Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Football Americana Week 15: High-flying Sounders gaining ground

Arlo White, Frasier Crane and other lazy Seattle name-drops are rejoicing this week as their Sounders are sweeping aside all before them. Looks like Eric Hassli's phenomogoal spurred them into action.

The week began goalless, with Philadelphia Union hosting Sporting Kansas City. Carlos Ruiz's swerving free kick in the first half went close and 20 minutes from time he came ever closer, heading against the crossbar from Sebastien Le Toux's cross. Le Toux had a late effort that just crept wide and Philly were left ruing missed opportunities.

The Union were in action again against Chivas USA over the weekend and this time the goals did come. Chivas' first goal, a Michael Umana was given away cheaply and gave the Goats a half time lead. The second half belonged to Philly and they quickly equalised through Veljko Paunovic, had a goal disallowed and then took the lead through Carlos Ruiz's flawless solo effort. Less than ten minutes later Justin Braun equalised for Chivas with a prod past Faryd Mondragon but parity would last just five minutes. Danny Mwanga's drive into the bottom corner from the edge of the area was well worth three points.

Sporting Club also had a second fixture, defeating Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 at Livestrong Sporting Park. Camilo's cheeky glancing header gave the Caps an early lead but Sporting kept their heads up and did the job. Omar Bravo was fouled by Jay DeMerit at the end of a delightful passing move and cracked in the penalty himself. Julio Cesar's winning goal also came in the first half, a poacher's volley from Bravo's nod down.

In midweek Chicago Fire also played out a goalless draw, theirs with Real Salt Lake. Sean Johnson's superb point-blank save from Collen Warner was the main match highlight and kept Chicago level in the first half. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando saw more action after the break.

The home of Seattle Sounders had its name changed to CenturyLink Field this week and the boys in rave green celebrated (?) with a 4-2 win over New York Red Bulls. A bending effort by Erik Friburg put the Sounders ahead and marked the beginning of an appalling performance by New York goalkeeper Greg Sutton, who should also have done better with Ossie Alonso's drive a minute later. 2-0 down after 12 minutes, it was always going to be tough for the Red Bulls to get back into the game but they gave it a good go.

On 30 minutes a lovely chip from Dane Richards, returning from the Gold Cup, found its way over Kasey Keller, and New York got their luck just before the hour when Zach Scott's deflection fizzed past Keller and into his own net. Step forward Roger Levesque, whose brace banked three points for the Sounders. His first was a near-post header, the third goal of the night that New York had conceded from a corner, and his second was Sutton's crowning unglory. With the goalkeeper dallying on the edge of the box, Levesque simply pinched the ball off him and knocked the ball into the net. I suggest you seek out his celebration.

On Sunday, the Sounders came from behind to beat New England Revolution. Sainey Nyassi took just two minutes of this game to open his 2011 account, driving the ball low from Benny Feilhaber's cut-back corner and watching on as it squeezed through a crowd of players and past Kasey Keller. Seattle's equaliser was a scintillating, bending left-footed free kick from 20 yards by Tyson Wahl, his first MLS strike almost inevitably also his best for some time into the future. Alvaro Fernandez quickly made it 2-1 to Seattle, taking advantage of a lovely link-up between Mauro Rosales and Roger Levesque to beat Matt Reis from close range.

The Fire and the Red Bulls met on Sunday, sharing a 1-1 draw in their respective second matches of the week. New York took a first place lead as Joel Lindpere finished coolly after a fortunate ricochet in the 40th minute, but Chicago equalised before the hour. Marco Pappa's long distance shot squeezed past returning goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul, leaving the Red Bulls with huge goalkeeping problems.

Salt Lake's second match of the weekend resulted in a 3-1 victory over Toronto FC. They went in at half time with a 2-0 lead, Nat Borchers' header sneaking in at an unmanned post and Alvaro Saborio doubling the lead with a tap-in. The Costa Rican scored his second with another easy finish to secure the three points, rendering Maicon Santos' 66th minute goal nothing more than a consolation.

DC United tried in vain to avenge an early season defeat by Houston Dynamo, settling for a 2-2 draw this weekend. Chris Pontius' 31st minute opener was a superb powerful strike from 25 yards but the lead didn't last until the break. The Dynamo were awarded a penalty when Brian Ching tripped over his own feet with Bill Hamid going to ground near him, and Brad Davis equalised from the spot. Houston's Danny Cruz forced a brilliant save from Hamid before United took the lead through a simple Charlie Davies finish after Andy Najar's caused havoc. Houston got their second equaliser in the 89th minute, when Ching's header deflected past Hamid.

A California derby at Buck Shaw Stadium stayed goalless despite LA Galaxy playing the whole of the second half with ten men against San Jose Earthquakes. The Quakes hit the post after just 20 seconds and frustration was to become the story of their night as Donovan Ricketts put in a storming first 20 minutes in the Galaxy goal. He was then substituted after a painful clash (which broke his arm) with Khari Stephenson and replaced by Josh Saunders, who didn't see out the half. After having the ball headed out of his hands by Steven Lenhart, he picked up the ball again and jabbed out an ugly elbow, flooring Lenhart and leaving LA without a goalkeeper for more than half the game. Mike Magee, usually found at the other end, filled in in goal.

FC Dallas thrashed Portland Timbers 4-0 at Pizza Hut Park. Zach Loyd got the scoring underway with a far post header from a corner and George John quickly repeated the trick. Brek Shea swept in the third after Eric Alexander hit the post, and Jackson finally scored after hitting the woodwork twice, his shot creeping in after Troy Perkins failed to get enough on his save.

In the final game of a mammoth week, Columbus Crew demolished Colorado Rapids on an eventful evening for Conor Casey. He put the Rapids ahead early, heading in his fourth goal in five games, but he wouldn't see out the half. By the time he was sent off for piling into Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer, the Rapids were 2-0 down. Eddie Gaven took advantage of poor defending the beat Matt Pickens after 11 minutes and Andres Mendoza blasted the second in off the crossbar after another error. Mendoza scored again just after half time, capitalising on a third error and making no mistake with half a pitch to run into unchallenged. Tommy Heinemann's goal was just the icing on the cake and, inevitably, could have easily been avoided.

After all that, Philadelphia again top the East ahead of New York and Coloumbus, with Toronto and New England now propping up the Conference. In the West it's LA at the top and a rampant Seattle side in second, ahead of Dallas on goal difference. Vancouver and Chivas are still at the bottom.

You can see all the action here and see those tables here.

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