MLS Recap: Adu returns, Plata comes up big, D.C. thrashes 'Caps, Revs crumble
Freddy Adu made his return to MLS action in a 2-2 draw with Dallas. Sebastien Le Toux scored a brace from the spot to earn that draw and highlight a full slate of Saturday action.
Seattle Sounders FC 0-0 Chivas USA
A routine 0-0 draw between the Seattle Sounders FC and Chivas USA was beset by refereeing controversy, but Seattle will rue its missed chances, including an Alvaro Fernandez penalty kick.
Seattle took the initiative early on and looked to have a golden chance to take the lead in 18th minute when Chivas USA defender Michael Umana was whistled for handball after a nice bit of skill from Fernandez. The Uruguayan midfielder stepped up to take the penalty himself, but smashed it against the woodwork. It rebounded onto the back of Dan Kennedy's head, but luckily for the Chivas USA netminder, it went out for a corner instead of back into the goal.
The Sounders continued to control play, but found it difficult to break down a well-organized Chivas side, which managed to put together a number of nice passing moves. Kasey Keller had to be alert off his line after a sharp through ball nearly sprung Alejandro Moreno, but Keller was able to clear.
Seattle had two golden chances in the second half, but Pat Noonan could not get ahold of a shot with an open goal in front of and Kennedy was able to scramble back to make the save. Umana redeemed himself for conceding the penalty in the 70th minute, making a perfectly timed sliding tackle to block a shot for what would have been a sure goal by Freddy Montero.
The biggest talking point came in the 89th minute, though, as Lamar Neagle burst into the penalty area only to be hauled down by new Chivas USA signing David Lopes, but referee Kevin Stott signaled for a goal kick. Replays clearly showed plenty of contact between Lopes and Neagle, prompting an incensed reaction from Erik Friberg, who was shown a yellow card for his trouble. Still, neither side was able to eke out a goal, which was no help as the teams quest for accolades starts coming down to the wire.
Results - MLS
D.C. United 4-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
D.C. United earned its first home win since May with a 4-0 thrashing of the Vancouver Whitecaps. Chirs Pontius scored once on either side of the half with Andy Najar and Stephen King rounding out the scoreline.
The visiting Whitecaps did well to hold off United for most of the first half, but Pontius got on the end of a Dwayne De Rosario cross and poked it home just moments before the break. Things got worse for Vancouver two minutes into the second half when Najar slipped in a goal from a tough angle to make it 2-0.
Pontius scored his second of the night in the 70th on a rebound from a King shot, putting the match out of reach. But King was not to be denied his goal. De Rosario was once again involved, setting the table for King to put a left-footed shot home and round out the scoring.
Columbus 3-1 New England Revolution
New England looked to be headed in the right direction when Benny Feilhaber opened the scoring just before the break. But a Kevin Alston own-goal and a late surge made sure that Columbus kept its spot on top of the Eastern Conference with a 3-1 win over the Revolution.
Feilhaber got the Revs on the board after Columbus had largely controlled the opening half, latching onto a Pat Phelan pass and stroking it home.
But nine minutes into the second half Steve Nicol's side started to fall apart as Kevin Alston stuck one into his own net, letting Columbus level things up.
The Revs never recovered and in the 75th minutes Julius James pounded home a header from a corner, giving Columbus its first lead of the night.
Robbie Rogers, fresh off his goal for the USA on Wednesday night, set the table for Emilio Rentería to finish the match off six minutes later, crossing for the unmarked striker to tuck away from six yards out.
New York Red Bulls 2-2 Chicago Fire
The New York Red Bulls and the Chicago Fire played out an action-packed 2-2 draw in Red Bull Arena on Saturday night. The host side needed a second-half Joel Lindpere strike to salvage the draw after Chicago took a one-goal lead into the break.
Thierry Henry gave New York an early lead. Some slick passing eventually saw the ball laid off to the Frenchman in space by Dane Richards. Henry calmly bent a side-footed shot around his on-rushing marker and into the far corner of the net from a good 30 yards out.
