Monday Postgame: A week for making history
From landmark wins to personal feuds, Week Five was all about history, big and small.
Montreal Impact landed their first victory as an MLS franchise, a pair of teams extended historically fast starts, and a visiting player with a history in D.C. came within inches of making a memorable homecoming.
We also witnessed both the creation and the end of a record streak, and a return to old ways by Toronto FC.
Let’s give it a quick study.
HIGHLIGHTS: Montreal scores historic win
They’ve been cultural rivals since the 19th century, fierce hockey foes since 1917, and intermittent soccer adversaries since 1971. This past Saturday afternoon, in front of 23,120 fans at Olympic Stadium, Montreal and Toronto squared off for the first time in MLS.
When the final whistle blew, the Impact had made history, while Toronto had failed to escape it.
Montreal got goals from Sinisa Ubiparipovic and No. 1 MLS SuperDraft pick Andrew Wenger, then held on to edge Toronto 2-1 for their first victory as an MLS franchise (they also stayed unbeaten in two games at home).
The Reds, on the other hand, slumped to their fourth defeat, and are the only team in the league without a point this season. The loss to Montreal came three days after Toronto surrendered leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on the way to a 6-2 semifinal defeat to Mexican side Santos Laguna en route to their elimination from the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL).
The Reds, who have never made the MLS Cup Playoffs in five seasons in MLS, began the year looking like they might reverse that trend, upsetting the defending MLS champs LA Galaxy in the CCL quarterfinals.
But now—four league defeats and a lopsided CCL loss later—that early-season promise has faded, and Toronto sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table.
Roaring Out of the Gate
At the top of that table, red-hot Sporting Kansas City hosted LA Galaxy, with the defending champions hoping to avoid a 1W-3L-0D start, while sending a message to the rising contenders from the Eastern Conference.
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC topples the Galaxy
They did neither, ceding 68 per cent of possession to their hosts in the first half, and failing, in the words of midfielder Mike Magee, to string five passes together all game.
Kansas City scored just before halftime when Bobby Convey floated a cross to the far post and Kei Kamara powered it home with a diving header. Peter Vermes’ men, who have four shutouts in five games this year, made the goal stand up for a 1-0 win that improved their record to 5W-0L-0D—the best start by any team in MLS since the Galaxy themselves in 1998.
Their counterparts atop the Western Conference standings, Real Salt Lake, are off to a similarly fast start. The Claret and Cobalt improved to 5W-1L-0D with a 1-0 win over Montreal last Wednesday and a 2-0 win over Colorado Rapids on Saturday that kicked off the eighth edition of the Rocky Mountain Cup.
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL cruise past Colorado
RSL tied the best start in franchise history with the pair of home shutouts.
Hard on RSL’s heels in the West are the resurgent San Jose Earthquakes, who, at 4W-1L-0D, have made their best start since 2003.
The Quakes’ latest triumph, a 3-1 comeback win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC, also involved a footnote in league history as San Jose ended Vancouver’s record run of minutes to start the season without conceding a goal. Vancouver launched 2012 with 427 minutes, or nearly five games, of clean-sheet soccer, eclipsing the record of 421 set by New York Red Bulls in 2007.
Substitute Alan Gordon hit the winner with a diving header in the 72nd minute, and Wondo added a second in the 78th minute, redirecting Tressor Moreno’s free kick past Cannon.
Bulls on Parade
HIGHLIGHTS: Henry, Cooper stay hot for NY
Wondolowski’s 78th-minute strike was his sixth goal of the year—one behind scorching-hot league leader Thierry Henry, whose seven goals have all come in his past three games.
Henry and strike partner Kenny Cooper have combined for 12 goals to lead New York on a three-game winning streak.
They each had two on Saturday afternoon in Columbus, where the injury-depleted Red Bulls produced one of the best opening halves in their six-year history to storm to a 3-0 lead 0ver the Crew at the break.
Henry’s second of the day came in the 90th minute to complete New York’s 4-1 rout.
The league’s top three scorers will meet next Saturday at Red Bull Arena when Wondolowski and San Jose visit Henry, Cooper and New York.
Off Their Heads
Of the week’s three remaining matches, headers decided two of them in the waning moments, and nearly settled a third.
On Thursday, the new-look New England Revolution were moments away from claiming a hard-earned point on the road against FC Dallas—only to see Ugo Ihemelu rise above Shalrie Joseph and nod in Zach Loyd’s free kick in the 95th minute to deliver a 1-0 win to FCD.
GOAL: Ihemelu wins it in stoppage time
Second-year Portland Timbers suffered a similar collapse, surrendering a 1-0 lead at home to Chivas USA and losing 2-1 on Nick LaBrocca’s 82nd-minute header.
GOAL: LaBrocca's late winner
Before Portland’s Cascadia rivals Seattle took on D.C. United, Sounders FC left fullback Marc Burch, who played in D.C. for the previous five years, stoked the flames, telling the Seattle Times, “They had the opportunity to keep me and they didn’t. It’s time to go back and prove that I don’t believe that their left back is better than I am.”
That left back is Daniel Woolard, who—speaking of history—knocked Seattle’s Mauro Rosales out of action before last year’s playoffs with a rough challenge late in a 3-0 game.
With the score tied 0-0 in stoppage time of this one, Burch entered the game to a chorus of boos—and promptly came within inches of silencing them. He crashed the net after a long-range shot from teammate Osvaldo Alonso and headed the ball back on frame, only to see it hit the upright and get cleared away by D.C.