Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Football Americana Week 28: Four each for De Ro and JPA

This week in Major League Soccer has been jam-packed with action and goals as the playoff picture begins to take shape.

DC United and Chivas USA each began a two-game week with a 2-2 draw at RFK Stadium. Dwayne De Rosario gave DC a first half advantage, scoring with a free header from Andy Najar's free kick amid shocking defending. Ethan White pounced just after the break to make it 2-0 with his first United goal, but Chivas had a Colombian ace up their sleeve. Juan Pablo Angel scored both of the Goats' goals, the first a towering header and the second an easy finish after he showed good strength in the box. In stoppage time De Rosario squandered the chance to win it, his penalty saved by Dan Kennedy.

Chivas' second result of the week was a somewhat surprising 3-0 win over Toronto FC. Angel added another two goals to his impressive purple patch either side of a goal by Justin Braun. Angel squeezed in his first in the 12th minute and his second, a deliciously taken turn and shot, quickly followed Braun's header in the final 20 minutes.

Real Salt Lake went to Red Bull Arena and came away with three points after beating New York Red Bulls. All three of RSL's goals came in the first 25 minutes. Alvaro Saborio headed home the first at an unmanned near post from a corner, and in the 11th minute it was 2-0 after an awful error by Tim Ream and Fabian Espindola's finish. Espindola broke clear and prodded in the third, sending shockwaves around the stadium that would be felt long after the game. Joel Lindpere had hit the crossbar when his superb effort was tipped away by Nick Rimando, but his goal was even better. Rafa Marquez's delivery was turned in with a brilliant bicycle kick for New York's consolation goal.

De Rosario made amends for his earlier penalty miss with a hat-trick as United defeated Salt Lake 4-1 thanks to a magnificent first half performance. The Canadian set up Najar's opening goal and then took control himself with a hat-trick in under ten minutes. He headed home Najar's cross for his first, struck a wonderful shot from 25 yards for his second and swinging in a brilliant free kick for his third, taking him to 13 goals this season and making him the league's top goalscorer. Saborio's late blast past Bill Hamid was scant consolation.

It was a 1-1 draw when San Jose Earthquakes visited Portland Timbers and shared the points for the second time this season. Kenny Cooper was again the Portland goalscorer, calmly sweeping in Darlington Nagbe's neat cut-back during a thrilling first half. Khari Stephenson scored the equaliser with a pea-roller into the corner 20 minutes from time.

With Marquez dropped in the fallout from their midweek defeat, New York's second game of the week came at home against Portland and was much-improved. They got their reward with a 2-0 victory, the goals coming through a finish from a tight angle by Dane Richards in the middle of the first half, and a thumping penalty from Luke Rodgers in the middle of the second. Rodgers goal came in the aftermath of Khalif Alhassan's dismissal for handball on the goal-line.

One goal apiece was all that was on offer as the Earthquakes drew with Colorado Rapids. Chris Wondolowski fired the Quakes in front by knocking in the second attempt after Stephenson's effort was saved, but the Rapids equalised in the second half through Pablo Mastroeni's scrambled finish.

Both teams really needed three points as Philadelphia Union faced Sporting Kansas City, but both had to settle for one. The two goals arrived in the second half, Omar Bravo's goal from close range putting Sporting in front and Sebastien Le Toux's strike reinstating parity after superb work by Michael Farfan.

The Lonestar State derby looked to be going to a stalemate between FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo. Dallas started excellently but were unable to break the deadlock in a first half in which they were clearly the better and more incisive side. A disallowed goal and a header off the crossbar were distant memories by the time Geoff Cameron's header secured daylight robbery for Houston in the dying minutes. To make matters worse, Dallas had also hit the woodwork twice in the second half.

The clash of the table-toppers resulted in a 1-0 win for Western leaders LA Galaxy against the East's Columbus Crew. The winning goal took even longer to materialise than it had in Dallas, sub Chad Barrett following up to knock in a rebound from Landon Donovan's shot in the 93rd minute. Josh Saunders had kept LA in the game with a string of late saves prior to the winner.

In the Pacific Northwest, Seattle Sounders were triumphant with a 3-1 win at Vancouver Whitecaps. Davide Chiumiento set up an easy finish for Camilo to put Vancouver in front, but the rest of the game belonged to Seattle. Brad Evans made it 1-1 from the spot after a clear handball by Jay Demerit, and two quickfire goals from Fredy Montero killed the game in the second half. The Colombian's first was a stupendous combination of composure, control and finishing, and his second altogether more fortuitous thanks to a hefty deflection.

The week concluded with a match between Chicago Fire and New England Revolution. The Fire burst out into a first half 3-0 lead thanks to goals from Sebastian Grazzini, Dom Oduro and Patrick Nyarko, but they very nearly imploded in second half stoppage time. Ryan Guy scored twice for the Revs but the dream comeback was a goal too far.

With around 30 matches played apiece, LA, Seattle and Salt Lake are now assured of a playoff spot from the West. In the East it's Houston, Columbus and Kansas City that occupy the all-important top three positions.

At present, the four wildcard positions are held by Dallas, Colorado, Philadelphia and New York, but DC are primed to jump in with games in hand.

You can see those tables here.

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