MLS 2012, Week 19: Top Teams Go Down As NY And KC Fall

The Olympics are cool, but MLS is where the drama really is

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2012 Major League Soccer, Week 19: What We Learned

Road teams picked up their form in Week 19, going 5-3-1 on the week. The Eastern Conference standings got even tighter with New York and KC losing while Houston has moved up into a tie for second.


Philadelphia Union Vs. New England Revolution, 2012 MLS: John Hackworth Continues To Work His Magic

John Hackworth needs to get some sort of an award immediately. He has turned their joke of a soccer club, the Philadelphia Union, into a real, professional looking club. He has done the impossible, and the impossible continued on Sunday with a come from behind 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution at PPL Park.

The Revs took a first half lead through Saer Sene, who beat Zac MacMath with a knuckling shot from distance. It wasn't a particularly well placed shot, but MacMath couldn't get in front of it as it dipped and danced, eventually going off of the goalkeepers hand and finding the net.

But the second half saw the Union come back, albeit with the help of the referee. First, a surefire handball in the box was waved off by the referee, denying the Revs a deserved penalty. Then, Kevin Alston was whistled for fouling Jack McInerney, which was the correct call because Alston definitely took the Union man down, but where the referee erred was in pointing to the spot. The foul was clearly outside the box, but the referee awarded the penalty anyways and Freddy Adu buried it to level the match.

Philadelphia's goal in the 90th minute required no help from the referee, though. Sheanon Williams' cross found McInerney at the back post and the youngster buried his header, delivering the Union another win as the Hackworth-led turnaround continues.


Portland Timbers Vs. Chivas USA, 2012 MLS: Timbers Still The Worst

Sometimes it feels like the Portland Timbers are baring MLS to institute relegation just for them. Saturday night felt like one of those times as they knocked the ball around some, but still played pretty unentertaining soccer and when it mattered, forgot how to do the basic things that professional soccer teams do. One of those things was marking on a set piece and it bit them as Danny Califf came flying in with a 68th minute goal to lead Chivas USA to a 1-0 win over the Timbers at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday night.

The lone goal came on a free kick from more than 40 yards. Ben Zemanski hit it well, driving the ball towards the penalty spot where Califf was unmarked. Then, continuing the theme of the Timbers being inept, Troy Perkins came rushing off of his line despite the ball being at least 12 yards from goal and didn't get there in time. Califf won the ball pretty easily and nodded it into the open goal for what would prove to be the only goal of the night.

Saturday night's loss wasn't as bad as the Timbers' previous loss, a 5-0 shellacking at the hands of Dallas, but it wasn't good. Despite the bulk of the possession, their forays forwards often resulted in hopeful, wayward shots and when Chivas did attack, the Portland defense looked out of sorts.

In the end, the Timbers took another loss and remain at the bottom of the MLS table, begging the league to relegate them. Meanwhile, Chivas moved to within seven points of the Galaxy for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and they do have three matches in hand on their rivals.


San Jose Earthquakes Vs. Chicago Fire, 2012 MLS: 10-Man Quakes Manage A Point

The San Jose Earthquakes may not be playing as well as they once were, but they still have their late-match magic. Trailing 1-0, down to 10 men and looking set to take their second consecutive loss, the Quakes got a 98th minute goal from Steven Lenhart to earn them a 1-1 draw at Buck Shaw Stadium.

Chris Rolfe got the Fire going in the 37th minute with a gorgeous shot from outside the box. He came across to get the ball just a little bit off center, took a step in and then from 20 yards hit a ball with the outside of his foot that curled inside the post for a stunning goal.

After the Rolfe goal, things were pretty even. Both teams got forward plenty and totaled over 20 shots each, but neither could find a breakthrough. It wasn't just poor finishing because both goalkeepers were forced to make saves and Sean Johnson made some incredible stops, but the goals just weren't coming.

In the 93rd minute, Alan Gordon was shown his second yellow card and it looked like the Quakes were done, but being the Quakes, they are never really done. The 10-man Quakes put together one last surge forward in the eighth minute and it paid dividends when Lenhart found the net to earn the home side a thrilling point.


Sporting Kansas City Vs. Columbus Crew, 2012: Jairo Arrieta's Brace Leads Crew To Win

Sporting Kansas City were supposed to dominate the Eastern Conference, and Livestrong Sporting Park was supposed to be a fortress. Unfortunately for Sporting, that has not been the case. They haven't led the East much lately and they aren't going to move to the top after losing to the Columbus Crew, 2-1, on Saturday, their fourth consecutive home match without a win.

