Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Football Americana Week 16: Dallas gaining ground as Shea strikes again

More great goals, more red cards and more horrible defending were the order of the weekend as Major League Soccer ploughs through the middle section of the season.

MLS resumed last week above the border, with Vancouver Whitecaps visiting Toronto FC, with the Reds getting their own back for their opening day defeat. Nick Soolsma scored the only goal of the game, coolly scoring from the penalty spot after he'd been fouled in the box by Greg Janicki - and after his original spot kick had to be retaken.

Dwayne De Rosario made his debut for DC United on Saturday and by half time against Philadelphia Union he was doing the funky chicken after putting a goal right on a plate for United skipper Josh Wolff. Philly equalised quickly after the break, Perry Kitchen's own goal a real horror show at the back for the hosts. United almost hit back immediately when Chris Pontius' effort squeezed off Faryd Mondragon and the post, but the goal that did come was utterly breathtaking. Andy Najar got a bit of luck on the halfway line, romped into Philly's half and unleashed a screamer from 30 yards to restore United's lead. Carlos Ruiz turned in the Union's second equaliser of the night with fewer than ten minutes to go.

FC Dallas welcomed Columbus Crew and defeated them 2-0. Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer somehow avoided dismissal when he was adjudged to have handled the ball outside the area, but that decision in itself was borderline. Brek Shea (pictured) poked in from close range to open the scoring and Jackson doubled the lead, dinking the ball over Hesmer to bank the three points. Andy Iro went on to earn his second yellow card in the final ten minutes for the Crew.

The Chi-Chi Derby ended 1-1, with Chivas USA pegging back Chicago Fire after the visitors took a first half lead. The Fire broke away after 25 minutes and found Dominic Oduro, who slotted past Dan Kennedy for 1-0. The Goats equalised after half time, Nick LaBrocca's volley snapping in off the crossbar past Sean Johnson.

Stanford Stadium hosted San Jose Earthquakes versus New York Red Bulls, whose difficulty winning continued in California. Joel Lindpere put RBNY in front early, completing a beautiful passing move in only the seventh minute, but another goalkeeping error from Bouna Coundoul would contribute to the Quakes taking a lead into the last ten minutes. Khari Stephenson pounced to punish Coundoul's mistake before half time and Steven Lenhart made it 2-1 mid-way through the second period with a big header after some great pressing by his team-mates. Lindpere had the last laugh, equalising late with a deflected strike from the edge of the box. San Jose's Bobby Burling got a red card, his first yellow for a bodycheck on Juan Agudelo and the second for another over-aggressive challenge on Teemu Tainio.

Two quickfire goals for Sporting Kansas City were enough to ensure a victory over Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field. Rookie CJ Sapong got the first, turning Eric Brunner superbly and the calmly finding the finish to make it 1-0. The second was scored by defender Aurelien Collin, who headed home from a poorly-defended long throw. The consolation was the real highlight of the game. A Sporting clearance found rookie Darlington Nagbe on the edge of the box, and he controlled it before the bounce, knocked it up once more and then controlled a wonderful volley into the top corner.

The 0-0 draw between Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo was far from a highlight of Week 16, and Jamie Smith's header off the post was a rare moment of drama in a match otherwise dominated by Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall. The frustration clearly got to Colorado substitute Quincy "Captain" Amarikwa, who was sent off after the final whistle (a straight red after an initial booking seconds earlier) as he lost his temper.

Real Salt Lake and New England Revolution more than made up for the lack of goals in Colorado, splitting six down the middle and sharing a couple of red cards for good measure. The Revs roared out to an early 2-0 lead, the first goal coming by way of Rajko Lekic's Panenka penalty after Nat Borchers felled Benny Feilhaber and earned a red card in the process - a very poor decision by the referee. Chris Tierney rubbed salt in the wound with a pea-roller free kick from 30 yards. RSL fought back admirably, with Will Johnson pulling one back in the middle of the first half after Andy Williams' free kick rebounded right to him off the post, taking the game into half time at 2-1 to New England.

Salt Lake got a spot kick of their own in the second half, another decision that raised questions about the refereeing between the two dugouts. Alvaro Saborio stepped up and equalised with a cool finish from twelve yards. Shalrie Joseph put Steve Nicol's men back in front with a superb header off the post, but personnel parity was restored a few minutes later and it would cost the Revs. Ryan Cochrane was the man who saw red, earning his second booking for having a rubbish beard a soft foul on Williams. Saborio hit the crossbar with a header from the resulting free kick, but the equaliser came in the last ten minutes, a calm finish by Fabian Espindola just when it was needed. Cue stinkeye.

In the final game of the week it was LA Galaxy v Seattle Sounders, both in unfamiliar kits, whose expensively assembled squads combined to generate a grand total of zero goals and not a whole lot else. Omar Gonzalez did literally hand Fredy Montero the chance to score for Seattle, but third-choice LA goalkeeper Brian Perk saved the Colombian's weak penalty.

Philadelphia's point keeps them two points ahead of New York in the East, with Columbus another point behind them in third. New England sink to the bottom. Dallas are just a couple of points behind LA in the West, and Seattle are two points behind them in turn. At the bottom, neither Vancouver nor Portland has picked up a point in the last two games.

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