Conference leaders keep on truckin'

The San Jose Earthquakes gave the Los Angeles Galaxy and Landon Donovan a torrid reception in his return to Silicon Valley, while conference leaders New England Revolution and FC Dallas kept rolling merrily along as Week 13 in Major League Soccer concluded over the weekend.

The Galaxy saw their long winless run away from The Home Depot Center continue while the Earthquakes tightened up the race in the Western Conference thanks to a 3-0 victory at Spartan Stadium - which featured a pair of own goals. But both teams are still chasing FC Dallas, who went to Denver and came away with a 3-1 victory against the Colorado Rapids thanks to a pair of goals in the final five minutes. And the Hoops stayed just ahead of the Revolution in the race for the league's best overall record, after New England hit for three late goals in a come-from-behind 4-2 win against the MetroStars at home.

Also on Saturday, the Kansas City Wizards jumped two places in the Eastern Conference while extending the long winless streak of Chivas USA in a 3-0 victory at home, while on Sunday, the Chicago Fire finally broke down the Real Salt Lake defense in a 3-1 home triumph.

At Spartan Stadium, it was the first game back in San Jose for Donovan since his move to the Galaxy just before the start of the season, and throughout the match the Earthquakes fans showed their displeasure in a raucous atmosphere.

Much to the delight of their delirious supporters, the Quakes took the lead on 37 minutes after Ronald Cerritos drove a low ball into the goalmouth that Alejandro Moreno slid in to poke past Galaxy 'keeper Kevin Hartman.

Ten minutes into the second half Earthquakes 'keeper Pat Onstad did his part in a remarkable sequence that left nearly everyone wondering how the ball didn't go in the goal. A wild scramble ensued after a corner kick that saw Onstad three times deny Jovan Kirovski from point-blank range, with another hitting a defender on the line before Onstad was able to punch clear.

That set the stage for a bizarre three minutes that sealed the match, first defender Michael Umana touching the ball past Hartman as he took it off the feet of Moreno running at goal (65), then center back Tyrone Marshall heading over his goalkeeper on a clearing attempt as Hartman came off his line to deal with a looping ball. The loss kept the Galaxy winless away from Carson since last July, and pulled the third-place Quakes within three points of their southern rivals.

In Denver, FC Dallas extended their lead atop the West thanks to a pair of late goals that snapped a two-game winning streak for Colorado, and had given the Rapids belief their season was turning around.

Hard work gave FC Dallas a lead on 13 minutes, rookie Aaron Pitchkolan scoring his second goal of the season as he harried a Rapids defender dealing with a bouncing ball and popped the ball over on-rushing Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon from just inside the area (13).

But the Rapids pulled level on the half-hour, Luchi Gonzalez racing in to provide the final touch after a Jeff Cunningham shot off a fine tic-tac-toe sequence hit the insides of both posts before settling right on the line.

Yet FCD claimed the full three points with a late double. First a Ronnie O'Brien cross from the left picked out Bobby Rhine all alone at the back post, and he made no mistake finishing off from close range (85), then rookie Abe Thompson collected a deflected clearance and raced into the box alone before coolly shooting past Cannon for his third goal and second in as many games (88).

At Gillette Stadium, the Revolution won for the second consecutive match after seeing their season-opening unbeaten streak snapped while the MetroStars saw their five-game unbeaten run come to a crashing halt.

Jose Cancela gave the Revolution the lead after just 21 seconds, hitting a looping volley over Zach Wells from all of 35 yards.

But midway through the second half the MetroStars took the lead with goals within two minutes. First Youri Djorkaeff converted from the penalty spot after Andy Dorman had bowled over Sergio Galvan Rey from behind (67), then Galvan Rey tapped home with a simple finish after Eddie Gaven was set free on the right to drive a low cross into the goalmouth (69).

Yet it took the Revolution just three minutes to respond, Jay Heaps rising up at the near post to pound home a clear header from a corner kick, then four minutes from the end the Revolution took advantage of a dreadful mistake for the match-winner, Steve Ralston dispossessing Metro defender Jeff Parke in his own area before curling a perfectly placed shot inside the far post.

New England sealed the match in stoppage time (91+), a long ball from Avery John finding Pat Noonan running free just the other side of the halfway line, and after one touch he hit a long floater that caught Wells well off his line.

At Arrowhead Stadium, the Wizards jumped two places into third in the Eastern Conference while extending the Chivas USA winless streak to 10 matches, sending the expansion club to a third consecutive defeat.

The Wizards scored almost immediately after the second-half restart, a cleared free kick pumped back into the box where Sasha Victorine brought it down and Jimmy Conrad coolly finished (46).

Davy Arnaud doubled the Kansas City lead midway through the half, Diego Gutierrez picking up a loose ball before sending Arnaud in, where he did his best Preki imitation to cut the ball back to his left foot before perfectly placing a curling shot inside the right-hand post of Chivas 'keeper Brad Guzan (70).

Victorine then completed the night five minutes from the end, rising up completely unmarked in the heart of the area to head home a Chris Klein free kick swung in from the right flank.

At Soldier Field, Real 'keeper D.J. Countess did his share to keep the Fire off the board in the first half, but the home side eventually strolled out 3-1 winners.

The Fire couldn't break down Real until after the break, when Thiago finished with aplomb. A long ball found Chris Rolfe on the right, and he put in a low cross that found the Brazilian after a wonderful dummy from Nate Jaqua, Thiago hammering a high shot home (53).

But Real equalized nine minutes later with their second goal in as many matches after seeing their goalless streak end after an MLS record 557 minutes at midweek. After winning a free kick straight out from goal, Jason Kreis nearly tore the panels off the ball in driving it through a gap in the Fire wall from 25 yards, Chicago 'keeper Zach Thornton nearly overpowered by the blast.

Yet Chicago responded just seven minutes later, Jaqua flicking on a header into the Real area where Rolfe flipped it over a retreating defender with his first touch before slotting home past Countess. Then two minutes from the end Herron completed the scoreline when an Ivan Guerrero pass out of midfield sent him in alone on the Real 'keeper, and he neatly sidestepped him before rolling the ball into the empty net.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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