Kick Off: Quakes close in on Shield after sweeping Seattle
Make it a clean sweep.
Before the season few expected the San Jose Earthquakes to win every one of their three matches against the Seattle Sounders, including two at CenturyLink Field. But the Quakes completed the feat on Saturday with a 2-1 triumph (watch the highlights here).
Chris Wondolowski scored his 10th game-winner this season (a new MLS record) and extended his lead in the Golden Boot race. The frontrunner for MVP credited the Seattle crowd for their part in his performance: "When you have a good atmosphere, it helps raise my level, I think. It makes me want to raise it a little extra notch."
The Sounders, whose last loss came against the Earthquakes, were missing star players Eddie Johnson and Mauro Rosales. But manager Sigi Schmid wasn’t about to make excuses: "We would have been overrun even with Eddie and Mauro,” he said. "They killed us in the first half, to be quite honest. If we play like we played in the first half, we won't go very far [in the playoffs]."
Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley highlighted the missed opportunity in the close to his column: “Measuring stick? The Sounders came up short. Again.”
One bright spot for Seattle was that Steve Zakuani got his first goal since his injury over 15 months ago. But he also played a role in both San Jose goals and he’s not shirking responsibility: "I've got big enough shoulders to take it,” he said. "That's where I want to be; I want to be at a point where it's just like every other player, where it's just about the football."
The Earthquakes look like safe bets to lock up the Supporters’ Shield after Sporting Kansas City could only draw 0-0 in Montreal (watch the highlights here). Still, SKC manager Peter Vermes was extremely pleased with the road result: “This was a massive point for us, for sure,” he said.
The only setback for SKC was a 90th minute red card to Jacob Peterson after he had already come out of the match. The referee apparently sanctioned him for “foul and abusive language,” but Vermes wasn’t buying it: “What he thinks he heard, Jake never said.”
Meanwhile, the Impact’s hope of making the playoffs took a serious dent. They are six points out with just three matches left: “I wasn’t a math major in college, so I’m not sure, but it certainly starts to feel like the points are working against us,” said Impact manager Jesse Marsch.
Marsch lent a hand to his former club, the Chicago Fire, who were able to gain two points on SKC after their 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew (watch the highlights here). It sets up a succulent nationally televised matchup on Friday between SKC and Chicago for the top spot in the East (8:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network).
After a gaffe by Fire ‘keeper Sean Johnson, forward Chris Rolfe scored two goals in three minutes to turn the result on its head, including a “world-class” finish on his second goal.
Rolfe, a native of Ohio who also played college ball at Dayton, continues to hurt the Crew, who passed on him in the draft: "That’s the way it goes," grinned Rolfe. "They had two chances to draft me."
It wasn’t a loss, but it sure felt like one for Vancouver Whitecaps fans after watching their team fail to hang on to a late lead as visiting Colorado equalized in the 86th minute to tie 2-2 at BC Place (watch the highlights here). "I'm just disappointed we've lost another late goal," said Whitecaps DP Kenny Miller. "It seems to be a running theme this year and it's something we've got to put a stop to.”
It was the first of four straight home matches for the Whitecaps, who now lead FC Dallas by just two points for the fifth and final playoff spot in the West (see the standings here).
Although the result ended a five-game losing streak for Vancouver, the club’s winless stretch has now reached six. “I think that’s maybe a little bit of a sign of the fact that we’ve lost a few games and we tried to protect the lead,” said Vancouver manager Martin Rennie. “I felt we dropped off the game more than we needed to and invited pressure onto us.”
While Rennie is the eternal optimist – “that might be the point that gets us into the playoffs,” he said – his Rapids counterpart felt his team was shortchanged: “I think [the players] deserve more than the point we walked away with," said Colorado manager Oscar Pareja.
