ball to one of their own players. Fortunately for Portland, that turned out not to matter a whole lot.
In the 41st minute Kris Boyd latched onto a quick pass forward, racing down the right flank with Kansas City's defence out of position. There was nobody in the box. The striker didn't care. He crossed anyway. Waiting to clear the ball were Chance Myers and Julio Cesar, but they both went for it at once, which led to one of the more amusing own goals you're likely to see - a flying header from Myers which skimmed the inside of Jimmy Nielson's far post at no small speed to give the Timbers a 1-0 lead.
The defender looked utterly mortified by this chain of events, but it was such a good finish it was almost worth celebrating. Embrace the absurdity, Chance. That may well be the best goal you'll ever score.
Anyway, the second half was a half of a soccer match that happened. Boyd had a good chance to double Portland's lead in the early stages, but his first-time shot was well blocked by Nielsen, and the rest of the half was fairly uneventful in terms of scoring chances.
In terms of kicking Steve Purdy in the nuts, it was slightly more eventful. Aurelin Collin's excuse will be that his eyes were on the ball and that he was going for a volley, but I have my suspicions that there was an ulterior motive - perhaps the Sporting player is engaged in a secret eugenics program designed to create more attractive humans and decided that Purdy simply could not be allowed to reproduce. I can't say I blame him. Collin picked up a yellow card for his troubles, and Purdy would eventually have to be replaced.
Sporting seemed to realise that they were losing a game that they probably weren't supposed to and went on the offensive, launching a wave of attacks that can probably be best described as broadly incompetent. Portland defended without much of a problem, primarily because the visitors seemed very keen on shooting straight at green shirts rather than towards the goal and/or forgetting where the ball was after Troy Perkins dropped it on top of them. Perhaps they should have aimed at Myers' head.
At any rate, the match finished 1-0 to Portland, which means that Sporting have failed to win for the first time in eight matches this season. It's a great result for the Timbers, if a middling performance. As for the game itself, it was pretty bad, but it was also pretty funny, and that's what counts, if you're me. Your mileage may vary.
FC Dallas just can't buy a road result. They dropped their only two road matches going into Saturday and despite playing decently at BC Place, they just couldn't find a goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps. So when Camilo Sanvezzo danced his way around the Dallas defense and ripped a gorgeous shot past Chris Seitez, Dallas had been done in again. The Whitecaps picked up a good 1-0 win and left FCD still searching for a point on the road.
The lone goal of the match was all Camilo's doing. The ball found him on the right as Lee Young-Pyo fed him and while the Korean did get credit for an assist, he didn't do much to earn it. Camilo gathered the ball, danced to put the Dallas defense on their heels then cut in before blistering a shot at the far post. It squeezed just inside the post and BC Place erupted as the Whitecaps grabbed a 1-0 11th minute lead.
Brek Shea had the best of Dallas' chances, but he wasted them either by missing the frame or shooting hard right at Joe Cannon. The Caps keeper was also fortunate that Bruno Guarda shot right at hm when he had a chance, leaving a decent stop of a Daniel Hernandez free kick the only mildly difficult work for Cannon on the evening as Dallas slumped to another loss.
Following a very iffy penalty call in the stoppage time, Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders easily saved Omar Cumming's shot to preserve the lead. The Rapids appeared to be the beneficiaries of some good fortune when referee Ramon Hernandez pointed to the spot after a pretty mundane shoulder-to-shoulder bump involving Andre Akpan and Galaxy defender David Junior Lopes.
After a long argument that say almost the entire Galaxy team circling Hernandez, Cummings attempted a stutter-step approach on the penalty. But Saunders guessed correctly, diving to his left, and had no problem stopping Cummings' weak effort.
That save essentially allowed the Galaxy to get back to .500 on the season, leaving them at 3-3-0. The Galaxy had jumped out to a 2-0 first-half lead on an own-goal from Marvell Wynne and a goal from Landon Donovan. The first goal was created when David Beckham made a nice chip to Mike Magee on a free kick. Magee's header was then deflected past Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens. The second goal involved a nice interchange between Donovan and Robbie Keane on a counter-strike that started around midfield.
Cummings was able to breathe some life into the Rapids, though. The struggling forward bagged his third goal of the season on a brilliant run that saw him streak past several defenders and then beat Saunders with a perfectly placed shot in the upper-90.
