MLS Provides a Weekend of Talking Points
From the pre-game Friday night to the waning minutes of the late Saturday game, MLS provided a number of compelling story lines for the American soccer fan. Soccer Night in America received at least tepid praise from most commentators (see our review here) and the Los Angeles/New York match up was excellent all around, even setting up a compelling sequel in August. Those on the Fox Soccer email list even got treated to a free preview of Match Day Live.
But the weekend was not all good news: Javier Morales became the latest MLS player felled by a major injury and will miss months with a broken ankle. In addition, only 9 goals were scored between eight matches, with three scoreless draws and Toronto (!) scoring the most goals with two.
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Portland Timbers 1, Philadelphia Union 0: Lost amidst the discussion of Soccer Night in America was a very good game. The Timbers and Union seemed destined for a scoreless draw until a 72nd minute Danso goal broke the Philadelphia defense for the winning strike. While it was the Timbers that had the most chances the Union held their own, especially on the 39th minute Le Toux follow-up that Troy Perkins corralled. This match was a good contrast in styles as fans saw maybe the best defense in MLS (on the road even) try to contain a very good offense. My only complaint was I wish more fans could have seen this match – it was a 10:30 start on the East Coast but would have been a good introduction to American soccer to international soccer fans.
Real Salt Lake 1, Chivas USA 0: Obviously the Morales injury impacted this game as did the two red cards early in this match. From the injury on, Chivas packed it in to try and get a draw (a tactic quite understandable playing two men down) while RSL tried to navigate around the defense. Will Johnson finally broke the draw in the 87th minute and got the home team three tough points.
Toronto FC 2, Houston Dynamo 1: All of that talk about Houston’s momentum towards a top two finish in the East can be put on hold after this week. Their visit to BMO Field saw Toronto create most of the early scoring chances and allowed Joao Plata to remind MLS fans why he was a hot prospect going into this year’s draft. The 5’3″ forward converted a penalty in the fiftieth minute then assisted on the Maicon goal in the 81st minute; his speed was almost too much for the Houston defense to handle.
New England Revolution 0, Colorado Rapids 0: Two teams with shuffled lineups faced off in a scoreless draw, the first of the weekend. New England welcomed back Matt Reis and started Ousmane Dabo for the first time this season. Colorado was without Omar Cummings and Jamie Smith in addition to their other long-term injuries. There were only three total shots on goal in the defensive battle, although New England saw two shots hit the post.
Columbus Crew 1, Seattle Sounders 1: Rain made for a sluggish tie at Crew Stadium as a Renteria penalty allowed Columbus to claim their first point against Sigi Schmid since he left the Crew. Fredy Montero scored his fifth goal of the season for the Sounders on a seventh minute header, continuing his return to last year’s form. The Emilio Renteria penalty in the 67th minute allowed the Crew to run their unbeaten streak to seven games.
DC United 0, FC Dallas 0: A Kevin Hartman save of a Fred header in the 89th minute allowed Dallas to grab a point on the road and preserve a scoreless draw at RFK. Much of the talk in DC has been about the improved play of the DC back line, but I remain skeptical of declaring the fullbacks as set for a few more games, particularly on the road. Both teams pushed at times and had their chances, with Dallas’ best possibly being a Dejan Jakovic deflection that almost trickled in DC’s net. However, this was an appropriate and good result for both sides.
Chicago Fire 0, Vancouver Whitecaps 0: Possibly the two worst teams in MLS playing to a scoreless draw may be an appropriate result here. Statistically Chicago dominated: they had eleven shots to Vancouver’s eight and had literally 2/3rds of possession during the game. Dominic Oduro had a great chance in the 32nd minute when he got some space in the box but his shot went over the bar. Congratulations to the Whitecaps for getting their first MLS road point.
Los Angeles Galaxy 1, New York Red Bulls 1: Daniel has this match covered for the site and the analysis (and praise) is all over the Internet, so I have little new to add. Both goals were incredible and it was great to see the superstars play like, well, superstars at the same time. I am having a hard time remembering when such a hyped MLS match lived up to the hype and I argue it was a level of excellence of play equal to some of the larger European leagues this weekend.