A tale of two halves was told yet again in sunny Orlando last Friday night. New England had stormed to the top of the table, and were looking the part of winners for a majority of the match. Charlie Davies put the visitors ahead within twenty minutes after Scott Caldwell dispossessed Amobi Okugo. Orlando held the ball a majority of the first half without any creativity or real chances. The game looked done and dusted after a 71st minute goal by substitute Kelyn Rowe. Rowe had come on for Charlie Davies just ten minutes prior to the goal, and latched himself onto a poor clearance attempt by Rafael Ramos. Orlando – choosing not to accept inevitable defeat – turned things around just four minutes later. First overall draft pick Cyle Larin headed in a cross from the previously distraught Ramos. As the game wound down to the final minute, hope hadn’t dried up for Orlando - in fact, it arrived in the form of Aurelien Collin, who rose above Jermaine Jones to head home a Luke Boden cross for the tying goal. The point was not enough to push Orlando into a playoff spot, as they sit in seventh place on nine points.
Poking fun at the Rapids drawing so much this year has nearly lost its allure. With seven ties in ten games, they’re well on pace to match or exceed the record the Fire set last season. San Jose struck in the nineteenth minute when Chris Wondolowski – who looked as if he were under the control of a puppeteer – shifted the ball from his right to his left foot and hammered home at close range. One bus parked, hollow possession and a few half chances later, and it looked like 1-0 would be the final. Stoppage time was when the magic happened. A Rapids corner was punched away poorly by Quakes keeper David Bingham and was subsequently headed in beautifully by defender James Riley without a hope for a save or clearance. The draw give Colorado ten points which would put them in fifth place if they were in east, but is only good enough for dead last in the west. San Jose maintains fourth place on fourteen points.
After consecutive sellouts in CCL play, a somber fan base only managed to fit 13,020 inside Saputo Stadium. With games in hand, Montreal looked to take advantage in league play. The pace of their game in the first half wasn’t in sync with their expectations. Portland finally broke the deadlock in the 64th minute. Future Timber mascot and current defender Nat Borchers poked in a point blank ball with his head after two near deflections. Just six minutes later, Diego Valeri showed again what the Timbers had been lacking in skill with his absence, as he bent a shot around the keeper from just inside the box. Impact substitute Dominic Oduro immediately responded with the team’s only consolation, slotting home a parried save. With three games in hand, Montreal remains in the MLS basement on two points. The road victory wasn’t enough to get Portland into a playoff spot. They sit in eighth place on thirteen points.
The league’s best defense squared off against one of the league’s biggest goal leakers, at home. One would expect the former would have an easy time. SKC however had different plans, and showed shades of their former selves in a steely performance. Perry Kitchen picked out a perfect deep pass to Chris Pontius in the 42nd minute. Pontius laid off the ball to Jairo Arrieta who struck home the goal. It only took three minutes for Krisztian Nemeth to find Dom Dwyer in the box. The American in waiting had zero issues scoring on his first touch. One point leaves D.C. in second place in the east on eighteen points (goals scored tiebreaker). Sporting hold playoff spot number five on fourteen points.
With all that firepower it’s still hard to believe that the Vancouver Whitecaps are only tied for third in MLS for goals scored after this performance. It was the usual suspects who struck for Vancouver. Pedro Morales started the scoring in the 32nd minute sending a lovely shot passed the latest revolving door keeper at Philadelphia: Brian Sylvestre. The assist from Cristian Techera was simply perfect. Octavio Rivero would dazzle the young, opposing keeper with a goal of his own twelve minutes later. Darren Mattocks would sub in for Rivero in the second half. In the 81st minute, Mattocks would put the fanciest footwork on display before blast his shot into the back of the net. Sylvestre was indubitably exhausted – both physically and mentally after such a lashing. Vancouver’s twenty points have them sitting atop MLS after the win. The Union and their league worst defense fail to improve on their six points and remain in ninth.
Columbus Crew 3, Seattle Sounders 2
Kei Kamara continued his MVP worthy campaign. It took only ten minutes for him to get started. A perfect left footed cross by Waylon Francis found Kamara who powered the ball low with his head, and striking pay-dirt with ease. Clint Dempsey responded fourteen minutes later, courtesy of his own left foot, striking a bending, dipping ball that Steve Clark had no shot at saving. Columbus regained the lead through Gonzalo Higuain four minutes into the second half. Kamara would seal the deal for the Crew in the 58th minute. Workhorse Justin Meram sprinted down the left flank, crossing the ball across goal to Hector Jimenez. The defender picked out Kamara in the center of box, and there was no denying him goal number two. Dempsey tapped in a rebound for his second goal in the 75th minute. Seattle could not muster a third and went down swinging. The win keeps Columbus in fourth place in the east on fourteen points. Despite the loss, Seattle remains third in the west on sixteen points.
LA has often found themselves at the winning end of late game heroics. In Frisco, Texas on Saturday night, the tables turned. The first score came via Gyasi Zardes on a headed corner in the 59th minute. FC Dallas kept the Galaxy on their heels the rest of the way. In the 77th minute it paid dividends. Mauro Diaz chipped a lovely pass into the box for Blas Perez who after a single juggle, hammered it home. Last year’s rookie of the year Tesho Akindele had come on as a half time sub and would be carried out a hero. The Calgary, Alberta native’s shot after receiving another great pass from Diaz was that of a professional who’s played the game for years. Because of the smaller goal differential, FC Dallas’s twenty points are only good enough for second place. Even with the loss, LA is holding steady in sixth place on fourteen points.
It was the reopening of BMO Field in Toronto. After the seating expansion and playing their first seven games on the road to accommodate that expansion, the reds wanted to show their fans that this year is different. There could not have been a better situation for TFC and Maple Leaf Sports to do what they do best: fail to deliver. Despite fielding all three designated players, all they could muster was one goal on four on-target shots. DP Michael Bradley committed an egregious error shortly before the half in fouling Demarcus Beasley in the box. The ensuing penalty kick by Boniek Garcia was nicely saved by TFC keeper Chris Konopka but the rebound landed at Garcia’s feet for an easy goal. In the 53rd minute, Giles Barnes setup the Dynamo counter attack, sprinting up field with the ball and picking a brilliant pass to Will Bruin who scored with ease. DP number two for TFC, Jozy Altidore headed home the team’s lone goal in the 77th minute. That, along with the tussle for the ball with Houston keeper Tyler Deric following that goal were the only true examples of fight that TFC had in them. Something has to give north of the border to give 30,000 deserving fans a better product to watch.
New York Red Bulls 2, New York City 1
A smaller than expected crowd was gathered at Red Bull Arena for the first ever Hudson River Derby. For those who follow English Football loosely, Sir Alex Ferguson’s rant about his United club’s noisy Manchester neighbors can be directly applied to NYCFC. To NYC’s credit, noise is exactly what the travelling fans brought, helping in the sellout of RBA. Bradley Wright-Phillips took only four minutes to put his expert instincts and finishing skills to use to score the first goal. In the 52nd minute, everyone’s favorite lad from Leeds picked out Sacha Kljestan with a beautiful pass. By this point NYRB were down a man since minute 36. It didn’t matter. Kljestan sent BWP through for his second – and game deciding – goal. Patrick Mullins put his poaching skills on display for NYCFC, scoring their lone goal in the 76th minute. The first Hudson River Derby goes to the red side of town. It was a great game to kick off the rivalry.