The Fire struck back almost immediately. Patrick Nyarko slithered down the left flank. Dominic Oduro managed to deflect the cross on goal, where Chris Konopka let it slide through his fingers. Konopka, a 26-year-old MLS pool goalkeeper who has spent the intermediate years in Ireland since being drafted by the Kansas City Wizards in 2007, was making his MLS debut in place of the injured Frank Rost and Bouna Coundoul, who returned from international duty with Senegal late.
Konopka did better on the next Oduro shot, rushing out to get his fingertips to the lob. However, Sebastián Grazzini crashed the loose rebound off the pitch and into the back of the net to give Chicago the lead.
In the search of an equalizer, both Richards and Rafael Marquez put efforts off the post. The tying goal finally came just after the hour mark. Joel Lindpere, left unmarked in the box, turned sharply to one-time Richards' cross into the back of the net.
The draw extends New York's winless run to five. Chicago, with the league lead in draws, hasn't won in nine.
Philadelphia Union 2-2 FC Dallas
There was plenty of excitement surrounding the Philadelphia Union's match against FC Dallas on Saturday night as Freddy Adu returned to Major League Soccer to face off with one of the USA's newest stars in Brek Shea. But defensive mistakes were the real story a match that ended in a 2-2 draw.
Dallas opened the scoring in the 16th when Maicon Santos pounced a mistake in Philly's back line and sent a shot into the lower corner from just outside the box. The Union pulled level in the 34th when Ugo Ihemelu took Justin Mapp down in the box and Sebastien Le Toux converted the penalty.
Brek Shea added to his impressive goal tally with a followup finish, clipping the ball into the net after Marvin Chavez had been denied just before the break. The strike moved Shea into double digits in 2011, good for joint-third in the league.
Adu's debut with Philadelphia ended just after the hour mark, a caution for a reckless tackle being all he had to show for his work aside from some promising moves early in the second half.
In the 81st minute the match took a positive turn for the home side. Dallas defender George John picked up his second yellow of the night and was sent off, allowing the Union even more room to push forward, and the equalizer followed quickly.
This time it was Jackson committing a foul in the box on Gabriel Farfan and and sending Le Toux back to the spot for his second goal of the night.
San Jose Earthquakes - Colorado Rapids
Sam Cronin had a horror-show to allow the Colorado Rapids to take all three points from San Jose in Buck Shaw Stadium. The Earthquakes' winless run extends to 11 matches with the 2-1 loss.
San Jose scored first. Bobby Convey whipped in a cross which Chris Wondolowski redirected at goal. Matt Pickens managed to paw it away, but Joey Gjertsen headed home the looping rebound to open the scoring.
That's when Cronin took over. First, a low Pablo Mastroeni cross hit his trailing arm in the box, resulting in a Rapids penalty kick. Caleb Folan easily tucked that away to even the score heading into the half.
Then, a late tackle on Mastroeni earned Cronin a rather harsh straight red five minutes into the second. Down a man, San Jose held on, looking for the draw. Brad Ring even cleared a towering Jeff Larentowicz header off the line just after the hour mark.
But Colorado would not be denied. With 20 minutes remaining, Larentowicz smacked a low free kick that skipped past Jon Busch to secure all three points.
Friday MLS Forecast: Week 23 - Chicago sets unwanted, but telling, MLS record for sta
Chicago does one – and only one – thing better than any other team to ever play in MLS: it finds a way to draw matches.
Last night's 1-1 stalemate with D.C. United marked the Fire's jaw-dropping 15th tie in just 24 matches played. With 10 games left in the season, Frank Klopas' side has surpassed the previous mark set by FC Dallas last season and appears poised to add to it before the campaign concludes.
While the Fire faithful may disagree, there is something quite intriguing about hitting this particular milestone: it shows exactly where Chicago currently sits in its rebuilding process. On most nights, the Fire is just good enough to hang with its opponents and just poor enough to find a way to spurn opportunities to defeat them.
Klopas has accumulated nine of those draws since taking over from Carlos de los Cobos on May 30 by placing a significant emphasis on the Fire's defensive shape. His revisions – including a shift to the current and fairly conservative 4-4-2 setup (with the odd 4-5-1 formation thrown in here and there for good measure) – increased the Fire's solidity at the back and made it difficult for opposing teams to score on them. Despite a few individual errors at the back in recent weeks, the Fire has conceded two or more goals on just three occasions in Klopas' 13 matches in charge.
