Monday Postgame: History lessons from Houston and Montreal
Major League Soccer may not have as much history as some other leagues, but it definitely leads the world in opportunities to make history.
Every new season brings fresh chances for the fledgling league to map more terrain, break new ground, and establish milestones.
This week did all of the above. There was a landmark stadium debut in Houston and a record crowd in Montreal. There were MLS-account–opening goals from no fewer than five players. There were multiple streaks ended and extended.
There were also changes at the top of each conference, several great goals, and some game-changing bookings.
Let’s roll it back.
After 15 months of construction, and nearly six years of anticipation, Houston Dynamo finally opened their brand new, orange-bedecked home on Saturday afternoon.
WATCH: Houston players react to win
BBVA Compass Stadium is the league’s 12th soccer-specific stadium (the 13th will arrive on June 16, when the renovated Stade Saputo hosts its first Montreal Impact game), and its sold-out debut could hardly have gone better for the home team.
The weather was terrific, the energy radiating from the orange-clad crowd of 22,304 never flagged, and Brad Davis - one of two original Dynamo players on the current Houston roster - hit the winning goal, a dramatic long-range curler that deflected off D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s palm and into the upper corner in the 67th minute.
Houston made Davis’ strike stand up for a 1-0 win that ended a five-game winless streak for the Dynamo (3W-3L-2D).
Becks Brings them Out
While Houston and D.C. made history in Texas, Montreal Impact and the LA Galaxy set an attendance record in Canada, drawing 60,860 fans - the largest crowd ever for a professional soccer game north of the border - to their match at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.
WATCH: Beckham’s free kick beauty
Impact captain Davy Arnaud gave the home side a lead just eight minutes in, but before local hopes rose too high, David Beckham tied the game with one of his trademark free kicks, bending the ball into the top near corner from 24 yards in the 62nd minute.
LA forced six stops from former Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts - including a hectic double-save in the 64th minute - but neither side could find the go-ahead goal, and the game ended 1-1.
The deadlock ran Montreal’s unbeaten streak to four, while handing LA their fourth straight result without a win.
In the Cards
New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City, the top two teams in the MLS Eastern Conference, have also trended in opposite directions recently.
On Saturday, KC were upended 2-1 by Chicago Fire for their third straight loss, while on Sunday. New York edged Philadelphia Union 3-2 for their fourth consecutive win (following a 1-0 win over Houston last Wednesday).
Both games pivoted on red cards: After Bobby Convey staked Kansas City to a 1-0 lead with his first goal of the season, the visitors lost control of the game in the 60th minute, when Aurelien Collin took down Fire striker Dominic Oduro in the box.
WATCH: Espinoza gets sent off
Sebastian Grazzini put away the ensuing penalty to make it 1-1, and just one minute later, Kansas City’s Roger Espinoza plowed into Grazzini, planting an elbow in the Argentine’s face.
Espinoza saw a straight red, and Chicago exploited their man advantage to score a winner in the 81st minute, Oduro scuffling in Patrick Nyarko’s pass after Nyarko stripped Kei Kamara in the six-yard box.
At PPL Park, the Union’s Freddy Adu was shown a second yellow in the 43rd minute after he went down between two Red Bulls defenders in the box and the referee ruled it a dive.
Adu had been Philadelphia’s liveliest offensive player, but the 10-man Union did not cave: On the contrary, they took a 2-1 lead right after the break, as Lionard Pajoy scored his second goal of the game. The shorthanded home team could not hold on, though, as Red Bull defender Markus Holgersson opened his MLS account with a header off a corner kick in the 68th minute, and Kenny Cooper added his ninth goal of the season 10 minutes later.
Philly staged a furious late rally, but when the dust settled, the Red Bulls (7W-3L-1D) had escaped with a 3-2 win and overtaken KC for the top spot in the East.
Another Eastern Conference victor benefited from a red card this week, as Columbus Crew rallied for a 2-1 win over FC Dallas, getting both goals after Zach Loyd was sent off in the 63rd minute. Justin Meram and Sebastian Miranda scored their first MLS goals ever to lead the Crew.
Top of the West
Before Chicago took down Eastern Conference leaders Kansas City on Saturday, they tied the Western Conference’s first-place team, Real Salt Lake, 0-0, at Toyota Park this past Wednesday.
The Claret-and-Cobalt rested Fabian Espíndola, Nat Borchers, and goalkeeper Nick Rimando in that one, and playmaker Javier Morales left the game early with a strained quadriceps.
He was not available for their next match, on Saturday at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, where 39,312 showed up to watch two of the best teams in the West square off. They were stunned into silence in the 50th minute, when 18-year-old Luis Gil sprung with a ball over the top to Espíndola and the Argentine buried a shot into the left corner from 15 yards, ending Seattle’s 321-minute shutout streak.
RSL held on for a 1-0 win that ran their unbeaten run to five games, while ending Seattle’s at six.
Jámison Olave was instrumental in the RSL win, shutting down Fredy Montero, who had scored two goals in 45 minutes of work against FC Dallas on Wednesday, leading Seattle to a 2-0 win in Texas.
Nguyen Some, Draw Some
WATCH: Nguyen hits a blast
Sounders FC will travel to Vancouver next week to take on their Cascadia rivals in Whitecaps FC, who were trounced 4-1 by New England Revolution on Saturday in the most eyebrow-raising result of the week.
Lee Nguyen, who was waived by Vancouver on March 1, scored two MLS goals—his first two in MLS—and had an assist for New England to key the rout.
In the Week 10 capper on Sunday night, San Jose tied Chivas USA 1-1, despite maintaining 62.5 per cent of possession and firing six shots on goal to The Goats’ one. That one, from 19-year-old Jose Erick Correa, who was making his MLS debut, found the back of the net in the fourth minute. Alan Gordon snatched a point for San Jose, and gave the Quakes sole possession of second in the West, with an 88th-minute header.