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  • MLS Week in Review – Round 9


    The ninth round of MLS play concluded on Sunday and the yellow cards just keep on coming.

    28 players were booked this round, as well as three dismissals for straight red cards, bringing the three week tally up to 89, or 3.17 per match; a dramatic increase from the opening week of the schedule that saw a mere 18 through nine matches, or exactly 2 per, without a single red card.

    Whether the matches are more in need of cautions as the tension ratchets up and players round into form, or the bleeding of younger officials is causing a steady rise in the count, is a matter of debate, but it is a trend worth watching.

    Name-taking aside, there was a flurry of action – eight matches on Saturday alone - that saw the good (plenty of two-goal contributions), the bad (old habits dying hard in Toronto and DC’s losing slide continued), and the utterly ridiculous (score-board fire in Columbus, what?).

    27 goals were scored – only a single penalty kick and own-goal each this round – as three away teams won, somewhat shocking for a league that preaches home dominance, and three draws littered the schedule.

    Before digging into the results, the goal of the round nominees:

    Plenty of candidates to highlight this weekend, Toronto’s Jonathan Osorio squeaking a shot in off the underside of the bar from outside the box; Tim Cahill powerful turn-back-the-clock headed winner; Kekuta Manneh’s tidy finish; Diego Fagundez’s well-worked winner; Ryan Johnson’s towering corner kick header, and finally, Drew Moor’s expert shirking of his mark to score the opener for Colorado.

    But none of those made the cut – fret not, they are included in the highlight packs below.

    Goal of the round for the ninth weekend of MLS play goes to Montreal’s Andres Romero and his stunning blast to open the scoring against Chicago on Saturday afternoon.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]

    The play began with centre-back Wandrille Lefevre, just moments after replacing Alessandro Nesta - forced off with another muscle concern.

    The homegrown product, in his first league appearance, sent a long ball from the back up to Andrea Pisanu in space in the midfield. The Italian collected and turned, spotting the run of Romero down the left and played him in accordingly.

    Romero, face-to-face with the out of position Logan Pause - filling in at right-back after a rash of injuries and suspension to Wells Thompson - cut inside onto his right-foot, having leaned Pause off-balance to the outside, moved towards goal and unleashed a blast to the far-top corner that left goalkeeper Sean Johnson rooted helplessly to his spot.

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    Lovely strike.

    Results in Brief

    Toronto 1 – New York 2

    Another late goal saw TFC drop further points at home as they were outworked by New York from start to finish.

    Tim Cahill, fresh off a midweek spat with analyst Taylor Twellman over whether the designated player was contributing enough value to his club, scored a brace – his first goals since last August. The first came in the 39th minute when the much-maligned Roy Miller was laid down the left by Jonny Steele. Miller then played a low cross into the box, where it was dummied by Thierry Henry, falling to the unmarked Cahill, who calmly stroked a left-footer into the bottom, near corner.

    Jonathan Osorio leveled the score in the 83rd, sweetly striking a shot from outside the box in off the underside of the bar after New York keeper Luis Robles has gone walkabouts on a deep Darren O’Dea free-kick. Robles whiffed and Ryan Richter played the loose ball back to the young Canadian, who switched onto his left to make space, before placing his shot over the covering defenders and in.

    But Cahill, a man possessed, would not be denied and Toronto would concede a fifth goal after the 75-minute mark. A poor clearance from Ashtone Morgan fell to Peguy Luyindula outside the area; he laid Henry down the left-side of the box to hang a ball to the back-post. Cahill, looking very much his old self, rose over Morgan to nod home the winner in the 89th minute.

    Ryan Nelsen lamented the lack of characters who take control in those desperate minutes as their winless streak at BMO Field climbs to eleven matches; New York’s Mike Petke will take enormous pride in the fight his team displayed on the road, winning back-to-back matches for the first time this season, despite absences – Dax McCarty and Juninho – in the midfield.