The postseason race is just as heated in the East, where the Houston Dynamo suffered a serious setback, dropping a 3-1 result to the Philadelphia Union, who hadn’t won in eight matches over two months (watch the highlights here). Freddy Adu was the hero for Philly with two goals before coming out in the 56th minute.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Houston manager Dominic Kinnear "tore into his team afterward, delivering an expletive-laced tirade that could be heard down the hall at PPL Park" after the performance, and goalkeeper Tally Hall admitted: “If you want to be a championship team, you've got to beat that team."
It was an injury that forced Adu out of the match: a left quad strain suffered when he changed directions at the last minute on his PK conversion.
But is Adu serious when he says that he’s still a believer in the Philadelphia Union’s playoff chances? With six matches remaining they have 30 points, which are exactly 16 behind the Houston Dynamo, who occupy the fifth and final playoff spot in the East. "Somehow we are still in it, and we will keep fighting, and you never know what will happen," he said.
You never know what will happen when the New York Red Bulls visit Gillette Stadium. Many a RBNY fan is talking about “hex” when trying to explain how it’s possible that the Red Bulls still can’t end their drought of victories up north even when they score just minutes before the final whistle. The Revs came storming back to equalize 1-1 in stoppage time (watch the highlights here).
That gutting sensation must feel like losing a gift card, at least according to New York’s Joel Lindpere: “We know that we haven’t won 10 years here and they give you a gift as a three points then you just don’t use, so it’s like a gift card that you throw away.”
The Red Bulls now are tied for third place in the East on 50 points with D.C. United, who continued their roll with a 1-0 home win vs. Chivas USA (watch the highlights here). That makes for three straight victories without reigning league MVP Dwayne De Rosario.
Veteran Branko Boskovic, who has questioned his playing time of late, scored the game-winner just seven minutes after coming off the bench: “I know you guys [media] made a meal out of his comments earlier in the week,” said D.C. manager Ben Olsen “Even though I’m sure [Boskovic] disagrees with me at times, he’s committed to the guys out there and he’s committed to this organization … I’m happy he was the hero today."
Boskovic will be prouder of his goal as opposed to his knee slide celebration: “Now my knee hurts, and I have a lot of scratches," he said afterward.
Any team making the postseason in the West will not fancy a date with the MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy, who continue mowing down the opposition and qualified to the postseason with their latest win. Two goals each by Juninho and Robbie Keane were enough to bury Toronto FC, who attempted a late comeback in a match that finished 4-2 (watch the highlights here).
But Galaxy manager Bruce Arena wasn’t that pleased with the win: “Tonight, in my view, was not a complete performance,” he said. “We were a little bit sloppy, but Toronto played real hard, came after us for 90 minutes. … I think you have to attribute a lot of that to Toronto. Their effort on the night was fabulous.”
LA’s Landon Donovan says that there’s still plenty of work to do: "We don't have the luxury of admiring anything we're doing or thinking we're great. Because we're still far away from where we want to be," he said. "There's a lot going on with seeding. There's a lot going on with our conference that could matter in the end. So we've got to keep winning games.”
If Juninho looks scary now, wait until he gets fitted with his new insoles. Here’s a photo of the molds drying on two of the most productive feet in the league. (PHOTO)
Watching Juninho’s heroics from the stands was David Beckham, but others caught a glimpse of Frank Lampard’s representative. And so the Galaxy-Lampard connection is making news in England.
Real Salt Lake joined the LA Galaxy and mathematically booked their ticket to the postseason with a 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers, who gave RSL all they could handle (watch the highlights here). With top scorer Álvaro Saborío missing due to injury, RSL got goals on “big-time plays from big-time players.”
This next story involves a big-time act of soccer sabotage. On Sunday, someone cut a power cable, and Rayo Vallecano vs. Real Madrid had to be postponed until today. It's part of a double dip of La Liga action on beIN Sport beginning at 1:45 pm ET, with Deportivo La Coruña vs. Sevilla the second match.
Things happen differently in other parts of the world. Former US youth international Vincenzo Bernardo takes a tuk-tuk to work every morning. Find out what that is here.
Lastly, did we see this correctly over the weekend? An EPL referee is taken down in a tackle but he’s still alert enough to issue a red card from the ground. (VIDEO)
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