SANTA CLARA, CA - APRIL 21: Referee Elias Bazakos issues a red card to Fabian Espindola #7 of the Real Salt Lake for a altercation with Sam Cronin #4 of the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium on April 21, 2012 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
I cannot recall the last time I watched a game where multiple players from the same team were ejected from a game. The only game that comes to mind is Portugal v. Netherlands in the 2006 World Cup. In that game, each team ended up losing two players. This week, we had two teams in two different games lose two players each to straight red cards. All of this week's action began on a Wednesday night that turned out fairly boring. The matches on Saturday made up for that, thankfully.
Montreal 1 @ DC United 1
Judging from the performances of each team, there was no question that this was a true mid-week match. Both teams were fairly underwhelming for most of the first half. Once again, Montreal takes a lead on the road only to lose it some minutes later. At least this time turned out to be a draw instead of a loss. Maicon Santos got the equalizer in the 72nd minute off of a fancy shot from distance.
Sporting KC 3 @ Vancouver 1
Vancouver never really were in this one. Sporting took an early lead in 24th minute thanks to an Aurelien Collin goal off of a corner kick. An own goal by Martin Bonjour in the 51st minute gave Sporting a 2-0 lead. After that, Sporting sat on their lead for the rest of the match. Vancouver took 14 of their 18 shots in the final 30 minutes of the match, and Sporting managed to get one more goal in during that time.
Chicago 3 @ Toronto 2
Houston 2 @ Columbus 2
This result worked out in the Fire's favor. With Columbus and Houston drawing, the Fire were able to leap frog both teams. The first half and the second half were like night and day in this match with all four goals comming in the last 40 minutes along with a pretty amazing sequence of saves from Tally Hall that broke the hearts of many crew fans.
Robert Warzycha changed out a few of the members of the Crew starting XI. Here is how Sam Fahmi at Massive Report felt about the lineup after that game:
It seems that Warzycha played the personnel match-up game plan over keeping a steady lineup. It was a little bit of a gamble, but it worked. The team looked more dangerous and not as over matched against a fairly good team in Houston. Give credit where it's do, and he played this one right. The question becomes, should that be the mode of operation for the rest of the season, or should the Crew always field a consistent lineup?
For Houston, this road trip to open the season has been successful so far. Martek over at Dynamo Theory writes:
It has been said in this space and many others that when it comes to championship seasons, the key is to go even on the road and take care of business at home. You do that, and you're right there. So, with 21 points on offer in the season-opening seven-game road trip, the key was to get 10 or 11 (Though it goes without saying that you fight for all three every time you hit the field, let's be realistic now.) Any less, and we worry. Any more, and it should honestly be counted as gravy. Well, the Dynamo now stand with eight points out of 15 so far and really should get 10 or 11 to meet the standard by the time they open BBVA Compass Stadium on May 12. That's what a successful road trip looks like.
So far Houston has surpassed what Kansas City did in 5 games last year, and they ended up winning the east in the regular season.
LA Galaxy 2 @ Colorado 1
For the second week in a row, Colorado won the possession battle by a wide margin. Unlike last week, they didn't get completely out shot. Between an amazing goal from Omar Cummings and a poor penalty call inside the box, Colorado almost came out of this with an undeserved point. Almost! Connor KaseC, after weeks of rehabbing, had to sit this one out due to strep throat. Here is UZ from Burgundy Wave to explain the situation:
That's where the problems started. Remember how I brought up Conor Casey earlier? For anyone who was wondering when Conor would have 'saved the offense', you need look no further than this penalty. With Conor out, the decision for who to take it was probably between Omar Cummings, Jeff Larentowicz and... well, those two. Conor simply doesn't miss penalties, it's almost his specialty. Omar on the other hand, blew the Rapids only chance at stealing a point from this game when he weakly stutter-stepped to the ball and shot a slow one right at Josh Saunders, who was diving the right way before Omar even touched it.