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    Montreal 2 – Chicago 0

    An uneventful first half – and one largely silent, as Impact supporters let their feelings regarding an understrength midweek lineup in the Voyageur’s Cup be known – gave way to a contentious second that saw two goals, a controversial red card, and more than its fair share of befuddled gesturing.

    Andres Romero opened the scoring – marking CSN’s goal of the round – before Fire Captain, Jeff Larentowicz was shown a red card for clipping the heels of Andrea Pisanu as he strode towards goal.

    Larentowicz appeared to attempt to hop over the limbs of Pisanu, who slide inside the box. At first it seemed a penalty kick was in the making – with Patrice Bernier customarily cradling the ball in preparation – but then the foul was moved outside the box. Was it denial of a goal-scoring opportunity? Larentowicz could hardly be said to be the last man.

    Either way, he was off and Montreal had their precious lead. Marco Di Vaio doubled the advantage in the 76th with a low dribbled hit on the swivel that snuck into the bottom corner, after MLS debutant Daniele Paponi, stretched to lift a chipped ball from Jeb Brovsky back into the path of his fellow countryman.

    Montreal’s Marco Schallibaum will feel vindicated in resting his starters and taking the league match, but will again face the wrath of the fans should his side fail on Wednesday in the return leg; Frank Klopas and the Fire have a case to feel aggrieved at the confused dismissal of their leader and have indicated they may appeal the red card.

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    Vancouver 2 - Dallas 2

    On the back end of a home-and-home series it looked as though Dallas would easily dismiss the struggling Whitecaps, but injury and substitution changed the match, allowing Vancouver to claw back for a draw from two goals down.

    A cruel own-goal – Kenny Cooper’s touch to a Michel corner-kick ricocheted off the back of Andy O’Brien – opener the scoring in the 9th minute. Matt Hedges made it two for the visitors when Michel’s deep free-kick was headed high in the air, towards his own keeper, by Bradford Rusin – yes that is his name. Joe Cannon came to collect, but Hedges got the first touch, redirecting the ball into the unguarded cage with the right-boot.

    Kekuta Manneh, the 18-year old Gambian speedster, seldom seen since the opening match, scored one and set up the other after joining the fray for Jun Marques Davidson in the 54th minute. A fast break down the right saw Camilo’s initial attempt parried; the ball fell to Tommy Heinemann towards the right, who sent it back into the middle, where Manneh took a touch to settle before lacing it past Raul Fernandez in goal in the 72nd minute.

    Manneh’s blistering pace created the second three minutes later, dispossessing Zach Loyd on the right touch-line before blazing a path in-field towards the end-line and finally centering a ball for Camilo to finish, with the aid of a redirection off the recovering Jair Benitez.

    Jackson was dismissed shortly thereafter, ending a six-minute spell that altered the match, for swinging a hand violently as he wrestled with Alain Rochat, effectively swatting the Swiss defender in the face.

    Martin Rennie will take solace from having dropped further points at home – and extending a winless run to six in the league - in the effectiveness of his substitution. Dallas’ Schellas Hyndman will lament the physical play that saw George John and Andrew Jacobson – key members of the team’s spine – removed either side of half-time.

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    Columbus 3 – DC 0

    A bizarre score-board fire in the moments prior to kickoff may have delayed the match, but only helped to stoke the embers of the Crew attack as they demolished a sluggish DC with three first half goals.

    With a full complement of four attackers – Dominic Oduro, Jairo Arrieta, Federico Higuain, and Eddie Gaven - in situ for the first time this season, each would find their way onto the score-sheet as Columbus took advantage of an off-night from Brandon McDonald.

    It could have all been so different for United, had Perry Kitchen’s goal not harshly been ruled offside, with two DC attackers not interfering with play deemed to be active – recalling the Kyle Porter goal that was disallowed when the two sides last met earlier in the season.

