Going into the MLS regular season and CONCACAF Champions League games last night, American soccer fans knew it was going to be an interesting night. The CCL matches would determine who would advance to the group stage while the three MLS games had major playoff implications. However, even I was unprepared for the intense level of play and implications that came out of the games last night. For those otherwise occupied or who may have missed some of the action, here is a quick recap of the games from yesterday:
FC Dallas 1, Alianza 0: Congratulations to FC Dallas for their first trip ever to the CCL group stage, although Mother Nature was the twelfth (wo)man on the pitch for them last night. The game-time temperature stood at 107 degrees and the Salvadoran side did not handle the temperatures well. Their task was made even harder by the fact that they needed to overcome a 1-0 deficit and the Dallas away goal lead. Ugo Ihemelu scored the game’s only goal on a 36th minute header off a corner kick. The outstanding statistic is that Dallas had almost 75% possession in the match.
Sporting Kansas City 2, Real Salt Lake 0: With their glut of home games remaining, it is time to talk about SKC as a playoff contender. The home team took it to RSL early and were rewarded with two first half goals from Roger Espinoza (29th) and Teal Bunbury (34th). Even more amazing than the early lead was the fact that Sporting KC held it with ten men for almost forty minutes in the second half. Espinoza was sent off in the 57th minute for a tackle on Beckerman, but RSL couldn’t mount much of a challenge. The unbeaten streak now stands at 14 games.
Chicago Fire 1, Philadelphia Union 1: The Chicago Fire started both of their new midfielders tonight and the move paid off as the team got a point off playoff contender Philadelphia. Sebastian Grazzini was a threat in the first half and almost scored in the 10th minute. However it would be the Union’s Veljko Paunovic who struck first in the 35th minute to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. The Fire’s other newcomer, Pavel Pardo, equalized in the 54th minute by intercepting a Union clearance in the box.
Seattle Sounders 2, San Francisco 0: The man of this match statistically was los Monjes keeper Miguel Torres who made 12 saves and saw 35 total shots from Seattle. But the true man of the match was Nate Jaqua who scored in the 98th minute to give the Sounders a 2-1 win. Alvaro Fernandez scored the critical first goal in the 41st minute and the Panamanian visitors seemed content to play defense and try to hit on the counter in the second half. Five MLS teams have now advanced to the CCL group stage.
Portland Timbers 3, Los Angeles Galaxy 0: While the Sporting KC streak continued, the Galaxy’s ended with a thump. Even without Jack Jewsbury, the Timbers looked in control early. Mike Chabala got the scoring started in the 26th minute on a little back-and-forth with Darlington Nagbe. Jorge Plaza added a second goal on a sliding shot 33rd minute while Eric Brunner slammed the door shut in the 68th minute. The Timbers successfully negated the Galaxy midfield and limited the Galaxy’s attack for most of the match.