[MLS WEEK 29: What we learned ...] Los Angeles took another step toward the Supporters’ Shield by rallying to beat Real Salt Lake, 2-1, the Crew came back to top D.C. United by the same score, and Portland spoiled the unveiling of refurbished B.C. Place by beating Vancouver, 1-0.
Teams would rather not fall behind, but one measure of a team’s grit and determination is to rally not just to tie, but to win. Luck helps; both the Galaxy and Crew parlayed own goals into victories on week 29. On the unlucky, and losing ends, were Real Salt Lake and D.C. United, respectively, which combined have lost their last five games.
CREW COMES BACK. Stung at home by a D.C. United goal in the first half, Columbus struck back to end a six-game winless streak and win, 2-1, with a Daniel Woolard own goal and a powerful header by Eddie Gaven.
Gaven, back into the lineup after sitting out eight games, livened up the Crew attack in the absence of Robbie Rogers. In the first half, he played mostly on the right flank and headed a corner kick narrowly over the crossbar. For the second half, he slid inside and propelled a strong effort that forced an equalizer when Andres Mendoza bulled into the penalty area to trigger a double ricochet that wound up in the net off Woolard’s foot.
As United’s midfield scrambled to contain the resurgent Crew attack, right back Sebastian Miranda got up the flank to drive a cross that found Gaven racing into the penalty area unmarked. Gaven dived and planted a header to keeper Bill Hamid’s left; though United pushed forth in the final minutes and created a chance Andy Najar crashed off the crossbar, Columbus held on for a win that lifted it into second place in the Eastern Conference.
DE RO DOES IT AGAIN. MLS elected to not to punish D.C. United attacker Dwayne De Rosario when he drew a penalty kick with a rather blatant flop in a match against Chivas USA a week and a half ago. Earlier in the season, the league had imposed suspensions – including one for D.C. forward Charlie Davies – for that dreaded offense of “embellishment.” The decision not to punish De Ro should be officially regretted.
On Sunday at Columbus Crew Stadium, though he didn’t get a penalty kick, De Ro was at it again, and this time, he got his team a goal. Bumped in a midfield tussle for the ball, De Ro went down belly-first to earn a free kick near the right sideline. He took the kick himself and drove a cross that Woolward knifed into the box to stick it into the net with a sharp, left-footed volley that gave United a 1-0 lead.
GALAXY CASHES IN. Both of the goals conceded by Real Salt Lake fall into the “ugly” category, and both also resulted from uncharacteristically slopping defending.
Jamison Olave tried to shield Galaxy forward Chad Barrett as they chased a bouncing ball all the way into the RSL goal area, where keeper Nick Rimando waited instead of coming off his line to collect. Barrett got his foot to the ball a few yards from the goalpost and prodded it over Rimando from a tight angle, and it landed just beyond the goal line.
The winning goal came off the leg of Nat Borchers, who was marking the back post when a Todd Dunivant cross from near the goal line caromed off Chris Wingert and bounced off Borchers’ leg before he could react.
On Wednesday, Chicago’s Marco Pappa blistered the RSL defense for all three goals in a 3-0 win. There’s something amiss: After conceding only 16 goals in its first 20 games, RSL has doubled its goals allowed in the last 11 matches.
ANOTHER DEFEAT FOR DALLAS. Along with RSL and D.C. United, the other team struggling through a rough stretch is FC Dallas, locked in four-loss tailspin after losing, 1-0, to Colorado on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park even though Colorado defender Miguel Commingues was dismissed with a second caution in the 74th minute.
As has been the case for much of the past month, FCD’s attacking play – though inventive and fluid – broke apart at the critical moment. Of its 11 shots, only two were on goal, and in stoppage time Marvin Chavez chipped over a grounded Matt Pickens but his shot landed on the roof of the net. Colorado scored its only goal on a set play in the 25th minute when Drew Moor headed home Sanna Nyassi’s corner kick.
ANGEL OF HOPE. His efforts to return Chivas USA to the playoffs may fall short, but in his first year as head coach, Robin Fraser has instilled a fighting spirit as well as significant upgrades in talent. He’s also revived Juan Pablo Angel, who scored just three goals in 22 games prior to being traded by the Galaxy.
Most of the weekend’s results went against Chivas USA's playoff hopes, yet with a very late goal by Angel – his 10th of the season and seventh in seven games since changing locker rooms at HDC – it stayed alive, barely, by tying Philadelphia, 1-1. A deep cross from the right flank by Michael Lahoud looped to the opposite corner of the goal area, from where Angel’s header glanced off the inside of the post.
PORTLAND PREVAILS. Kenny Cooper and the Timbers spoiled the soccer unveiling of a renovated (cost: $563 million) B.C. Place by beating Vancouver, 1-0, to join New York in the 10th and final playoff spot at 40 points. Cooper crashed a spectacular shot into the top corner for the goal, and with some resolute defending, plus a few fortunate bounces, the Timbers recorded their ninth shutout and second road win. They are 9-4-3 at Jeld-Wen Field, and 2-9-4 away from it.