Monday Postgame: Goals, goals, goals in dramatic Week 23
There were some marquee match-ups on the slate this week, as the conferences' top dogs squared off, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup final featured a shot at history, and the decisive game of the 2012 SuperClásico unfolded.
The action lived up to the billing, too, delivering comeback thrillers, more heart-stopping heroics in San Jose and (cue the Mötley Crüe) goals, goals, goals - 25 in eight league matches, to be exact, for a healthy 3.125 per game.
Off the field, Montreal striker Marco Di Vaio was acquitted in a match-fixing scandal in Italy, USA boss Jurgen Klinsmann called up 10 MLS players, including first-timers Matt Besler, Alan Gordon, and Steven Beitashour, for the US national team’s upcoming friendly in Mexico City, and the league unveiled its new set of standings tiebreakers.
Let’s track it back.
Not in Kansas
In 2009, Seattle Sounders FC became the league’s second team to win the US Open Cup in their expansion season, edging D.C. United 2-1 in that year’s final.
They repeated as USOC champs the following season - beating Columbus Crew by the same score - and in 2011, Seattle made it three in a row, blanking Chicago Fire 2-0 to become one of just three teams in the history of the tournament who have won the event three consecutive times.
Last Wednesday, Sounders FC were looking for an unprecedented fourth straight title when they visited LIVESTRONG Sporting Park to take on Sporting Kansas City in the 99th US Open Cup final.
In a choppy, hard-fought game that featured 35 fouls and five yellow cards, the Pacific Northwest club came up just short. They conceded an 84th-minute penalty kick to SKC’s Kei Kamara, and after Zach Scott, whose hand ball led to Kamara’s penalty, tied it up with an excellent header in the 86th, the teams battled through 30 scoreless minutes of extra time.
Sporting KC won the ensuing shootout, spoiling Seattle’s bid for history and adding another Dewar Challenge trophy, as the tournament’s prize is known, to the one they captured in 2004.
Buck Wild at Buck Shaw
Both Seattle and SKC had a quick turnaround after the draining USOC final. Kansas City hosted fourth-place D.C. United on Saturday night, while Seattle traveled to San Jose’s Buck Shaw Stadium to take on the Western Conference-leading Earthquakes.
WATCH: Lenhart’s goal sinks Sounders
Playing their 17th game in eight weeks, Sporting KC rolled out a reshuffled line-up, yet still managed to edge D.C. 2-1 on goals from Teal Bunbury and Graham Zusi.
In San Jose, Sounders FC appeared headed for a dramatic point after Fredy Montero made it 1-1 with a 92nd-minute header, prompting the San Jose broadcast team to lament the “heartbreaking” late equalizer.
Apparently, they had forgotten this was a Goonies game they were covering.
Just one minute later, Steven Lenhart reminded them, heading in Shea Salinas’s corner kick to flip the result back in San Jose’s favour and give the Quakes a five-point lead atop the Western Conference standings.
Crowded at the Top
Things are a little tighter in the Eastern Conference, where Sporting KC lead second-place New York Red Bulls by two points, and only seven points separate first from fifth.
The Red Bulls kicked off the weekend with a 2-0 defeat of Houston Dynamo, getting goals from Markus Holgersson (assisted by Tim Cahill) and Jan Gunnar Solli. The win avenged New York’s loss to the Dynamo by the same score one week earlier - though, it should be noted (as Thierry Henry did) that New York’s 2-0 win was less convincing than Houston’s.
There was nothing unconvincing about Chicago’s 3-1 comeback triumph over Philadelphia Union on Sunday. The Fire exploited two goalkeeping errors by the Union’s Zac MacMath and got two goals from Chris Rolfe en route to the win, which lifted them past D.C. into fourth in the East.
Chicago players wore black armbands during the match, in honour of departed former Columbus midfielder Kirk Urso, who grew up in Illinois and played for the Fire’s PDL squad. Urso’s former teammates in Columbus had their Saturday match against Toronto FC postponed, so they could attend his funeral.
The Crew currently sit seventh in the East, but they have a .500 record (8-8-4) and games in hand on every team ahead of them in the standings.
In the West, Vancouver Whitecaps FC got goals from Camilo Sanvezzo and Dane Richards to lock down a gritty, 2-1 victory over second-place Real Salt Lake. The win left Whitecaps FC and Seattle tied with 37 points, but if the season ended today, Sounders FC would be the third seed in the West, based on the league’s new standings tiebreaker set, which counts goals scored first.
WATCH: Galaxy hammer Chivas USA
Chivas USA certainly hope their slim playoff chances don’t come down to the new tiebreaker rule. The Goats have scored a paltry 14 goals this season, and they didn’t boost that total this week, getting steamrolled 4-0 by LA Galaxy on Sunday night to drop the decisive third game of the 2012 SuperClásico at The Home Depot Center.
Landon Donovan had a terrific game, assisting on all four LA goals before departing for United States national team duty. After Donovan, and Juninho, who scored two goals, the best player in the SuperClasico was Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who prevented an even more lopsided scoreline with a series of tremendous saves.
FC Dallas got a boost from their keeper, too, as Kevin Hartman made three big saves in the first half to hold Colorado Rapids to a 1-0 lead on Saturday. His teammates responded with three goals in eight minutes on either side of halftime to surge to a 3-1 lead.
Jeff Larentowicz pulled one back for the Rapids, and came within inches of tying it in stoppage time, but The Hoops held on for a thrilling 3-2 win. David Ferreira’s 49th-minute strike - his first goal since returning from last spring’s ankle surgery - turned out to be the match winner.
Dallas are 10 points out of a playoff spot with nine games to play.
Sanna from Heaven
Last, but certainly not least, Montreal Impact snatched a 1-0 win at New England Revolution on Sanna Nyassi’s 'Goal of the Week' contender, a 70-yard solo run and rocket past Matt Reis in the 61st minute at Gillette Stadium.