MLS weekend roundup: FC Dallas keeps streak strong, Crew blank Dynamo

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Here’s a quick recap of MLS action this weekend, starting on Friday.

FC Dallas 2-1 Real Salt Lake: FC Dallas kept their wonderful run of form alive against Real Salt Lake on Friday night, extending their unbeaten streak to 10 games with a 2-1 victory at Toyota Stadium. Je-Vaughn Watson scored the opening goal for FC Dallas off of a corner kick following the ejection of Blas Perez on a second yellow card. In the 74th minute, the red-hot Fabian Castillo made a straight run into the box and picked the lower corner of the net to put the Toros up by two scores. In stoppage time, Olmes Garcia’s bicycle kick brought the Real closer, but it was not enough to preserve a point.

New York Red Bulls 4-2 Montreal Impact: Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry bolstered the Red Bulls attack, each nothing a brace to retain their spot in the East’s fifth-place playoff spot. Dilly Duka took it upon himself to find a hole in the New York’s defense, providing the Impact with a 1-0 lead in the 37th minute. But from that point on, it was Henry and Wright Phillips show, with the Frenchman buried an excellent diving header in the 53rd minute and a deft touch 16 minutes later. Wright-Phillips scored his 19th and 20th goals of the season in the 74th and 90th minute, Henry assisting on the first occasion.

Toronto FC 2-2 Chicago Fire: It was a tight game all the way through, and in the end, the final score reflected that even level of play. Bakary Soumare unfortunate deflection lopped over goalkeeper Sean Johnson to give Toronto FC an third-minute lead. In the 70th minute, Robert Earnshaw leveled the teams on his headed effort from Grant Ward’s cross. Toronto promptly responded nine minutes later, with Gilberto finding his way past the Fire’s back line and calmly sliding home his try. When you thought the Reds would take three points, Quincy Amarikwa smashed a volley to bring both teams back to equal footing.

Columbus Crew 3-0 Houston Dynamo: Will Bruin had a perfect chance to draw first blood in the 19th minute, unable to see through a open breakaway, and then, Columbus seized control of the game. Justin Meram weaved into the penalty box, and lifted a close-range attempt over Tally Hall. Meram followed up his score a well-placed ball for Adam Bedell, leading him to thump a header for another goal. Aaron Schoenfeld added another goal on a powerful header across the face of goal. Houston continues to falter, while Columbus stands in the thick of the playoff race, certainly making headway from last season.

New England Revolution 1-0 Chivas USA: The New England Revolution haven’t enjoyed the best form after their win streak collapsed a couple of months ago. They’ve been making their way back into serious playoff contention, though, and with a 1-0 win over Chivas USA, have gained a much-needed three points. Lee Nguyen, who has been the Revolution’s most consistent attacker and creator in the midfield this season, scored the goal to ultimately ice the match’s result for New England. Out on the wing, Kelyn Rowe muscled his pass to Nguyen right outside the penalty area, and the former PSV Eindhoven man fired a bullet past Dan Kennedy.

Sporting Kansas City 0-3 D.C. United: In about eight minutes, D.C. United scored three goals, and Sporting Kansas City, struggling at home, was shocked. Luis Silva was on the assisting end for the first two goals: Fabian Espindola’s long, rolling shot in the 24th minute and Chris Rolfe’s left-footer in the 28th minute. Perry Kitchen snagged the final goal three minutes later, staying onside and waiting for the precise moment to shoot near the top of the box. D.C. United has appreciated a top-class season, contending for the Supporters Shield as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Reigning champion Sporting KC sits one point behind United in the standings.

LA Galaxy 2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps: Enjoying a six-game unbeaten streak, albeit due to several draws, the Vancouver Whitecaps looked to make some noise at the StubHub Center against the LA Galaxy, who ended up blanking the Caps to gather a two-game victorious streak. U.S. soccer legend Landon Donovan slid forward to smack what appeared to be a low cross from Robbie Keane at the far post. Before halftime rolled around, Marcelo Savras had the luck of Robbie Keane’s aim on goal roll right to his feet at the near post, easily able to nail the second goal of the contest.