The presence of several dangerous pieces on the counterattack only serves to bolster those defensive efforts. Opposing teams must take special care when they send numbers forward because Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro and Marco Pappa can race down the field the other way to punish that ambition. With those players in tow, the Fire usually finds a way to create enough chances in front of goal to grab the goal regularly required to secure a point.
The foundation ultimately starts to crack when the Fire enters the penalty area and seeks to compile an unassailable lead. Although that trio – plus Sebastian Grazzini – can create chances, the Fire struggles to convert them due to its profligacy in front of goal. Oduro – as any number of commentators have harped upon over the years – isn't reliable in front of goal despite his torrid pace and the others squander their fair share as well. It doesn't help that the Fire can't rely on corner kicks (zero goals this season) or set pieces (one tally this campaign) to contribute the timely goal to seize upon a decent night from the run of play or snatch a result when it hasn't played that well.
All of those factors ultimately combine to form Chicago's rather unwanted tendency to draw instead of win or lose. The monotony of those persistent outcomes may not enthrall, but it does share a tale worth telling as the Fire attempts to construct a more successful side next season.
Last week: 4/8 (50%)
For the season: 69/182 (38%)
Irish forward Robbie Keane ready to work after move to LA Galaxy
Former Tottenham striker keen to kick start his career in America, and could line up for the Galaxy against San Jose on Saturday after a $3.5 million move to MLS.
New LA Galaxy signing Robbie Keane has claimed that he moved to Major League Soccer to enjoy success with his new club and will work hard to achieve that.
"It's been a hectic six or seven days," he said. "I got a phone call early Friday morning from my representatives saying they're interested. Straight away I told them to make the deal happen - that's how interested I was. I'd like to thank everyone who made this deal happen so quickly. I'm not here to be on my holidays, to be in Los Angeles. I'm here to win things, to score a lot of goals."
Despite the move, Keane has insisted that he's still committed to the Irish national team and a move stateside wouldn't change that. The 31-year-old is Ireland's highest ever goalscorer, having netted 51 goals in 109 games, and moved to the MLS last week for $3.5 million.
"Throughout my career I've always been committed to Ireland and that won't change," he said when unveiled as a Galaxy player on Friday. We have two massive games next month. I'm with the Galaxy and I'm 100 per cent committed to them and then when I'm with Ireland likewise. Nothing will change unless the manager of Ireland [Giovanni Trapattoni] tells me different. I've been very fortunate with Ireland, had some fantastic years and we're in a great position at the moment."
The Irish international found himself out of favor at White Hart Lane and added that he jumped at the chance to make a new start abroad. Keane could make his MLS debut against San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday and after a disappointing season in 2010 that included loans at Celtic and West Ham.
"It's always nice to get thrown in straight away," he said. "I always like to play games and that's why I'm here. I'm really looking forward to the game. I'm not too sure how the jetlag is going to affect me but I feel good."
Keane scores on Galaxy debut, Seattle climb
Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane made a sparkling Major League Soccer debut on yesterday, scoring in the 21st minute of the Los Angeles Galaxy's 2-0 victory over San Jose. Keane treated his newest fans to his trademark cartwheel and somersault goal celebration after parlaying a pass from Galaxy team-mate David Beckham into a goal that gave Los Angeles a 1-0 halftime lead.
Keane, acquired on Monday from English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, wasted no time making his presence felt for his new team. "It couldn't have gone, obviously, better for me," Keane said. "It's great to score a goal, but the most important thing is the three points. When you come to a new team, it's always good to get the first goal. When you go a few games without a goal, it starts to play on your mind."
He played 72 minutes and created several good scoring opportunities in addition to his goal. Mike Magee struck in the 90th minute to ensure the win for league leaders Los Angeles, who notched their fifth victory in six matches to move six points clear of second-place Seattle in the Western Conference standings.
Magee's goal came after San Jose defender Steven Beitashour was sent off in the 81st minute for stepping on Galaxy captain Landon Donovan. Galaxy fans welcomed Keane with enthusiasm, just as team officials did on Friday when they rolled out green shamrocks painted on the grassy slope below the scoreboard at their Home Depot Center ground.
