We should have known after the United States U-23 team’s shocking exit from Olympic qualifying last Monday: This was a week to expect the unexpected.
And what a week it was! There was a shocking upset in LA, a stunning late comeback in Portland, and a seven-goal shootout at Red Bull Arena that included Thierry Henry’s first MLS hat-trick.
Road teams went a surprising 5W-3L-1D, the lightly regarded Eastern Conference went 3W-1L-1D against the Western Conference, and the week’s most anticipated showdown fizzled like a wet firecracker.
There were also a healthy 26 goals in nine games, several notable debuts and account-opening goals plus a scrappy, head-turning result in the West.
Let’s take another look.
Closing the Gap
Eastern Conference teams were a miserable 2W-9L-0D against Western opponents during the first two rounds of the season, but after a 6W-3L-2D run during the past two weeks, the East has loosened, if not entirely shed, the weak-sister tag.
HIGHLIGHTS: D.C. drop four on Dallas
D.C. United got the ball rolling last Friday night, dismantling a banged-up FC Dallas side 4-1 in a wide-open, entertaining game at RFK Stadium. Maicon Santos bagged two goals – including a smoke-trailing 25-yarder – and an assist. Winger Nick DeLeon had a goal and an assist, while establishing early pole position in the Rookie of the Year race. Dwayne De Rosario had two assists and rattled the FCD bar with an audacious outside-of-the-foot volley in the 30th minute.
Danny Cruz also had a big game, scoring in the 66th minute and working tirelessly on the right wing.
The following night, D.C.’s I-95 rivals New England Revolution produced the shocker of the week, jumping on LA early before seeing out a well-deserved 3-1 win at The Home Depot Center.
Kelyn Rowe scored his first professional goal in the 10th minute, and defender Chris Tierney added the game-winner three minutes later.
Saer Sene scored his second of the year to make it 3-0 in the 65th minute before Robbie Keane pulled one back for the defending champs a little more than 10 minutes from time.
HIGHLIGHTS: Revs shock Galaxy at The HDC
Sure, the Galaxy were missing Landon Donovan, and a hobbled Mike Magee only played 45 minutes, but this was a quality result for the rebuilding Revs – and a sign that LA continue to have an Omar Gonzalez-sized hole in their backline.
Sporting Kansas City made it three wins for the East over Western Conference opponents, clipping Chivas USA 1-0 at The HDC on Sunday night. C.J. Sapong scored his third goal of the year just after halftime and SKC made it stand up for their fourth straight win. It’s the first time in franchise history that Kansas City have started an MLS season 4W-0L-0D.
Fizzling in Philly
The most heavily-anticipated match of Week Four was also an East versus West affair – Philadelphia against Vanvouver – but the match failed to produce a winner, or to live up to expectations. The game marked the return of Whitecaps FC attacker Sébastien Le Toux to Philadelphia after an offseason in which he publicly feuded with Union coach Peter Nowak over an ill-fated trial at English Premier League side Bolton Wanderers FC and his eventual trade to Vancouver.
Although Le Toux had a quality chance to score against his old club in each half, the game ended without a goal from either side, and featured just two shots on target in 90 minutes – both by Philadelphia, who earned their first point of the season with the draw. (Vancouver have yet to concede a goal in four games)
Chicago Fire were the lone East team to lose to a Western foe this week, as the Fire fell 2-0 at Colorado Rapids on Sunday. The Rapids got goals from Omar Cummings and new signing Kamani Hill, who came on late and promptly iced the game in his debut.
Colorado’s Argentine midfielder Martín Rivero made his MLS debut and helped set up Cummings’ goal.
High Scoring, High Drama
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL grab points with late strike
Another newcomer played a key role in Portland, where the Timbers tripped and broke their front teeth in a 3-2 loss to Real Salt Lake. Leading 2-1 on strikes by Darlington Nagbe – one of them a juggling volley reminiscent of his 2011 Goal of the Year – Portland surrendered an 89th-minute strike to new RSL signing and former Whitecaps FC midfielder Jonny Steele and a 93rd-minute winner to Kyle Beckerman.
At Red Bull Arena, the home side fell behind not once but twice in the first half before Henry took over after the break. The French superstar scored his second and third goals of the day and added an assist to lead New York to a 5-2 rout of expansion Montreal Impact.
HIGHLIGHTS: Henry outclasses Montreal
Henry’s outburst was his first MLS hat-trick and the first by a Red Bull since October 2006, when Amado Guevara hit three for New York.
Rounding out the week were two more 1-0 squeakers, both by road teams.
San Jose Earthquakes served notice in the West by grinding out a 1-0 win at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field to run their record to 3W-1L-0D. Quakes striker Steven Lenhart – who was a scrappy handful for the Sounders FC backline all evening – drew an off-the-ball penalty in the 24th minute and Chris Wondolowski buried it for the winning margin.
In Toronto, visiting Columbus nipped The Reds 1-0 after Crew midfielder Bernardo Anor exploited a tentative clearance attempt by TFC defender Logan Emory to score in the 56th minute.
TFC are 0W-3L-0D in league play this season, but they’re still alive in the CONCACAF Champions League, having tied Mexican club Santos Laguna 1-1 in a feisty first-leg semifinal at BMO Field this past Wednesday. The teams meet in the second leg on Wednesday with a berth in the CCL final at stake.
Finally, the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament wrapped up this past weekend, five days after the United States side and its 14 MLSers were eliminated by a soft, last-gasp goal from El Salvador.
The Salvadorans went on to fall to Honduras in extra time in the semifinals, with D.C. United winger Andy Najar producing the game-winning assist to send Los Catrachos to the 2012 Summer Games. Mexico advanced from the other semifinal with a 3-1 win over Canada.