Major League Soccer Week in Review – Round 21

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Welcome back Boca – been a long time, man:  Chivas USA snapped its 14-game winless streak with a victory in Southern California against Toronto. Was it mere coincidence that former U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra and Erick “Cubo” Torres made their debuts for Chivas USA? Hardly. Torres had the game’s only goal, in fact.

Vancouver’s Camilo scores. Again!: It’s Camilo world right now; the rest of us are just trying to keep up the highlights of his goals. Things did not work out well for his Whitecaps, who finished the round of matches late Saturday on the West Coast with a 2-1 loss to the Galaxy. But the Brazilian forward supplied his team’s lone strike, breaking away and finishing the confidence you’d expect of the league’s leading scorer, not with 13 goals. Camilo has 10 goals in the Whitecap’s last 8 games – and holy Cap, that is getting it done!

Lightning in Chester: Lightning delayed the second half of Saturday’s Union-Timbers match for nearly an hour outside Philadelphia.  Around the unusual delay, it was a show of goalkeepers in the team’s 0-0 draw at PPL Park.

The weekend’s “Ooops” moment – and from a highly unlikely source: Generally speaking, Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is a rock. He makes the big saves and sweeps up all the little stuff, all while providing good information to the sentinels in defense. But … what a bad moment he had in Utah, completely misjudging a ball that turned into an RSL goal – the kind of mistake we see from young goalkeepers  (like Andrew Weber in Seattle over the weekend) but so rarely from a vet like Nielsen. Here ‘tis.:

Real Salt Lake’s streak ends: All things considered, Real Salt Lake is in a great place, still well positioned and doing wonderfully in a bit of a rebuilding campaign. Still, this one smarts. Jason Kreis’ team was a goal up at home when Chris Wingert drew a second yellow card. A man down, RSL quickly conceded the equalizer and then, near the end, the telling goal to Sporting KC. And just like that, RSL’s 11-game unbeaten streak went “poof!”

The week’s ref-related controversy: It’s too bad all of Real Salt Lake’s best players could not be available for Saturday’s meeting, a matchup between two of the league’s best.

What’s really too bad is that U.S. Soccer’s referee assigning attachment didn’t understand that this match had the potential to be quite physical and tightly contested – which it most certainly was. Referee Matthew Foerster was working his 15th MLS match, and that relative lack of experience could be seen.

Long story short, things got a little out of control, RSL saw a man ejected and things(as noted a couple of paragraphs up) came apart from there for the home team.

Best goal: When we talk about “best goals,” the money moment usually arrive in the finish. Sometimes, though, it’s about the skillful set-up. Watch young Galaxy striker Gyasi Zardes leave a Vancouver Whitecaps defender for dead (falling down, and then attempting some desperate, lunging gambit to get in Zardes’ way just before the far-post finish.) It’s his third MLS goal … and this is why some folks are fairly excited about the Galaxy Academy product: Well done, young man.

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Smash … grab … run!: As the final whistle approached, New England would surely have been OK with a 0-0 draw, not having created much in the way of quality chances at Columbus. But center back Jose Goncalves found goal in the 90th minute, and exciting young attacker Diego Fagundez scored his sixth this year as the Revolution sneaked out of Crew  Stadium with a 2-0 victory thanks to a couple of very late hits.

D.C. United records watch: The lastest butt-whuppin’ in this sad march to infamy (4-1 Saturday to Chicago) leaves the league’s biggest 2013 disappointment with a 2-14-4 record. S the team some picked to rule the Eastern Conference in 2013 remains on pace for second fewest points per game ever in MLS (the 1999 MetroStars hold the mark at 0.47) and for fewest goals over an entire season. Ben Olsen’s team has nine so far through 20 matches; the MLS record is 21, set by United during a 30-game season in 2010.

Week’s top save: Apologies to Donovan Ricketts for failing to hand over yet another top save to the Portland Timbers’ super sprawler, but watch this highly agile stop from New York’s Luis Robles, who had to react with ultimate speed to turn away Richard Eckersley’s deflected effort:

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Hernandez, Araujo score in 1st half, Mexico beats Costa Rica

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Javier Hernandez and Nestor Araujo scored in the first half, and Mexico overcame the absence of half a dozen players to beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

Hernandez scored on a cross from Carlos Vela to open the score in the seventh and Araujo added a goal on a header in the 45th.

[ USMNT: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

Hernandez scored his 46th goal with the Mexican team and tied Jared Borgetti as the all-time leading scorer.

With the win, Mexico remains undefeated and has seven points after three rounds to take sole command in the six-nation tournament. Costa Rica stays on six points and is second and Panama is third with four.

The top three teams qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Mexico beat Costa Rica for the first time since September 11, 2012, when they prevailed 1-0.

Running Away With It

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Christian Pulisic scored and played a part in three other goals as the United States rained goals down on Honduras in a 6-0 win at Avaya Stadium in San Jose early Saturday morning.

Clint Dempsey scored two goals, and Michael Bradley and Sebastian Lletget also scored as the U.S. moved into fourth place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Their next match is Tuesday in Panama.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Three things ]

The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes got off to a flying start.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal. Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

The Yanks didn’t stop, and Lletget drew a yellow card when he beat Ever Alvarado down the right flank and forced a take down from the Honduran defender.

Alberth Elis slipped John Brooks’ mark, and the Houston Dynamo man turned to fire on goal. Tim Howard was well positioned to scoop it up.

Lletget turned out to be injured by the Alvarado foul, and Bruce Arena turned to Alejandro Bedoya in the 17th minute.