Portland Timbers 2-4 Seattle Sounders: Clint Dempsey scored his fifth goals vs. the Timbers this season, but when the whistle blew at the end of the game, Obafemi Martins was the real hero, as he totaled a brace in addition to Dempsey and Chad Barrett’s strikes. Fanendo Adi also registered a brace. With the win, Seattle is back to being in the Western Conference lead and at the head of the running for the Supporters’ Shield. The Timbers, on the other hand, are dealing with a close competition between the Vancouver Whitecaps and Colorado Rapid for the 5th place playoff spot in the West.

Philadelphia Union 4-2 San Jose Earthquakes:  Andrew Wenger and Sebastien Le Toux each put away a goal early in the contest, in the 10th and 14th minute respectively, with Le Toux supplying the former Montreal Impact man on the assist. However, it was a matter of sustaining their lead, while the Earthquakes fought back into match. Sam Cronin and USMNT forward Chris Wondolowski converted two consecutive goals, and the scoreboard was even in the 70th minute. Le Toux, who brandished an absolutely wonderful performance, assisted both Sheanon Williams and Wenger to provide the Union with a comfortable lead. San Jose’s losing sight of the postseason in the Western Conference, whilst the Union make their case for a playoff ranking, one point behind the Red Bulls in fifth place.

Liverpool releases statement after Sevilla stadium supporter outcry

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Liverpool has proffered a strong and cautionary statement regarding its supporters’ treatment at Sevilla on Tuesday.

Claims of police punching a woman in the back and throwing her “political” flag at her, a Liverbird with the word “Defiance” on it, are just the tip of the iceberg.

[ REPORT: Palace to get new digs ]

Fans claim that many were either delayed or denied in entry to the stadium, with “police in riot gear not letting you get to your seat” in some cases.

The Reds have released a statement, from LiverpoolFC.com:

Following detailed and troubling accounts given by Liverpool supporters attending the match against Sevilla last night, the club is seeking to establish the facts regarding their treatment at the hands of the host stewards and local police force.
The safety and security of our supporters is our paramount concern and we intend to gather all the relevant information before responding further.

Supporter treatment away from home is deservedly a hot button issue, and especially at Liverpool given the horrible Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 and wounded almost 800 more in 1989.

As for the match, the Reds squandered a 3-0 lead at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, drawing 3-3.

Sounders in firm control after Leg 1

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Seattle Sounders took full control of the Western Conference finals with a resounding 2-0 win over ten-man Houston. The Sounders already had hit first in the 11th minute through Gustav Svensson but the red card to Jalil Anibaba changed the game. Houston had some chances later but fatigue meant the focus and control was off. Former Dynamo striker Will Bruin’s goal may have put the tie to bed.

Three moments that mattered

11′ — Gustav Svensson Goal — The Sounders wanted to set the tone early and they picked up an early goal off a corner kick, as Svensson redirected a header past Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis. The goal changed the complexion of the game to that point, until our next big moment.

28′ — Jalil Anibaba red card — Joevin Jones was a menace to deal with tonight and after getting past Anibaba, the latter pulled Jones down and as it appeared to be denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, Anibaba was given his marching orders. Suddenly, Houston, down a goal and down a man, had a lot more to do to stay in the tie. Nicolas Lodeiro missed the subsequent penalty kick but Will Bruin picked Lodeiro up later.

42′ — Will Bruin goal — The former Dynamo man scored a massive goal against his former club on a great cross from Jones on the left wing. While the tie isn’t over, the Sounders are in firm control and look set to repeat as Western Conference playoffs champions.

Man of the Match: Joevin Jones

Three things: Sounders cruise after (and before) early red

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The Seattle Sounders all but booked a return appearance in the 2017 MLS Cup final on Tuesday, doing so by beating the Houston Dynamo 2-0 in the first (away) leg of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday. The game wasn’t as close at the final score might appear to indicate.

[ RECAP: Sounders take 2-0 lead over Dynamo ]

We learned the following three things over the course of the 90 minutes…


The red card hurt Houston

No way, you’re kidding, right? Clearly a 28th-minute red card (shown to Jalil Anibaba for the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity) is going to have a massive impact on the outcome of a game. But, it really crippled Houston, given the way they play — having a numerical advantage in the center of midfield is so important to Wilmer Cabrera’s side, in the name of frantically winning the ball back after conceding half or even two-thirds of the field.

