Sunday, September 26, 2010

Football Americana Week 26: Wondolowski steals the show

Even English readers will have been reached my the star-studded hype machine behind the match that put four of Major League Soccer's most lauded players on the same pitch this weekend. It didn't live up to its billing, of course, but these things rarely do. It was an entertaining MLS week nonetheless.

Kansas City Wizards and Houston Dynamo got the action off to a flying start with a 4-3 Wizards win. Dynamo went 2-0 up, Cam Weaver and Dominic Oduro finding the net. Kei Kamara quickly pulled one back with an emphatic drilled finish one minute later, but Adrian Serioux prodded in Houston's third two minutes after that.

Teal Bunbury made it 3-2 on the hour after a terrible kick by Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad and the comeback was on. Ryan Smith's shot went in off Serioux to equalise for the wizards and they got their winner with Josh Wolff's 96th - 96th! - minute winner. Michael Harrington's performance on the right flank was crucial.

The fortunes of these two sides were reversed later in the week.

The Dynamo travelled to the capital to face DC United and performed a comeback of their own. United again lost after Andy Najar scored the first goal, this time a superb solo effort after half an hour. Their lead lasted until the last 25 minutes again, but Devon McTavish's own goal drew the Dynamo level. Geoff Cameron headed in Brad Davis' long free kick to give Houston the lead and Oduro's second of the week made absolutely sure in the 100th - 100th! - minute. Another horrible turnaround for DC.

The Wizards lost 3-1 in their second game, a home clash against high-flying FC Dallas. Peter Vermes' side were again 2-0 down early, this time inside the first 15 minutes. Marvin Chavez fired home in the fourth minute after getting on the end of David Ferreira's delicious chipped pass. Milton Rodriguez quickly made it two and unfortunately for the Wizards there was no comeback.

English winger Ryan Smith pulled one back just before the hour mark with a low shot that Dario Sala should have stopped but Jeff Cunningham killed the Wizards challenge with eight minutes to go after springing the offside trap.

It was also FCD's second game of the week, having earlier drawn at home against New England Revolution in a match in which they didn't have it all their own way. Shalrie Joseph got his first 2010 goal in the fifth minute and the lead was protected when David Ferreira missed a penalty which looked slightly harsh in any event.

Ilija Stolica made it 2-0 with a tap-in from Marko Perovic's pass across goal and then it was FCD's turn to come back from the dead. Darrius Barnes fouled Ferreira to earn Dallas another penalty, which Ferreira fired into the roof of the net with ten minutes left. In stoppage time, Ferreira was instrumental again, playing a one-two with Eric Avila before crossing deftly to Jeff Cunningham for a simple finish.

Unfortunately for the Revs, history repeated on Saturday when they threw away a 2-0 home lead to draw 2-2 with Colorado Rapids. Pat Phelan took just over a minute to give the home side the lead at Gillette Stadium, and Joseph bagged his second of the week with the Revolution's first penalty kick of the season. Six minutes later Cory Gibbs' own goal put the Crew back in the game and with ten minutes left on the clock it was the ever-reliable Guillermo Barros Schelotto who equalised from the penalty spot.

The headline-grabbing game before kick-off was LA Galaxy versus New York Red Bulls. Each side started with two designated players, with Landon Donovan and David Beckham in the Galaxy midfield and Rafa Marquez and Juan Pablo Angel featuring for RBNY, who played without the injured Thierry Henry.

The Red Bulls took home three valuable points with a 2-0 victory. Joel Lindpere's 36th minute effort came back off the frame of the goal and was tapped in by Dane Richards to give New York the lead. The visitors got their second with half an hour to go. Richards burst into the box at speed and was unceremoniously felled, leaving Angel to make sure of the points with a calm penalty.

First year club Philadelphia Union have spent the season finding their feet in MLS, but gave the Sons of Ben something to cheer about at the weekend, beating Chivas USA 3-0. Goals from Alejandro Moreno and Fred gave Philly a 2-0 half time lead, and goalscoring phenomenon Sebastien Le Toux made it 3-0 with a low free kick that squirmed into the middle of the goal right along the deck.

Toronto FC and San Jose Earthquakes fought out an excellent match at BMO Field, the Earthquakes shading it with a 3-2 win. Chris Wondolowski (pictured) was the Quakes' hat-trick hero, scoring his 10th, 11th and 12th of the season, interrupted by Dwayne De Rosario's wonderful goal which made it 2-1 for all of a minute before the Quakes forward's third. Maicon Santos' tap-in for TFC set up a nervy last ten minutes but the Earthquakes held on.

Seattle Sounders had to wait until the last couple of minutes for the goal that saw them to a win over Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. Blaise N'Kufo's heavily deflected 88th minute goal, his fourth in two games, won it for the Sounders at the end of a game dominated by the goalkeepers.

Colorado Rapids looked to have ended Real Salt Lake's amazing unbeaten home run on Saturday night. Conor Casey's cracking header put them ahead on 36 minutes in Sandy and the lead lasted until stoppage time. In the 93rd minute, Nat Borchers got up early to head in the equaliser that takes RSL to 24 home games unbeaten and keep them two points ahead of Dallas.

The playoff picture is beginning to take shape. LA Galaxy are in, with Real Salt Lake, Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls occupying the remaining automatic spots. The four wildcard spots are currently all in the hands of the Western Conference. FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders, San Jose Earthquakes and Colorado Rapids leading the way, with Kansas City Wizards leading the fight on behalf of the Eastern Conference and five points behind the Rapids. You can see the all-important playoff standings here.

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