Although he had trained just once with his new team-mates, Keane slotted right in with the Galaxy's established stars Beckham and Donovan. "I knew he was going to be running, and I knew where to put it," Beckham said. "He's a player who knows where to run, and if you're on the same wavelength as him, you've got a real good chance. He's always going to make good runs, and it's up to us to find him."
Although the Galaxy were already leading the league as well as the Western Conference when Keane arrived, they have struggled to get consistent scoring from their strikers. Keane delivered the attacking boost they were looking for, with two runs at the goal in the first 15 minutes on which he was ruled offside. Keane nearly scored from inside the penalty area in the 19th minute but his left-footed shot was wide.
Two minutes later, Beckham played a ball over the top of San Jose's defence. Keane latched on and easily beat San Jose keeper Jon Busch. Keane almost scored again in the 64th minute, out-running two defenders to reach the ball but sailing his shot over the crossbar. When Magee replaced him, Keane left the pitch to a standing ovation from the crowd of 27,000.
"We're elated with Robbie," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. "I think he had a great 70 minutes tonight, and he's going to have a lot more. I know Robbie's fitness isn't perhaps where he wants it to be, but he's a fit athlete. When he gets two or three games under his belt, he's going to be fine." Otherwise, Arena could find little fault with his new player. "When he was younger, he used to elevate a little more," he quipped of Keane's goal celebration flip.
Seattle Sounders leapfrogged FC Dallas in Major League Soccer's Western Conference with a 1-0 win that sent them second behind Galaxy. Mauro Rosales was the scorer after 16 minutes, with a second-half red card for Daniel Cruz helping Seattle hold on to the points.
Colorado Rapids drew 2-2 with Chivas USA after taking the lead twice. Goals from Caleb Folan (13) and Nick LaBrocca (36) cancelled each other out before Jeff Larentowitcz and Laurent Courtois (86) did the same. Diego Chara, in the second minute, and Jorge Perlaza, after 33, set Portland Timbers on the way to a 2-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps, for whom Camilo grabbed a consolation.
Eastern conference leaders Columbus Crew beat Philadelphia Union 2-1. They saw Emilio Renteria's goal cancelled out by Veljko Paunovic only for Andres Mendoza's 51st-minute penalty to settle matters. Houston Dynamo overtook Real Salt Lake in second spot with an entertaining 3-2 win. The game was locked after goals from Crian Ching and Bobby Boswell and Edgar Espindola and Luis Gil tied the scores, paving the way for Alex Dixon's last-minute winner.
Milton Caraglio and Dane Richards each scored a brace as New England Revolution drew 2-2 with Red Bull New York. Revolution lost Kenny Mansally to a red card after 55 minutes, with Red Bull'sTeemu Tainio the culprit.
Monday MLS Breakdown: New York faces unexpected fight for a playoff berth
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The same frustrating story continues to unfold for a New York team expected to accomplish great things.
The fixture list threw up a game that the reeling Red Bulls needed to win – away to New England – and they instead offered up a terrible first-half display en route to a Dane Richards-inspired 2-2 draw with the Revolution.
For a side with lofty expectations created by a star-studded roster and a tidy start to the season, this Red Bulls unit appears in dire need of something, anything to drag it out of a months-long funk that has produced just two wins since May 7.
“I think it's more just to pick up a win and go from there,” New York coach Hans Backe said about the likely solution after Richards grabbed two goals to spare the visitors' blushes. “We are in desperate need of a win. That can turn everything.”
Any renaissance for these stumbling Red Bulls must start at the back. New York entered the season with one of the league's best back fours on paper – Jan Gunnar Solli on the right, Rafa Marquez and Tim Ream in the middle and Roy Miller on the left – and reinforced its quality by conceding just two goals in the first seven games.
Those halcyon days have long since yielded to jittery moments from week to week as New York has conceded 35 times in its past 19 matches. Injuries, international absences and spotty patches of individual form have led to a significant down turn from that promising opening period. Marquez, in particular, has struggled since returning from a hamstring injury in late July, but the repetitive errors – most notably conceding a staggering 13 goals from set pieces – suggest a pliant core rather than a defiant foundation.
