Kick Off: All of a sudden, LA heating up ahead of summer
Don’t look now, but the Western Conference’s sleeping giants may finally be awakening from their nearly four-month slumber.
It may have taken facing a two-goal deficit to get them stirring, but the LA Galaxy’s furious comeback and eventual 3-2 victory Wednesday night against Real Salt Lake surely got the attention of some of their conference counterparts. (HIGHLIGHTS)
All of a sudden, LA are just two points behind Colorado in the hunt for the West’s final playoff spot, riding a two-game winning streak that has breathed some life back into a team that recently acknowledged they didn’t have much time to dally if they wanted to stay within striking distance of their competitors.
After starting their season with a loss at home to RSL that rubbed them the wrong way and helped send them into a tailspin, the Galaxy will hope Wednesday’s win is the beginning of a summer push.
“That's a good win, man,” said Landon Donovan, whose two goals came either side of a Mike Magee strike. “We felt a little unjust by what happened at our place a little earlier in the year when they won, and we wanted to get a little revenge. And then we also know if we can manage to get into the playoffs, which we're still pushing for, this might be a place we have to come later, so we wanted to put on a good show.”
In the other locker room, RSL were left shaking their heads after jumping out to a lead that most assumed would eventually result in three points. That wasn’t to be, however, as defensive errors gave the Galaxy opportunities that the defending MLS Cup champions didn’t waste.
"It's pretty bewildering to be up 2-0 and lose a game 3-2," center back Nat Borchers said. "We made some mistakes. We all know we made some bad mistakes in terms of our possession, and they made us pay. Let's give them some credit. They were definitely ice-cold when it came to finishing those chances and they deserve that win."
The reaction in Salt Lake was mixed. One local columnist argued that that the loss showed RSL aren't quite the juggernaut they've been made out to be after compiling the league's best record. You can see the Deseret News' grades here.
Meanwhile, there were some positives to take from the match, as Javier Morales played well as a substitute and RSL announced they had signed former Rev Kenny Mansally.
And although RSL-LA may have grabbed the headlines, there was plenty of other MLS action to absorb Wednesday night.
We'll start in Houston, where the Dynamo were nearly embarrassed at home by hapless Toronto FC. The visitors jumped out to an unlikely 3-1 lead before halftime, prompting some fans to boo the home side off the field, before Will Bruin dragged Houston back with two second-half goals to end things even at 3-3. (HIGHLIGHTS)
“It was a good fight, good comeback,” Bruin said. “It took us about 60 minutes to get going. … At halftime, Dom said we can feel sorry for ourselves or we can step up and be men.”
Although disappointed not to come away with what would have been a huge result, Toronto put on a good face after the game, with head coach Paul Mariner praising his team's effort despite their inability to hold on. Striker Danny Koevermans wasn't quite so forgiving, though.
"We are still the lowest of the low," Koevermans, who scored twice, said. "We got a point on the road. You lose it in the last minute, the points, then you are disappointed. I hope this is a start to a new era to get more points."
Jacob Peterson started the scoring before Patrick Ianni scored what was surely Wednesday's top goal, a side volley that KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen had no chance of saving. Both teams had their chances to collect all three points down the stretch before Álvaro Fernández ended the game on a sour note when his scything tackle on Roger Espinoza resulted in a red card, perhaps providing a fitting ending to what was a 90-minute battle.
"We probably fought a little bit more than we played, but sometimes you have to play that way. Games are like that," Fernández said. "You have to play with your heart but with your head, calm down. Today, that didn't happen to me and that's why I made a mistake."
The big news for Sounders fans, though, was Steve Zakuani's appearance in the gameday 18 for the first time in more than a year. Sigi Schmid left the former MLS Rookie of the Year on the bench, the result of the game's physical nature, but it was a big step all the same.
Meanwhile, Sporting KC were more than happy to take a point on the road, especially since manager Peter Vermes trotted out a lineup that was missing a few regulars.
The Rapids, meanwhile, lost yet another game in heartbreaking fashion, as San Jose left Dick's Sporting Goods Park with all three points after a late Chris Wondolowski penalty made the difference in a 2-1 victory. (HIGHLIGHTS)
Brian Mullan gave Colorado an early lead, but they couldn't hold off San Jose, running out of steam in the game's late stages to set up the Quakes comeback.
On the other side of the aisle, it was a familiar refrain for San Jose: "We have that saying, 'Goonies never die,' and we like to stick by it," Wondolowski said.
Impact coach Jesse Marsch was returning to his old stomping grounds, but his team couldn't manage a result against a Chivas side not known for their home form, which made the victory that much more satisfying.
Pearce said there was a chip on the Red Bulls' shoulder after an embarrassing performance in Chicago, and along those lines, New York never gave up on earning a result after Martín Bonjour gave the 'Caps a lead.
“I think it speaks to the character of the team both home and away that we're getting points and we're doing it in different ways," Pearce said. "We're not always playing the most attractive soccer, and sometimes we’re getting points in an attractive way and sometimes we're grinding it out. That's the stuff that pays off later in the season. It's good to continue to pick up points.”
From Vancouver's perspective, the 1-1 scoreline didn't feel like something to celebrate: “It’s one of those games where obviously when you lose a late goal it does feel like a defeat,” said Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie.
More details have trickled out regarding the Columbus Crew's search for a Designated Player.
Reports in Ecuador have Joao Plata heading home to Liga de Quito on loan. (SPANISH)
In England, goalkeeper Brad Guzan is being linked with Championship sides Ipswich Town and Hull City.
And last but not least, there is a South African player on trial in Colorado.
Portugal and the Czech Republic face off today at 2:45 pm ET (ESPN) in the first quarterfinal match at the European Championship.
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