Sunday, April 29, 2012

Football Americana Week 8: Toronto FC's troubles continue

Life in Major League Soccer hasn't been easy for MLSE, the owners of Toronto FC. The league's first Canadian side is yet to make the playoffs, and this season they are propping up the Eastern Conference under Aron Winter.

The spoils were shared in Texas in midweek, where FC Dallas led 1-0 against Real Salt Lake but were unable to hang on to the three points. FCD broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time after Tony Beltran handled - accidentally, mind you - in the box and Brek Shea clipped the penalty into the bottom corner. Rookie Emiliano Bonfigli scored Salt Lake's equaliser, beating Chris Seitz on a one-on-one.

Salt Lake returned to action against Toronto FC, who were just moments away from their first point of the season before succumbing to a 3-2 defeat. Kyle Beckerman prodded RSL into the lead in the seventh minute, and just after the break it was 1-1 thanks to Eric Avila's crisp finish from the edge of the box. Richard Eckersley's own goal quickly put Salt Lake back in front only for TFC to equalise once again. Doneil Henry drew Toronto level with a towering head 13 minutes from time but they were condemned to a seventh defeat in seven MLS games by a superb strike from the edge of the box by Jonny Steele in the 93rd minute.

Dallas came painfully close to a win in their second game, but LA Galaxy equalised late in a 1-1 draw at the Home Depot Center. Shea again scored FCD's goal from the spot, finishing effortlessly after Blas Perez had been brought down by goalkeeper Bill Gaudette. But it wasn't the first penalty of the game. Landon Donovan had been already been felled in the box after a wonderful pass by David Beckham, but Robbie Keane's spot kick was absolutely woeful. Pat Noonan was the late hero for LA, equalising with a calm, sweeping shot in stoppage time.

The penalty spot also saw some action as Montreal Impact picked up their second win by beating Portland Timbers 2-0 - but they did it late. Timbers goalkeeper had left the field with some nasty facial injuries after an unfortunate clash with Sanna Nyassi's boot, and it was his replacement Joseph Bendik who was beaten for the goals. The first was a 74th minute penalty after a handball, which was emphatically converted by Bernardo Corradi, the second a simple close-range finish from Sinisa Ubiparipovic.

Thierry Henry gave New York Red Bulls yet another early lead, this time over New England Revolution. He deliciously lobbed Matt Reis from 20 yards with the outside of his foot to make it 1-0 with his ninth of the season. In the middle of the first half Henry was running at pace with RBNY breaking, and he pulled up with a nasty hamstring injury that ended his participation. Knowing he scored the only goal of the game might help him through his recovery.

High-flying San Jose Earthquakes picked up an away win at Philadelphia Union courtesy of two goals from Steven Lenhart either side of Gabriel Gomez's low drive from the edge of the area for the Union. Lenhart opened the scoring with a diving header from Marvin Chavez's cross, then notching the winner by powering in another header from a Chavez assist in stoppage time after Gomez had equalised late.

It's been 200 years since DC United earned consecutive victories, but they finally did so by following up their win over New York with a 3-2 triumph against Houston Dynamo. Chris Pontius' cross was nodded home by Maicon Santos after Tally Hall had committed himself to challenging Pontius and failed. But the four remaining goals all came in the second half, Houston equalising with Will Bruin's tap-in from five yards. Dwayne DeRosario quickly restored the Black-and-Red's advantage with his first of the season, an in-swinging cross that found its way through the crowd and in off the far post.

Bruin equalised again, pouncing on a loose ball and then looking on as Joe Willis made an awful mistake to let the shot squeeze through him and bounce into the net. Santos won it in the 70th minute with another header as DC's purple patch continues.

Goals are still hard to come by for Vancouver Whitecaps, but one from a set-piece was enough against Columbus Crew after the hosts had two early goals ruled out at Crew Stadium and Josh Williams' bicycle kick came back off the crossbar, giving the Caps' win an air of the smash-and-grab. Lee Young-Pyo was the man who won it, his mis-hit free kick swinging across the goalkeeper and into the top corner.

Goals from David Estrada and Eddie Johnson helped Seattle Sounders to a 2-1 win over Chicago Fire, whose goal came from Marco Pappa in the dying moments. Estrada's goal took a vicious deflection off Arne Friedrich to leave Sean Johnson completely stranded in goal, and there was a touch of good fortune about Johnson's vital second. After the Fire goalkeeper failed to clear a Fredy Montero free kick, Johnson finished to put the game beyond the fire. Their consolation was scored by Pappa just minutes after he came within a few feet of scoring from inside his own half with a strike that would have given Luis Suarez a run for his money. In the end, he had to settle for scoring direct from a corner.

Faltering Colorado Rapids returned to form with a storming 4-0 home win over Chivas USA. Early Rookie of the Year contender Tony Cascio made it 1-0 with a brilliant low shot at the beginning of the second half, but the Rapids had to wait until the last ten minutes for their three-goal finale. Kamani Hill made it two, applying the finishing touch after Omar Cummings' blistering pace had taken the Goats out of the game. Two minutes later Jeff Larentowicz was fouled in the box and rolled in the penalty himself for 3-0. Hill grabbed the fourth in the 93rd minute to add some gloss to the result.

San Jose remain the form team in the West, sitting on top with the same number of points as second-placed Salt Lake, but with two games in hand. Vancouver and Seattle move up into third and fourth, while Portland are now bottom. Kansas City are now just six points clear of DC (with a game in hand), with New York two points behind them.

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