Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Football Americana Week 22: Columbus extend lead in the East

With apologies for an absent Week 21 (data loss is a b*tch - back that sh*t up, yo), here's the lowdown on all of the Week 22 action in Major League Soccer.

The weekend's matches began with a goalless encounter between Seattle Sounders and Chivas USA at CenturyLink Field. The hosts had an early chance to take the lead after a brilliant piece of control took Alvaro Fernandez into the box, drew a handball and earned the Sounders a penalty. Fernandez undid all his good work with a penalty that struck the foot of the post and then cannoned wide off the back of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. A minute from the end Seattle thought they'd been awarded another spot kick when Lamar Naegle was clearly upended in the box - an unbelievable decision.

North of the border, Real Salt Lake were shocked to the tune of 1-0 by Toronto FC. The goal came inside the last fifteen minutes courtesy of the exciting youngster Joao Plata, who punished RSL for countless squandered chances by scuffing a shot from a narrow angle that squeezed through to win the match.

Youthful DC United put in the performance of the week by beating Vancouver Whitecaps 4-0. After rookie goalkeeper Joe Willis had made a couple of great saves to keep United level, Chris Pontius (pictured) turned in Dwayne De Rosario's cross to put them ahead in first half stoppage time. After the break Andy Najar quickly made it two, his shot squirming underneath Jay Nolly. De Ro hit the post in the 66th minute but Pontius soon made up the difference by sweeping a loose ball in off the bar after a clever move by United came to a scruffy conclusion. Stephen King put the cherry on the icing, placing another shot underneath a struggling Nolly after receiving a pass from De Rosario.

The season's going from bad to worse for New England Revolution, who could only watch on as Robert Warzycha's Columbus Crew used them for a leg-up at the top of the East. The Revs did take the lead through Benny Feilhaber, who smashed in a nice opener just before the break. The second half was all yellow, beginning with Kevin Alston's Dixon-standard own goal. Julius James made it 2-1 with 15 minutes to go, predictably a strong header from a corner, and Emilio Renteria completed the victory with a tap-in in the 81st minute.

New York Red Bulls failed to win and struggled with pace once again, having to settle for a how draw against Chicago Fire. After they were denied a clear penalty, Thierry Henry continued his own vein of goalscoring form, putting his side in front early with a beautiful side-footed curling shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards. Patrick Nyarko then set up Dominic Oduro to flick in the equaliser, and Sebastian Grazzini followed up a saved effort by Oduro and powered his shot off the ground and into the roof of the net. New York's equaliser came midway through the second half, Joel Lindpere saving a point with a stunning finish across the goalkeeper.

On Freddy Adu's debut Philadelphia Union also had to settle for a 2-2 draw against FC Dallas. Maicon Santos pounced on an error by Carlos Valdes to lift the ball over Fardy Mondragon to put Dallas in front after 15 minutes but the lead didn't last until the break. The equaliser came from the spot after Ugo Ihemelu had fouled Justin Mapp, Sebastien Le Toux dumping in a no-nonsense penalty for 1-1. In-form Brek Shea restored FCD's advantage in first half stoppage time, clipping in from the rebound after Santos' effort came back off the woodwork. Late in the game, they lost George John to a red card. Having been booked for a pointless first half body check, John earned a second yellow for ploughing through Danny Mwanga. Five minutes later Philly won another penalty and Le Toux went the same way and got the same result.

Saturday ended with Colorado Rapids coming from behind to beat San Jose Earthquakes on the road. The Quakes opened the scoring through Joey Gjertsen, who stooped to head in an open goal after Chris Wondolowski's effort was blocked by Matt Pickens. Towards the end of the second half, Pablo Mastroeni's pressure on the officials paid off, as they awarded a penalty for handball that they hadn't originally given. Caleb Folan scored from the spot, and the Earthquakes fell apart. After the break, Sam Cronin was dismissed for a pretty untidy two-footed tackle and the winner became almost inevitable. Jeff Larentowicz scored it with a low drive from a set piece.

And on Sunday, Houston Dynamo stuck one on Portland Timbers with a 2-1 win. The Dynamo made home advantage count early, grabbing a 2-0 lead inside 30 minutes thanks to Adam Moffat's incredible 40-yard half volley and Brian Ching's crisply taken one-on-one finish. Jack Jewsbury dragged Portland back into it with a deflected volley in the second half, but Houston held on to take all three points.

Columbus are now three points clear of Philadelphia and six clear of New York and Houston in the East, with Chicago's woeful run continuing at the bottom. In the West, LA lead Dallas by five points and Seattle by six. Vancouver are well adrift.

Don't believe me? The tables are here and the highlights here.