From an audience with the President of the United States and a pair of blockbuster trades to several last-gasp equalizers and some goalkeeping acrobatics, Week 11 delivered enough drama, both on and off the field, to overcome the fact that more than half of the games ended in stalemates.
It was an especially break-even week for MLS Cup 2011 winners LA Galaxy, who followed up the high-point of a midweek visit to the White House with a literal low point: finding themselves in last-place in the Western Conference.
Elsewhere, there were surprising early goals and stunning late ones, more action from the MLS Disciplinary Committee, and some invitations from Jurgen Klinsmann, who called seven MLSers to the latest United States national team camp.
But let’s start in Vancouver, where the 2012 Cascadia Cup series got off to a rousing start.
Back and Forth in BC
While the 3W-5L-3D Portland Timbers - who broke a 448-minute scoreless drought in a 2-1 win over Chicago 2-1 on Sunday night — are scuffling out of the gate, Cascadia’s other teams, Vancouver and Seattle, both have the look of legitimate Western Conference contenders. They did no harm to that impression with a worthy Cup opener on Saturday afternoon.
Seattle fielded their potent quartet of Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero, Álvaro Fernández, and Mauro Rosales for the first time this season, yet it was Vancouver and their 18-year-old attacker Omar Salgado who took the early initiative in front of 21,000 fans at BC Place.
In the 21st minute, Salgado’s pass was the catalyst for Alain Rochat’s opener, which was answered in the 47th minute, when Montero found Rosales, who in turn found Johnson, who in turn headed it home for his third goal of the season.
Vancouver then took a 2-1 lead on Camilo Sanvezzo’s 82nd-minute free kick, but they weren’t able to hold onto the lead. Just when the Whitecaps FC faithful became convinced it was their day, Montero side-stepped two Whitecaps FC defenders and curled a brilliant strike past Joe Cannon to make it 2-2 right at the death.
All in all, a fine display of what the Pacific Northwest rivalry is about on the field.
Wheeling, Dealing and Reeling off the Wins
While Vancouver and Seattle staged the week’s most exciting game, New York Red Bulls pulled off the most impressive win, downing Montreal Impact 2-1 at Olympic Stadium, despite losing midfielder Victor Palsson to a second yellow card in the 58th minute.
HIGHLIGHTS: Montreal-New York
It was the first home loss handed to the Impact all year.
The Red Bulls got a 32nd-minute penalty from Kenny Cooper (his 10th goal of the year) and a 67th-minute put-back by Dane Richards to overcome Bernardo Corradi’s 21st-minute opener from the spot and roll to their fifth consecutive win.
First-place New York also rolled out their newest acquisition, former Chivas USA defender Heath Pearce — whom they acquired, along with financial considerations, in exchange for young United States international striker Juan Agudelo.
The trade for Agudelo was just one of two bold moves Chivas USA completed this week. In the other one, the Goats sent midfielder Michael Lahoud to Philadelphia Union in exchange for veteran defender Danny Califf.
HIGHLIGHTS: Chivas USA-LA
Both acquisitions figured in the Goats’ surprising 1-0 win over the Galaxy in the SuperClasico at The Home Depot Center on Saturday night. Califf anchored the resilient backline that got the shutout, and Agudelo played a role in drawing the penalty that won the match.
After Agudelo challenged LA 'keeper Brian Perk for a cross, popping the ball up, which Chivas’ other 19-year-old striker, José Correa, volleyed a shot that was destined for the goal until Galaxy defender David Júnior Lopes reached for it with his arm. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and showed Lopes a red card.
Correa’s initial penalty was waved off due to encroachment, but the youngster coolly buried the re-take, and Chivas USA held on for their first home win of the season, and their first win over the Galaxy since 2007. The result ended a six-game losing streak against their LA rivals, and dropped the Galaxy, who are winless in their last five, to ninth place in the West.
There was no end to Toronto FC’s record losing streak, as D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario scored just 57 seconds into their match on Saturday night, setting the tone for a 3-1 win that sent The Reds to a ninth straight loss to start the season.
HIGHLIGHTS: Colorado-Sporting KC
It was the second win of the week for D.C., who dropped Colorado Rapids 2-0 on Wednesday. Both games featured goals from 2011 MVP De Rosario and new Designated Player Hamdi Salihi.
Nearly matching D.C.’s fast start were Sporting Kansas City, who got a goal from Teal Bunbury just 65 seconds into their game at Colorado on Saturday night.
Bunbury added another in the 14th minute to make it 2-0, but the Rapids eventually took control of the match, getting second-half goals from Tyrone Marshall and Kosuke Kimura to rally for a 2-2 draw.
Despite missing Brek Shea — who was suspended for three games for kicking a ball at a referee’s assistant last week — FC Dallas also jumped out early on Saturday night. FCD got a seventh-minute goal from Panamanian striker Blas Pérez before the Union grabbed a share of the points on a 56th-minute header by Pérez’s countryman, Gabriel Gómez.
HIGHLIGHTS: New England-Houston
Leaving It Late
At the other end of the spectrum, Houston Dynamo — who played Portland to a scoreless draw last Tuesday — got an 87th-minute strike from Luiz Camargo to tie New England Revolution 2-2 on Saturday. Brian Ching set up Camargo with a brilliant chip over the top, and the equalizer cancelled a brace by the Revs’ Saer Sene.
The Dynamo deserved at least a point, as did San Jose Earthquakes, who dominated the first half against Columbus on Saturday, only to be held at bay by Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, who made a career-high seven saves, including stopping a penalty from Chris Wondolowski in the 21th minute.
For all his brilliance, though, Gruenebaum couldn’t keep out Alan Gordon’s flying side volley in the 90th minute, as the Quakes’ sub punched in the rebound of his own shot to produce a 1-1 tie, the sixth draw in 11 games this week.