Monday, September 12, 2011

Football Americana Weeks 25 and 26: Davies hat-trick revives DC hopes

In a period overshadowed by the tragic death of Bobby Rhine, Major League Soccer has provided much to cheer about.

Way back, Real Salt Lake defeated Philadelphia Union 2-1 at Rio Tinto, all three goals coming in the first half. Kyle Beckerman's excellent strike from 25 yards gave Salt Lake the lead, which Chris Schuler doubled with a header in the 26th minute. Sebastien Le Toux's well taken volley a couple of minutes later concluded the scoring.

The Union returned to action against New England Revolution in a phenomenal 4-4 draw. The Revs ripped out into an early 3-0 lead, the goals coming from AJ Soares' head, Rajko Lekic's cheeky penalty and Monsef Zerka's headed finish at the far post. Roger Torres quickly gave the Union a lifeline, curling it beautifully from the edge of the area into the top corner. Benny Feilhaber took New England in at the break with a 4-1 lead, however, with a superb low drive from 20 yards. The second half was all Philly. Freddy Adu threaded the ball home to make it 4-2 after Danny Mwanga's pass, and then a double from Sebastien Le Toux earned the Union a point. He was fouled by Pat Phelan and scored the penalty in the 80th minute, and in the 91st he smashed in a volley for 4-4.

Philly's next match was a far less exhilarating encounter: a 0-0 draw with Portland Timbers. Le Toux came close for the Union in the first half but they had to settle for another single point.

Salt Lake's next outing was to CenturyLink Field, where they beat Seattle Sounders 2-1. Salt Lake took an early lead when Kasey Keller spilled a poor cross into the corner of his own net. A few minutes later Robbie Russell was punished for tripping Seattle's Mike Fucito, but Mauro Rosales sent his penalty wide. Tony Beltran of RSL picked up his second yellow card in the 35th minute for a reckless tackle on Rosales but the referee removed the one-man advantage by wrongly sending off Jhon Kennedy Hurtado for an elbow. Fredy Montero equalised in first half stoppage time, flicking a boot out and powering his seventh goal of the season into the roof. A fortunate ricochet allowed RSL designated player Alvaro Saborio to score the winner ten minutes into the second half.

The Revs's second game resulted in a 2-0 win over FC Dallas, Shalrie Joseph heading in the first and Lekic grabbing a second with a left-footed finish after Ryan Cochrane's flick-on.

LA Galaxy thumped Sporting Kansas City in May, but the two shared a 2-2 draw back in the truncated Week 25. Sean Franklin kept his cool to finish for LA in the 25th minute with Aurelien Collin playing him onside. Julio Cesar equalised mid-way through the second half, but parity lasted just a few minutes before Franklin got his second with a simple finish from David Beckham's pass. Collin's late header was controversially ruled out but KC did get their equaliser. Frankie Hejduk handled the ball in the 90th minute and Omar Bravo swept in the penalty.

Sporting went one better in their next game, dishing out a 3-0 beating to Houston Dynamo. Teal Bunbury opened the scoring inside the first ten minutes with a composed finish, but the game was put beyond Houston 19 minutes after half time, when Carlo Costly was sent off for a sickening two-footed assault on Chance Myers. Bunbury made them pay by scoring the second, and rookie CJ Sapong added a third by applying a simple tap-in with ten minutes to go.

LA's second game was a 1-0 victory over Colorado Rapids at the HDC. Landon Donovan scored the game's only goal, finishing crisply off an assist from Franklin to finally beat Matt Pickens who was having a stormer in the Rapids goal. The victory confirmed LA's spot in the 2011 playoffs.

Toronto FC surprised Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew with a 4-2 win at Crew Stadium. Nick Soolsma pounced when Torsten Frings' mishit volley found him eight yards from goal to make it 1-0, and Ryan Johnson headed home Joao Plata's cross for 2-0. Sub Tommy Heinemann pulled one back by knocking in Robbie Rogers' pull-back with his first touch after coming off the bench in the middle of the second half, and the final ten minutes were frantic. Julian De Guzman made it 3-1 to Toronto with a shot into the bottom corner in the 82nd minute, Andres Mendoza pulled another back to make it 3-2, and Danny Kooevermans confirmed a two-goal win by beating stranded Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer 35 yards from goal and finishing calmly.

Faltering New York Red Bulls drew yet again, this time with Vancouver Whitecaps. Davide Chiumiento gave the Caps the leader after Camilo had had a goal disallowed early on, but it was worth waiting for. Receiving the ball with his back to goal, Chiumiento flicked it up, turned and volleyed past Bouna Coundoul and in off the crossbar. Jan Gunnar Solli's incorrect red card for a professional foul made matters worse for the Red Bulls but they got their point thanks to Juan Agudelo's easy finish in the 68th minute.

In California, DC United put three past Chivas USA without reply. Charlie Davies (pictured) scored all three, sliding in Chris Pontius' low pass/shot in the 11th minute, firing a second past Dan Kennedy off Pontius' second assist in the 15th, and securing his hat-trick from CP13's third assist in the middle of the second half. United lost Pontius to a broken leg just moments later; David Lopes did himself damage in the challenge and was given his marching orders.

San Jose Earthquakes got back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Chicago Fire. The first goal was a typically ruthless poacher's finish from Chris Wondolowski, the second a subtle finish by Ramiro Corrales. In between, the Quakes were awarded a penalty but Wondo's poor spot kick was blocked by Sean Johnson.

So, time to switch to the playoff standings, I think. LA have now clinched a playoff place and remain on course for the Supporters Shield. Behind them above the Western Conference dotted line are Seattle and Dallas. In the East, Columbus, Kansas City and Philadelphia are the three teams that would qualify if the season ended tonight.

The four wild card positions are currently occupied by Salt Lake, Colorado, Houston and DC.

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