    But Oduro scored the first shortly thereafter from good work by Gaven and Arrieta on the left, that allowed the Costa Rican to send a goal-mouth cross from the left into the path of the sliding Ghanaian in the 15th minute of play. Right-back Josh Williams extended the lead eleven minutes on getting on the end of a Higuain corner kick for his third of the season – reminiscent of his goal against Chivas in the season opener.

    Higuain then rounded out the first half with a stoppage-time conversion from the spot after McDonald bundled over Arrieta, who had gotten goal-side all too easily.

    Robert Warzycha’s Crew began a three-match home-stand in style, spreading the scoring around after being shutout in Chicago the previous week – and his son Konrad made his debut after impressing in reserve matches and training, donning the old man’s former number, 19. Ben Olsen was quite literally left tearing at his hair with incredulity at his club’s fifth-straight loss – winless in six – and woes in front of goal – four goals through eight matches.

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    New England 2 – Philadelphia 0

    An emotional evening in the Boston suburbs saw the re-jigged Revolution offense finally click with a pair of second half goals against the Union.

    Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen were given central roles in the midfield and the two combined to open the scoring in the 61st minute. Rowe played in to Nguyen, who slipped a return ball down the right-side of the box. Rowe then picked out Diego Fagundez near the spot, who finished smoothly with his right-foot into the far-side of the goal.

    Nguyen then crafted his own chance, cutting in from the left, sliding Sair Sene through on goal. The Frenchman’s blast was parried into the middle, where Nguyen, continuing his run, was on hand to finish simply.

    The Marathon Bombings, Kevin Alston’s leukemia diagnosis, and a heart-felt anthem sung on Autism Awareness night by a sweet young lady, left not a dry eye in the place, and encouraged Jay Heaps’ New England to their first win in six – dating all the way back to opening day. John Hackworth’s Philadelphia could muster little by way of opposition, ending their unbeaten run at three and keeping Jack McInerney from extending his lead atop the goal-scoring charts.

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    Kansas City 2 – Portland 3

    Portland extended their impressive run – unbeaten in six, while winning three of their last four – with another comeback having conceded twice in the first half hour.

    Chance Myers scored a brace – first, getting on the end of a right-sided long Matt Besler throw-in with a near-post header in the opening minute of play and then in the 29th minute, somewhat fortunately, when a passage straight off the training ground broke down. Graham Zusi’s right-sided Zusi free-kick was intentional hit low to Benny Feilhaber at the top of the box; he lifted in for Aurelien Collin to touch across to the streaking Myers for a simple finish after failing to get on the end of Feilhaber’s initial ball.

    A Ryan Johnson goal split the two strikes from the full-back, getting on the end of a left-sided Diego Valeri corner kick, rising well over Besler and placing his header over Paulo Nagamura at the far-post.

    Darlington Nagbe tied the score four minutes after KC had gone back in front with Ryan Johnson playing provider. Valeri slid the Jamaican striker down the left and he squared to the wide open Nagbe for a simple finish into the empty net.

    Rodney Wallace grabbed the winner in the 58th minute, when Diego Chara’s defense-splitting pass victimized the goal-scorer Myers, playing Wallace in for a low finish.

    Peter Vermes’ side have now conceded five goals combined in consecutive losses after only allowing three through the first seven games of the season; Caleb Porter’s stylish juggernaut just keep rolling, especially on the road, where they are yet to lose this season – the league’s sole unbeaten side away from home.

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    Salt Lake 0 – Los Angeles 2

    A high-profile match, one deprived of its stars – no Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Carlo Cudicini, Alvaro Saborio, or Robbie Findley - saw a youthful Galaxy side hit twice early to stun Real at home.

    Mike Magee scored his sixth of the season, fittingly in the 6th minute of play, with a free header at the back-post from a right-sided Juninho free-kick. Charlie Rugg scored his first professional goal - on his debut – seven minutes later, forcefully knocking in a goal-mouth cross, after Jack McBean played out wide to Hector Jimenez on the right.

