Kick Off: MLS Rivalry Sunday lives up to all the hype
MLS Rivalry Sunday lived up to all the hype.
Fans were treated to four straight hours of intensity, drama, great tifo and spectacular goals beginning in Portland where emotions boiled over in a 2-1 Portland victory over Cascadia rivals Seattle.
Even Sounders forward Eddie Johnson was struck by the event: “I didn’t realize how big [the rivalry] was until today,” Johnson said of his team’s match against the Timbers. “I played in Europe for the past three years and played in some big stadiums there, but this is as big as it gets here.”
Speculation in the media was that Portland manager John Spencer’s job hung in the balance of Sunday’s Cascadia rivalry match against Seattle. After the Timbers’ 2-1 win over the Sounders (watch the highlights here), the Scot made sure people knew he was very much in control: "You tell me that players are not playing for me. I didn't see anybody not playing for me today."
Defender David Horst was one of those players and he contributed with a header goal under the Timbers Army which he says “It’s got to be one of the greatest moments of my life.” (VIDEO)
There will surely be a few Seattle fans out there surprised at what former Sounders favorite and current Timbers forward Mike Fucito said after the match: “You couldn’t have written it any better.”
As far as Seattle are concerned, the Sounders are on a club-record seven-game winless run and manager Sigi Schmid has provided an ultimatum: “I don’t feel good about these series of games,” he said. “The team in the locker room has to decide what team is the Seattle Sounders. Are they the Seattle Sounders that played the first seven games of the season or the Sounders that have played the last eight games of the season? They are at the crossroads.”
Seattle defender Zach Scott is not thinking about results. He’s thinking of the supporters: “To let the fans down. To know they’re driving back to Seattle disappointed … is probably the biggest thing.”
A memorable chapter in the NY-DC rivalry was written last night. Chris Pontius scored the fastest goal in D.C. United history, but it instead served as a jolt to the Red Bulls, who proceeded to play the best 45 minutes of soccer “probably since I arrived,” said New York manager Hans Backe. It resulted in a 3-2 Red Bulls win as they caught D.C. atop the East (watch the highlights here). (VIDEO)
The star of the show was NYRB right back Brandon Barklage, who waited to score his first career MLS goals against his ex-club D.C. United where he was cut during the offseason. His brace included this world-class volley which didn’t surprise his former teammates: “He’s one of those guys when in practice, you line up and question whether you should move out of the way. I’ve seen him hit a ball like that a million times.”
The Red Bulls say they’re shooting for the Supporters’ Shield but it looks like they’ll have the defending champion LA Galaxy to contend with before it’s all said and done. LA racked up another three points with a 3-0 blanking of Vancouver (watch the highlights here)
So to what can we attribute this Galaxy reawakening? “I think we changed our culture, day in and day out,” said midfielder Mike Magee. “We realized that we were doing all the things wrong. All the little things. In preparation. In training. We were even treating each other bad as teammates. So we changed all that. And obviously it's been showing.”
It helped to have Designated Player Robbie Keane back from Euro 2012. After scoring a world-class goal against the Whitecaps, he paid tribute to Republic of Ireland supporter James Nolan, who drowned in Poland last week: “The Irish people are very close and they stick with each other through good times and bad times.”
The LA Galaxy inflicted one of the most painful losses in Real Salt Lake club history during midweek. But the nightmare is not over for RSL. They again created multiple scoring chances only to lose at home again, 2-1 to the San Jose Earthquakes, who move into first place in the West (watch the highlights here).
For a snapshot into how things feel in the RSL locker, here are the words of manager Jason Kreis: “I don't know of a time that I felt as mad as I do right now, to be honest with you," he said. "Honest to God, we didn’t lose the game. We gave the game away — twice."
The Chicago Fire weren’t giving anything away this weekend, clinging to a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew despite playing a man down for most of the match (watch the highlights here). But it was Sebastián Grazzini who claimed the headlines after the match, revealing a “Thank You Chicago” shirt under his jersey after he was substituted. Here’s how manager Frank Klopas reacted to the situation.
Philadelphia Union forward Jack McInerney can say thank you to new manager John Hackworth, who gave the youngster his second straight start and was rewarded with two goals in a 4-0 win over a tired and sluggish Sporting Kansas City side (watch the highlights here). “That was one of the best moments of my career. I didn’t want it to end,” McInerney said.
It’s critical times for FC Dallas, whose MLS winless streak has now reached 11 matches. They outshot visiting Chivas USA 13-2 and had this late penalty kick claim denied, settling for a scoreless draw on a day that saw NBA star Dirk Nowitzki scarf the Lamar Hunt statue outside the stadium (watch the highlights here).
The nightmare continues for Toronto FC, who once again were minutes away from a victory but conceded a late equalizer to visiting New England in a 2-2 tie at BMO Field (watch the highlights here). Goalkeeper Milos Kocic is having his patience tested: “I’m trying my best to come out for every cross I can, but I’m not a superman,” he said. “We have to be responsible for the runners in the box. I told them that before we started and it’s coming back at us over and over again. I hope they learn one day.”
Montreal Impact manager Jesse Marsch feels his club “grew up a bit” after a 4-2 home victory over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday (watch the highlights here). Impact defender Zarek Valentin was more poetic in his analysis: “We grew some hair on our chest.” The expansion side is right in the thick of the playoff race and they get Marco Di Vaio available as early as Wednesday vs. Toronto.
Meanwhile, the hot stove is only just beginning to heat up ahead of the summer international transfer window. But that action won’t feature Italian defender Alessandro Nesta, who revealed to Goal.com: "I don't have a shot to play in MLS. I tried to play [in the league], but I never received any offers."
Today could be a big day for soccer fans in Orlando, Fla. It’s expected that the city’s brass will make official plans for a $175 million renovation of the Citrus Bowl which could pave the way for an MLS expansion team in the future.
We hear a lot about how soccer is growing in the USA. But just how big can MLS get? "If we continue to have the growth that we've had over the next 16 to 20 years, it's entirely realistic to stand shoulder to shoulder with the NFL," says one league executive in this article.
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