With many of Major League Soccer’s stars away with their national teams, expectations were low for Week Four in MLS. And, indeed, there were a few lemons out there on MLS’s ten-game slate.
But that didn’t make for a lack of drama in the last week of March, as all ten games were decided by a goal or less. Here’s a rundown of what happened in MLS this week:
The opening match of the weekend stared off with a pair of surprises as the Revolution found the back of the net twice in the first half, the side's first two goals of the MLS season. First, in the 21', high pressure from the Revs caused San Jose to cough up the ball in their own half and Kelyn Rowe was able to fire off a hard shot that deflected nicely around keeper David Bingham. Rowe struck again in the 37', pouncing on a bouncing ball in the Earthquakes' box to put the Revs up 2-0.
In the second half, however, the 'Quakes made their comeback, working out of the high press of the Revolution and looking like the dangerous side that carved open the Seattle Sounders in week 2. As they pushed forward, the Earthquakes found a way back into the match as Scott Caldwell clipped the legs of Clarence Goodson in the box, earning San Jose a penalty. Chris Wondolowski, of course, stepped up and put the ball away calmly, but it was the last time the ball would see the back of the net as the match wrapped up at 2-1, giving the Revs their first win of 2015.
There was one final moment of note in this match as, in the 80', Bingham dove to block away a cross, only to collide with the shoulder of Goodson, who headed the ball away. Bingham appeared to be knocked out or dazed lying on the pitch, but was quickly back in the match for San Jose.
The game was like a bad 4th of July fireworks display that shoots off all of its fireworks early before it fizzles late. Montreal was the team to get the show started as they came out of the gates strong and put the Lions under pressure. An early corner in the 13th minute led to a penalty when the referee judged that Sean St. Ledger had handled the ball inside the box. Ignacio Piatti easily slotted the ball home past Donovan Ricketts, whose struggles saving penalties are well known in Portland.
Montreal doubled their lead the 27th minute Jack McInerney found his way onto the end of a long ball that had bounced off of Seb Hines for Jack McInerney and spectacularly chipped a Donovan Ricketts standing in no-man's land. The Impact lead was short-lived, however, as two minutes later Kaka brilliantly flicked a ball onto Pedro Ribeiro on the box where the numberless man poked it home. Just one minute later Ribeiro returned the favor as he intercepted a lazy Bakary Soumare ball in midfield, ran into the box, and set the table for Kaka to finish past Evan Bush. That was all the excitement the teams could muster, however, as they limped through the remaining hour without creating another genuine chance.
With New York missing designated player and probable wizard David Villa, the only goal in this one came early in the 13' as Matt Besler whipped in one of his bullet-like long throw-ins. Aided by his interesting form and the long run up afforded around the narrow Yankee Stadium pitch, Besler was able to throw the ball directly to the head of Ike Opara to thump home past Josh Saunders. Opara is the same player who repeatedly tormented the Timbers on set pieces last week, just missing the mark on two occasions.
At the other end of the pitch, chances were few and far-between for New York as they came up against the packed in defense of SKC. The home side finally managed a clear chance on goal as Ned Grabavoy found himself with a difficult but free header in the SKC box, but could not steer it on target.
LA Galaxy were missing two key offensive players in Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes, and, not surprisingly, their attack struggled to create the tap-in opportunities that has become their trademark over the last several years. In an even game that looked destined to end in a scoreless draw, the Galaxy were quicker to the trigger (squeezing off 17 shots with 5 on goal), while United was more patient. The ants in the Galaxy’s pants almost paid off in the 67th minute when Stefan Ishizaki rocked the post with a curler from the top of the box. But ultimately it was United’s patience that paid off when, in the final minutes of second-half stoppage time, Nick DeLeon deftly juggled the ball past Robbie Rogers in the box and volleyed the ball to the back post where Chris Pontius won the wrestling match to head in the winner.
Columbus Crew 1, New York Red Bulls 2
After a first half that saw some close calls but no goals, this match opened up early in the second half when Loyd Sam was taken down in the Crew box by centerback Emanuel Pogatetz in the 48'. It was the Red Bulls' confirmed goalscorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips, who would take the penalty, hammering it home confidently to break the deadlock. The lead would only last ten minutes, however, as the Crew put pressure on the Red Bulls, eventually earning a corner in the 58' that skipped through the box and to the feet of former-Red Bull Tony Tchani, who calmly slotted it home.
