Kick Off: Night of shock results & "world's worst team" wins
Any given matchday.
With apologies to Al Pacino, the line could not be more appropriate in MLS these days.
How else to explain the California Clasico yesterday? Last year it was usually lights out when the LA Galaxy had a 2-0 lead with less than 20 minutes remaining. But this is a different season and last night the defending champs were stunned by three unanswered goals as the San Jose Earthquakes came away with a 3-2 win on an Alan Gordon stoppage-time header (watch the highlights here).
"We just like to make the game exciting. Goonies never say die," said San Jose’s Steven Lenhart, who scored a spectacular diving header to start the comeback. Meanwhile, LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena was crushed: "There's no excuse for us to not at least get a point out of this game. … It’s a shame."
Who said San Jose needs MLS top scorer Chris Wondolowski? He’s at US national team camp with LA’s Landon Donovan, but Gordon continues to fill in capably with a second consecutive dramatic goal. "They hesitated. I didn't. Some forwards get lucky. I got lucky,” Gordon said. “It means everything. I had a hard injury. People were telling me I wasn't going to play again. I persevered. I worked hard. It feels amazing."
The Quakes now lead the Western Conference, while the Galaxy are at the bottom of the conference. It was a loss that was hard to stomach for LA captain David Beckham, who wanted to make one thing clear: “I don't think they were the better team,” he said of the Quakes.
Beckham was not done. He reserved some pointed comments for referee Jair Marrufo with an alleged Ike Opara hand ball in the box proving a point of contention: “Every time we've had him, he wants to be the star, and that's what happens when you have a referee who wants to be on SportsCenter,” Beckham said. “[Opara] falls on the ball in the penalty area, rolls over it a couple of times, touches it with his hand a couple of times. Everyone else sees it apart from the 'star.'”
If LA supporters think that loss was bad, how will they feel about reading that Donovan is already looking ahead at retirement?
Here's a little bit of solace: Seattle also lost last night at home to the Columbus Crew (watch the highlights here). “We need to soul search,” said Sounders manager Sigi Schmid after the 2-0 defeat. “I need to soul search, our staff needs to figure out what are the things we want to do. We have to have a coming to the mountain and understanding that we need to get on the same page.”
Justin Meram scored in his third straight match for Columbus, Emilio Rentería tacked on a second and the visitors held on. “I didn’t feel like they were going to score,” said Crew midfielder Cole Grossman. “They definitely controlled possession and had some crosses but I never got the sense they were threatening us.”
Against all odds, the Crew have collected four points out of six from trips to San Jose and Seattle. “We didn’t create too much and it wasn’t the prettiest game but to get out of here with a result was nice,” said Crew veteran Carlos Mendes.
For all the spectacular supporter displays in Seattle over the year, last night belonged to the Red Bulls’ diehards. They unfurled banners for club legend Juan Pablo Ángel, who was making his first trip to Red Bull Arena since his departure and JPA was still talking about them well after the match, as was NYRB manager Hans Backe. But one writer feels the Red Bulls didn’t do enough as a club to honor one of their heroes.
Angel reciprocated with a sensational acrobatic goal in the 1-1 tie last night (watch the highlights here). But he refused to celebrate in front of his former fans. “Out of respect, absolutely,” he said. Watch him in this postgame interview. (VIDEO)
There were a fair share of twists and turns in the Chicago Fire’s 2-1 win over FC Dallas last night that gave them the Brimstone Cup (watch the highlights here). The debate still rages on about whether Marco Pappa’s game-winning goal should have been called back for encroachment on the decisive PK sequence. "That's obviously something the referee didn't see,” said Dallas veteran ‘keeper Kevin Hartman. His manager agreed: “I really think Pappa was offside.”
Pappa could not care less: "Everybody said I was in early, but that's soccer,” said the Guatemalan. That line doesn’t sit next to this gem: “The best thing for me is I feel good. Because if I am a winner, everybody is a winner in the locker room.”
But there was no arguing the spectacular nature of Sebastián Grazzini’s equalizing goal just before halftime and Sean “How You Doing” Johnson’s penalty kick save. (VIDEO)
The Brimstone Cup awarded in Chicago wasn’t the only silverware handed out on the night. Despite losing all nine of their MLS matches Toronto FC claimed their fourth straight Amway Canadian Championship, beating Vancouver 1-0 at BMO Field in the second leg (watch the highlights here). TFC manager Aron Winter was able to breathe easy for a change: “Finally, a moment for relief. It’s very nice.”
The self-proclaimed “worst team in the world” is now Canadian champions. “Vancouver lost to the worst team in the world today, so maybe they are today now the worst team in the world,” said Toronto DP Danny Koevermans, poking fun at his comment that received plenty of play in the press. “I’m not making stupid comments like that again, because I had my lesson.”
The Whitecaps, for their part, admit they played “flat” and with no “real energy,” but that didn’t make manager Martin Rennie feel any less irked at the double red card incident that saw Julian de Guzman and Sébastien Le Toux ejected. “It’s a situation where someone throws someone to the ground, punches someone in the face – a red card as well – we didn’t get anything from a situation that was clearly wrong,” Rennie said. “They put a lot of pressure on the official by putting a Toronto official against a cup final in Toronto, and that’s what happens.”
The Portland Timbers were also in action in a 1-0 exhibition loss to La Liga’s Valencia last night (watch the highlights here). Although Timbers manager John Spencer called it “a tremendous learning experience,” it was Valencia that came away with the biggest revelation: that Timbers supporters cheered on despite the result. “We’re used to something different in Europe,” said Valencia’s David Albelda. “When their team is down, the fans they take a different tone.”
It's not La Liga, but it promises to be entertaining: Catch a Copa Libertadores doubleheader tonight with two quarterfinal second-leg matchups. Santos takes on Vélez Sarsfield (7 pm ET, Fox Deportes) and Universidad de Chile take on Paraguay’s Libertad (9:30 pm ET, Fox Deportes).
Lastly, Argentine giants Boca Juniors are one of the teams awaiting in the Libertadores semifinals after a last-minute goal by Santiago Silva took them past Fluminense in their quarterfinal showdown last night. Catch the HD-version of the drama here. (VIDEO)
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