    Brian Rowe kept a clean-sheet on his debut with the aid of the goalkeeper’s friends, Messrs Post and Crossbar, making several excellent stops along the way.

    It was not all good news for LA; McBean suffered a fractured left-clavicle – collarbone, for the non-doctor-ly types – after a heavy collision with Nat Borchers, prompting another debut – the highly-rated Gyasi Zardes, who, if pundits are to be believed, would have been the undisputed first-overall pick in the draft, had he not qualified as a homegrown product for the Galaxy.

    Jason Kreis criticized his side’s slow start, pondering whether they mentally prepared themselves for a tough match given the absence of big names, musing about lying to them when he wrote the oppoent’s lineup on the chalkboard pre-match. Bruce Arena’s Galaxy somehow keep on producing young players who can step into the league to not miss a stride without their starters in place.

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    Chivas 2 – San Jose 2

    A bitterly physical match, whose only surprise lay in the lack of a sending off, pitted El Chelis’ fouling Chivas against Frank Yallop’s bruising Earthquakes – or los Terremotos, en espanol, as Chivas’ new bilingual posts have instructed.

    Fresh off a fractious match against Portland and with Alan Gordon still suspended, Steven Lenhart seemed intent on causing enough ruckus for two, with unending feuds against Joaquin Velasquez and Mario de Luna that shockingly resulted in only one yellow card between the three - to de Luna, for time-wasting.

    Chris Wondolowski opened the scoring in the 40th minute, ghosting in off the back of the defense on a quickly taken right-sided Shea Salinas free-kick that caught the Chivas back-line napping. Howls of offside were ignored and unfounded, as the striker scored his fourth of the season with a simple right-footed touch into the bottom corner of the goal.

    Chivas came to life after the half-time break on two goals four minutes apart, both created by Jorge Villafana, who was not afforded a registered assist on either.

    The first came in the second minute back from the break, when Villafana drove a left-sided cross through the goal-mouth, de Luna stabbed at it, but appeared to miss, only to see the ball strike Busch and rebound in off the outstretched leg of the Chivas defender for his first goal in MLS.

    Tristan Bowen smashed the second after Carlos Alvarez had slid Villafana down the left on the counter. The wide player cut down the side of the area and pulled a low cross back towards the spot, it was missed by Alvarez, but fell to Bowen towards the back-post, who had checked up his run, sending a low shot back against the grain to the bottom left-corner of the goal.

    Lenhart was removed as his battles had reached the point of farce – and a card of some colour was imminent – and San Jose pressed in search of an equalizer. Nana Attakora provided the spark, shirking a challenge and leading a pass down the left for Salinas to chase, his cross into the centre found the streaking Cordell Cato, whose first-time touch nestled in the net at the near-side.

    El Chelis praised his side’s effort in coming back after a poor first half – to banish the threat of an April spent goal-less, having gone 262 minutes without; while Yallop’s Terremotos are now winless in five matches, but can take some heart in finding their goal-scoring boots, having only scored six in their previous nine matches.

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    Houston 1 – Colorado 1

    The lone Sunday fixture saw Colorado travel to Texas in attempt to halt Houston’s record-breaking unbeaten run at home; they did not.

    For a spell it appeared they might, after Drew Moor powered in a header in the second minute of first half stoppage-time, ditching his marker, Ricardo Clark, to get on the end of a left-sided Dillon Powers in-swinger.

    Moor would be victimized for the leveler in the 66th when Giles Barnes took it upon himself, collecting a long Tally Hall goal-kick, inching the defender back and to the right – back and to the right - to make space for a stunning blast high to the near-post.

    The Rapids’ injury misfortune continued when Hendry Thomas planted a leg awkwardly and was forced to leave the match, though Martin Rivero, who fractured his foot in preseason, returned from the bench. Brad Davis was needlessly red-carded in the 95th minute for a silly lunging challenge on former teammate, Nathan Sturgis, as his blood boiled in frustration at the referee.

