Thursday, May 19, 2011

Football Americana Week 9: DPs do the business for LA

In the week in which Portland and Seattle finally met in Major League Soccer, it was LA's designated players and a 24-year-old striker from Utah that stole the headlines.

Second-year forward Danny Mwanga turned zero points into one as his late goal earned a 1-1 for Philadelphia Union against LA Galaxy. Good strength from Juan Pablo Angel left Landon Donovan with a free ball in the box, and he poked it past Faryd Mondragon to give LA the lead. LA created the better openings but with seven minutes left Mwanga pounced on a short backpass from Sean Franklin, rounded the goalkeeper and rolled in the equaliser.

FC Dallas edged out Toronto FC with a 1-0 win in Texas. The only game at Pizza Hut Park came from the penalty spot after George John was dragged over in the area for what seemed a very harsh penalty. Daniel Hernandez sent the goalkeeper the wrong way after a lengthy stoppage, during which Bob de Klerk, Aron Winter's assistant, was dismissed by the referee.

Dallas and Philly met over the weekend and it was the home side who won it at Pizza Hut Park thanks to two first half goals from intriguing talents. Brek Shea tapped in Fabian Castillo's pass across goal after half an hour, and the Colombian youngster grabbed a goal of his own before the break. Jackson romped down the right wing and clipped a ball into the box for Castillo to nod in FCD's second.

A late goal also earned a point for Vancouver Whitecaps, who hosted San Jose Earthquakes. Terry Dunfield of the Caps was perhaps lucky not to take a red card for a very poor tackle, and his team were soon behind after Chris Wondolowski's cheeky flick into the net right in front of the Southsiders. The Vancouver defence should get the assist for their failure to clear on several occasions in the rather limp build-up. The Whitecaps equalised in second half stoppage time, Davide Chiumiento's in-swinging cross eluding everyone and finding the far corner.

New England Revolution benefited from a spot kick to edge out the Whitecaps in their second game of the week. Benny Feilhaber was tripped in the box by Wes Knight and the Revs skipper Shalrie Joseph made no mistake from twelve yards.

Toronto FC threw away a two-goal lead at home against Chicago Fire. It all looked to be going TFC's way when the brilliant Joao Plata zipped the opening goal into the bottom corner after less than ten minutes. Maicon Santos made it two just after half time, his dipping shot from a ludicrous distance finding the net through the legs of goalkeeper Jon Conway. His team-mates would save his blushes, scoring twice in the last half hour. Marco Pappa's 63rd minute free kick was a thing of real beauty, and 15 minutes from time Orr Barouch bundled Corben Bone's low ball across the line to equalise.

Champions Colorado Rapids took a point home from RFK Stadium thanks to a 1-1 draw with DC United. Drew Moor opened the scoring for the Rapids halfway through the first half, pouncing on a Jamie Smith set piece that went loose in the box. United were denied a clear penalty ten minutes after the break but had one awarded less than ten later when Chris Pontius was felled on the edge of the box. Party Boy himself stepped up to the plate with Charlie Davies having left the field with a hamstring injury, and drilled it home to earn his side a draw.

Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo had to settle for a goalless draw at Rio Tinto Stadium. There were as many aggressive fouls as goalmouth opportunities in this game, and RSL's Alvaro Saborio and Ned Grabavoy will feel they missed excellent chances.

Three second half goals for San Jose Earthquakes and a clean sheet for their revamped defence blew away Columbus Crew at Buck Shaw Stadium. Ryan Johnson's cross was coolly turned into the net by Chris Wondolowski, and former Crew frontman Steven Lenhart's header made it 2-0 just before the hour mark. Khari Stephenson quickly made it three with another howitzer from outside the box, which is becoming something of a habit. Quakes defender Brandon McDonald picked up a pointless red card with his side 3-0 up for an elbow on Tom Heinemann, who made sure it was seen with a spectacular reaction.

Sporting Kansas City went ahead at LA Galaxy but were summarily thrashed by LA's big-name superstars. Omar Gonzalez's unfortunate own goal was cancelled out by Landon Donovan's penalty after David Beckham was pole-axed by Roger Espinoza. The second half was all Galaxy, and Donovan made it 2-1 in its first minute with a cheeky finish. Juan Pablo Angel doubled the lead with an equally assured finish and Beckham made the result safe with a scintillating free kick.

The Cascadia Cup finally rolled into a rain-sodden MLS on Saturday night, with Seattle Sounders hosting Portland Timbers and having to settle for a 1-1 draw. Alvaro Fernandez found himself in acres of space in the 52nd minute and his control and shot were unwavering as he put the Sounders in front. The Timbers' equaliser came in the 65th minute and was yet another set piece, this one headed home by Mamadou Danso. That's Futty's second goal in as many games.

At Red Bull Arena, a Justin Braun hat-trick gave Chivas USA an unexpected away win against high-flying New York Red Bulls (they've got wings, y'see). Braun's first came in only the sixth minute as he curled in a nice goal to get things started. Thierry Henry equalised with a classic Henry finish to continue his purple patch, but Braun made it 2-1 with a goal far scrappier than his first. Chivas were punished for a foul on Luke Rodgers and despite the Englishman's attempts to claim the spot kick, it was Dwayne DeRosario's first goal for the Red Bulls that took his side in level at the break. Braun restored the Goats' lead with the easiest goal of his career and despite having over 30 minutes left the Red Bulls couldn't find a third equaliser.

New York remain at the top of the East, a point ahead of Philadelphia with Houston, Columbus and New England hot on their heels. Kansas City are adrift at the bottom after their fourth successive defeat. In the West, LA are three points clear of Dallas and four ahead of Salt Lake. Vancouver have found their way to the bottom thanks to San Jose's win. You can see all the Week 9 action here, and those tables here.

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