Monday, April 2, 2012

Football Americana Week 4: Henry hat-trick muffles the Impact

Week 4 of the 2012 Major League Soccer season and the teams' form is beginning to take shape. Here's what went down.

The new boys at DC United filled their boots in a thumping victory over FC Dallas, who they beat to the tune of 4-1. United rode their luck early on with Joe Willis earning his keep in goal, but took the lead after nearly half an hour. Maicon Santos' opening goal against his old club was a rasping 25-yarder across Kevin Hartman into the top corner, but Blas Perez quickly punished a United error and swept FCD level.

On the hour mark rookie Nick DeLeon brought the ball down at the far post from a brilliant pass from Santos, and sent an uncompromising volley into the roof of the net for 2-1. Danny Cruz made it three after DeLeon turned provider, his mis-hit tap-in fooling Hartman and bouncing over the stranded goalkeeper. 18 minutes from time it was Santos who headed home from Dwayne DeRosario's cross after a thrilling break. Daniel Hernandez made the evening worse for Dallas by picking up a second yellow card for a stupid foul on DeRosario late on.

A slightly stale first half at Toronto FC came to life after 40 minutes, when Columbus Crew were awarded a penalty but Milos Kocic produced a fine save - albeit one that required he be some way off his line - to deny Milo Mirosevic. Crew's Bernardo Anor finally broke the deadlock in the 56th minute, racing forward and playing a one-two before getting a big stroke of luck and firing into the top of the net. It proved to be the only goal of an unmemorable match.

Bad defending cost New York Red Bulls early in their rollercoaster 5-2 victory against Montreal Impact, Sanna Nyassi benefiting and slotting the ball past Ryan Meara after a little under 20 minutes to give the Impact the lead. Thierry Henry equalised ten minutes later, planting a header low from close range with enough power to render Donovan Ricketts helpless in the Impact goal. Justin Mapp restored the lead another ten minutes on, cutting inside from the left and driving the ball low inside Meara's near post for 2-1.

Sure enough, another ten minutes down and another major incident. RBNY midfielder Dax McCarty went down under a challenge in the box by Matteo Ferrari and the Red Bulls were contoversially awarded a penalty, which Kenny Cooper took and slotted home coolly. Henry's second arrived, inevitably, ten minutes into the second half. Picking up the ball on the edge of the area, he took advantage of the time he had to turn and crash the ball low past Ricketts. 20 minutes from time Henry's wonderful backheel left substitute Mehdi Ballouchy with a simple tap-in for 4-2.

Goal number five came with just over 60 seconds to go. Cooper's low drive was fumbled by Ricketts and Henry was following in to finish for his hat-trick.

Sebastien Le Toux's return to Philadelphia Union with his new club, Vancouver Whitecaps ended 0-0 on Saturday. Carlos Valdes almost put the Union in front at the beginning of the second half, but his effort at the back post hit Joe Cannon's near post - the Union defender should have done better, but it was Cannon who denied Philly a couple of minutes later with a fine save from Brian Carroll. Le Toux did get his chance to bury his old team in the 83rd minute but his clipped effort was just too high.

The goals returned with a vengeance at Portland Timbers, where the home team threw away a late lead to lose 3-2 to Real Salt Lake. The visitors were awarded a penalty in the 38th minute when Rodney Wallace handled just inside the area, and arguably should have been sent off. Alvaro Saborio slid in the spot kick for a half time advantage. The Timbers turned the game around in the second half thanks to a brace from Darlington Nagbe. His first was a low shot into the bottom corner that should probably have been stopped by Nick Rimando, his second a volley that went above Rimando and curled away into the top corner. Again, for all the "brilliant, absolutely brilliant" from pundit Robbie Earle, Rimando will be angry not to have prevented the goal.

But in the 89th minute Salt Lake equalised with a Jonathan Steele finish after some nifty passing around the edge of the box and there was even more to come. Fabian Espindola chipped the ball back to Kyle Beckerman in the 93rd minute and the RSL captain watched the ball right onto his foot and volleyed it low past Troy Perkins to win the game.

There was a surprise away win for San Jose Earthquakes at Seattle Sounders, who will be bitterly disappointed with a 1-0 defeat at CenturyLink Field. The only goal came mid-way through the first half, and came through a penalty in controversial circumstances. Marc Burch was tripped chippy Quakes forward Steven Lenhart off the ball, and Chris Wondolowski made the most of his opportunity from twelve yards.

Jay Heaps' New England Revolution scored two early goals and went on to beat LA Galaxy 3-1, a shock that could have implications for both sides in the long run. Kelyn Rowe scored at the second attempt to get his rookie season off the mark, and Chris Tierney raided the far post to latch onto a low cross from Kevin Alston and make it 2-0 in only the 13th minute. Saer Sene grabbed the third on the hour with a header to effectively put the game to bed. Robbie Keane's composed goal 13 minutes from time won't have been much consolation to the home fans at HDC.

It took two second half goals to see Colorado Rapids past Chicago Fire at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Omar Cummings' shot was too powerful for the goalkeeper after Brian Mullan's drag-back in the 58th minute, and Zombie Nation got an airing again in the dying moments thanks to debutant Kamani Hill's stoppage time finish from a rebound.

One goal was enough for Sporting Kansas City, who defeated Chivas USA. The brilliant CJ Sapong grabbed the goal just after half time, reacting quickest after Graham Zusi reached his own shot after it cannoned off Dan Kennedy's crossbar.

That win takes Kansas City's record to a perfect four wins from four, leaving them with an early six-point lead in the Eastern Conference. In the West, Salt Lake, San Jose and Colorado are level on nine points while LA languish in eighth after their second loss in three matches.

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