[MLS SPOTLIGHT] Sporting Kansas City maintained its perfect start to the season by dumping the Galaxy, 1-0; expansion Montreal upended Canadian rival Toronto FC for its first win; and New York’s high-powered attack smoked Columbus, 4-1. Here are the points to ponder after Week 5 action in MLS ...
MARQUEE MATCHUP. NOT. Rather than a tense showdown of last year’s conference winners, the Sporting Kansas City-Los Angeles game merely confirmed that SKC (5-0-0) has improved nearly as much as the Galaxy (1-3-0) has devolved.
Kei Kamara headed home Bobby Convey’s precise chip for the only goal yet the cohesion and fluidity displayed by SKC exposed a scrambling, disjointed Galaxy, which managed only four shots, none of which were on target. Somehow, Robbie Keane played the full 90 minutes without taking a shot. With David Beckhamsidelined (for back spasms), you’d expect Landon Donovan to take charge. He didn’t.
And hey, would someone tell Edson Buddle the regular season has started and these games are for real? He didn’t seem aware of that fact during his 56 minutes of action.
SHOOTOUT IN SAN JOSE. Having conceded a combined one goal in eight games heading into their meeting at Buck Shaw Stadium Saturday, San Jose and Vancouver were expected to play a tight defensive battle.
And so they did for about 67 minutes, during which time the Whitecaps took a 1-0 lead and also broke the league record for shutout time to start a season set by the 2007 Red Bulls. The streak stood at 427 minutes when stalwart defender Jay DeMerit committed a crucial mistake and the home team erupted to score three goals in 10 minutes.
DeMerit took a bad angle attempting to intercept a ball played for Chris Wondolowskiand then tried to out-muscle the Quakes forward, who slipped through the challenge to drive an equalizer past former teammate Joe Cannon. Then Ramiro Corrales hit a cross that substitute Alan Gordon gracefully glanced into the net, and then another sub, Tressor Moreno, flighted a free kick to the back post that an astoundingly unmarked Wondo volleyed between Cannon and the near post.
Boom, boom, boom, out go the lights.
The win gave San Jose (4-1-0) a share of the Western Conference lead for a couple of hours, until Real Salt Lake regained the top spot by beating Colorado. The defeat ended Vancouver’s unbeaten start to the season as well as its shutout streak, yet with a 2-1-2 record the Caps are presenting proof that changes in the roster and coaching ranks look like upgrades.
RSL ROLLS AT RIO TINTO. A day before game one of the annual Rocky Mountain Cup between RSL and the Rapids, car manufacturer Subaru was named as sponsor of the head-to-head competition.
The car reference is appropriate, since Rapids coach Oscar Pareja steered his team into a dead-end alley by deploying defender Drew Moor in midfield. Designed to add more experience and bite in the absence of veteran Pablo Mastroeni, it instead disrupted both the Rapids’ midfield and back line. And Jair Marrufo, one of the league’s top officials, committed a clunker of a mistake in RSL’s 2-0 win that improved its mark to 5-1-0.
Colorado seldom threatened aside from Martin Rivero’s free kick that eluded keeper Nick Rimando but clanged off the crossbar. RSL controlled much of the play and took a 1-0 lead when Alvaro Saborio found space -- partially afforded by Pareja’s rejiggering of the lineup – to chest down a Tony Beltran cross and fire it home in the 20th minute.
Twelve minutes into the second half, RSL forwardFabian Espindolaclearly controlled a chipped ball with his left arm, and played on when he heard no whistle. After defender Marvell Wynne whiffed on an attempt to clear the loose ball, Espindola poked it into the net. RSL probably had a win in the bag anyway, but missing this one is another black eye for Marrufo, his referee's assistant, and MLS.
TIMBERS TOPPLED AGAIN. Portland, beaten last week at home, 3-2, by RSL after leading, 2-1, squandered another lead at Jeld-Wen Field and lost to Chivas USA, 2-1.
Substitute Ryan Smith fired in a pair of crosses that Alejandro Morenoand Nick LaBrocca headed home to overturn a 1-0 Portland lead provided by Kris Boyd’s finish of a fumble by keeper Dan Kennedy. The result lifted Chivas USA (2-3-0) above Portland (1-3-1) in the standings.
Throughout the match, Portland’s failure to deal with crosses – either from where they were delivered or where they landed – and capitulation in the second half infuriated Coach John Spencer. “For me, we played like an expansion team tonight,” Spencer said to mlssoccer.com. “We played nervous in front of a big crowd, with not enough guys stepping up and taking responsibility.”
CANADIAN RHAPSODY. The true expansion team of 2012, Montreal, is winless no more. The Impact exploited its troubled Eastern Canada rival Toronto FC to post a first MLS win, 2-1.
TFC didn’t help its cause by going down to 10 men in the 65th minute with the sending-off of centerback Logan Emory. Montreal had led from the 17th minute on a goal by Sinisa Ubiparipovic, who was making his first appearance of the season. No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick Andrew Wenger scored his first professional goal with nine minutes to play.
Designated Player Danny Koevermans got first goal of the season for TFC in the final minutes, but little else about this performance could be labeled as encouraging for fans of the Reds. The result dropped Toronto (0-4-0) into the Eastern Conference basement and four points behind the Impact (1-4 -1). Whatever TFC conjured up against the Galaxy in the Concacaf Champions League last month seems to have vanished for good.
RED BULLS ROAR ONCE MORE. Another fearsome display by the forward tandem of Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper netted them two goals apiece in a 4-1 rout of the Crew in Columbus. Thirteen goals in the past three games have pushed New York (3-2-0) atop the scoring charts with 14.
New York has also conceded eight goals, a figure surpassed by only two teams. Yet the potency up front created when Cooper arrived in a trade from Portland has lessened pressure on the back line, which is awaiting the recovery of recent addition Wilman Conde from a groin strain suffered last week in a 5-2 rout of Montreal.
The Red Bulls are the first team in league history to win three straight games by three goals (they beat Colorado, 4-1, prior to dismantling the Impact). That great shutout streak to start 2007 (421 minutes) didn’t amount to anything by the end of the season, yet this high-octane attack powered by Henry’s canny brilliance can’t be ignored.