“We're working with the defending, but I think it's a lot, a lot of individual mistakes,” Backe said. “If you look at the back four's way of defending, that's good enough because you can train that. The mistakes will always be there, but we just need to be so much more tougher, sharper in our defending individually.”
New York's proclivity to build deliberately out of the back has caused problems as well. Marquez and Ream have displayed a tendency to dither on the ball and force the perfect pass out of defense and some opposing teams have pressed higher at points to force errors. While both players continue to play an important role in the Red Bulls' possession game (Ream supplied the telling pass for Richards' opener against the Revs, for instance) and supply a rare dimension to a MLS side with their poise and quality in possession, Backe has asked his team to move the ball more directly to exploit other potential advantages on the field.
“We said before Chicago (a 2-2 draw last weekend) that we just need to change it a little bit,” Backe said. “It's been too slow. We need a higher tempo in our passing game.”
New York's midfield bears some of the burden for the lack of cadence. Teemu Tainio's intermittent absences – his influential presence will be sorely missed against Los Angeles next weekend after he picked up two yellow cards against New England – have reduced the required efficiency in central midfield. Mehdi Ballouchy continues to frustrate and infuriate with his tidy touches and ultimately ineffectual performances, while Dax McCarty still needs to settle into the side as he adjusts to a third address in less than a year. All in all, it is a group, like the back four, that has not met expectations recently.
By reducing the number of passes from back to front and shifting the burden to the league's most prolific attack (41 goals scored), the Red Bulls can make use of their advantage in the wide areas – Joel Lindpere and Richards torment opposing fullbacks, though Richards has played up front in the past two games – to break quickly and open up operating room in other areas.
“In the last four halves, we have been good,” Backe said. “We have been much more direct. We have been more of a threat to get in behind the opposition's back four. I'm quite pleased with that because you don't win games with 70 percent of possession. It's only Barcelona doing that.”
No one would confuse the Emirates Cup holders with the reigning European champions, though the primary links between the two clubs will prove crucial as the playoff chase intensifies. Marquez needs to locate the aggressive and imperial form that once made him a staple at the highest levels to shore up the leaky rearguard, while Henry must shrug off his nagging Achilles complaint to resume his talismanic role for a side in desperate need of a central figure to carry it forward.
Pointing to those two integral figures simplifies matters a bit – Luke Rodgers' return up front is also critical with Juan Agudelo still adjusting to first-team football, while several players need to raise their games over the next few months – but the Red Bulls may require a streamlined approach as they face this wholly unanticipated tussle for postseason play.
“We probably need to pick up four or five wins – maybe four wins and a couple of ties – from our last eight games to qualify,” Backe said. “It will be tough, very, very tough.”
New York certainly possesses enough talent to accomplish that task without too much fuss, but it must now produce the resolve and the steel required to see this task through and set about rectifying this lurching season with a lengthy playoff run.
MLS Recap: Cunningham sets scoring history, Neagle hat-trick, Fire win two in a row
Jeff Cunningham became the top scorer in MLS history, Lamar Neagle hit a hat-trick, Canada saw two late goals affect scorelines and more in Saturday's MLS matchups.
Seattle Sounders FC 6-2 Columbus Crew
Seattle Sounders FC scored the most goals in franchise history on Saturday, with the Columbus Crew's misery against the Sounders continuing, finding themselves on the wrong end of a 6-2 scoreline. Local boy Lamar Neagle grabbed a hat-trick while Jeff Cunningham's penalty ensured the veteran striker a place by himself at the top of the all-time MLS scoring chart.
The Sounders got themselves on the board early, setting the tone for the whole game. A quick throw-in found Mike Fucito on the left side and he in turn found the onrushing Neagle, who brushed off a challenge from Rich Balchan and took the ball into the area, powering a shot past Will Hesmer in the fourth minute.
Balchan's game only got worse as he conceded a penalty in the 15th minute. He was called for handball after Neagle peeled away from him and the ball bounced up and hit him in the hands unexpectedly. It might have been a harsh call on Balchan, but nonetheless Mauro Rosales stepped up and dispatched a perfect penalty past Hesmer to make it 2-0.
The Sounders were playing scintillating soccer and it didn't take long for them to make it three, with Neagle was again the protagonist. A pass from Rosales sent James Riley to the endline, and his cross found an unmarked Neagle on the far post to volley home in the 21st minute.