The Red Bulls were not to be denied, however, as a costly blunder at the back from the Crew would give up the game winner. With Red Bulls substitute Mike Grella lurking along the back line, Michael Parkhurst played an underpowered back pass toward his keeper. Grella, however, was the first to the ball and, seeing keeper Steve Clark off his line, chipped in a beautifully weighted ball that nestled into the back of the net to retake the lead for New York.
The action continued after the goal with the Crew pushing forward for an equalizer, only to find themselves down to ten men after their attacking fulcrum Frederico Higuain earned his second yellow card for a tirade against the referee following a foul that went against him.
The story of this match can be told in two facts:
- The Rapids are the first team in MLS to start a season with three straight goalless draws.
- The Dynamo, at home, had more yellow cards than shots on goal.
Actually, there were several intriguing moments in this one, all generated by the Rapids. First, Lucas Pittinari burst into the Dynamo box then back-heeled a ball to Marcello Sarvas, whose ripped shot was parried away by Tyler Deric. Next, Gabriel Torres, facing away from goal, manages to chest-pass a ball over the Dynamo back line to Sarvas, whose shot was saved by the incredible Tyler Deric. Finally, Dylan Powers again looked to have unlocked the Dynamo defense with a tricky scoop pass that Torres ran onto but could not get off a shot around David Horst.
FC Dallas 0, Seattle Sounders 0
With players missing all around the league thanks to this weekend's international dates, some absences were to be expected. Few matches, however, were hit as hard as this one, with what amounted to almost a full side of players called up or injured between the two teams. With no Blas Perez or Mauro Diaz in the Dallas lineup and no Clint Dempsey or Obafemi Martins with Seattle, a 0-0 draw seems obvious in retrospect.
The match started off with a bang as Kellyn Acosta picked up a desereved red card in the 17' following a raised cleat to the sternum of Seattle's Andy Rose. Without their first choices in their normally high powered attack Seattle was not able to take advantage, creating a number of chances but failing to put a single one on goal. For their part, Dallas could not manage to put a shot on goal either, but they did come close with a curled Michel free kick in the 29' that clanged off the top of the woodwork.
Do we have a pulse in Chicago? Despite Frank Yallop’s best offseason efforts to marginalize Harry Shipp, the young American playmaker carried the Fire to their first win of 2015. It was Shipp’s delivery in the 37th minute that proved to be the winner, as the free kick blazed past a whiffing Rais Mbohli and into the net after a nominal touch by Adailton. Mbohli redeemed himself in the 54th minute when he brilliantly denied a Kennedy Igboananike finish of a sublime Shipp pass. The Union, on the other hand, were positively dreadful, managing to turn 486 meaningless passes into zero shots on goal. Philadelphia’s best chance to equalize fell to Maurice Edu in the 75th minute when Fernando Aristeguieta put the former American international through on the right side of the box, but Edu made a mess of the finishing touch to seal the Union’s deserved fate.
Without a host of contributors including Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, TFC’s B-team headed to Salt Lake City on Sunday with nobody giving them much chance to pull a result at a Rio Tinto Stadium that has been unfriendly to the Reds. And it looked like TFC’s Wastach woes would continue when RSL opened the scoring in the 38th minute when Javier Morales found Luke Mulholland slipping unmarked at the back post, where the English journeyman nodded past Joe Bendik. Toronto grew into the game and nearly had an equalizer after Robbie Findley’s beautiful touch set Giovinco in behind the Claret-and-Cobalt defense in the 64th minute, but Jeff Attinella palmed the diminutive Italian’s effort skyward. Attinella bailed RSL out again in the 78th minute when he dove to save Giovinco’s corkscrew strike from a set piece, but Nick Rimando’s stand-in couldn’t prevent Jackson from finishing a great Bright Dike holdup touch in the 88th minute to level the score. But TFC’s undoing (and the unsteady Claret-and-Cobalt’s salvation) came just one minute later by way of another Morales cross and another unmarked backpost runner, as RSL homegrown Jordan Allen nodded home his first professional goal for the winner.