It was one of the weakest penalty kicks I've seen in a while. Connor Casey would have helped the Rapids in more ways than taking that penalty kick. Colorado has scored 3 goals in their 4 matches this month. The dynamic of this team changes with a healthy Casey.
Here is what Josie Becker over at LAG Confidential had to say about the penalty kick:
It took three minutes for the penalty kick to even happen, as just about every player on the pitch for the Galaxy was livid about the call and wanted to let the ref know it. David Beckham stood in Cumming's way for a solid two minutes after the ball was placed on the spot. After Saunders saved it, Robbie Keane let out a tribal yell in celebration to rival some Trojan warriors.
I have to admit that I did find some of Mr. Beckham's antics amusing leading up to the penalty kick. Well, everything except for point a finger in the ref's face. LA now has a winning streak going and are in 6th place in the west. They play FC Dallas, the team directly above them in the standings, next week. It's very likely they can crack the top half of the Western Conference next weekend.
FC Dallas 0 @ Vancouver 1
Camillo looked very good for Vancouver on Saturday after returning from a quad injury, scoring the game winning goal in the 11th minute of the match, which should be exciting for Vancouver fans. The only other exciting thing for the Whitecaps was the B.C. Place stadium roof was opened for the first time ever for a match, but it didn't make much a difference. The inside of their stadium looks about as drab as their offense. Still, Whitecaps fans seem to be okay with this. From Benjamin Massey at 86 Forever:
While not ignoring possibilities on the counter Vancouver was content to sit back, avoid pressure in the two front thirds, keep a disciplined shape, and dare the opponent to break them down. It's not accidental: Martin Rennie's made the point a few times. "We don't have to chase the game, we don't have to open up. The chances will come to you." You could make it a drinking game.
A drinking game would make Whitecaps matches more entertaining. Sitting back and hunkering down for 80 minutes is what Vancouver did. After all, their defense is their biggest strength.
For Dallas, they are a good team that had some positives to take away from this match. Still, they seem to be one piece away from taking a step from playoff team to cup contender. Daniel Robertson at Big D Soccer:
Dallas did some very good things tonight. I feel like that while the central midfield did struggle to create much offense, the trio did very well at what they're good at which is create havoc, break up the opposition passes and get it to the danger men. Unfortunately that piece, Ferreira, that links everything together is missing. The possession was good, the defense was very composed and just beaten on a fantastic goal that would've beaten any team. Nothing to freak out about tonight, but definitely some things to improve on.
It's been almost a full year since FC Dallas midfielder David Ferreira was injured. For those of you who don't recall, he was injured in Vancouver.
Sporting KC 0 @ Portland 1
Thank goodness Sporting KC lost. Some people began talking about "what if KC goes unbeaten this year", and we haven't even hit May, yet. The loss wasn't a very decisive one as Sporting KC lost due to an own goal. It's more akin to tripping over your own shoe laces, than actually loosing. Both Portland and SKC had good chance throughout the match, but neither side could put the ball in the net on their own chances. This game could have easily been a draw. For Sporting KC fans, it's not all bad. From Alex over at The Daily Wiz:
Looking back on it this was probably the best game to lose from Sporting KC's perspective. They have a week off and it will bring them back down to earth after the terrific start to the season.
For Portland, they took a defensive approach against a tired SKC team, which is the safest strategy, and it paid off. Portland needed to get off their five game winless streak, and there is no better way to do that then at home against the best team in the MLS (at the moment).
Real Salt Lake 1 @ San Jose 3
The score does not indicate what really happened in Santa Clara on Saturday. For the first thirty minutes of this match, San Jose came out strong and looked to be the better of the two teams. In the 29th minutes, Fabian Espindola made a fairly bone headed, two-footed tackle on Sam Cronin and was sent off for it. Once San Jose had the man advantage, they seemed to lose their intensity. For the rest of the first half, it did not feel like either team had an advantage.