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When you have to haul off one of three central midfielders, in hopes of still being about to force-create chances on the rare occasion you recover the ball and move it forward, three things are bound to happen: 1) legs are going to get very heavy, very quickly; 2) the clock appears to be counting up in double-speed; 3) you begin to concede two-thirds and three-quarters of the field instead — every move Seattle worked during the second half came after a waltz in the final third before finally meeting resistance.

At right, you can see every Sounders pass originating in Houston’s half of the field — remember, Seattle are the away team here. Playoff games rarely, if ever, come much easier than that.


Addition by subtraction… again?

This one isn’t so much a lesson from Tuesday’s game, as much as it’s a trend played out over the course of an entire season: much like they wound up being in 2016 following Clint Dempsey‘s heart condition robbing him of the final four months of the season, the Sounders are once again, dare I say it, better without another indomitable figure: Osvaldo Alonso.

Here’s the numbers to back it up: without Alsono in the starting lineup this year, Seattle went 6W-2D-2L. In those 10 regular-season games, they scored 20 goals (2.0 per game, versus 1.3 with him in the lineup) and conceded 12 (1.1 per game, same when he played).

The central midfield pairing of Cristian Roldan (7) and Gustav Svensson (4) has proven a formidable foe for anyone and everyone during the second half of the season. On Tuesday — granted, against 10 men for more than an hour — they could do no wrong. (Passes attempted on the right; defensive actions on the left — green triangles are tackles won, orange are recoveries, blue are interceptions, purple are clearances, red are tackles lost.)

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Alonso has been an unbelievable servant for nine MLS seasons, he’s an MLS Cup champions, a four-time U.S. Open Cup winner, a Supporters’ Shield winner and one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS history. He’s also 32 years old with a growing history of lower-body injuries that seem to never fully heal, and he’s now clearly third in the pecking order behind Roldan and Svensson. It’s clearly an oversimplification to say that soccer is a young, mobile man’s game these days, but it’s certainly true of MLS, and the results are in near total agreement.


May I have some hope, please?

Here’s a not-so-fun fact if you’re a Dynamo fan: your team won one — singular — game on the road in 17 tries this season. Not a dark enough outlook? OK, have this: that lone away win came against D.C. United, who finished 21st out of 22 teams if you put MLS into a single table.

Maybe Seattle weren’t so good at home this year… I’m really just searching for anything at this point, you’re thinking. OK, it’s possible, I suppose. They lost once at home all season, to Toronto FC, the best regular-season team in MLS history, by the final score of 1-0, in the month of May.

We’ll see you in Toronto or Columbus for MLS Cup, Seattle Sounders.

Toronto FC holds Columbus on the road

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The game in 100 words (or less): Without two of its stars, Toronto FC set out to play compact and hold on for a draw on the road, and that’s exactly what they did. Michael Bradley recorded 17 recoveries and a trio of interceptions as TFC broke up play and covered the passing lanes, frustrating the Columbus Crew all night. The best chance fell to Harrison Afful late, but TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono made a crucial save to keep it at 0-0.

Three moments that mattered

0′ — The starting lineup — In a game with chances few and far between, the tactical set-up by Greg Vanney – in which his side without Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore came out in a 4-1-4-1 formation – proved to be the difference in the game, frustrating the Crew all night.

52′ — Pedro Santos penalty kick no-call — Justin Meram plays a neat pass through the TFC backline that Santos runs on to, and he appears to be taken down in the box by Bono. Referee Robert Sbiga doesn’t blow the whistle and lets play continue, where Ola Kamara takes a shot that’s deflected away. Santos appeals for video review, and receives a yellow card for his efforts.

85′ — Big Save Bono — Gregg Berhalter’s 77th minute substitution to bring on Kekutah Manneh helped to push Afful higher up the field, which led to this late-game chance. Bono, who hadn’t had a whole lot to do, came up with a massive stop to keep the tie level.

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Man of the Match: Alex Bono, Toronto FC