MLS Monday Postgame: Comebacks, shootouts & action galore
It wasn’t last round’s 52-goal bonanza, but for the second week in a row, MLS produced an average of more than three goals per gamen as teams filled the net 28 times in Week 17’s nine games.
There was a seven-goal shootout in Stanford University in Northern California, a 2-2 thriller in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and a trio of 3-0 routs sprinkled throughout the United States and Canada.
The top teams in each conference widened their leads, while two contenders extended mysterious slumps.
And for a mid-season week, there were a surprising number of first-time scorers, with eight players opening their 2012 accounts.
This way to the recap:
Goonies: Still Not Saying the ‘D’ Word
Much to the delight of the 50,000-plus fans packed into Stanford Stadium, San Jose Earthquakes took a 1-0 lead over LA Galaxy in the seventh minute of Saturday’s edition of the 'California Clasico'.
HIGHLIGHTS: San Jose win Cali C
But before those fans could get used to the unfamiliar idea that maybe, just maybe, the Quakes wouldn’t need any come-from-behind heroics to win this one, the Galaxy stormed back with three goals between minutes 31 and 41 to take a 3-1 lead.
Never mind that one of those strikes was an own-goal and another came on a glaring San Jose defensive error (both by centre back Jason Hernandez, who’s had better days). LA were up 3-1 and headed for a fourth consecutive victory that would solidify their playoff standing and inch them closer to the top of the Western Conference standings.
Why, many teams would just roll over and...
But then came Víctor Bernárdez, only three minutes after Landon Donovan’s goal put LA up 3-1, to redirect Marvin Chávez’s corner kick to the far post and make it 3-2, opening his MLS account and reversing the momentum of the game heading into halftime.
Almost immediately after the break, Sam Cronin latched onto a long ball that somehow eluded the LA backline and pushed a sliding shot past Josh Saunders. It was Cronin’s first goal of the year, and it tied the game 3-3.
Fourteen minutes later, MLS scoring leader Chris Wondolowski slipped in his second crafty backheel in two weeks to put the Goonies — er, Quakes — back on top.
They held on from there, withstanding LA’s furious late onslaught to win their third straight match and move to 11W-3L-3D on the season, four points clear of second-place Real Salt Lake with a game in hand.
Slumping Past Midseason
Speaking of the MLS Cup 2009 champions and 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League finalists, they’ve officially fallen into a slump, dropping their third straight game on Saturday in a 2-0 loss at Columbus Crew.
RSL were without Kyle Beckerman, Jámison Olave, and Ned Grabavoy, and they also endured a 24-hour blackout at their hotel, resulting from the same storm that delayed kickoff against the Crew by an hour.
It’s possible that the travel, the power outage, the disruption in routine, and the player absences hampered RSL. They produced just two shots on goal in the defeat. But the Crew, who are 4W-1L-3D in their past eight games, had something to do with it as well.
Columbus got two excellent assists from Emilio Rentería and Josh Williams on goals by Tony Tchani and Eddie Gaven, and they thoroughly outplayed RSL, sending them to their first three-game skid since 2007.
GOAL: Fagundez snatches points from Seattle
Seattle are also struggling. Sounders FC haven’t won an MLS match since May 9, and their club-record winless streak stretched to eight games after Saturday’s 2-2 draw at New England Revolution.
Riding two goals from marquee offseason acquisition Eddie Johnson, Seattle were just moments away from a 2-1 win when the Revs’ 17-year-old substitute Diego Fagundez headed in a cross from Fernando Cárdenas in the 94th minute, knotting the game with his first goal of 2012.
Seattle's Johnson: We're not finding ways to win games
While Seattle and RSL navigated dips in form, two Eastern Conference clubs shook off recent woes. On Wednesday, Toronto FC shellacked Canadian rivals Montreal 3-0, handing the Impact their first loss at the newly-renovated Stade Saputo.
GOAL: Pontius runs circles around Impact D
Designated Player Torsten Frings scored the first MLS goal of his career in that one, then led the Reds' midfield in a solid 1-1 draw with conference contenders New York Red Bulls on Saturday. The Reds are 2W-1L-3D in their last six games — a far cry from their 0W-9L-0D start.
TFC's Mariner on NY tie: "We're harder to beat than in past"
D.C. United made a smaller-scale bounce back, recovering from last week’s loss to New York with an impressive 3-0 thumping of Montreal (yes, it was a rough week for the Impact).
Chris Pontius opened the scoring with a brilliant solo run in the 46th minute, and Robbie Russell bagged his first goal of 2012 four minutes into the second half. Hamdi Salihi capped the rout in the 91st, punching home the rebound from a shot by Nick DeLeon.
The result put D.C. two points clear of New York at the top of the Eastern Conference standings (though the Red Bulls have a game in hand).
Third-place Sporting Kansas City missed an opportunity to overtake New York, falling 1-0 to Chicago Fire at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on Saturday. That wasn’t the only chance they missed, either, as SKC outshot the bunkered-in Fire by a 27-7 margin.
HIGHLIGHTS: Houston winners in Garcia's debut
But out of that NHL-like shot total, Kansas City put just five on frame. Sean Johnson stopped them all, several in acrobatic fashion, and the Fire got a goal from Marco Pappa for their third straight win.
Philadelphia Union would like to have a couple of its attempts against Houston back as well — especially the missed sitter by Lionard Pajoy in the 49th minute.
In the end, the Union had only Keon Daniel’s first goal of the year to show for their toils, while Houston Dynamo got strikes from Brad Davis (with a secondary assist to new Designated Player Oscar Boniek García) and an 83rd-minute penalty from Brian Ching to win 2-1 and stay unbeaten at BBVA Compass Stadium (4W-0L-2D).
Back in the Fold
The week’s third 3-0 thrashing came in Colorado, where the Rapids got the first goals of the year from Conor Casey and Jamie Smith — both recently returned from injury — to bookend a rout of Portland Timbers.
HIGHLIGHTS: Casey, Smith return to give Rapids lift
The loss kept the Timbers winless on the road in 2012 (0W-5L-2D). Portland and FC Dallas (0W-7L-1D) are the only teams without an away win this season.