MLS Monday Postgame: Late drama and miscues from the spot
This week had enough heartbreak and history to fill a Merle Haggard song. Then again, the tempo was more Ronnie James Dio: Goals came in sudden deluges, and seven of the week’s 10 matches featured late winners or equalizers - including three gut-punch, stoppage-time strikes.
As for history, a franchise-record shutout streak came to an end, two teams set marks for futility and one hit the century mark in games played.
There was also an injury for the league’s leading scorer, some goalkeeping highs and lows, and - in keeping with a global trend - a couple of botched penalty kicks by a pair of famous internationals.
Let’s roll it back.
Deeper into the Red
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 3, TOR 2
Any Toronto FC fans wondering what T.S. Eliot meant when he called April the cruellest month have their answer now. The Reds stumbled into the fourth month of the year with a 6-2 rout at Mexico's Club Santos Laguna that dashed their once-bright CONCACAF Champions League hopes.
On Saturday night, they dropped the curtain on April in a painfully memorable fashion, surrendering a 93rd-minute goal to Real Salt Lake and suffering a 3-2 loss that tied them with the 1999 Kansas City side for the worst start in MLS history (0W-7L-0D).
The Reds had battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits on goals by Eric Avila and 19-year-old Doneil Henry, and were just moments from nailing down their first point of the season when Kyle Beckerman teed up substitute midfielder Jonny Steele, who deposited the ball inside the left post from the top of the box.
(The win kept RSL unbeaten in a two-game road trip this week, which they kicked off with a 1-1 draw at FC Dallas on Wednesday)
When Steele’s goal went in, no fewer than five Toronto FC players collapsed in dejection inside the penalty area: Yeah, The Reds are not sorry to see April go.
Philadelphia Union could feel TFC’s pain, as they, too, were undone in the 93rd minute by a second-half sub. Make that a pair of subs, with San Jose coach Frank Yallop bringing on midfielder Marvin Chávez and striker Steven Lenhart at the hour mark of a 0-0 game at PPL Park.
Fifteen minutes later, the duo combined for a goal that ended Philadelphia’s club-record shutout streak at 407 minutes. The Union’s Gabriel Gómez tied it back up with seven minutes to play, but three minutes into stoppage time, Chávez shook off two defenders on the right and floated a cross for Lenhart, who nodded it down for the last-gasp winner.
WATCH: Lenhart scores late winner
There was more of the same in Columbus, where the Crew came absolutely roaring out of the gate only to lose to Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the waning moments. Eddie Gaven and Josh Williams both had goals called back in the first five minutes, and Williams clanged a bicycle kick off the crossbar in minute 16.
WATCH: Lee's curling free kick fools Gruenebaum
But Vancouver gradually settled things down and 16 minutes from time, defender Young-Pyo Lee lofted a free kick that flummoxed Andy Gruenebaum, floating the ball over the Crew goalkeeper's head and into the net past the far post. Whitecaps FC made it stand up for a 1-0 win - their sixth shutout in eight games this year.
D.C. United’s battle with Houston Dynamo at RFK Stadium also featured late heartbreak, and a dash of history. The teams traded four goals in a 20-minute burst that saw Houston battle back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, only to see United’s Maicon Santos win it with a 70th-minute header.
WATCH: Henry lobs Reis, splits corner flag
The 3-2 victory ran D.C.’s unbeaten streak to seven games, and, incredibly, it also produced United’s first back-to-back wins since June 2009.
HIGHLIGHTS: DC 3, HOU 2
Two hundred miles up 1-95, the Red Bulls witnessed plenty of late drama, as rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara made three saves down the stretch to secure the first shutout of his career - and the first for New York this season - in a 1-0 decision over Eastern Conference rivals New England Revolution.
The win was bittersweet, though, as Golden Boot leader Thierry Henry, who scored the game’s only goal with a terrific lob in the seventh minute, left the game in the 23rd with a pulled hamstring. Preliminary word has Henry missing three to four weeks.
Across the continent in Colorado, the Rapids appeared headed for a similarly tight 1-0 win against Chivas USA as the second half unfolded on Saturday. Rookie winger Tony Cascio had rifled a shot past Dan Kennedy in the 50th minute and, after withstanding a brief Chivas USA onslaught, Colorado looked likely to see out a narrow win behind Matt Pickens’ solid goalkeeping.
That changed in the 82nd minute when Omar Cummings set up substitute Kamani Hill to make it 2-0 - and open the floodgates. The Rapids bagged two more before the final whistle to complete a 4-0 rout.
At The Home Depot Center, the LA Galaxy got a 93rd-minute strike from Pat Noonan to salvage a dramatic 1-1 tie with FC Dallas.
The hosts squandered golden opportunities in the 11th minute, when Landon Donovan hit the post after rounding Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz, and in the 49th, when Robbie Keane missed a penalty kick.
Keane’s errant strike was global soccer’s sixth marquee miss from the spot this week, as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká, Sergio Ramos and Lionel Messi all botched penalties in Europe, and Torsten Frings hit the post in Toronto FC’s heartbreaker at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The weekend’s matches kicked off on Saturday afternoon at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, where the Impact blanked Portland 2-0 on late goals by Bernardo Corradi (from the spot) and Sinisa Ubiparipovic (after Portland’s backup 'keeper Joe Bendik waved at Davy Arnaud’s cross).
WATCH: Pappa scores rare olimpico
Talk about late heartbreak: The last-place Timbers (2W-5L-1D) have now conceded seven goals in the last 15 minutes of games this year.
Portland’s arch-rivals Seattle Sounders FC travelled to Chicago and clipped the Fire 2-1 in a hard-fought game at Toyota Park.
The game-winner came on a misplay by Fire keeper Sean Johnson that allowed Eddie Johnson to poke home his first goal in a Seattle shirt, and the result got the Sounders off to the best start in their history (4W-1L-1D).
It also marked Seattle’s 100th game as an MLS franchise - and kept Chicago winless all-time (0W-4L-3D) against Sounders FC.