Major League Soccer, Week 7: Chris Pontius Hat Trick Leads DC United Past Red Bulls

Chris Pontius bags three goals as DC United runs through makeshift Red Bulls defense.

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Major League Soccer 2012, Week 7: What We Learned

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.


DC United Vs. New York Red Bulls, MLS 2012: Chris Pontius Bags Hat Trick In Victory

There are still plenty of questions about just how good D.C. United is. But in their 4-1 win over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, they showed how good they can be.

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.


Portland Timbers Vs. Sporting Kansas City, 2012 MLS: Final Score 1-0 Timbers As Sporting's Perfect Run Ends

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.


Colorado Rapids Vs. LA Galaxy, 2012 MLS: Josh Saunders Saves PK, Preserves Win

There's a classic saying in the sports world: Ball don't lie. If you're wondering what that means, just check out the ending of the LA Galaxy's 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

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.


Columbus Crew Vs. Houston Dynamo, 2012 MLS: Action Picks Up Late In 2-2 Draw

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.


Toronto FC Vs. Chicago Fire, 2012 MLS: TFC's Woes Continue In Loss To Fire

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.

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