The Rapids are now 3-4-0 and have lost 3 of their past 4.
After nearly an hour of dozing, the Columbus Crew and Houston Dynamo woke up to put on a show in the final 30 minutes. They traded goals twice in a scintillating, if not always brilliantly played, final half hour and then had to settle for a deserved 2-2 draw on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium.
Without Brad Davis, Houston wasn't supposed to be quite the same threat on corner kicks, but nobody told them that because they opened the scoring on a corner kick. Will Bruin came across in the 59th minute and got to Adam Moffat's ball, flicking it just inside the near post for the opening tally.
Just four minutes later, Geoff Cameron gifted Columbus the equalized. His awkward and ill-advised backpass left Tally Hall in no man's land. Hall couldn't get to it in time and the ball fell to Eddie Gaven, who just had to tap it into the open net and things were all-square again.
That scoreline would only hold for 11 minutes. That's when Aaron Schoenfeld chested a ball down for Gaven, who got a good run at the ball before putting his left foot through it. The ball exploded off his foot and didn't slow down until it was in the back of the net for his second goal of the match.
Houston knew they had an equalizer in them, though. Columbus' defense had begun to give up opportunities and nine minutes from full time, the Dynamo took advantage of one. Bruin got free down the right before crossing low and hard. With the Crew defense scrambling, Brian Ching came flying in and slid to redirect the cross on goal to earn the Dynamo another point on their long, arduous road trip to start the season.
Landon Donovan scored one goal and the LA Galaxy were the beneficiaries of a Colorado Rapids own goal to take a 2-0 halftime lead in Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Donovan has now scored in two straight games as the Galaxy appear to have gotten over the struggles that saw them limp out to a 1-3-0 start.
The Galaxy were hardly dominant in the first half, but they did well to create chances and make them count. Even the own-goal was a product of some clever work by the Galaxy. In the 21st minute, David Beckham deftly chipped a free kick toward Mike Magee at the near post. Magee's was able to get his head on the ball, which deflected off Marvell Wynne and past Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
Donovan's goal was simply a product of a near perfectly executed counter-attack. Donovan first got the ball around midfield, laid it off to Robbie Keane and then got it back. With Edson Buddle opening space with a run to the far post, Donovan was able to slide it past Pickens.
The Rapids did generate several chances of their own, the best of which came on a Kamani Hill volley. But his shot went just high in the 30th minute.
Toronto FC still has not managed a single point from this MLS season. Despite entering the campaign with three Designated Players and the high expectations that go with them, the Reds have been downright dreadful and Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Chicago Fire may have been their worst match yet. They flashed why they have the talent to be a respectable team, but did so many of the things that you just would not expect from a professional team and slumped to yet another loss.
It took just 25 seconds for Toronto to go behind. Milos Kocic inexplicably rolled the ball to an under-pressure Torsten Frings, then the German was far too casual with the ball. Patrick Nyarko took it from him with ease before feeding Dominic Oduro for an easy goal that was horribly embarrassing for the Reds.
The Reds did not give up, though, and Reggie Lambe got them the lead. First, he was able to get to a corner kick that Sean Johnson had punched and from 25 yards, the Bermudan ripped a beautiful shot into the upper corner to get Toronto level. Four minutes later, he got to a Ryan Johnson cross at the far post to tap the ball into the open net and Toronto were in front.
Just as it looked like the Reds were showed some semblance of a competent team by going ahead, they gave the lead back within 30 seconds. A foul gave Chicago a free kick, which Sebastian Grazzini hit perfectly to the top of the six yard box. Toronto failed to mark Gonzalo Segares, leaving him all alone to attack the ball and he simply flicked the ball into the net, leaving Kocic no chance and the match all square once again.
Chicago's speed netted them the winner as they broke quickly through Oduro, who played Nyarko in. Still, two Toronto defenders had a chance to close Nyarko down, but Kocic was unwise and decided to come off his line. That simplified things for Nyarko, who just had to round the goalkeeper and knock the ball into the empty net. That goal proved to be the winner an Toronto's woes continued with a sixth loss in as many matches.
Sporting are the best team in MLS so now it is time for teams to battle for number two.
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