Monday Postgame: MLS action in overdrive, Landon Donovan's response
With 13 league games, the second leg of the Canadian Championship final, and an international friendly between the United States and Scotland that featured three MLSers (and six league alums), Week 12 was one of the busiest stretches in the 17-year history of Major League Soccer.
Every team was in action – several played twice – and many sides ran hot during the jam-packed seven-day stretch, while others went stone cold.
There’s a lot to cover; let’s get stuck in.
A tiny light appeared at the end of the tunnel for Toronto FC this week, and with any luck (though, of course, luck has been in short supply for The Reds lately), it won’t turn out to be a train.
HIGHLIGHTS: TFC earn first points
After stumbling to an unprecedented 0W-9L-0D start, and staging a public, intra-team debate about whether or not they were “the worst team in the world” – as striker Danny Koevermans recently put it – TFC earned some consolation by defeating Vancouver 1-0 in the final of the Amway Canadian Championship last Wednesday.
Reggie Lambe’s 83rd-minute goal made the difference, delivering a 2-1 aggregate win to The Reds and sealing their fourth consecutive Canadian title, along with a berth in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League.
Boosted by that triumph, TFC edged Philadelphia Union 1-0 on Saturday at BMO Field to - finally! - bag their first MLS win of the year.
Appropriately enough, the goalscorer was Koevermans, whose “worst team” comment prompted teammate Adrian Cann to challenge Koevermans “do something about it.” Done and done.
Galaxy Far, Far Away
While Toronto FC produced their best week since the heady days of mid-March, when they advanced to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, the team they eliminated from the CCL, the LA Galaxy, continued to tumble from their lofty perch as MLS Cup 2011 champions.
HIGHLIGHTS: LA squander early lead
With Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan away on international duty, the Galaxy coughed up a 2-0 lead to San Jose Earthquakes last Wednesday – conceding a dramatic (and weakly defended) 94th-minute equalizer to Quakes striker Alan Gordon to fall 3-2 – and then surrendered a 1-0 lead at Houston Dynamo on Saturday. The Dynamo scored on an own-goal by Mike Magee and a 57th-minute header by Andre Hainault to win 2-1 and extend their unbeaten run to four games.
The Galaxy, on the other hand, have lost three straight, and are winless in seven. Clearly, something is not right in LA-LA Land.
Much the same was suggested of Galaxy star Donovan this week after he spoke to reporters about losing his “hunger” for the game.
United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann may want to schedule one of these candid Donovan interviews before every national team game. In his first appearance for the USA since September 2011, Donovan uncorked a sensational game, scoring three goals, assisting on one, and chipping in on a fourth to lead the Americans in a 5-1 rout of Scotland.
It was a vintage display from the USA's all-time leading scorer, one that suggested rejuvenation more than burnout. The last-place Galaxy (3W-8L-2D) are certainly hoping he can bring that form back to his club side when the international break is over.
United They Stand
Donovan’s former teammate Dwayne De Rosario is on a roll of his own at the moment. The D.C. attacker followed last week’s Player of the Week performance with a game-winning assist on Saturday, finding Maicon Santos with a slick pass in the box to help United to a 3-2 victory over New England Revolution.
HIGHLIGHTS: Columbus hold off Chicago
The win spoiled a two-goal comeback by the Revs and sent D.C. to the top of the Eastern Conference standings with an 8W-4L-3D record.
Also heating up in the East are Columbus Crew, who rode some more gold-plated goalkeeping from Andy Gruenebaum to defeat Seattle Sounders FC 2-0 on Wednesday and Chicago Fire 2-1 on Saturday. Gruenebaum made six saves in both games, and the Crew’s attackers made their chances count, scoring two goals from two shots on goal on Wednesday and two from five shots on Saturday.
While Philly lost to the previously winless TFC, and LA continued to struggle, an injury-wracked FC Dallas side suffered an undeserved defeat to Chicago followed by a hard-luck loss to Real Salt Lake to run their winless streak to eight games.
On Wednesday, FCD fell 2-1 after Fire winger Marco Pappa’s put-back of a penalty was allowed to stand, even though the Guatemalan winger was several yards into the box when Sebastián Grazzini struck the spot kick.
WATCH: Borchers wins it for RSL
On Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, Dallas lost 3-2 to Real Salt Lake after defender Nat Borchers struck a 93rd-minute goal to cap a five-goal second half and cancel Blas Pérez’s 85th-minute equalizer. (The win extended first-place RSL’s unbeaten streak to six.)
Colorado Rapids won a similar thriller at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, edging Montreal Impact 3-2 despite going down to 10 men in the 61st minute. Jaime Castrillón’s 83rd-minute header won it for the Rapids.
After their surprising home loss to Columbus in midweek (it was the Crew’s first win in seven games against Seattle, a 1W-3L-3D stretch), Sounders FC travelled to The Home Depot Center and drew sixth-place Chivas USA 1-1 to run their winless run to four games.
WATCH: Ángel goes horizontal vs. Red Bulls
Chivas, on the other hand, had a pretty good week. Their tie against Seattle followed an identical result at New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, giving The Goats consecutive draws against top-tier teams.
The Red Bulls match also brought Chivas striker Juan Pablo Ángel, the all-time leading scorer in New York history, back to Red Bull Arena for the first time since he left the club in 2010. Red Bulls fans greeted him with a rousing ovation and several massive banners of thanks. Naturally, he scored the Goats’ goal in the game.
Chivas also moved to the top of the league’s facial-hair table with their recent acquisition of Danny Califf and his “Gordon Lightfoot sideburns,” as broadcaster Christian Miles called them. When the veteran defender suited up this week alongside midfielder Blair Gavin and his 1890s barbershop-quartet mustache – which, with all due respect to Ryan Cochrane and David Horst, is the most impressive soup-strainer in MLS history – well, a special kind of league history was made.
Of course it wasn’t all up or down this week: On Saturday, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Portland Timbers tied 1-1 in the second installment of the 2012 Cascadia series, and on Sunday, San Jose broke even for the week with a 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City – who snapped a three-game losing streak with the win.