[MLS] The seven weekend games produced 25 goals. Several were golazos, sure Goal of the Year candidates, but others were gifts. Kansas City, Houston and San Jose posted victories vital to their playoff aspirations, and Toronto FC lost at home for the first time this season during Week 20 in MLS.
CHING RINGS UP THREE. Brian Ching doubled his season’s goal output over the weekend, and Houston needed all of his hat trick to beat Chicago, 4-3, in a wild one at Robertson Stadium.
Though his third goal, a header in the 85th minute, broke a 3-3 tie and provided the Dynamo with a precious three points, Ching’s second strike will be up for Goal of the Year (VIDEO). When a Bobby Boswell header came off the crossbar into the goalmouth, Ching leaped to drive it back into the net with a classic bicycle kick.
In any other season, a 3-1 lead with a half-hour to play would all but assure Houston of a win, but not so in 2010. A scuffed ball off the foot of Boswell rolled past goalie Pat Onstad and cut the lead to 3-2, and defender Wilman Conde equalized in the 81st minute. Ching got his head to a Richard Mulrooney corner kick four minutes later to restore the lead, yet by conceding three goals, Houston’s goals-allowed total rose to 33 in 21 games, four more than it gave up in 30 games last season.
RED BULLS IN A ROMP. For the second time in 10 days, New York played Toronto, and as the road team this time the Red Bulls stampeded TFC, 4-1, with some sharp play and a bit of luck.
Rafael Marquez scored his first MLS goal by belting a first-timer into the top corner from about 30 yards out (VIDEO), and the fans at BMO Field went silent again a few minutes later when a cross caught Joseph Nane by surprise and the ball bounced into his own goal off his shin. Dwayne De Rosario brought TFC back within a goal with a sneaky shot from a sharp angle, but soon the home team self-destructed.
Nana Attakora inexplicably flagged down a Red Bull cross with his outstretched hand. He went off with a red card, and Juan Pablo Angel smacked the penalty kick off keeper Stefan Frei’s glove and off the underside of the crossbar into the net. Then Frei misjudged a cross and pawed it right to former TFC midfielder Carl Robinson, who headed home New York’s fourth goal.
In a classy display of sportsmanship, Robinson scarcely celebrated in front of his former fans and hid his face as the Red Bulls mobbed him. New York (10-7-4, 34 points) widened the gap between it and third-place TFC (7-8-5, 26 points) in the race for one of two guaranteed playoff spots from the Eastern Conference.
After TFC went 10 games at home unbeaten, a disappointing loss can partially be blamed on a few bad plays. Yet it is ninth overall in the standings, out of the playoffs, and three or fewer points ahead of three teams: Chicago (24), Kansas City (23), and Houston (23). The quest to make the postseason after missing out in its first three seasons takes a tough test next weekend.
Though TFC is again at home, it faces defending champion Real Salt Lake, and both teams will be coming off midweek Concacaf Champions League matches.