Jairo Arrieta was the star for Columbus, scoring twice to lead the visitors to a win not even a month after joining the club from Saprissa. Kei Kamara opened the scoring with a goal in the eighth minute, which was fair after Sporting dominated the opening part of the match, but Columbus came storming back.

The equalizer came thanks to a fine ball from Josh Williams, who fed Arrieta. The Costa Rican then shook off a would-be defender before finishing from 12 yards to even things up.

Before the halftime whistle even went, Arrieta was able to get Columbus the lead. Graham Zusi's poor giveaway got Arrieta racing towards goal before he ripped a shot from distance that beat Jimmy Nielsen for what would prove to be the match-winner.

Kansas City had chances to equalize in the second half, but they couldn't finish. Their best chance came through Kamara, who almost got his second, but his header hit the crossbar. A late red card to Cole Grossman wasn't enough to get Sporting even, who didn't have enough time to take advantage of being a man up as Columbus came away with a good road win.


Colorado Rapids Vs. Seattle Sounders, MLS 2012: Eddie Johnson Leads Way Again

The resurgence of Eddie Johnson continues. The once-believed-washed-up forward scored a goal and assisted on the game-winner to lead the Seattle Sounders to a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

Johnson's ninth league goal came in the 2nd minute, as he was inexplicably left unmarked on a Mauro Rosales corner. His header easily beat Matt Pickens.

The lead was short-lived, though, as the Rapids came right back and equalized in the 3rd minute. Brian Mullan sent a ball through the Sounders' box, which somehow got past several defenders, and Drew Moor was all alone at the far post.

Johnson nearly gave the Sounders the lead back later in the first half, but his shot hit off the far post to preserve the tie. Although the Rapids dominated the run of play for most of the match after that, it was the Sounders who took the lead.

In the 65th minute, Johnson took a pass from Alex Caskey and sent a pass to the far post where Osvaldo Alonso hit a left-footed volley into the back of the net. It was Alonso's first goal of the season.

The Rapids have now lost six in a row and 8 of 9 to all but fall out of the Western Conference playoff race.


FC Dallas Vs. LA Galaxy, 2012 MLS: Two Stars Down, LA Still Wins

No David Beckham, no Landon Donovan, no problem for the LA Galaxy. It helped that they played lowly FC Dallas, but despite being without two of their stars on Saturday night, LA went to FC Dallas Stadium and came away winners as Mike Magee struck for the match's only goal in a 1-0 win.

The first half featured wide open play and opportunities on both ends, but the finishing was poor. Time and time again shots went wide or a player failed to finish his run and as a result the two teams went to halftime just as they started the match -- scoreless.

But just after the hour mark, LA broke through. Robbie Keane was given far too much time at the top of the box and he was able to draw the defense before feeding Mike Magee, who used a touch to settle before striking the ball well with his left foot. It just barely squeezed inside the post and the Galaxy were a goal up.

Despite playing against a bad Dallas team that was without the embattled Brek Shea, it wasn't a comfortable finish for LA. Without Beckham's long balls to stretch the defense or Donovan's creativity, Dallas was able to close down on the Galaxy quickly and turn to attacking. But despite getting most of the possession and all of the chances late, the home side's finishing left a lot to be desired and made Magee's goal hold up.

With the win, LA is now 10 points clear of Chivas and comfortably in the West Conference's final playoff spot. Dallas remain near the bottom, just three points ahead of last place Portland, who have three matches in hand.


Real Salt Lake Vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 2012 MLS: Alvaro Saborio's Brace Leads RSL To Win

Alvaro Saborio is heating up and the rest of MLS better watch out. The Vancouver Whitecaps apparently didn't get the memo on Saborio and paid for it, giving up two goals to the striker and allowing the Costa Rican to lead Real Salt Lake to a 2-1 win at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Saborio first got on the scoresheet thanks to a mistake by Jay DeMerit. The center back handled a ball in the box to give Salt Lake a penalty, which Saborio cooly took to put the home side in front.

That penalty made up all of the scoring in the first half and sent RSL into the second half in front, but the Whitecaps did have an answer after the break. A great ball by Camilo Sanvezzo put Darren Mattocks in alone on goal and the rookie beat Nick Rimando to the ball before sliding it come to level in the 52nd minute.

But the Whitecaps would only be even for six minutes. Ned Grabavoy raced down the right side just two minutes after coming on as a substitue in the 54th minute to trouble the Vancouver before before dropping the ball back for Javier Morales. The RSL playmaker then spotted Saborio in the box and hit a ball right onto his head, which Saborio snapped into the net for what would prove to be the winning goal.

With the win, Salt Lake now sits just one point back of San Jose for the best record in MLS, but the Quakes do have a match in hand. Despite the loss, Vancouver does remain in third place in the Western Conference, although they now trail RSL by eight points.

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