Week Nine of the 17th MLS season featured so much diverse excitement, we can tout it like a carnival barker and not be worried about the games living up to our outlandish claims: shock results! Stunning finishes! Controversies! A wild, eight-goal thriller! Hey, there was even a tattooed strongman in the mix.
There was also an unfortunate slice of history in Toronto, some more cases for the league’s new Disciplinary Committee, and legitimate early candidates for goal of the year, save of the year and game of the year.
So step right up, step right up to the recap.
The safest bets on the schedule this week were expansion Montreal Impact’s visit to Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City, and heavily depleted New York Red Bulls match at The Home Depot Center, home of the defending champions LA Galaxy.
Each of these games was about as close as you get to a sure thing in MLS, with the visitors Montreal and New York rolling out reshuffled line-ups, while the hosts came in well rested and at full strength.
WATCH: Felipe’s goal stuns SKC
But as it turned out, you were better off - much better, in fact - casting your lot with 15-1 Kentucky Derby long-shot I’ll Have Another than backing Kansas City and LA.
The Impact got a sensational, 25-yard goal from Brazilian midfielder Felipe Martins, a penalty from Quebec native Patrice Bernier, and six saves from goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to shock Kansas City 2-0 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
The result sealed Montreal’s first road win as an MLS franchise, while sending Sporting KC to a second straight loss after a 7W-0L-0D start to the season.
In Carson, California, New York’s midfield workhorse Joel Lindpere scored in the 19th minute and the Red Bulls, despite missing five starters, including top scorer Thierry Henry, made the goal stand up for a 1-0 win over the Galaxy.
Yes, a Red Bulls rearguard that included rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara, and defenders Tyler Ruthven, Connor Lade, and Brandon Barklage - who have fewer than 20 league appearances, combined - blanked an LA attack led by Republic of Ireland’s all-time leading scorer, Robbie Keane, the United States’ all-time leading scorer, Landon Donovan, 2010 MLS Golden Boot runner-up Edson Buddle, and world soccer icon David Beckham.
From shock results to thrilling matches, both involving San Jose Earthquakes. Last Wednesday, the Western Conference-leading Quakes met D.C. United, the second-place team in the Eastern Conference, in what turned out to be perhaps the most exciting game of the year to date, a 5-3 goal fest in favour of the Quakes.
The game featured two goals each from Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski, and a terrific performance from 2011 MVP Dwayne De Rosario, who scored a goal, set up another with a devastating pass, and had a spectacular bicycle kick saved - even more spectacularly - by San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch.
WATCH: Hassli’s late goal tops Quakes
On Saturday, the Quakes traveled to Vancouver’s BC Place to meet a 4W-2L-2D Whitecaps FC team eager to test themselves against the top side in the West. After San Jose went ahead in the 15th minute on Chris Wondolowski’s league-leading 11th goal of the year, Vancouver tied the match just before halftime then won it deep into stoppage time on a 94th-minute goal by inked-up 6-foot-4 striker Eric Hassli.
The goal broke Hassli’s 17-game scoring drought in MLS play, and the drama fit the occasion: The game took place 38 years to the day after Vancouver played their first game as a professional franchise, in the old NASL, against…San Jose Earthquakes.
Puppo to Pappa!
Ever since January, when Chicago Fire signed Uruguayan striker Federico Puppo to a roster that already included Guatemalan winger Marco Pappa, we’ve been looking forward to the first time that pair hooked up for a broadcaster-challenging scoring sequence.
That moment arrived last Friday night—and what a goal the duo chose for their tongue-twisting debut: 93rd-minute of a 1-1 game, a pair of give-and-go exchanges that swept up the right flank and ended with Pappa belting a left-footed shot into the far side-netting.
Chicago 2, Chivas USA 1 - Pappa from Puppo. Long may they reign at Toyota Park.
As exciting and well-worked as that strike was, it may not make the week’s Top 5 for best goals.
On Wednesday, New England Revolution used a pair of pretty strikes from Saer Sene and Fernando Cárdenas to rally for a 2-1 win over Colorado; and the Revs got another golazo from forward Blake Brettschneider on Saturday - only to see it cancelled by a brace from Álvaro Saborío in Real Salt Lake’s 2-1 victory.
In Toronto, D.C. United striker Chris Pontius torpedoed the ball into the top left corner from 20 yards to open the scoring in the 55th minute. Twenty minutes later, Hamdi Salihi struck a flying side volley to make it 2-0 and send TFC to an MLS-record eighth consecutive loss to start the season.
But despite all the quality strikes, the runaway goal of the week belonged to Seattle Sounders FC forward Fredy Montero, whose audacious, 35-yard rocket to the far upper corner sealed Seattle’s 2-0 win over LA last Wednesday, their first victory over the Galaxy since August 2009 (an 0W-5L-1D stretch for Sounders FC).
Sigi Schmid’s men followed up their big win against LA with a quality victory over Philadelphia on Saturday, downing the Union 1-0 on Mauro Rosales’s slick 63rd-minute finish.
Mild scoreline aside, the game had its share of excitement, including five saves by the Union’s 20-year-old goalkeeper Zac MacMath, and some controversy involving Seattle youngster Andy Rose, who was lucky not to get a second yellow for scything down Freddy Adu in the first half.
WATCH: Rose cuts down Adu
Referee Ricardo Salazar opted for a verbal warning, but don’t be surprised if the MLS Disciplinary Committee is a little more hard-nosed about it this week.
That body will also take a look at the two reds in the RSL-New England match, and the ejections in the Week Nine capper, Colorado Rapids’ 2-0 win at FC Dallas on Sunday night.
Dallas lost midfielder Daniel Hernandez and striker Blas Pérez two minutes apart in the first half of that one, going down to nine men with the score tied 0-0 and 54 still minutes to play.
Not surprisingly, the visitors began peppering Kevin Hartman’s goal, and they eventually broke through, winning the game 2-0 on a header from Jaime Castrillón and a 12-yard strike by Martín Rivero.
In the week’s remaining match, Crew backstop Andy Gruenebaum made six saves to preserve a 0-0 draw between Columbus and Portland Timbers in The City of Roses.