The Sounders wouldn't let up at three, though Columbus did manage to steady the ship for about 15 minutes, with the Crew's Emilio Renteria proving a handful for the home side. However, the fourth for the Sounders game five minutes before the break, as Fucito tallied his first MLS goal with an off-balance goal to round off a well-worked passing move.
The second half started in much calmer fashion than the first, with the Sounders content to play it safe, but before there was an hour on the clock, another ball was in the back of the net.
Renteria was fouled by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado as he prepared to take on Kasey Keller, giving referee Baldomero Toledo no choice but to point to the spot. Jeff Cunningham stepped up calmly placed it past Keller, a goal that leaves Cunningham alone at the top of Major League Soccer's all-time scoring chart with 134 goals, one more than former D.C. United legend Jaime Moreno.
However, there was no joy to be found for Cunningham and the Crew, as in the 70th minute Neagle completed his hat-trick with the best goal of them all. The Tacoma native cut in from the left side and unleashed a belter of a shot that crashed in off the underside of the bar. There were initially doubts as to whether the ball had crossed the line, but replays showed Toledo and his team made the correct call in awarding the goal.
The goals kept flowing, and three minutes after Neagle sealed his hat-trick, Columbus pulled one back. Renteria earned a free kick 30 yards out and Josh Gardner hammered the ball home, leavin Kasey Keller with no chance given the pace on the shot.
Gardner's joy would dissipate in a matter of seconds, though. Almost immediately after the restart, Neagle sped down the left wing and put in a cross, which Gardner awkwardly turned into his own net, making it 6-2 in the 74th minute.
True to the nature of the game, both sides pressed for more in the last 15 minutes and created some good chances, but were unable to add to the scoreline. Still, it was the Sounders' largest ever goal haul on a thrilling afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 Houston Dynamo
The Vancouver Whitecaps took a 1-0 win over Houston on Saturday night with Shea Salinas grabbing the late winner for the home side.
Early in the second half the Dynamo looked as if they had earned a penalty after Carlos Costly was apparently fouled by Joe Cannon in the box. Referee Niko Bratsis initially pointed to the spot, but after a short chat with his assistant changed the decision and awarded a free kick to Vancouver.
It was arguably the biggest moment in the match right up until the last, but Salinas made that decision even more costly in the 86th after being set through on goal by Long Tan. The winger finished expertly, slotting his shot into the corner and giving Vancouver a rare win.
For Houston the loss ends a five game unbeaten run and could prove costly as the club continues to push for the playoffs.
Toronto FC 1-0 San Jose Earthquakes
A Chris Wondolowski equalizer three minutes from time salvaged a draw for the San Jose Earthquakes after Eric Avila had given Toronto FC the lead at home.
The Reds took the lead opportunistically after half an hour. Avila collected a loose ball in the box and tucked a shot past Jon Busch. It was his first goal for Toronto FC after making a move from FC Dallas earlier this month.
The 'Quakes waited until deep in the match to hit back. Bobby Burling nodded on a throw-in, and Wondolowski scored from close range.
Prior to that, former 'Quake Ryan Johnson set up Joao Plata for a goal that was expunged for a dubious offside call.
The result extends San Jose's winless streak to 13.
Sporting Kansas City 2-3 FC Dallas
FC Dallas had to claw back from two goals down to earn a 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night.
A mistake from the Dallas defense in the first half gifted Kei Kamara the opener in the 22nd minute, and Omar Bravo doubled the lead in the 68th minute when he cleaned up a Teal Bunbury shot.
But Dallas came storming back quickly. Daniel Hernandez sent a free kick at Sporting's goal just two minutes later which took a slight deflection off of Ugo Ihemelu before finding the net.
Sporting took another blow in the 76th when Bunbury was sent off for picking up his second yellow, leaving the home side to defend its lead with just 10 men.
Brek Shea and Maicon Santos hooked up for the equalizer in the 89th, with Shea sending in a cross and Santos finishing with his head. It would not be the last goal of the night. Shea got loose again in stoppage time and once again found a his mark, this time Bobby Warshaw, who put away another header to give Dallas a win with mere moments left on the clock.