Monday, July 25, 2011

Football Americana Week 19: Nyassi and Braun hit the headlines

LA's unbeaten run in MLS now numbers 13 games after a thrilling week of action in the North American first division.

DC United were beaten by New England for the second time this season, being edged out by Steve Nicol's men 1-0 thanks to a goal inside the last 20 minutes. Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis came out of a first half duel with Dwayne De Rosario smelling of roses, and his side took full advantage when Stephen McCarthy found the winner with a header to the unmanned far post from a corner. By that point New England had also to survive a scare late in the first half, when Charlie Davies' penalty was skied after a Pat Phelan handball.

It was the same scoreline as FC Dallas defeated Toronto FC and BMO Field. The winning goal arrived just after the break and it was worth waiting for. The talented Brek Shea picked up the ball in his own half, drifted past TFC new boy Torsten Frings like he wasn't there and then ripped a shot from 30 yards that clipped the post on the way into the net.

A poor week for TFC was completed by a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park. Three goals in eight first half minutes did the damage for Sporting. The first two were scored by Kei Kamara, who bagged his first with a lovely acrobatic volley and then powerfully heading home his second. Omar Bravo quickly made it three, springing the offside trap, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting in a tody finish. Danny Koevermans pulled one back after the break with his first MLS goal, but Bravo restored the three-goal cushion with a simple finish from Chance Myers' cross. Ryan Johnson scored his first Toronto goal to make it 4-2 but there was no comeback from Aron Winter's side.

Colorado Rapids sent New York Red Bulls packing in midweek, thumping them 4-1. Sanna Nyassi (pictured) scored past Frank Rost after 80 seconds to begin a hat-trick performance. Wells Thompson made it 2-0 mid-way through the first half by stroking in the rebound after a superb Nyassi strike hit the base of the post, and the Gambian got his own second with a fantastic individual goal on 30 minutes. Nyassi's third was yet another that saw him skip past defenders at pace and the Red Bulls could do nothing about it. Thierry Henry's composed 67th minute was a mere consolation but was his tenth of the season, taking him to the top of the scoring charts.

New York and Dallas both returned to action on Saturday, and the result was 2-2 in the scorching heat of New Jersey. Juan Agudelo gave the Red Bulls the lead, turning Dane Richards' cross over Kevin Hartman with a huge amount of good fortune. After the break Marvin Chavez turned the scoreline upside down to make it 2-1 Dallas with a deflected shot of his own and a clever snapshot from 15 yards. Richards then walked for RBNY, picking up his second yellow card with ten minutes to go, but Henry had the last say with a brilliant equaliser to save a late point for Hans Backe's men.

The Rapids and the Revolution met in their respective second games of the week, and late drama saved a point for the Revs. They started well, and opened the scoring thanks to Benny Feilhaber's diving header from Kevin Alston's long throw, but the lead disappeared mid-way through the second half. Nyassi was again in the thick of it, this time being brought down by Chris Tierney who saw red for his troubles. Caleb Folan stepped up to take the spot kick and rolled it calmly past Reis for 1-1. With eight minutes left the Rapids took the lead in remarkable fashion - Kosuke Kimura's long ball from 70-odd yards bounced inside the area and found its way over Reis and into the net. Couldn't happen to a nicer goalkeeper. The Revs went on to win their own penalty with a minute left, and Shalrie Joseph smashed it past Matt Pickens.

LA Galaxy hosted Columbus Crew in midweek and picked up three points thanks to a 1-0 win. Sean Franklin scored the only goal of the game with 20 minutes left, firing in a deflected effort from distance after David Beckham's free kick had ricocheted to him off the Crew wall.

The Crew got a 1-0 win of their own over the weekend, defeating Portland Timbers at Crew Stadium. They won it with an own goal and Futty Danso was the unfortunate man after a relaxing spot of penalty area pinball.

Chris Wondolowski and Eric Hassli exchanged two goals each as San Jose Earthquakes had to settle for a 2-2 draw at home against Vancouver Whitecaps. Wondo's first was a neat striker's finish past Joe Cannon on three matches, blasting it home after watching the line closely to remain onside. The Frenchman scored his first equaliser with a few minutes left at the end of the first half, crashing a low half-volley past Jon Busch in the Quakes goal. Nine minutes into the second period Wondolowski restored the lead with an elegant header from a set play, but Hassli had another trick up his sleeve seven minutes later. Shea Salinas did well to keep his balance in the area before putting it on a plate for Hassli, who lifted it effortlessly past Busch.

Real Salt Lake battered San Jose Earthquakes, returning to form with a 4-0 win over an under-strength Quakes side. All four goals came after half time, indicating the different levels of tiredness between a team that had had a break and a team playing its third match in eight days. Alvaro Saborio broke the deadlock from the penalty spot (an award that saw Bobby Burling given a straight red card after an initial case of mistaken identity, a harsh decision either way) before notching his second, a knock-in from a fortunate rebound off Jon Busch. Number three was clipped into the top corner by Kyle Beckerman, and the fourth was scored late on by Jamison Olave, a simple header from six yards.

The week's second hat-trick hero was Justin Braun (pictured), who scored all three for Chivas USA as they defeated Houston Dynamo. He ran across his defender to prod in his first before doubling his tally for the night with a lovely lob over Tally Hall. Houston's night effectively ended with the dismissal of Je-Vaughn Watson, who was given a second yellow for a horrible late tackle on Nick LaBrocca after being booked in the first half for a foul on the same player. All that remained was for Braun to complete his trio, sliding in to secure the matchball from close range.

LA still lead the way in the West, with Dallas three points behind and Seattle keeping pace in third. At the bottom, a point for the Whitecaps finally dragged them onto a paltry 15 points. In the East, Columbus leap New York into second behind Philly, while Toronto and Chicago are level on 18 points at the bottom.

You can see those tables here and the Week 19 action here.

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