    Dominic Kinnear’s Dynamo see their home unbeaten run stretch to 30 in MLS and 36 in all competitions – the record now solely their possession – but will not remember this afternoon fondly, with their perfect record this season at BBVA Compass Stadium blemished with a draw and the dismissal – and suspension – of their captain, Davis. Oscar Pareja should marvel at the fight his side has evidenced, stretched to their limits by an injury plague of outrageous proportions that will see them without as many as seven potential starters next weekend.

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    The weird electro-funk track that played under the lineup cards on the Dallas broadcast was out of place, if oddly soothing.

    Jay Heaps threatening to go all Voodoo if New England hadn’t scored, jokingly admitting in his post-match comments that, “We were about to sacrifice a live chicken pretty soon if one of those didn't go in during the second half.”

    The field-side microphones were all particularly observant this weekend, leading to all sorts of misadventures. From Lenhart’s incredulity - and language - at getting punched in the back by Velasquez, responding in kind, and demanding a card, to some harsh criticism from a Columbus defender of referee Sorin Stoica’s blank-ing clueless performance.

    See It Live (We’re Seeing It Live)

    The score-board fire in Columbus was unbelievable and Dwayne De Rosario’s look of shock as he covered his mouth and nose with his jersey when the broadcast went live with the announcement of a delay delineated the situation perfectly.

    Ben Olsen’s screaming fit that same match, with Agustin Viana and then Robert Warzycha, after the defender/midfielder left the field for treatment only to return and immediately fall to ground, prompting the referee to needlessly stop the match with DC attacking. Viana was bizarrely yellow carded before he was subbed off.

    Upcoming Fixtures

    The return legs of the Voyageur’s Cup first round (semifinal) take place on Wednesday in Montreal and Vancouver, as if it need be mentioned; as does the CONCACAF Champions League Final with Santos Laguna and Monterrey having tied 0-0 in Torreon last week.

    Thursday: Portland-New England. Saturday: San Jose-Montreal; Philadelphia-Seattle; Columbus-New York; Colorado-Toronto; Salt Lake-Vancouver. Sunday: Kansas City-Chivas; Los Angeles-Houston.

    Parting Thoughts

    A few questions to ponder and discuss:

    With both series in the Voyageur’s Cup delicately poised, the first goal in the second legs could well prove crucial. Who wants it more? And who will field a lineup that indicates such a desire? Can Montreal overcome their two-goal deficit? Can Edmonton upset Vancouver?

    In league play Montreal faces a difficult trip to the West Coast, with a match in San Jose; will schedule congestion and fixture pile-up after an inactive April catch up with them? Toronto travel to altitude to face Colorado, is another late, deciding goal in the offing with the thin mountain air affecting late-game legs? And Vancouver, can they arrest their worrying slide? Away to Salt Lake makes that task all the more difficult.

    What is it with youth at LA? Do the players succeed because of the system or the system because of the players? Is Portland for real? Is Caleb Porter’s re-build this year’s KC, destined to take the league by storm with their high-tempo, no fear attitude? Has Seattle used their bye week to good effect? Do they begin their climb out of the Western basement in Philadelphia? Or does Jack McInerney lace up his scoring boots upon returning home?

    Is Petke’s New York as good as they’ve looked through the last two, or as inconsistent as they were in the previous eight? And what of Sporting and Salt Lake, struggling after periods of domination, is it just a phase or sign of something more?

    Finally, the last match next week is a re-match of the last two MLS Cups. Can LA assert their dominance? Or will Houston find revenge on the road?

    Each week James takes a look at the league as a whole.

    You can follow James on twitter @grawsee or read more of his writing at Partially Obstructed View

    The extended look at the Canadian performances of the weekend will be up as a separate post later this evening.

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