The two MLS Sunday matches offered the second- and third-place teams in each conference a chance to take over the top spot by winning, and in both cases, the home-field advantage meant
Kansas City knocked off the Fire, 1-0, at Toyota Park on a Jack Jewsbury
goal and FC Dallas ended the remarkable home unbeaten streak of Chivas USA, 2-0, with goals by
and Abe Thompson
Tactics and personnel decisions played their roles in these decisions, yet both home teams conceded early goals and ultimately succumbed by
shutout. Both teams had also sought to beef up their forward corps during the offseason and on Sunday, at least, were found wanting.
Chivas USA and FC Dallas, which played a 1-1 tie at
Pizza Hut Park on the opening weekend of the season, took the field at HDC deprived of vital midfield elements. Francisco Mendoza
and Sacha Kljestan
were suspended; injuries
sidelined Pablo Ricchetti
and Juan Toja
. The differing approaches used by the opposing coaches to deal with these absences dictated the outcome of the match.
chose to use rookies Justin Braun
in midfield and Kraig Chiles
at forward, with strikers Ante Razov
and Atiba Harris
on the bench and Maykel
not yet fully recovered from a groin strain but in the starting lineup. Preki
also didn't have available Alecko Eskandarian
, whose ouchy groin promoted a trip to Germany
for sports hernia surgery. Lawson Vaughn
, who had played in the opener against Dallas and sat out the next two games because of a hamstring strain, took one of the central midfield
slots and Chris Pozniak
lined up on the right.
FCD coach Steve Morrow
tweaked his 3-4-1-2 system only slightly. Michael Saragosa
took Ricchetti's central midfield slot
alongside Andre Rocha
, and in place of playmaker Toja, he used Ricardinho
up top with Kenny Cooper
and let Arturo Alvarez
float along the front line.
than facing a rampaging, bustling Toja playing just behind the forwards, Chivas USA encountered right mid Dax McCarty
often pulling the strings and Alvarez darting at their back line from
myriad angles. McCarty set up the first goal with a chip from the right side of midfield that Ricardinho
rose to meet at the far post and head back across goal for Cooper to blast into the
roof of the net from point-blank range.
Twice in the first half Galindo ran onto balls with the goal in sight but he either lost possession without shooting or shot wide. Braun got in
behind the back line only to be crowded out when he lacked the guile to get past the final FCD defender.
Early in the second half, a diagonal ball landed for Braun to take into the
penalty area. His setup touch took the ball too deep and FC Dallas keeper Dario Sala
instantly sprinted off his line to shut off the angle and make the block. Braun's shot was Chivas USA's
second, and last, shot on goal. Razov came on a few minutes later, to be followed by the entrance of Harris, but they seldom escaped tight marking as FCD dropped their outside midfielders,
especially Blake Wagner on the left, deeper to close off the flanks.
The clinching second goal came when substitute forward Abe Thompson
chased a ball from Alvarez into the
attacking third, and cut past Jonathan Bornstein
and Shavar Thomas
to roll a shot past Brad Guzan
. Final score: Dallas forwards 2, Chivas USA strikers 0.
USA attacking fleet will strengthen when Razov, Eskandarian, Mendoza and Kljestan make it back to the lineup, and Galindo gains full fitness. But an inability to contain a FC Dallas lineup lacking
Toja and Ricchetti is a concern.
Chicago had to chase the game from the fourth minute, which is when keeper Jon Busch
charged a yard or two out of his penalty area to challenge a
long ball from Claudio Lopez
, and Jack Jewsbury
took it round the keeper to deposit it into the empty net. The Fire pressed forward urgently and to good effect, except for the
finishing stroke. Justin Mapp
launched two shots, one ricocheting off the head of Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad
and other sailing high over the crossbar. Count Chad
also among the guilty; he wasted two great chances by a) shooting right at Kevin Hartman
, and b) blazing one over the bar.
Barrett did hit a through ball that Tomasz
shot right at Hartman. The rebound? Mapp squared it to Blanco, who hit a feeble shot that Hartman and a defender scrambled, literally, off the goal line.
offseason acquisition, came off in the 63rd minute for Andy Herron
, a former Fire player who returned to Chicago during the winter. An offside call nullified his apparent goal a minute
after coming into the match, and the Wizards rode their luck again in a comically inept sequence when a ball rolled for either Gonzalo Segares
or Herron launch at goal, but they played a
game of "You take it! No, you!" long enough for a grateful Hartman to snuff out the chance. The home fans were not amused.
All four Sunday combatants aspire to establish themselves as
true MLS Cup contenders and in the revamped playoff format, the top three teams - not just the top two - in each conference qualify for the postseason. The slots may be decided by head-to-head
meetings, and on Sunday two home teams, especially in the final third, came up short.