Monday, May 30, 2011

Football Americana Week 11: Rampant Philly undresses Toronto

Forget New York. Forget LA. Take a bow Philadelphia Union, the story of Major League Soccer so far this season.

New York Red Bulls had to come from behind twice as they and Colorado Rapids rattled in four goals during a remarkable six-minute burst in the first half in midweek. Jeff Larentowicz put the Rapids ahead, tapping in the rebound from his own saved penalty after a spot kick was given for a foul outside the area. Joel Lindpere and Dwayne DeRosario then combined to lay on a well-finished equaliser for Thierry Henry, but Larentowicz got another almost immediately with a low shot that never should have been allowed through the crowd. The Red Bulls pegged Colorado back again straight away thanks to a lovely dinked finish by Luke Rodgers.

The Rapids also drew their second game of the week, a 1-1 tie with Sporting Kansas City. Conor Casey put the champions in front, rounding and beating Jimmy Nielsen after a Sporting backpass went short. 15 minutes from the end Kansas City equalised, winning their first point since the first weekend in April. Ryan Smith's left-footed finish from the corner of the area was too powerful for Matt Pickens and found the net inside the far post.

The Red Bulls were also back in action on Saturday and headed to Canada without Henry in the line-up to play against Vancouver Whitecaps. Camilo was tripped in the area after fantastic work with Davide Chiumiento, giving Eric Hassli the opportunity to put Vancouver in front from the spot; he duly did so. Rodgers grabbed the equaliser in front of the Southsiders, turning in a wayward shot ten minutes after the Whitecaps had scored.

At Qwest Field, a first half strike by Brek Shea secured three points for FC Dallas against Seattle Sounders. Andrew Jacobson's through-ball after 18 minutes was inch-perfect, Jeff Parke couldn't keep up with it, and Shea swept home the only goal of the game. Seattle had the chances to draw level, but just weren't getting the rub of the green in the FCD box.

Things aren't going so smoothly for Real Salt Lake at present, and the Sounders took advantage in their second game of the week. They had to wait until the last 20 minutes, but the three points were secured with a 2-1 victory over ten men after Jamison Olave's red card for a professional foul. Patrick Ianni's goal for 1-0 was a scrappy affair that had Nick Rimando regretting his poor handling to concede the corner. Lamar Neagle, on for the injured Alvaro Fernandez, made it 2-0 with a delightful whipped effort that cracked in off the crossbar. Nelson Gonzalez's 87th minute goal wasn't enough for Salt Lake.

LA Galaxy's meeting with Houston Dynamo in Carson was less than inspiring, and was won with a single goal from the penalty spot. Lovel Palmer's handball just before half time was as unnecessary as it was crucial, and Landon Donovan stepped up to roll in the penalty and bank three points for the Galaxy.

One goal was also enough in LA's second game of the week, which they won 1-0 against New England Revolution. The lively Miguel Lopez headed in his first MLS goal, glancing home a cross from deep by the league's leader in assists, David Beckham. The Galaxy had to survive an almighty scramble on the goal-line after the Revs struck the crossbar in stoppage time.

Houston's second game of the week, against FC Dallas, lived up to the pre-game derby hype. Andrew Jacobson made it 1-0 to Dallas with a header from outside the area, powering the ball back in after a ricochet off the crossbar. The Dynamo equalised before the break, Cam Weaver turning home Brad Davis' excellent cut-back. Ugo Ihemelu's header restored FCD's lead and matters got worse for the Dynamo a couple of minutes later when rookie Kofi Sarkodie was sent off for a deserved second yellow card. But Dom Kinnear's side had one more punch in them and Colin Clark was the hero inside the last five minutes, firing home from another brilliant pass by Davis.

Philadelphia Union thumped Toronto FC in their own back yard, winning 6-2 in a phenomenal game. Gabriel Farfan half-volleyed Philly ahead after just a couple of minutes, and it was soon 2-0 after Stefan Frei failed to reach Justin Mapp's low effort from outside the box. Just before half time the Union made it 3-0, Kyle Nakazawa stroking the ball home after a delicious touch from Danny Mwanga (pictured) to finish off a move that begin with a disgracefully lazy quick free kick by TFC.

The next two goals came from Toronto. Maicon Santos rounded Faryd Mondragon to tap it in and make it 3-1, and he got another to get TFC back into the game. However, it was the Union who'd go on to score a couple of minutes later and it was a Mapp piledriver that made it 4-2. Mwanga thumped in the fifth from a corner to the back post, and the sixth was made easy by yet more appalling defending by TFC.

Chicago Fire had to come from behind twice in the second half to earn a point against San Jose Earthquakes. Diego Chaves hit both posts with one first half shot for the Fire, but the Earthquakes took the lead shortly after half time. Ramiro Corrales headed in Anthony Ampaipitakwong's corner with nobody on the post for Chicago. Dominic Oduro tapped the equaliser in from the line after another freak effort that again hit both posts. Chris Wondolowski glanced in another Ampai cross to make it 2-1 to the Quakes, but the Fire equalised again through Cory Gibbs, who headed in Baggio Husidic's cross.

Columbus Crew and Chivas USA split six goals down the middle to share the points at Crew Stadium. Nick LaBrocca finished neatly at the far post to put Chivas in front after just three minutes, but the Crew were soon level. Andres Mendoza got his knee over it to equalise after Emmanuel Ekpo's through ball. The visitors regained the lead thanks to Andrew Boyens' header and went in at half time ahead. Mendoza scored a second equaliser after the break, pouncing on a defensive error to make it 2-2. The cycle happened once more: Jorge Flores' shot was almost stopped by Will Hesmer but he couldn't divert the ball outside the post, and Ekpo fired in equaliser number three just after the hour mark. Five minutes later Flores was dismissed, picking up a second yellow card for impeding Robbie Rogers on the wing.

Previously unbeaten at home, Portland Timbers superb start at Jeld-Wen Field came to an end with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of DC United. United got the perfect start when rookie Perry Kitchen fired in after Blake Brettschneider had flicked on a Chris Pontius throw-in. Portland's equaliser was chaotic. Having been awarded a soft penalty, Kenny Cooper (pictured( had his spot kick saved by Bill Hamid only for the goalkeeper to be adjudged to have stepped off his line. A second attempt, and the exact same result. Timbers coach John Spencer instructed skipper Jack Jewsbury to take over penalty duties for the third attempt, and he duly equalised in front of the Timbers Army.

Pontius did what Cooper couldn't and blasted in a penalty at the first time of asking to make it 2-1, and Josh Wolff scored DC's third with a deft finish on the break. The Timbers made United sweat for the last few minutes with a Jorge Perlaza header that snuck in past Hamid, who will be unhappy that it passed him so easily.

Philly's win takes them two points clear of New York at the top of the East, where the second-placed Red Bulls and third-placed Dynamo are enduring winless streaks of five and six games respectively. In the West, LA are now seven points clear of Dallas, who have two games in hand. The Galaxy have won four consecutively, and FCD are unbeaten in eight. You can see all the Week 11 action here and check out the tables at

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