Rooting for the home team had become a losing proposition recently in Major League Soccer. In the past two weeks, home sides had gone 2W-4L-4D and 3W-4L-4D.
The old win-at-home, tie-on-the-road mantra went out the window, as teams were doing all they could just to tie at home.
But that changed in striking fashion this round, as home sides went 7W-0L-5D, and a few of them won big.
In addition to that market correction, there were several exciting, back-and-forth affairs, some head-turning (and head-scratching) goalkeeping and quite possibly the most entertaining 0-0 draw ever.
It was yet another slam-bang round of games. Let’s bring it all back home.
El Gato Magee
The week began with a four-pack of goose eggs this past Wednesday, when Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City went scoreless at PPL Park, and Chicago Fire hosted Real Salt Lake in a drowsy, goal-free affair at Toyota Park.
Much like the previous week, though, things improved dramatically from that tepid beginning - including in the week’s only other scoreless tie between San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy on Saturday afternoon.
Whatever this one lacked in goals, it made up for in entertainment value. In the 24th minute, LA goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, freshly returned from CONCACAF Gold Cup duty with Jamaica, injured his arm in a collision with Earthquakes attacker Khari Stephenson and had to leave the game.
When his backup, Josh Saunders, was shown a straight red in the 43rd minute, LA - already missing midfielders Landon Donovan and David Beckham - now found themselves down a man and fresh out of goalkeepers.
The Galaxy turned to forward Mike Magee - listed in the program, generously, at 5-feet-9-inches - and the 26-year-old produced a heroic turn between the pipes, making four saves, including one crucial late denial of Lenhart.
That was fitting, because Lenhart had provoked Saunders' red in Sean Avery-esque fashion, heading the ball out of the goalkeeper’s arms after Saunders had made a save and was preparing to put the ball back in play.
Reacting to Lenhart’s sneak attack - an offense that drew a yellow card - the surprised Saunders threw an elbow and earned a straight red.
LA will need to add a goalkeeper to their roster for next week - unless Magee is ready to go again.
New York Red Bulls ran into some goalkeeper trouble of their own, as they wrapped up an interesting tour of the Pacific Northwest.
Following last week’s game at Portland Timbers, a 3-3 draw that broke several laws of probability, New York visited Seattle Sounders FC this past Thursday.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first 12 minutes, the Red Bulls pulled one back before halftime and then tied it up not long after the break, instilling a here-we-go-again feeling in the game.
But, as it turned out, the only repeat performance on display was of New York’s shoddy defending on set-pieces. Having surrendered the first two goals in the aftermath of corner kicks, the Red Bulls gave up a third on Roger Levesque’s near-post header off Leo Gonzalez’s corner.
Eleven minutes later, New York goalkeeper Greg Sutton bungled his footwork at the top of the box and Levesque stripped him, sauntering in alone to make it 4-2, which was how it ended.
Three days later, with Sutton relegated to the bench, New York suffered another costly goalkeeping gaffe when Bouna Coundoul misjudged a bouncing shot from Chicago’s Marco Pappa to allow one of the softer goals you’ll see all season, and lift the Fire into a 1-1 tie.
It was the Red Bulls’ ninth draw of the season and Chicago’s 11th, along with their MLS-record sixth straight at home.
While goalkeeping errors cost New York, mental lapses by outfield players tripped up Colorado Rapids in a lopsided loss to Columbus Crew. After Conor Casey’s fifth-minute header gave the visitors a 1-0 lead, three awful turnovers and a reckless challenge by Casey (which earned a straight red) paved the way for a 4-1 Columbus rout.
Eddie Gaven scored the first, Andrés Mendoza the next two - he has six in the past six games - and Tommy Heinemann opened his MLS account with the Crew’s fourth in the 57th minute. The win moved Columbus to within two points of Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia.
FC Dallas, emphatic 4-0 winners over Portland on Saturday, climbed to within four points of Western leaders LA, and FCD (9W-4L-4D) have two games in hand on the Galaxy.
Tied with Dallas in the Western Conference, and winners of three straight, are Seattle, who recovered from Sainey Nyassi’s third-minute goal to defeat New England Revolution 2-1 on Sunday.
Tyson Wahl rifled a spectacular free kick into the top corner to tie it in the 35th minute, and Álvaro Fernández won it five minutes later, capping off a nice build-up from Mauro Rosales and Roger Levesque.
Sporting KC also overcame an early deficit, bouncing back from Camilo’s 15th-minute goal with strikes by Omar Bravo and Júlio César to drop Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2-1.
The win extended KC’s unbeaten streak to seven games and moved them out of last place in the Eastern Conference for the first time in a month.
Ching Does Davies?
KC now sit one point behind D.C. United and forward Charlie Davies, who may have gotten a taste of his own medicine in Saturday’s game between United and Houston Dynamo.
With halftime approaching and his team down 1-0 (on a superb 25-yard strike from Chris Pontius), Dynamo forward Brian Ching made a run in the box and was challenged by a D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid. It may not have been as blatant as Davies’ pantomime last week, but Ching went down awfully easily - and drew a penalty.
After Houston winger Brad Davis slotted home the spot kick, Davies himself put D.C. back up 2-1, banging in his league-leading eighth goal of the season in the 73rd minute.
But Ching had the last laugh, scoring his first goal of the year on an 89th-minute header and earning a valuable road point for Houston.
Both Philadelphia and Real Salt Lake rediscovered offensive sparks at home this week: The Union got goals from new signing Veljko Paunovic, Carlos Ruiz, and a sensational winner from Danny Mwanga to edge Chivas USA 3-2 and end a 294-minute scoring drought, while Real Salt Lake used the first two goals of the season from last year’s top scorer, Álvaro Saborío, to pace a 3-1 drubbing of Toronto FC.
The result extended TFC's winless streak to 11.