Monday Postgame: Late heroics avoid apocalyptic endings
There were four games decided in the final stages, two 1-0 squeakers and a raging, if not apocalyptic, storm that caused a lengthy delay at one venue (for the second time in recent weeks).
And whatever the week lacked in goals, quantity-wise, it made up for in quality, with more than half a dozen beautifully taken strikes.
We also saw the first edition of the 2011 SuperClásico, along with a handful of streaks ended and extended.
So let’s celebrate our new lease on life with a look back.
If Sporting Kansas City players were tapping their adidas heels together and repeating “There’s no place like home” right about now, we wouldn’t hold it against them.
Peter Vermes’ men are eight games into a 10-game, season-opening road trip and it’s been a rough ride. They won their opener on March 19, but have since gone winless in seven, including five straight losses.
None of those defeats was more painful than Saturday night’s loss at Seattle sounders FC, where Kansas City (1W-6L-1D) played well enough for at least a share of the points - but lost 1-0 on a 93rd-minute header from former Whitecaps FC defender Jeff Parke.
As Vermes told the Kansas City Star, “We were organized and disciplined, but we only did it for 92 minutes and 45 seconds.”
In that 15-second window, Parke snuck into the mixer on a Tyson Wahl corner and headed home the game’s only goal.
That sent the 36,098 fans at Qwest Field home happy, if soaking wet - and got KC fans pining even more for their new stadium, LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, scheduled to open on Thursday, June 9.
Fire in a Hole
The Chicago Fire’s season has unfolded much like Kansas City’s, minus the monster road trip. Chicago (1W-4L-5D) won their second game of the year, on March 26, and haven’t won an MLS match since.
They nearly changed that in a wide-open second half against Philadelphia Union on Saturday. The teams traded goals just after the hour mark, but Chicago ultimately fell on a late golazo from Carlos Ruiz.
The 31-year-old Guatemalan striker corralled his own deflected free kick and hit a looping volley from 40 yards. The shot dipped over Fire 'keeper Jeff Conway and in off the crossbar. It was the first time all season the Union had scored more than one goal in a game, and the win put them back in first place in the MLS Eastern Conference.
New York Minute
The team trailing Philadelphia in the East, New York Red Bulls, produced some last-minute heroics of their own en route to a 2-2 draw with Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
They also produced some first-minute heroics, jumping out to a 1-0 lead just 39 seconds into the game at Robertson Stadium. Dane Richards drilled a layoff from Luke Rodgers from 25 yards to set the record for the fastest goal in the history of the New York franchise.
But it didn’t stand up for long, as Will Bruin drew a penalty in the 11th minute and Brad Davis converted to pull Houston even. That’s how it remained until the 82nd minute, when the Dynamo’s new Spanish striker, Sergio Koke, bagged an apparent match-winner, slamming a rebound past New York 'keeper Greg Sutton.
But Red Bulls substitute Mehdi Ballouchy had the last word, heading in Joel Lindpere’s corner kick at the near post in stoppage time to give New York, who were playing without Thierry Henry (knee), a hard-earned point.
San Jose Earthquakes and New England Revolution also generated some 11th-hour dramatics in their meeting on Saturday night. The Quakes' 20-year-old winger Ellis McLoughlin opened his MLS account in the 71st minute with a powerful header off a cross from Chris Wondolowski.
That broke a scoreless deadlock, and Bobby Convey added an insurance goal with a spectacular curling free kick in the 83rd.
The Revs’ Chris Tierney gave his team a lifeline with a free-kick goal of his own in the 86th, but New England could not find an equalizer, and San Jose hung on to win 2-1.
The Quakes have won two in a row and are unbeaten in three straight.
In Southern California, LA Galaxy edged their Home Depot Center co-tenants Chivas USA 1-0 in the 21st edition of the SuperClásico on Saturday.
The win - courtesy of Chad Barrett’s glancing header off David Beckham’s laser of a free kick in the 26th minute - extended LA’s SuperClásico unbeaten streak to nine games. The Galaxy are 6W-0L-3D versus Chivas in that time. The Goats haven’t beaten their city rivals in MLS play since 2007.
Portland Timbers also extended an unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory this week. Rangy defender Eric Brunner did the honours, heading in a cross from Khalif Alhassan to defeat Brunner’s former team, Columbus Crew.
Jack Jewsbury started the play with a quick re-start to Alhassan on the wing. It was the Timbers’ ninth goal off a set piece this season (out of 13 total), and it extended Portland’s home record to 5W-0L-0D.
Déjà vu in Dallas
Real Salt Lake broke out their “Victory Gold” alternate kits for their trip to Pizza Hut Park on Sunday night, hoping the yellow jerseys might inspire a win - or any kind of positive result - at the venue where RSL were 0W-8L-0D all-time against FC Dallas.
Mission accomplished, as RSL earned their first road point against the Hoops, scraping out a 0-0 draw after a rain delay of nearly two hours.
It was the second such delay this month at PHP, and like the one against LA on May 1, it started in the 83rd minute. (Cue Twilight Zone theme). Unlike that game, though, Dallas did not bag a winner after the long break. Neither side did, and the 0-0 scoreline was a fair reflection of the absence of both teams’ offensive catalysts, Javier Morales and David Ferreira.
Sunday’s Colorado Rapids-Toronto FC tilt finished up scoreless as well and, truthfully, a rain delay would have been the most exciting thing about it. TFC mustered just three shots on goal and no corner kicks, while yielding 64 percent of possession to their hosts.
But the rebuilding Reds will certainly take a point on the road against the defending champs, and then look for a title of their own in Wednesday’s second leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship against Vancouver Whitecaps FC.