Geoff Cameron was given a yellow card in the 25th minute for a foul on Roger Espinoza. That gave a free kick to Honduras from 30 yards out, and Romell Quioto fired right at Tim Howard.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

Honduras then took a bigger hit: the loss of star attacker Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo) to an apparent shoulder injury.

Brooks bailed out an out-of-position Gonzalez just before halftime to keep the lead 3-0.

The Yanks needed 15 seconds to make it 4-0, with Dempsey winning a 50-50 tussle and finding Altidore for a flick to Pulisic. He netted his fourth USMNT goal. He’s 18.

Pulisic then won a free kick 25 yards out from goal by embellishing a foul, and Dempsey’s free kick tricked Escober. 6-0. For real.

A scary moment late as a dazed and wobbly John Brooks was forced off despite no apparent injury. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks (Ream, 70′), Cameron (Zusi, 58′); Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′, 49′, 54′), Pulisic (46′)

 

Player ratings from USMNT’s pounding of Honduras

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Battered. Throttled. Eviscerated.

Pick your verb of dominance, the United States likely fit it well in a 6-0 destruction of Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

[ MORE: Recap + video | Three things ]

The win boosts the U.S. in World Cup qualifying after their 0-2 start, but how did the individuals fare? Obviously well.

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 7 — The team just feels in a safer place with the veteran back there. If the U.S. goes to the 2018 World Cup, Howard remains their No. 1 (and there probably never should have been a question. Sorry Brad).

Jorge Villafana — 7 — Tidy passing and a low-risk game from the Santos Laguna man.

John Brooks (Off 70′) — 7 — An early error before recovering to be his usual free-clearing, athletic self. Scary injury took him out late, as he looked dazed. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

Omar Gonzalez — 5  — He wasn’t bad, but Gonzalez is still a positional question mark. Bailed out a couple times by Brooks.

Geoff Cameron (Off 59′) — 6 — Out of position and a bit hobbled, he wasn’t at his best.

Michael Bradley — 7 — One of his better USMNT games in a long time.

Sebastian Lletget (Off 17′) — 8 — Scored, then got hurt on a roasting run down the right.

Darlington Nagbe — 6 — One or two electric moments in the first half, but overall a quiet enough night for the Timbers man.

Christian Pulisic — 9 — Hard to not to hand the kid a 10. He’s quite frankly the most exciting American talent in the history of the program.

Clint Dempsey — 10 — Along with Howard, the sort of player you knew would make sure this game ended with three points. The fact that he nabbed three goals, too, is just a bonus.

Jozy Altidore — 7  — Pretty darn good night holding up the ball, and passed as well as ever, but did he drop a bit too deep too often? The answer is probably, “Who cares? They won 6-0, dude.”

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 18′)  — 6 — Typical high energy, space eating job in the middle of the park from the Union man.

Graham Zusi (On 58′)  — 6 — Good late clearance preserved the shutout.

Tim Ream (On 70′)  — 6 — Interesting to note that Arena went to him over Walker Zimmerman or Matt Besler.

Three things to take away from USMNT 6-0 Honduras

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The United States men’s national team pulled a Leicester City.

[ MORE: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

That’s a joke with truth wrapped around it, because the Yanks have had plenty of time and even a pair of friendlies to respond from the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann.

But in their first serious match without their old coach, the U.S. looked a team renewed and unleashed. Now the Americans may find themselves back in an automatic World Cup qualifying spot with a win on Tuesday in Panama.

Things change.

Vindicated

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and all of the USMNT players waited months and months to get the chance to answer their critics following a pair of embarrassing losses to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Sure, having Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron, and Tim Howard back helped a whole lot, and the seasoning Christian Pulisic is getting at Borussia Dortmund is unquestionably good for an 18-year-old.

But there’s little doubt Michael Bradley and Co. were fired up to silence their critics. Whether they admit it or not, this is a bunch that was stung by those who said they failed their old coach.

Most expected the U.S. to get a point or better against Honduras, but to do it the way they did is an unexpected bonus. A win in Panama on Tuesday would boost them into the Top Three.

And don’t worry, the old boss was pleased for his former charges.


The future is now…

I Tweeted the following after a late second half pass from Pulisic, and there was little disagreement.

Pulisic won’t be credited with an assist for his shot which rebounded to Sebastian Lletget for the opener, but he will walk away with his fourth international goal and two proper assists.

One was an absurd scoop to Clint Dempsey’s chest, and the other was a long avenue that shouldn’t have existed. Still, Pulisic found that street and provided an absolutely dynamic force all over the park.

There have been U.S. teens at big European clubs, and U.S. teens who’ve made impacts on the national team, but never both at the same time and never both at this level. Pulisic is for real, and finding his ceiling is an adventure we’re all undertaking with great enjoyment.


…But the legends sure helped

Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will go down as two of the most important players in United States men’s national team history.

Actually, they may be duking it out for Nos. 1 and 2 when it’s all said and done.

Dempsey’s hat trick was his career in a nutshell. The first saw him body off a defender while collecting a Pulisic pass off his chest, then lashing a shot with power despite said defender dragging him down.

The second was a burst of speed to run onto Pulisic’s through ball and classic calm in the face of an onrushing keeper, holding onto the ball before sliding it home from an acute angle.

The third was this free kick. A bit aided by goalkeeper Donis Escober, but such is life.

And don’t sleep on Howard’s early performance as Honduras tried to find some sort of foothold in the match. Always well-positioned, the team just feels safer with the Colorado Rapids man between the sticks.