San Jose did manage a goal off a set piece right before the end of the first half. For the start of the second half, San Jose came out, and still played flat. In the 53rd minute, Kyle Beckerman made the San Jose defense look foolish as he dribble through the center of the pitch and drove a shot past John Busch. Kyle Beckerman rarely makes defenses look foolish.
Once the game was tied, San Jose stepped the attack up, but struggled to find the back of the net. In the 69th minute, Jamison Olave was sent off with a straight red on a controversial foul on Steven Lenhart. It's a situation that is hard to describe, so I've embedded a clip of the foul below.
The first time I watched this, I was undecided on whether Olave even fouled Lenhart. It doesn't seem like Lenhart was taking a dive. It was surprising to see him pop back up so quickly and try to put the ball in the net. At the same time, it never looks like Olave does anything to send Lenhart to the ground. But now that I'm writing this and have rewatched the clip a few times, it looks like Olave does give Lenhart a slight shove in the back at about the 50th second of the clip. It's very subtle, but it's there. A few people like to point out that Lenhart is a bit of a rabble-rouser and diver (like the incident in Seattle a few weeks back), but Olave is not completely innocent of cheekiness, either (like last week against Sporting KC). I feel that the right call was made, and the red card was deserved.
So with Jamison Olave off the pitch, this thing is in the bag, right? Not exactly. RSL played compact and put on one of the more impressive defensive performances of the season. San Jose struggled to get any quality shots off, and whatever decent shots they did get, Nick Rimando was there to stop them. The game ended up with six minutes of added time, and in those six minutes, RSL broke, allowing two goals in the span of minutes.
Mark your calendars - San Jose will be at Rio Tinto Stadium on June 23rd.
Philly 1 @ Chivas 0
Philly fans can quit blaming bad luck for losses. Chivas out played Philly for much of the first half, but struggled to create any quality shots on goal. Out of 21 shots Chivas had in the match, they only managed 7 shots in the first half. Philly, on the other hand, managed only 4 shots the entire game, yet they got the only goal of the match. Freddie Adu scored the lone goal in the 40th minute off of a back heel. Although, Adu didn't do all of the heavy lifting. From Alicia Ratterree at The Goat Parade:
Although Adu's skill was on full display as he capped off the play, Michael Farfan did the hard work on that play, as he dribbled past a few Chivas defenders. James Riley slipped as he tried to clear the ball, and Adu poached the goal. And while Chivas only gave up a goal, they didn't actually score, and Chivas fans are getting restless after another home loss.
Chivas is now 0 for 4 at home. Ouch.
Speaking of ouch, Philly lost Keon Daniel and Gabriel Farfan to red cards in the 75th and 85th minute respectively. Farfan's infraction was pretty ugly and cause quite a row out on the pitch. Even Piotr Nowak came off the sideline and got himself ejected from the match. Once again, instead of describing, I will just include a video of all the fun:
This makes me hate Philly a little more. I didn't think that was possible.
New York 1 @ DC United 4
For Chicago, a draw between these two teams would have been nice, but instead
Thierry Henry Chris Pontuis decided to drop a hat trick on the Red Bulls. Some people have doubted DC United this season. Here is what Martin Shatzer at Black and Red United has to say about the doubters:
Much like that Dallas game though, doubters could make excuses for why United prevailed. This wasn't the greatest of Red Bulls teams that we beat. They were razor thin at the back and throughout central midfield, missing several key players, and being forced to start a handful of low-quality unproven players who probably won't ever be consistent MLS starters, like Markus Holgersson, Victor Palsson, and Dax McCarty.
But United didn't play down to the level of its competition. They didn't let a weakened opponent off the hook. They pounced. They went for the kill. And Chris Pontius led the way.
That's a solid point. Even if the Red Bulls are lacking quality, it's still up to DCU to beat them. Thanks to this win, DC has now leap frogged New York into second place. For a Red Bulls perspective, here's Ben Schnieder from Once a Metro:
The Red Bulls' defense was repeatedly exposed by a mediocre D.C. United attack that looked far more interested in winning the match than New York.
And that is what happens when your team purchases the rights to Wilman Conde.