Sunday, June 5, 2011

Football Americana Week 12: Goals dry up in MLS

Are the injuries to flair players beginning to take their toll on Major League Soccer? Probably not. But Week 12 was a goalless wasteland full of draws and zeroes.

Two goals in quick succession saw Chivas USA and visitors Vancouver Whitecaps share the points in the first game of the week. The home side took the lead 21 seconds into the second half with a low shot from 25 yards, but the Goats' lead would last only a couple of minutes. Camilo's equaliser was beautifully curled into the top corner after good work from Eric Hassli and Davide Chiumiento. The French striker inevitably became the centre of attention in the 66th minute, picking up an incredible third red card of the season for scything down Ben Zemanski.

The Caps were in action over the weekend too, and slumped to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Real Salt Lake. Jean Alexandre got the first just after the half hour mark, showing strength and guile before firing in the opener from close range. He was just in an offside position when Kyle Beckerman played the pass through to him initially but the goal stood. Fabian Espindola didn't seem to have his shooting boots on but he kept his composure and grabbed the second, latching onto Alexandre's through-ball after Vancouver gave the ball away and rolling it into the bottom corner.

Chivas won their second game of the week, edging out Portland Timbers on Saturday night. Marcos Mondaini scored the only goal of the game, marking his return to the line-up after a lengthy suspension for the tackle that injured Javier Morales. It was an easy finish and one perhaps that highlights the porous nature of the Timbers on the road.

There were no goals when LA Galaxy and DC United met. The United defence was made up of very inexperienced players so the absence of Landon Donovan will have been welcome. A deflected Chris Birchall cross was fisted away by DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid, and United skipper Josh Wolff almost turned home a brilliant cross from Andy Najar, and the best chance of the game fell to Wolff after a Chris Pontius long throw (fast becoming a theme for the Black and Red) caused problems at the back for the Galaxy. Charlie Davies should also have scored late on.

Sporting Kansas City finally ended their epic run of fixtures on the road in Canada, exchanging blanks in a 0-0 draw with Toronto FC. Both goalkeepers were worked at BMO Field but neither had anything particularly problematic to deal with. Ryan Smith's late header was one of the better chances.

There were goals at Red Bull Arena, but only two of them. New York Red Bulls took less than ten minutes to go ahead against Columbus Crew. Mehdi Ballouchy had already drawn a save from Will Hesmer when he dinked in the opener after a superb pass by Luke Rodgers. Columbus had a few decent chances and squandered some excellent ones, and it looked like the Red Bulls would hold on - they didn't. In stoppage time, Justin Meram stormed into the box and cut the ball back for Rich Balchan who couldn't miss. Thankfully for the Crew it didn't fall to Andres Mendoza, whose finishing was absolutely appalling.

It was back to the 0-0s at Toyota Park, where Seattle Sounders were hosted by Chicago Fire, who fired coach Carlos de los Cobos during the week. Sean Johnson's brilliant save on the Chicago line after five minutes was a vital moment but there were few other genuine close calls other than a slightly exaggerated save by Kasey Keller at the other end.

FC Dallas took advantage of an unprolific weekend by banking three points against New England Revolution. Schellas Hyndman will be delighted that Marvin Chavez (pictured) opted to decline a spot in the Honduran Gold Cup squad as the loanee won it with the only goal of the game, a cool finish from a horrible angle after rounding his marker. Dallas should have had three or four already by that point.

Colorado Rapids faced a Philadelphia Union side on a real run of good form and emerged with a creditable 1-1 draw as the teams exchanged blows in a three-minute period of the second half. Conor Casey put the Rapids in front with a trademark chipped penalty, but Danny Mwanga's strike from 25 yards was a fitting equaliser a few minutes later.

Houston Dynamo played like they'd seen a ghost when they returned to California to face the San Jose Earthquakes outfit that replaced the club after its move to Texas. The Quakes won 2-0 with a pair of second half goals from Steven Lenhart and Simon Dawkins. Lenhart stooped to put them into the lead with a fantastic diving header in the 69th minute, and Dawkins rubber-stamped it at the death with a simple finish on a one-on-one.

It's as-you-were at the top of the East with Philly and New York both drawing, while a point for DC takes them ahead of Houston into third. Kansas City's ten-match run of away games yielded just six points, and they'll be glad to get Livestrong Sporting Park open.

In the West, Dallas gained two points on LA to close the gap to five.

You can see those tables here, and view all the Week 12 action here.

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