Monday, May 2, 2011

Football Americana Week 7: Real Salt Lake stumble at Portland

Week 7 was a bumper one for Major League Soccer, and a couple of surprise results conspired to take LA to the top of the table and then leave them within striking distance of their closest rivals. Here's what happened around the league.

Friday was a good day for Williams, and two of them combined for Houston Dynamo to score the goals in a 4-1 thumping of DC United. A different turn of events on SuperDraft day might have seen rookie Will Bruin in the Black and Red, but instead he scored a hat-trick against them for the Dynamo. His first came inside four minutes after a neat pass from Geoff Cameron, only for United to equalise before the break, a few minutes after they'd been denied a clear penalty. Marc Burch's free kick was driven along the deck with some power and somehow squeezed through the crowd and into the corner.

Bruin's second took the sting out of DC's revival almost immediately and was a free header to make it 2-1, and his third came 11 minutes into the second half, again with his head. Just on the other side of the hour mark William Weaver - Cam Weaver, to you and me - put the spit-shine on the result with a powerful finish past Bill Hamid after the former San Jose man had found a freakish amount of space from a throw-in.

Weaver's old club, San Jose Earthquakes were beaten 1-0 on the road by Philadelphia Union. An inexperienced Quakes line-up got a helping hand before half time with the dismissal of Jordan Harvey, who was sent off for an apparent stamp on Chris Leitch, who arguably was the real aggressor and should have gone for kicking out. The Union goal came from the spot, Sebastien Le Toux drilling it down the middle with 15 minutes to go.

A single goal was enough to secure a victory for New York Red Bulls against Sporting Kansas City at Red Bull Arena. Jimmy Nielsen saved an early penalty from Rafael Marquez, but the goal came in the middle of the first half. It arrived courtesy of a quick free kick by Marquez, a perfect pass across goal by Dwayne DeRosario and an unwavering finish by Luke Rodgers.

A goalless first half at Crew Stadium eventually became a 2-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps for Columbus Crew. Emilio Renteria (pictured) scored twice in the first 15 minutes of the second half, his first from the penalty spot after goalkeeper Jay Nolly had fouled him on the corner of the six yard box. Dejan Rusmir set up his second after some fantastic link play by Dilly Duka. The year's first draft pick, Omar Salgado, rose to head his first MLS goal but the Caps couldn't find a second despite coming close on a couple of occasions.

Colorado Rapids split the points with Chicago Fire to end their three-game losing run. Marco Pappa put the visitors in front just before half time, beating two defenders to a ball across goal by Dominic Oduro to poke in the opener. Andre Akpan equalised on the other half of the interval, thrashing it into the top corner to earn a point for the Rapids with his first MLS goal.

Seattle Sounders furthered a bad run of form for Toronto FC by beating them 3-0 at Qwest Field. Alvaro Fernandez headed in Brad Evans' cross to make it 1-0, giving the Sounders a lead before the fans put on a display of their support for the injured Steve Zakuani on 11 minutes, representing his shirt number. Evans got two goals of his own in the second half, his first a swept finish across the goalkeeper and his second an emphatic penalty after a handball in the area. O'Brian White missed this game against his old club; he's out indefinitely after surgery to remove a blood clot from his leg.

The big surprise of the week came at Jeld-Wen Field, where Portland Timbers beat Real Salt Lake 1-0 to cap off a difficult week for the high-flying Utah club. Kenny Cooper turned in a cross to win it for the Timbers in the middle of the first half and celebrated in style with an ungainly clambering onto the frame of the goal. This was RSL's first MLS defeat in six matches and came hot on the heels of their loss in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Monterrey.

Chivas USA got their second consecutive win and their second of the season, thumping New England Revolution 3-0 at the HDC. Nick LaBrocca scored the first with a 22nd minute header and Marcos Mondaini doubled the lead with an agile finish right on half time. Alejandro Moreno sealed it just before the hour, punishing a horrible defensive mix-up five minutes after the referee correctly overturned his own appalling decision to award a penalty to the California club.

In the final game of the weekend, LA fluffed the chance to go six points clear of Salt Lake, losing 2-1 to FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park. Colombian youngster Fabian Castillo broke the deadlock just after half time to give Dallas the lead, volleying brilliantly over Donovan Ricketts. Landon Donovan equalised with a prodded finish from Juninho's deep swinging cross before colliding with the post, but LA dropped an away point in the rain thanks to a late winner from Brek

This week's games leave the top end of MLS with a familiar look. New York top the East after three consecutive wins, with Philly, Houston and Columbus within two points. LA lead the West by three points ahead of Salt Lake and Seattle, although the 2009 champions have four games in hand. You can see those tables here, and all the action here.

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